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Saturday morning quotes 7.39: In tempus pestis


“Once the faintest stirring of hope became possible, the dominion of plague was ended.”

Albert Camus, The Plague

Times are particularly troublesome for many just now, and we offer condolences and support to our many friends in disquieting circumstances around the globe.  Particularly Italy.

Rather than rehash the awful news, we offer a few songs produced cooperatively by some of our favorite Italians, Francesco Petrarca, Michelangelo Buonarroti, and Bartolomeo Tromboncino.  We had originally planned to perform a house concert this evening but instead we offer a video with two of the songs that were to have been on the program.

Bartolomeo Tromboncino (c. 1470-1535) was a singer, lutenist and a prolific composer of popular songs from circa 1500. Tromboncino served at the court of Isabella d’Este until his unauthorized departure in 1505, at which time he entered the service of Lucrezia Borgia in Ferrara.

Vergine bella, che di sol vestita”, poetry by Francesco Petrarca (1304 – 1374)

Among Tromboncino’s relatively small output of laude, or devotional songs, this setting of the passionate poetry of Francesco Petrarca employs a gentle but consistent pulse in contrast to the more complex earlier setting by Guillaume DuFay (c.1397 – 1474), also available as a single by Mignarda.

Vergine bella, che di sol vestita,
coronata di stelle, al sommo Sole
piacesti sí, che ‘n te Sua luce ascose,
amor mi spinge a dir di te parole:
ma non so ‘ncominciar senza tu’ aita,
et di Colui ch’amando in te si pose.
Invoco lei che ben sempre rispose,
chi la chiamò con fede:
Vergine, s’a mercede miseria extrema de l’humane cose
già mai ti volse, al mio prego t’inchina,
soccorri a la mia guerra,
bench’i’ sia terra,
et tu del ciel regina.

Vergine pura, d’ogni parte intera,
del tuo parto gentil figliuola et madre,
ch’allumi questa vita, et l’altra adorni,
per te il tuo figlio, et quel del sommo Padre,
o fenestra del cielo lucente altera,
venne a salvarne in su li extremi giorni;
et fra tutti terreni altri soggiorni
sola tu fosti electa,
Vergine benedetta,
che ‘l pianto d’Eva in allegrezza torni.
Fammi, ché puoi, de la Sua gratia degno,
senza fine o beata, già coronata nel superno regno.

Virgin fair, arrayed in the sun, crowned with stars,
You who found such favor with the highest Sun that He hid his light in you,
Love drives me to speak of you.
But I cannot even begin without your aid
and the aid of Him who established Himself in you.
I invoke her who has always answered those
Who called upon her with faith.
Lady, if extreme misery in things of earth
ever turned you to pity,
Bend down to to my prayer, help me in my struggle
Though I be clay,
and you the Queen of heaven!

Virgin pure, perfect in every part;
Noble daughter and mother of your gentle Child,
You who lighten this life and adorn the other:
Your son, Son of the Father,
Through you (o shining window of heaven)
Came to redeem us at the final day!
God selected you alone
among all who dwell on the earth.
Blessed virgin,
who turns the tears of Eve to rejoicing:
O make me worthy His grace,
You, eternally blessed, crowned in heaven above.


“Come harò donque ardire”
Bartolomeo Tromboncino, poetry by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

The famous artist, Michelangelo, wrote the poem, “Come harò donque ardire” sometime between 1510 and 1520, after completion of the magnificent ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Tromboncino’s setting of Come harò donque ardire was published in 1520 by Andrea Antico in a sparse arrangement for voice and lute.

Mignarda’s performance adds characteristic movement to the lute accompaniment that is typical of Tromboncino’s style. The performance adheres to a quiet, flexible but regular sense of pulse which, as reinforced by contemporary description, is vital to effective performance of music from this era.

Come harò donque ardire
senza voi mai, mio ben, tenermi’n vita,
s’io non posso, al partir, chiedermi aita ?
Quei singulti, quei pianti e quei sospiri
che ‘1 miser cor a voi acompagniorno,
madonna, duramente dimostrorno
la mia propinqua morte e’ mei martyri.
Ma se ver è che, per absentia, mai
Mia fidel servitù cada in oblio,
II cor come presago di mei guai,
per adimpir el vostro van desio,
vi fa lexequie del sepulchro mio.

