A&S Journey: Thomas Campion

We return to our humble exploration of Elizabethan lute songs, and turn our attention to our second composer, Thomas Campion. Campion’s reputation, of course, exists in the shadow of John Dowland’s, as does pretty much every other lute composer of the era. Campion was not a professional musician, as John Dowland was; Campion lived the life of a gentleman amateur. He attended Cambridge but did not take a degree, then law school without being called to the bar, ultimately becoming a physician to earn a living. His reputation was certainly not as a lutenist: that was his close friend and sole heir, Philip Rosseter, eventual King’s Musician to James I (as was Dowland), who provided Campion space and authorial credit for half of the songs on Rosseter’s first (and only) published lute songbook, 1601’s A Book of Ayres.

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A&S Journey: Dowland, “Clear or cloudy”

Returning to Elizabethan music, this will be the third and last piece by John Dowland planned for this series (next, we will turn to Thomas Campion, a particular favorite of mine). Today’s entry, “Clear or cloudy”, is actually the newest period piece in my repertoire, as I have only started the process of learning to sing and play it in the last month or two.

Nature of work: Song (or “air”) for one to four voices and lute, lyrics in English

Historic source: John Dowland, (The Second Booke of Songes or Ayres, first published 1600, song 21)

Primary source: Full PDF facsimile can be downloaded at the International Music Score Library Project.

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A&S Journey: Thomas the Rhymer & “I Must Be Silent”

Coming back from a wonderful Pennsic, we will take a digression from Elizabethan music this week to focus on a new performance piece that originates from older source material. Feel free to watch or read the new song, “I Must Be Silent”, either before or after the discussion of its sources.

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An Announcement

This announcement went out to the appropriate lists this morning, so I am pleased to share it here:

Greetings from Mesterno Tyzes ‘Zsof’ Sofia, Master Toki Skáldagörvir and Master Peregrine the Illuminator;

Peregrine and Toki happily announce (with Zsof’s blessing) that we claim Drake Oranwood as our joint student.

In consultation with the three of us, Drake has made this decision to transition from being Zsof’s apprentice to being our joint student. The decision is made in part to bring his peer relationships closer to his home in the East Kingdom, and to take advantage of our strengths.

· Peregrine brings his knowledge of music research and composition, helping Drake advance his existing research and songwriting skills.

· Toki will bring his approach of working with “the whole student” – art, performance, helping Drake continually be the person he wants to be, work-life-hobby balance, and guidance along paths to further success.

· Both Peregrine and Toki will bring their strengths in storytelling, performance, and other topics, as well as their willingness to listen.

If you have praise for Drake, please tell Drake, and us, and the world.

If you have constructive criticism for Drake, please tell Drake, and tell Toki and/or Peregrine. We look forward to the conversations.

A&S Journey: Dowland, “Come again sweet love”

After a couple of weeks focusing on the lute history and playing, we resume an exploration of John Dowland’s songs for lute and voice. While “Come again sweet love” was the second Dowland song Maistre Lucien introduced me to in our studies, it was the first song she assigned me to learn how to play on guitar. Thus, it was the starting point for my understanding of how to interpret lute tablature, and the (sometimes painful) process of playing lute music on guitar.

Nature of work: Song (or “air”) for one to four voices and lute, lyrics in English

Historic source: John Dowland, (The Firste Booke of Songes or Ayres, first published 1597, song 17)

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A&S Journey: Plundering the Lute, Part 2 (Playing)

This week’s entry focuses on the process and appropriateness of playing lute pieces on a modern guitar. As with last week’s exploration of the history of the instrument and the English lute repertoire, much of this material is incorporated into the class “My Guitar’s Persona Is a Lute”.

Let’s start with the choice use a guitar as a substitute for the lute, as opposed to acquiring an actual lute, or a mandolin, which is the lute’s direct descendant. Let’s start with an actual lute. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with playing lute music on a lute, and all things being equal, this is the most authentic choice. There are a few important considerations to make before purchasing a lute, however, if you do not already have one. For one thing, which lute, and which music? As discussed last week, the lute evolved considerably over the centuries, and went from a four courses (pairs of strings tuned identically or an octave a part) up to as many as 8 by the end of the Renaissance. Also, the style of play evolved from monophonic music played by plucking a plectrum on early lutes, to finger picking on Renaissance lutes. So it is important to identify what sort of music, and from which era, you wish to play, and that will determine what you are looking for.

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A&S Journey: Plundering the Lute, Part 1 (History)

This week and next will focus on the lute itself, its background and relevance, and how someone less familiar with the instrument might begin learning lute repertoire for playing in an SCA setting. Much of the research discussed here was incorporated into a class I introduced last Pennsic, “My Guitar’s Persona Is a Lute”.

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