Alana Mailes

Alana Mailes

Graduate Fellow
English Musicians in the Italian Peninsula


Alana Mailes is a PhD candidate in Historical Musicology at Harvard University. Her work explores issues of diaspora and migration in early modern music of Italy, Britain, and Ireland. She holds a BA in Music and Italian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and an MPhil in Musicology from Clare College, University of Cambridge. She is also an enthusiastic performer of early music and maintains an active schedule as a soprano soloist, choral singer, and choral conductor.

Project Summary

Alana’s project explores the activities of English musicians in the Italian peninsula circa 1600, looking into the institutional mechanisms through which much Anglo-Italian musical exchange took place and significantly influenced music produced on both sides of the English Channel. The specific travels and experiences of English musicians abroad at the turn of the seventeenth century remain something of an unknown; Alana’s dissertation redresses these lacunae with a study of musical life in English expatriate and diplomatic communities throughout Italy, primarily the English College in Rome, the English embassy in Venice, and various English households in Florence. In a series of microhistories, she investigates music in chapel services, dramatic productions, ceremonial occasions, social gatherings, and private lessons to chart networks of intercultural artistic exchange and question enduring music-historical narratives about a unidirectional exportation of musical ideas from Italy to England.

By emphasizing the mobility of music within networks of students, ecclesiastics, physicians, merchants, tourists, diplomats, spies, and other travelers, her approach eschews a traditional focus on a few well-known composers and instead contextualizes their activities in an account that includes professional performers and pedagogues, amateur musicians, and women musicians, thus broadening out from individual biography to the social systems through which individuals and repertoires moved. She aims to encourage wider consideration of music’s integral role in early modern transcultural exchange, and of how the study of migrant musicians can productively challenge broader historiographical paradigms.