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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A&S Journey: Can she excuse my wrongs? Part 3 and last: 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.

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Slight delay…

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.]

A&S Journey: Can she excuse my wrongs? Part 2: Lyrics

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.

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Studio Day: “Plant Your Feet” with Bird the Bard

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”.)

My A&S Journey: John Dowland, Can she excuse my wrongs?, Part 1

Mistress Zsof and I had a heart-to-heart recently, which encouraged me to re-examine my objectives around participation in the SCA, bardic, and this blog. While she had expressed the desire for me to do what many of the artisans in the Arts & Sciences community do, and post about research and learning, that hasn’t really happened as intended. My tendency to keep research and preparations for new pieces under wraps, hoping to delight and surprise (or at least surprise) as a performer, has been at odds with the A&S mission to share the journey of research and discovery.

With Zsof’s approval, I have set myself the challenge to go back through my notes and recollections, and post a new entry around researched work, older or newer, each week for the next year. There will doubtless be some overlap with material that was shared in large bursts after a given performance or competition, but that isn’t what’s important. The objective in A&S is to share the excitement of research, discovery, and preparation, and the delight and beauty of historically sourced work in the SCA, and if that remains hidden, then this blog presents an incomplete picture of what our bards do (or can do). If our colleagues and fellow researchers find performance an uneasy fit within the A&S framework, it is up to us to bridge that gap. This is an attempt to rectify that on the small scale.

The first entry in the series focuses on one of the best-known and best-respected musicians and composers of the English Renaissance, John Dowland, and my first teacher’s attempt to introduce me to performing his work: “Can she excuse my wrongs?”

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