Inventing how we sing it now: Oxbridge choirs and the ‘tradition’ of modern cathedral music

In a review of Timothy Day’s I Saw Eternity the Other Night, about the evolution in modern times of an English singing style, with particular reference to King’s College, Cambridge, David Wright gets inside the multiple frameworks—economic, social, cultural—which help to invent and regulate traditions.  In the book Day investigates the metamorphosis of British cathedral music in the process of transformation from its (truly deplorable) nineteenth-century nadir, into an artistically celebrated (and commercially valuable) aspect of today’s cultural life.   As well as the musical evidence, Day examines the underlying historical and cultural forces that motivated and energized this change - Wright discusses how British musical traditions have been appropriated as evidence for ideas about national cultural identity, in spite of these traditions resting on exercises in social engineering which are often deliberate and innovative.



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