How, then, can I ever dare to keep hold on life
without you, my beloved,
if at our parting, I cannot find help within myself?
Those sobs, those cries, those sighs
– companions of my miserable heart –
I hardly show to you, my lady,
the torments of my approaching death.
But if it is true that once I am gone
my faithful servitude may be forgotten,
my heart, anticipating my woe
at the loss of your desire,
makes preparations for my entombment.

Saturday morning quotes 7.38: News

With apologies to those readers who are on our email newsletter list and have already seen our updates, we are taking a moment to give you our readers a status report on Mignarda. Those of you who are regular visitors to Unquiet Thoughts will know that, as usual, we have a lot of irons in the fire.  But we are particularly gratified that our dedication, our hard work and our ability to get to the heart of early music have been successful far beyond the expectations of independent exponents of a seriously small niche market.

Insights: Who’s Listening?

In the second decade of the 21st century, it’s hardly surprising that our music has found its way across the globe.  Our YouTube channel has over 5,000 subscribers from 122 countries and, despite our complete lack of promotion and infrequent posting, our videos have had an extraordinary number of views. We are pleased to report that as of Saturday 14 March 2020, Donna’s video of Tantum ergo sacramentum has had more than two million views.  People seem to like what they hear because they have discovered our music on their own rather than having been led to it through slick promotion.  You know, the old-fashioned authentic way.

Gratifying as this may be, what we find really surprising – and what gives us hope – is this:

60.5% of our viewers are under 45 years of age
Mignarda audience by age

Despite conventional wisdom with respect to the greying of early music audiences (and perhaps due to our distinct lack of hype), younger audiences are discovering that our music speaks to them.

A few more numbers:

– We have over 500 Spotify followers

47,205 Bandcamp plays

– A steady monthly average of 15,000 streams for a single track: our recording of Duo Seraphim

Beyond streams & downloads…

We have received multiple requests to license our music from choreographers for classical and modern ballet companies, for plays in Germany, for museum exhibits, in films, documentaries and to provide historical authority for lecture-presentations.  We received a request to quote from the CD liner notes for our Pilgrimes Solace recording for concert program notes by the New York Virtuoso Singers for a joint concert with Parthenia, a consort of viols.

We were honored when respected Dowland scholar Anthony Rooley requested (and obtained) permission to use our recording of music from Pilgrimes Solace as an interpretive example for teaching his course at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland.  And more recently Mignarda’s 2013 release of Dowland’s A Pilgrimes Solace was selected as a reference recording in the new book by K. Dawn Grapes, John Dowland: A Research and Information Guide, Routledge Music Bibliographies, New York, 2019.  The book is a much needed guide to currently available music editions and literature focused on the most influential historical lutenist composer, John Dowland, and includes a numbered catalog of works, a discography, an annotated bibliography of secondary sources, all thoroughly indexed.

And just this week, a track from our 2010 CD Harmonia Caelestis was featured on the nationally syndicated weekly radio program HarmoniaListen here.

Recordings in the works

Mater Dolorosa
We are nearly ready to release our recording of music from circa 1500 featuring the setting of Stabat Mater dolorosa by Josquin des Prez.  Josquin’s sublime setting of the Stabat Mater was quite popular well into the 16th century, and our performance for solo voice and lute is edited from an historical version published by Pierre Phalese in 1552, with the addition of a bowed viol on the important tenor line. The recording will also feature a circa 1500 two-part a cappella setting of the Stabat Mater dolorosa text as found in Amiens, Bibliothèque Centrale  modern edition by Danish musicologist Peter Woetmann Christoffersen.  As far as we know, our recording is the first performance of this setting in 500 years.

Unquiet Thoughts: English ayres for voice and lute
We are also hard at work recording a special collection of English lute songs by Dowland and his contemporaries, and hope to make it available by the end of 2020.

