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About Michelle Oswell

Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio, The Lute Player


I am a Dover, Delaware native now living outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After obtaining my Bachelor of Music from the University of Delaware, I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Music Department, where I received a Master of Arts in musicology and am now working on my dissertation, which I hope to complete in spring, 2007. My dissertation topic is on the printed lute song in 17th century England and the reasons for its demise. The lute and lute songs have been a part of my life since the age of twelve. Right now I have approximately one chapter of my dissertation completed. Below is my dissertation abstract:

The Decline of the Lute Song in the Seventeenth Century

(under the direction of John Nádas)

Since Peter Warlock edited the first editions 1920s, the flowering of the lute song has been considered one of the high periods of English music history. During a twenty-five year period from 1597 to 1622, almost thirty printed lute song books were published. Despite numerous academic studies of the more well-known composers John Dowland, Thomas Campion, Thomas Morley, and Alfonso Ferrabosco, we still know little of the reasons for the disappearance of the printed lute song. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the political, economic, and musical circumstances surrounding the decline of the lute song.

I will begin by discussing the history of scholarship on the lute song. Most scholars recognize a distinction in style between the earlier songs of John Dowland, a more lyric, melodic style, and that of younger composers such as Alfonso Ferrabosco, who wrote in a more declamatory, less melodic, style. I will also address the problems with existing explanations for the decline of the printed books in the 1620s to justify the need for a more detailed examination of the circumstances surrounding the music printing culture of the early 17th century.

The majority of this dissertation will focus on the two generations of English lute song book printers. The first generation, consisting of Thomas East, Peter Short, and John Windet, printed the most well-known composers and songs from this genre. Despite the fact that the second generation, printing music from ca. 1610-1625, printed far fewer books than their predecessors, they too are vital to understanding the decline of the lute song. By researching the political and economic situation in which they operated, I hope to proffer a more reasonable explanation for the disappearance of printed song books. This approach will examine not only the stylistic trends of which lute song composers were a part, but also the marketing patterns of music printers that appear to mimic the recognized shift from melodic to declamatory songs. Finally, I will take into account extant manuscripts that contain lute songs and tie the lute song publications into the broader picture of music printing in the early 17th century.

In March 2005, I entered the Drexel University Master of Science in Library Science program and will complete my degree in March 2006.

My work

I recently accepted a position at Haverford College as the Humanities Librarian for Music and Literature. My responsibilities include the administration of the Union Music Library and collection development for music, modern languages, and literature. In the spring, I will be part of a group working as a remote site for the Variations3 project run out of Indiana University.

Performing interests

I play early music winds of all kinds, including the recorder, krummhorn, curtal, and shawm. Right now I'm teaching myself to play the lute, and eventually hope to be good enough to accompany myself on lute songs! I have in the past taught recorder, and continue to coach at the Triangle Recorder Society Spring Workshop, where I work with all levels of recorder players, from novice to advanced. When I finish my MLS at Drexel, I hope to find other early musicians in the greater Philadelphia area with whom I can play.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my website, and please feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or comments.