Duffin, Ross W.
Duffin, Ross W.
Born in London, Ontario, Canada. Education: University of Western Ontario, B.M., 1973; Stanford University, M.A., 1974, D.M.A., 1977.
Educator and writer. St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY, member of adjunct faculty in early music, 1976-77; McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, assistant professor of music, 1977-78; Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, assistant professor of music, 1978-86, Fynette H. Kulas Associate Professor of Music, 1986-95, chair, department of music, 1993-98, Fynette H. Kulas Professor of Music, 1995—. Instructor for numerous music workshops and festivals, and frequent lecturer on musical topics. Renaissance wind instrument player and choral singer, including with chorus attached to Apollo's Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra. Host and producer of radio program Micrologus: Exploring the World of Early Music, National Public Radio, 1980-85. Artistic advisor to Exsultemus professional vocal ensemble, 2003—. Adviser to board of CityMusic Cleveland, 2004—. Elected representative of Apollo's Singers to the board of Apollo's Fire, 2005—.
Noah Greenberg Award, American Musicological Society, 1980, for work of benefit to scholars and performers; Folger Shakespeare Library fellowship, 1999; Thomas Binkley Award, Early Music America magazine, 2005, for outstanding achievement in performance and scholarship; Claude V. Palisca Award, American Musicological Society, 2005, for Shakespeare's Songbook.
(Editor) Pierre de la Rue, Gaude Virgo (musical score), Fazer Music (Espoo, Finland), 1992.
(Editor) Jean Mouton, Nesciens Mater (musical score), Fazer Music (Espoo, Finland), 1992.
(Editor, with Thomas Tomkins) Five Consort Anthems, Fretwork Editions, 1994.
(Editor) A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music (nonfiction), Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2000.
Shakespeare's Songbook (nonfiction), Norton (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor, with Anthony Newcomb) Cantiones Sacrae: Madrigalian Motets from Jacobean England, A-R Editions, 2005.
How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (And Why You Should Care) (nonfiction), Norton (New York, NY), 2007.
Editor of numerous other musical scores, including Forty-five Dufay Chansons from Canonici 213: A Performance Edition in Original Notation, Ogni Sorte Editions, 1983. Contributor of articles to journals, including Early Music America and Elizabethan Review. Member, editorial board, Elizabethan Review, 1996-2002, editorial advisory board, Early Music America, 1997—, editorial board, Performance Practice Online, 1998—, advisory board, "Music: Scholarship and Performance and Publications of the Early Music Institute" series for Indiana University Press, 2002—.
Musical scholar Ross W. Duffin has written extensively on music spanning the period from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century and has also edited numerous musical scores. While many of his writings are aimed at an academic audience, Shakespeare's Songbook is for a general one. The book deals with all the vocal music used, quoted, or mentioned in William Shakespeare's plays. Some of the plays provide no tune to go with the lyrics. Duffin found musical charts for some in his research at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and he suggests appropriate tunes for others, bringing together music and lyrics of 165 songs for the first time. He also discusses the songs' historical background and dramatic importance. The book comes with a CD of eighty-one of the songs.
Several reviewers welcomed the book as an aid to both scholars and theater audiences. Duffin is dealing with "what many would consider an esoteric subject," noted Barry Zaslow in the Library Journal, but has "taken strides to make the music accessible to modern theatergoers." Gordon C. Cyr, writing in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, called the book "an impressive work of scholarship in an area of Shakespearean studies where much light remains to be shed," adding that its "appeal to lovers of Shakespeare … will be enormous."
Duffin's works for specialists include How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (And Why You Should Care). Equal temperament, put simply, is the division of the musical scale into twelve equally spaced tones. It has become standard for tuning of keyboard instruments over the past few centuries. Duffin, however, feels that such standardization causes loss of musical character and complexity.
Some critics found the work useful even if they did not agree with Duffin wholeheartedly. Stephen Pettitt, reviewing for the London Sunday Times, deemed it a "handy little book," although he thought equal temperament has "enabled keyboard composers to write with enriched vocabulary," while they can still "make adjustments instinctively or deliberately … thus colouring melody, harmony or both." A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the inclusion of explanatory sidebars and sometimes humorous illustrations, and summed up the book as "a comprehensive plea for more variety in tuning methods, interesting but mostly inaccessible to the non-professional." Elizabeth M. Wavle, critiquing for the Library Journal, described it as "a challenging read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Early Music, August, 1994, Gareth Curtis, reviews of Ave Maria, Gaude Virgo, and Nesciens Mater, p. 505.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (And Why You Should Care), p. 885.
Library Journal, April 1, 2004, Barry Zaslow, review of Shakespeare's Songbook, p. 95, and The Bard Remastered: Ross W. Duffin's "Shakespeare's Songbook (Behind the Book)," p. 97; November 1, 2006, Elizabeth M. Wavle, review of How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (And Why You Should Care), p. 78.
Notes, December, 1998, James Alberts, review of Five Consort Anthems, p. 465.
Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, summer, 2004, Gordon C. Cyr, review of Shakespeare's Songbook, p. 18.
Sunday Times (London, England), December 31, 2006, Stephen Pettitt, "Mind the Musical Gaps."
Case Western Reserve University Music Department Web site,http://music.cwru.edu/ (March 1, 2007), brief biography of Duffin.