New and Forthcoming from Mignarda Editions

The Mignarda Songbook, Volume One: English Ayres (published December 2019)
Our 14th music edition and the first in a series of selections from the Mignarda songbook, in response to requests from musicians who seek to emulate Mignarda’s practice of performing lute songs in a manner that communicates the texts to best advantage. This first volume contains 43 English ayres and lute solos, both familiar and rare, and all are among our favorite songs. We are pleased to share our unique repertory with professional and amateur musicians in the hope that our approach to lute songs will thrive through informed and engaging performance.

John Dowland: Complete ayres for solo voice and lute (coming April 2020)
We are pleased to announce the April 2020 release of a brand new performing edition of the complete lute songs of John Dowland.  Working in collaboration with long-time specialist in the interpretation of Dowland songs, David Hill, the new edition will feature a lucid paraphrase of all texts as well as in-depth interpretive notes on the poetry for each song.

The new edition will be available in three formats: 1) voice and lute as in the original publications, 2) voice with lute accompaniments in newly transcribed standard notation, and 3) voice with both lute tablature and parallel transcription in standard notation.  An important feature of the new edition is the use of the first 1597 print of Dowland’s First Booke, with Dowland’s original lute parts finally restored as he intended. With attention to detail, accuracy and legibility, this new edition will fill the need for singers and lutenists wishing to explore the most evocative historical repertory for voice and lute.

Independence is paying off

When we first formed Mignarda, we were offered an opportunity to sign with the Naxos label but, after careful consideration, we decided that we had the acumen and skills to form our own independent recording label that would give us complete artistic control over both repertory and product. Naxos Music Online is now one of many distributors which offer our music, but Mignarda remains an independent label.

Likewise, we had the chance to publish our music editions through a well-known music publisher but instead forged our own publishing arm and created Mignarda Editions.

Since then…

– We’ve produced 12 CDs, with physical and digital distribution worldwide.  Our downloads and streams are now numbering in the millions.
– We’ve published 14 music editions, which are now in the hands of lutenists and librarians from New Zealand to the Netherlands.
We are pleased to report that what seemed like a risky strategy all those years ago has paid off, and our music continues to find its way across the globe.

We want to thank you, our friends, listeners and colleagues, for helping us keep historical music alive and giving us the opportunity to touch so many lives with music that matters.

Timely commentary

Apologies to those readers who visit our blog solely for our insights into early music.  We typically avoid what may be viewed as political commentary, but must vent after witnessing an example of class warfare at work.

Last evening after a long day of recording, we decided we were both a bit too knackered to think about cooking at home.  The solution was to stop at a Chipotle restaurant on the way home for fairly simple and reasonably healthy food.  We have frequented this particular place and know the staff to be capable, friendly and courteous.  Sorry to say we could not say the same for the clientele, but we have even more disapproving commentary about the restaurant management.

Sadly, what we witnessed was a snapshot of how modern life has simply gone mad and is certainly unsustainable on so many levels.  There was a bit of a wait line, possibly a dozen people in front of us blithely ignoring one another and listlessly thumbing their phones for no apparent reason.  But clustered around the cash register, another dozen annoyed, irritated and outright angry people were grimacing at one another and at the world at large.  They were the tech-savvy people who had phoned in their order and paid in advance online, thinking they could waltz in and out to enjoy their meal without the bother of waiting in line.

It turns out that Chipotle has instituted a call-in and pickup scheme that very likely boosts sales by a large margin, but they seem to have forgotten to increase staffing commensurately to keep up with the increased workload.  In fact, you can see the workers piling up the call-in orders while at the same time facing a fairly significant line of hungry people, some of whom have very specific ideas of what they would like to ingest and how they would like to have it prepared.

The workers, all of whom were African-American and all of whom were aged 16-20, were pushed far beyond the limit and were doing their best in the face of adversity, but there was an air of desperation combined with resignation behind the counter.  They knew they would be unable to make their customers happy and they also knew that they would likely be admonished by management for the inevitable deluge of raging customer complaints that were surely streaming in at that very moment.

What we witnessed was class warfare at work: a customer base of primarily entitled white middle-class people using technology to instantly and painlessly fulfill their wishes, and demonstrating unbridled rage directed at another set of victims after having their dreams of fast food dashed by the inconvenience of waiting.  The villian in this situation is the corporate culture that set up an untenable situation to increase sales without providing staffing to meet increased demand.

