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Freedom of Speech in Early Modern England

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Hearts of Controversy

Freedom of Speech in Early Modern England

In early modern England, composers often wrote music to reflect their experiences. When the topics were politically dangerous, the composers would use text from the bible to express their ideas and avoid censorship.


The image to the right is of Henry Lawes' songbook, "Choice psalms put into musick, for three voices." This songbook was controversial because the dedication shows that Lawes, one of the court musicians of King Charles I, was unafraid to advertise his loyalty, even after Charles was beheaded for treason.


Can you think of an album cover or song that is considered controversial today? Do you know of a singer or rap artist who has said or done something controversial? How do you think the reaction from today's public might differ from that of the early modern era? Do you think artists today have more freedom to express their thoughts and opinions even if they are controversial?


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Henry Lawes. Choice psalmes put into musick, & for three voices. London, 1648

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