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)
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.
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”.
This is the third weekly post (of a planned 52) going through my SCA Arts & Sciences research over the last several years. It will conclude the examination of our first song under study, “Can she excuse my wrongs?” by John Dowland. We have reviewed sources and lyrics for the piece, and today we will focus on the lute arrangement, and the process I used to learn to play it.
This week’s A&S Journey post will be completed on Tuesday July 4. We had guests this weekend, and my wife is packing to head out of town tomorrow, so we are making the most of our time together tonight. Talk to you soon.
[UPDATE: Oh, July 4 is a Thursday. It will definitely be done by then.]
This is the second of a planned series of 52 weekly posts on my experience researching Arts & Sciences topics, particularly Elizabethan music and culture. Last week began the examination of John Dowland’s “Can she excuse my wrongs?” We will be diving into the musical exploration of the piece next week, leading up to my first public performance of the lute accompaniment in 2016. But first, an examination of the song’s lyrics, which served as a first window into aspects of Elizabethan culture that warranted further study.
An evening geeking and recording with Bird was just what my soul needed this week. They’re extraordinarily talented, but even more, they’re incredibly loving, kind, and open. They bring out my best self, as they do with most everyone I know.
Since they moved to Michigan, opportunities to see them are rare (though there is of course Pennsic). But I was grateful they were able to make time for this session, since I very much wanted their imprint on “Plant Your Feet”, which is a song for and about bards.
We had a blast together. And tomorrow I get to edit and mix Bird’s vocals, French horn, and tin whistle into the song and see what we have. (They also provided a bright beautiful harmony for “Shine, Child”.)