ArticlesNo. 95, Spring 2013

Memoirs of a Musical Object, Supposedly Written by Itself: It–Narrative and Eighteenth–Century Marketing

Abstract

Yes, I am music. Specifically, I am seven pages of two of the finest little ditties this side of the Thames—or perhaps I should say, around these parts, the Hudson? At least that’s the kind of reputation I used to have. I understand that Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play The Critic (Drury Lane, 1779) is not the draw that it was in my day, although the British Broadcasting Corporation recorded a performance in 1992 that is available in many libraries through Alexander Street Press’s “Theater in Video” database. A version of my con- tents can be found in Act I, for which I was created by Tommaso Giordano as incidental music. (I do despise that word “incidental.” Clearly I am no mere peripheral occurrence, as I was reprinted and sold in this form, including multiple versions of the same tune for varied domestic pleasure.) I offer a bit more about the dramatic context of my original presentation, so that you understand my true nature: In Act I, the audience meets several silly characters: Mr. Dangle, a director; Mr. Puff and Mr. Sneer, both critics; and Sir Fretful Plagiary, a playwright. All have convened in Mr. Dangle’s house to put together a show for which they are auditioning musicians. (You see, I hope, that I originate in a play whose plot revolves around the production of plays.) Signor Pasticcio Ritornello arrives with an entourage of performers, having been sent by Lady Rondeau and Mrs. Fuge. It is in this moment that my contents are presented.