O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note: Music for Witches, the Melancholic, and the Mad



In the 17th century, harmonious sounds were thought to represent the well-ordered body of the obedient subject, and, by extension, the well-ordered state; conversely, discordant, unpleasant music represented both those who caused disorder (murderers, drunkards, witches, traitors) and those who suffered from bodily disorders (melancholics, madmen, and madwomen). While these theoretical correspondences seem straightforward, in theatrical practice the musical portrayals of disorderly characters were multivalent and often ambiguous.


I can see from writing on the hoof that I have a way to go to develop a sense of the inflection range of melancholia in the early 18th century. I can see parts of its range but don’t seem to be able to make them play together at the same time.

Flat heavy and moving in single lines at the moment. Not spent enough time with the subject.

Difficult not to let the present climate where ethnographic symbols are at the moment subject to intense scrutiny, effect a reading of the past, where ethnographic symbols were a subject also of intense scrutiny as British identity has always been a sight of some complexity.

Leads to a somewhat flat, heavy inflection as it is not the only thing playing out in the subject.

I have also just caught sight of a possible contradiction within melancholia, which may lend itself to complexity.

Its a condition associated with coldness. late 17th century geograph does have a habit of depicting a well ordered ripeness and warmth to the south and a barron disordered wasteland to the North. At the same time melancholia increasingly plays a role in descriptions of genius.

Its a servant of two possible masters, it can link north and south, the beggeting spirit of Britian can have a home in the North and in the same momement it can clearly draw the line between an ordered south and a disordered north.

Melancholia has adapted so it can blow hot and cold in the same moment.


A.E. Winkler, O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note: Music for Witches, the Melancholicc, and the mad on the seventeeth century stage.


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