We are not certain what sort of wage Chipotle pays, but it is most certainly not enough to survive.  We are not opposed to the idea of young people learning to advance in life by working hard, but the demands placed on this particular group of young people were exponentially over the limit.  We cannot consider young people to be expendable cogs in the machinery of technocracy, a “human resource” to be used up and replaced by someone less experienced and willing to take a pittance in wages.

Young people are the future, and, sadly, they will be burdened with cleaning up an absolute mess left behind by the insatiable corporate culture that bases an ever-increasing profit upon exploitation of workers.  It is our responsibility to offer young people opportunities to make the world a better place and to instill a sense of optimism in order to nudge them toward that goal.  You know what you must do.



Saturday morning quotes 7.37: Notes


First, we state that we are emphatically pro-primate and do not wish to appear to depict our very important friends in an unfair light.  However, even advanced practitioners of solfeggio are not necessarily the best musicians.

Dwelling on the fringe of the ubiquitous choral community, we seem to encounter two features among singers that, while they appear to take great pride in these skills, we are compelled to state that, contrariwise, they are nothing more than defects when it comes to singing early music.  The first is so-called “perfect pitch,” which we can dismiss readily.  The reference tone of A=440 Hertz was not adopted by the International Organization for Standardization until 1955, and therefore it is not an acceptable pitch reference for early music.  Modern “perfect pitch” is categorically linked to a reference pitch of A=440 and when alternative reference pitches are employed these singers are simply at sea.  Since we follow historical practice and always take care to pitch music where it is most effectively conveyed, we usually refer to singers with so-called “perfect pitch” as suffering from “inflexible pitch reference.”

The second characteristic professional singers often trumpet is a highly developed skill in sight-reading.  While this may be considered a positive as applies to modern choral repertory, in actual practice we find that good sight-readers often rely upon their spontaneous reading skills in lieu of focused practice, and they can be indifferent musicians who are frequently under-prepared.

“I make a great distinction between a musician and a note-player.  The former is he who, considering music as the science of sounds, regards the notes only as conventional signs representing them, and which by the sight convey the result to the mind, as letters communicate words, and words ideas.  The latter is he who considers it the science of notes, who attaches great importance to their names, the real acceptation of which is unknown to him…”

“The note-player succeeds, by dint of practice, in making an acquisition, which is to music what the motions of a rope-dancer are to dancing: he considers an isolated sound, how it is named, and to what key of the pianoforte it corresponds; but, while guessing at it, frequently it happens that he sings out of tune, as it might happen to a rope-dancer that, with all his equilibrium, he might not be able to make a regular pirouette on the floor.”

– Fernando Sor, Sor’s Method for the Spanish Guitar, translated from the original by A. Merrick, London, c. 1850, “Knowledge of the finger-board,” p. 18.

Effective interpretation demands much more than just singing the notes, and a large proportion of the better sort of early music requires intimate familiarity with text and musical phrasing that can only be gained through intensive and interactive rehearsal.  In fact, historical evidence clearly indicates that polyphonic music was sung with deep understanding and sung from memory:

“…[T]ext underlay cannot be taken literally and that adequate singing of even the discantus demands first that the singer have a complete memory, knowledge and understanding of the vocal lines.  Sight reading—or anything approaching it—is out of the question.”

– David Fallows, Commentary to the facsimile of the Manuscript Rothschild 2793 (I.5-13) in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Valencia: Vicent García Editores, 2008.

The way to get to the heart of the music is to absorb the un-notated nuances through repeated performance.  Sight-reading and then blithely moving on to the next piece does a great disservice to both the music and the audience.  If we wish to follow historical practice, we will develop the skill of interpretation to the point where magic happens.

“What shall we say of musicians and singers to the lute, who with their songs and instruments lead even unwilling men now to anger, now to compassion, now to arms, now to worship, as the reports of Orpheus, Timotheus, and innumerable others show?  Therefore it is not unreasonable or unnatural to alter and compel minds with sounds—which minds, once altered, clearly will alter their bodies.”

