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Noyses, Sounds, and Sweet Aires

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"Noyses, Sounds, and Sweet Aires": Music in Early Modern England

June 2 through September 9, 2006

Thomas Trevelyon. Miscellany. Manuscript, 1608

Church bells ring the time, street vendors cry out their wares, ballad singers push the latest scandal, and music spills from tavern doors: these are the sounds of London in the seventeenth century. Amidst this cacophony, even the silence of the night is broken by the bellman's ringing and accompanying call, "Past one of the clock, and a cold, frosty, windy morning." 


"Noyses, sounds, and sweet aires" explores these soundscapes of early modern England, leading you through streets, into taverns and theaters, to court masques, cathedral services, and individual homes for private entertainment and personal devotion. It tells the story of the noises echoing through the city; the sounds of worlds in collision in and age of political and religious turmoil; and the sweet airs of amateurs and professionals.


The only traces of these worlds are manuscripts, books, images, and musical instruments—the material remails of musical culture. The sounds themselves have long since vanished.

Francesco Villamena. Io son quel Geminian caldorostaro. Engraving, ca. 1600

Nieuwen Jeucht Spieghel. 1620

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