Lester, CN (2019) Representing Strozzi: A Critical and Personal Re-Evaluation of her Life and Music. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This study explores the life and music of seventeenth-century composer Barbara
Strozzi, and the changing cultural representations and understandings of these over
time. Despite a modest growth of interest in Strozzi since Rosand’s 1978
“rediscovery,” gaps in the research remain. Broader cultural representations of
Strozzi pose troubling questions of accuracy and stereotyping. The objectives of this
study are fourfold: to discover more of Strozzi’s life in context; to consider the ways
in which she has been represented; to analyse her music; and to explore the
relationship between performer and composer, researcher and research subject,
linked through voice and gendered reception.

A review of discussions of Strozzi throughout the musical literature is
undertaken, supported by a literature review of the major works of feminist
musicology. A new translation of one of the major contemporary texts discussing
Strozzi, Satire, et altre raccolte per l'Academia de gl'Unisoni in casa di Giulio Strozzi,
supports an investigation into Strozzi’s social position, comparing the historical data
with later cultural representation. Musical analysis of thirty-three of Strozzi’s works
illuminates the hallmarks of her style, and comparative analysis of her music
alongside relevant examples from Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Bembo shows how
Strozzi responded to and developed the musical language of seicento vocal music.
This musical analysis proceeds from a foundation of practical musicking and
embodied understanding. As the basis for my engagement with this study, and as
critical factor in understanding Strozzi’s music, performance features in two ways: as
recordings to develop and support the musical analysis, and as a live performance to
highlight the reality of the relationship between myself and Strozzi, and to
demonstrate the importance of display and rhetoric in her work. The
autoethnography emerges from this musicking relationship and examines the
personal re-evaluation of the self provoked by engagement with the research

On the basis of these investigations, this thesis makes five claims. First, that
the majority of representations of Barbara Strozzi are at best incomplete and at
worst inaccurate. Second, that the ways in which Strozzi has been represented are
emblematic of broader trends in the representation of women musicians. Third, that
rather than repeatedly situating Strozzi through the unanswerable asking of whether
or not she was a courtesan, it is more fruitful to consider her family relationships
through the seicento practice of concubinage. Fourth, that Strozzi’s compositions
prove a vital step in the development of seicento vocal music. Fifth, that through an
examined involvement, insights as to the supposed neutrality of the researcher may
be revealed, and possibilities for further scholarly and performance development

FINAL THESIS - Lester.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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