(b Co. Limerick, Ireland, c1719; d ?Bath, 2/3 Aug 1798). British miscellaneous writer. He matriculated at Oxford University in 1735 and about 1758–9 travelled to Italy, where he met the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs. After returning to England he published Observations on the Correspondence between Poetry and Music (London, 1769; German translation, Leipzig, 1771), which represents a shift from a narrow conception of mimesis to a broader definition in terms of ‘impressions’ (effects) that evoke or specify feelings. The sum of Webb’s argument is this: just as the movements of the mind impress ‘vibrations’ on animal spirits contained in the nerves, so too the movements of music and poetry, by agitating the spirits, influence the mind. Musical impressions being ‘simple’ merely raise or depress the spirits, whereas poetical impressions being ‘compound’ excite specific motives or passions. But when music is combined with poetry, general impressions can become ‘specific indications of the manners and passions’. This argument, which was borrowed without acknowledgment from David Hartley, provided the naturalistic foundation for Webb’s theory of accentual prosody: that every temporal point in a ‘just’ poetico-musical work is created by the demands of expression, not the reverse; that metrical variety is necessary; and that the mark of poetical-musical genius is prosodic surprise, either ‘by original Beauty, or Greatness in the idea’.
D.Hartley: Observations on Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations (London, 1749)
T.Twining: Correspondence: to C. Burney, 12 May 1775, GB-Lbl
L.Lipking: The Ordering of the Arts in Eighteenth-Century England (Princeton, NJ, 1970)
J.C.Kassler: The Science of Music in Britain, 1714–1830 (New York, 1979), ii, 1053–5
R.Katz and R.Hacohen: ‘“Ut Musica Poesis”: the Crystallization of a Conception concerning Cognitive Processes and “Well-Made Worlds”’, Das musikalische Kunstwerk … : Festschrift Carl Dahlhaus, ed. H. Danuser and others (Laaber, 1988), 17–37
JAMIE C. KASSLER
Webb, George James
(b nr Salisbury, 24 June 1803; d Orange, NJ, 7 Oct 1887). American music educator, editor and composer of English birth. He studied with Alexander Lucas in Salisbury, then resigned as organist at Falmouth in 1830 and emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, where he became organist at the Old South Church. Active in many aspects of Boston's musical life, he worked closely with Lowell Mason on educational and publishing projects. He taught in the early years of the Boston Academy of Music, was conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society and the orchestras of the Academy and the Musical Fund Society, and co-edited periodicals and choral collections with Mason and others. In 1870 he moved to Orange, New Jersey, and taught in New York. His compositions, most of which are choral, are musically adept and very much a part of the New England Protestant tradition, though notably less inspired than those of Mason. Only one hymn tune remains in use today: originally written to secular words, it was by 1850 called Goodwin, and is now known as Webb (‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus’). One of Webb's daughters married William Mason.
Scripture Worship (Boston, 1834)
The Massachusetts Collection of Psalmody (Boston, 1840)
The American Glee Book (Boston, 1841)
with L.Mason: The Psaltery (Boston, 1845)
with L.Mason: The National Psalmist (Boston, 1848)
with L.Mason: Cantica Laudis (New York, 1850)
Cantica Ecclesiastica (Boston, 1859)
DAB (J.T. Howard)
F.Metcalf: American Writers and Compilers of Sacred Music (New York, 1925/R), 241ff
WILLIAM E. BOSWELL
(b Reading, 30 Jan 1926). English soprano. The leading ingénue of British musicals in the 1950s, she received her first break as an understudy, taking over the lead in Vivian Ellis and A.P. Herbert’s Big Ben in 1946, but is best remembered as Lucy Veracity Willow in Ellis and Herbert’s next show, Bless the Bride (1947). Her two biggest numbers in this were ‘This is my lovely day’ and ‘I was never kissed before’, which demonstrated the powerful soprano voice and graceful stage presence which she had the misfortune to bring to the West End just as the trend towards more energetic American musical theatre imports was taking over. After playing the juvenile lead in Novello’s Gay’s the Word (1951) she appeared as Sarah Brown in the first London production of Loesser’s Guys and Dolls (1953), and in 1959 appeared as Giulietta in the television version of Hans May and Eric Maschwitz’s Carissima. Although she appeared in the title role of Die lustige Witwe in 1969, she had in effect retired from the stage before the end of the 1950s, having married the heir to a baronetcy, in true Edwardian style entering the stage as a singer and leaving as a Lady.
(b New York, 3 Oct 1888; d Santa Monica, CA, 10 Dec 1982). American composer. He studied at Columbia University where he began to compose, arrange and conduct his own musical comedy material, and was soon conducting regularly on Broadway. In 1929 he went to Hollywood and joined RKO Radio Pictures as music director, a post he held until 1952. Much of his work was in the realm of film noir, and he showed great skill in translating horror and violence and their more subtle nuances into musical terms, using a wide spectrum of dissonant harmonies, atmospheric orchestral colour and sparse textures. Webb was adept at depicting nocturnal, big-city moods, for example in Crossfire (1947) and The Window (1948). In a series of horror films for the producer Val Lewton – Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man, The Seventh Victim (all 1943), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatchers (1945) and Bedlam (1946) – his music is the precise aural equivalent of Lewton's half-heard sounds, half-seen shadows and atmospheric lighting; Sinbad the Sailor (1946) and Underwater (1955) display his ability to fill a broader, more colourful canvas of adventure, fantasy and romance. Although Webb may have dissipated his gifts in overproductivity (a fault endemic to the studio system), he worked on several films that have become recognized as masterpieces.
C.Palmer: ‘Roy Webb: Film-Score Veteran’, Crescendo, xi/8 (1973), 12 only
C.Palmer: ‘Write it Black: Roy Webb, Lewton, and Film Noir’, Monthly Film Bulletin, xlviii (1981), 168
R.D.Larson: Musique Fantastique: Music in the Fantastic Cinema (Metuchen, NJ, 1985), 44–8
C.Palmer: The Composer in Hollywood (New York, 1990), 160–85