Pietro Pomponazzi (1462 – 1525), De incantationibus, p. 35, quoted from Gary Tomlinson, Music in Renaissance Magic, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1993, p. 202.

The enchantment of early music is made manifest through commitment to communication of the sounds that the written notes are meant to represent, and it is essential to get light years beyond the notes—if you believe in magic.

Saturday morning quotes 7.36: Espoir


“…[M]usical settings of lyric verse can reveal the poetic taste of a period in a unique fashion, for chanson texts are a rich locus for the study of poetic taste, much like the catalogue of a select library. The way in which composers “read” their texts through their settings, and the corpus of texts they chose to set and reset are often the only measure we have of certain poetic trends. For poets, too, musical settings of their verse were important: while much sixteenth-century lyric verse comes down to us in printed collections without musical garb, some poets, at least, considered music an essential element of any complete lyric expression.”

– Kate Van Orden, “Imitation and “La musique des anciens”: Le Roy & Ballard’s 1572 Mellange de chansons”, Revue de Musicologie, T. 80, No. 1 (1994), p. 5.

The poetry of 16th-century chanson verse is a rich resource that inspired some wonderful musical settings, but the poetry is worth exploring on its own merits.  Among too many other books on French chansons resting on our bookshelves, we have the important reference by Brian Jeffery, Chanson verse of the early Renaissance, 2 volumes, Tecla Editions, London, 1971 and 1976.  And for the pure pleasure of reading we have English translations by Norman R. Shapiro in Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot, Du Bellay, Ronsard, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2002.  We feel strongly that in order to express the texts, we have to develop a working acquaintance with their context.

Today we feature a beautiful chanson by Josquin Baston (fl 1542–63), a little-known composer who likely came from the Netherlands, and who may have held posts at the far-flung courts of Austria, Denmark, Poland, Saxony and even Sweden.  An intriguing feature of his chansons is a distinct declamatory approach, rendering the multi-part music perfect for setting for solo voice and lute.

Our recording, which seems to be the only one out there in the ether, has gotten some airplay and we have received many favorable comments on our interpretation.  The chanson is from such an arrangement found in Hortus Musarum, another in a large series of important publications from the press of Pierre Phalèse of Antwerp and Leuven.  Published in 1552, Hortus Musarum contains a wealth of music for lute solo and duet, but also an intriguing collection of music arranged for our favorite medium of solo voice and lute. Among the gems in this collection is an arrangement of a five-voice setting of the Stabat Mater dolorosa by the other much more famous Josquin, which we featured in the past and will again this Spring when we release a new recording.

Back to the chanson:

Le bon espoir
que j’ay de parvenir
Au bien le quel ne me peult advenir
Si non par vous me faict vivre enlyesse
Secoures moy celuy qui en tristesse
Vivroit tousjours sans toy.

The best I can hope to attain
Is that little which may happen to me,
Which if not given by you, brings joy to my life.
Comfort me in my sadness,
Forever forlorn without you.

Ours is an age in which hope is yet another diminishing resource.   But hope we must, and that hope must be reinforced with strength of will: fecit potentiam.  You can hear our recording here.

Saturday morning quotes 7.35: Trust


Trust is an issue that affects us all in this modern age that favors manipulated imagery over reality.  Sadly, trust is a problem that represents a widening chasm between generations, and this is particularly relevant when one notices the fewness of young faces in the audience at a typical early music concert.  This may be the case for a host of reasons but, as in the romantic depiction of the legend of Wilhelm Tell above, do young people have a reason to blindly trust that we are not just vicariously reliving our own spirit of discovery and imposing yet another managed and guided experience upon them?

We would like to explore the issue of inter-generational trust as facet of the question of why young people seem generally ambivalent about early music, and what we might do to welcome them into the experience.

Focusing on the 1980s segment of the revival, early music was a cultural pet project that attracted persons who straddled the fence delineating high art and free-thinking.  With conscious rejection of the Victorian tuxedo and ball gown, early music performers presented a more relaxed concert experience and audiences were willing to go along with the more bohemian approach to concerts.  Performers also indulged in what appeared to be old music performed with an improvisational approach, and presented with the enthusiasm of discovery with a youthful energy.  This era probably represented the high-water mark of the early music revival.

