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Shakespeare’s Songbook takes an encore with new award


Hailed as “entirely original and brilliant” and a “musicological tour de force,” Shakespeare’s Songbook, written by Ross Duffin, the Fynette H. Kulas Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University, was awarded the inaugural Claude V. Palisca Award from the American Musicological Society. It is the most recent honor bestowed on Duffin’s book, , which is a scholarly investigation into the original music in Shakespeare’s plays.

“The editor’s immense knowledge of the field, breath-taking command of sources and limitless patience are worn with deceptive lightness. Aimed at the general reader, both lay and scholarly, this book reaches beyond the musicological community to speak successfully to many different audiences,” said Margaret Bent, of All Souls’ College at Oxford University and the chair of Palisca Award selection committee.

The Palisca Award recognizes “the highest quality of originality, interpretation, logic and clarity of thought and communication.” An individual can only receive the award once. Five scholars sat on the committee and reviewed nominations.

Duffin spent eight years studying the 160 songs that appear or are referenced by Shakespeare in his writings. In addition to writing about the songs, Duffin produced an accompanying CD to bring the music from Shakespeare’s time and culture alive for the book’s readers.

“The result is a collection of pieces Shakespeare knew or could have known, and a major contribution toward understanding the role of music in the plays, including not only set pieces but hidden references to ballads and other music,” explained Bent.

She continued that Duffin matched tunes to texts “through the merest hints, such as titles in concordant sources, or where no tune can be found. This is a musicological tour de force, totally without pedantry, a book which will forever change Shakespeare productions, and have enormous practical value beyond musicology, for drama and music, as well as a delight both for the general reader and the scholarly community.”

Earlier this year, Duffin received the Thomas Binkley Award in early music, given for outstanding achievement in both performance and scholarship by the director of a university or college collegium musicum. The award came after his book’s 2004 publishing by Norton.

Duffin received the Palisca Award during the annual meeting of the AMS, This is the second honor bestowed on him from the organization: In 1980, Duffin received the Noah Greenberg Award from the AMS for an edition of Dufay chansons in original notation.


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