Shakesongs About

About the composer

Michael Mikulin is a vancouver based composer of Shakespearean song, Choral music, and Christian and inspirational songs. He has a B. Mus and an M.A. from the University Of British Columbia and teaches music in School District 38. His songs and compositions have been utilized by a number of professional acting companies, choral groups, and community organizations throughout the world. If you enjoyed the music here and would like to learn more about Michael and his music, you can visit his personal site at: www.michaelmikulin.com

About this site

This site was originally developed in 2006 as part of a Master’s Thesis I was writing at the University Of British Columbia, entitled Teaching Shakespeare Through Song. The goal of the Thesis was to explore historical settings of Shakspeare’s song lyrics, relate the process of setting Shakespeare’s song lyrics to my own music, and discuss its application in the high school classroom. If you would like to view the original Thesis text, it can be found online at the UBC Library, at the following link:  https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/17780

Gradually, the site evolved from a purely educational one to a source for dramatic companies and individuals seeking original music for their Shakespeare productions. Some of the companies who have utilized music on this site are professional level, while others are amateurs or educational institutions. If you are with a dramatic company and are interested in obtaining a license to use one or several songs in a production, please visit the Connect page for more details.

About the songs

Some of the songs included here are pure song lyrics, meaning they were originally intended to be songs, such as the clever lyrics from As You Like It ( Under The Greenwood Tree, A Lover & His Lass, Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind); others are simply famous passages of text that I found intriguing and wanted to set to song, such as Mercutio’s damning death bed speech from Romeo & Juliet , A Plague On Your Houses, or Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day) which is not from a play at all but from a collection of Shakespeare’s poetry. My goal, eventually, is to have matching complete sets of songs from all of the major plays, as I have done with the song set from As You Like It.

One word of caution about Shakespeare: and Authenticity It’s worth noting that there was no copyright in Shakespeare’s day. Consequently, he felt quite free to borrow liberally from other sources, and did so frequently, both for the source materials of his plays, and for his song lyrics. Many of the songs in his plays were re-workings of popular lyrics of the day, but since he was not a melodist, Shakespeare may very well have used familiar folk melodies that were already in the public consciousness, such as ballads, dance tunes and drinking songs. After Shakespeare’s death, other composers set the lyrics to their own melodies. Consequently, there are literally hundreds of settings of these song texts. None of these settings is more authentic than any other, since all of these composers were reinterpreting Shakespeare in their own way. Searching for an authentic Shakespearean song setting is akin to trying to stage an “authentic” production of Shakespeare. Is a production staged in 20th century dress really less authentic than one staged in 18th century constumes, given that Shakespeare lived in the 1590’s and frequently set his plays in places like ancient Greece?

What I have attempted to do here is bring the songs into a modern musical context. No attempt has been made here for authenticity in terms of musical instrumentation, although many of the songs have an anachronistic feel that may feel Shakespearean or Elizabethan to the casual listener. However, most of the songs utilize modern instruments such as piano, strings, and electric guitar. In terms of musical style, they range the gamut from folk style melodies to musical theatre to rock. I hope that all listeners will find something here that appeals to their musical sensibilities and that the melodies presented will serve their ultimate purpose, which is to effectively dramatize the text!

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