Saturday morning quotes 3.3: More Morley
We have made mention of Thomas Morley (c. 1557 – 1602) in recent memory in the context of a composer of lute songs and as an astute and ambitious businessman who obtained and exercised a monopoly on music publishing from 1598 – 1602. An excellent discussion of Morley’s accomplishments and antics as holder of the monopoly may be found in Jeremy L. Smith, Thomas East and music publishing in Renaissance England (Oxford University Press, 2003), and a more recent thesis on Morley’s publishing activities by Teresa Ann Murray.
Morley’s book of lute songs, The first booke of ayres…published by Thomas Morley Bachiler of Musicke, and one of the gent. of her Maiesties Royall Chappel (1600), may be considered a nice try, and a novel counterpart to the more idiomatically conceived song books of John Dowland. The first booke would have been the source for our rendition of the song ‘Sleepe slumbringe eyes‘, but the book survives only in an incomplete copy and we were compelled to provide a reconstruction based on a manuscript source.
Morley’s The First Booke of Consort Lessons, made by diuers exquisite Authors, for six Instruments to play together, the Treble Lute, the Bandora, the Cittern, the Base-Violl, the Flute & Treble-Violl (1599) was our source for the music from which we have arranged the song ‘O mistress mine‘, with the text from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The score of his arrangement for lute and voice may be found in our edition, Shakespeare’s Lute Book, the subject of a recent blog post.
Today we refer to Morley’s compendium on musical composition, A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, set downe in forme of a dialogue (1597), an incredibly rich and insightful source of information for those of us who care about interpretation of period music.
A facsimile of the original print may be found in a number of places. Our source is the print edition edited by Alec Harmon with a Foreword by Thurston Dart, for which the citation is Morley, Thomas, A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music. 2nd Ed. (Norton Library). W.W. Norton: n.p., 1973. Unfortunately, Norton does not seem to list the book as available in its rather impenetrable catalog, but the the print edition is available through all the usual bookseller sites.
Our quote today is not from Morley but rather from Thurston Dart’s Foreword, which offers interesting contextual information:
“In the early years of the [16th] century the performance of sacred and secular music was largely confined to the court, the musical chapels of the king and the greater nobility, and the larger monastic establishments. Most singers, composers, and players were professionals, and amateur musicians were extremely rare, though the king [Henry VIII] himself was one of the more outstanding ones. Musical notation was an arcane art, not to be revealed to all comers; musicians were reluctant, too, to tell all they knew, for the obvious and perhaps sordidly commercial reasons that their livelihood depended on their specialized knowledge and skill.”
Times have changed.