Tastes change from generation to generation, and it is always shocking to the older generation that their own youthful discoveries are no longer relevant.  Early music enthusiasts aged and diversified, specializing in arcane corners of the repertory and refining both technique and delivery.  But there appears to be a lingering sense of disbelief that the buzz of (their) discovery of early music was unsustainable and likewise not necessarily transferable to the next generation.  In her biographical sketch of John Dowland, Diana Poulton pointed out:

“Few men escape the weakness, as age overtakes them, of looking back on the days of their youth as a more propitious and grateful time, and the remembered enthusiasm of earlier days carries the mind back to youthful triumphs and inverts them with a savour lacking in the successes of later years.”

– Diana Poulton, John Dowland, University of California Press, Berkeley, second edition, 1982, p. 76

As the novelty of the early  music revival nosedived, the trueness of the music slowly seeped out into the world, and we saw events like the film, Tous les matins du monde, 1991, which injected a bit of Hollywood buzz into the racket, stimulating a bit of public awareness.

“Normally, for the early-music concerts, the age of the audience was 50 to 80, and after ‘Tous les matins du monde,’ many more young people started coming to the concerts.”

Jordi Savall

Such large-screen phenomena had a marked effect on a public conditioned to respond to mass marketing before the advent of Youtube and the era of the small screen.  But the successful cinematic example that resulted in a broad awareness of what was once a niche market was established and, when the buzz began to fade again in a few years, it was resuscitated through attempts by marketing professionals to convince the world that there was still a growing interest.

This market-driven mentality in fact resulted in the direct opposite of the desired effect.  Young people see through the façade of marketing that envelops every aspect of modern life, and all the effort expended in attempts to codify the early music experience and approach it with a franchise mentality has only led to a general sense of indifference.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center points out how little trust young people have in the media and in institutions.  While the study was focused more broadly on public institutions, the revealing results can easily be extrapolated to our world of early music.

“Younger adults tend to express less confidence in several of these leaders and groups than do older adults. Adults under 30 are significantly less confident about the military, religious leaders, business leaders and police officers than are those 50 and older.”

– Pew Research Center, Trust and Distrust in America, p. 18

“In addition to their concerns about low and declining levels of trust in government, many Americans are anxious about the level of confidence citizens have in each other. Fully 71% think interpersonal confidence has worsened in the past 20 years. And about half (49%) think a major weight dragging down such trust is that Americans are not as reliable as they used to be.”

– Pew Research Center, p. 29

Thanks to the imposition of the marketing mentality upon early music, young people have very little trust in the experience beyond what may assist them on their own career trajectories.  And the answer does not lie in social media.

“[The] rise in social media and narrow cast media means that we converse in bubbles. This has led to polarization of discussions and beliefs. We have lost the ability to have civil public discourse and remember that good people can disagree.” A more succinct respondent put it, “Social media has become a cancerous blight on society.”

– Pew Research Center, p. 32

It could very well be that ageing audiences at early music concerts are inadvertantly hampering the sense of discovery for a potential younger audience by insisting upon a concert-going etiquette that makes no sense to a generation nursed on passive mistrust of targeted marketing and weaned on “smart” phones.  Perhaps there is a general sense of disappointment that they do not share our own 1980s retrospective sense of discovery.

“Dowland seems to have suffered his full share of this malady, so common among those from whom youth has already fled, and in spite of his own prodigious musical innovations he appears to have nursed a bitter resentment against all forms of change, seeing in them a challenge to his well-established reputation.”

– Diana Poulton, John Dowland, University of California Press, Berkeley, second edition, 1982, p. 76

There is a glimmer of hope. Over the years we have provided music on several occasions for a school that emphasizes the (capitial “C”) Classics, and after a particular concert we were at once both encouraged and entertained to overhear an informal group of students in a corner discussing which of our CDs they had, as though they were comparing baseball cards.  We have also encountered some of those students who continue to follow our music years after graduating and getting on with life, even to the point of showing up at our concerts and requesting specific songs.  This seems like normal behavior that emerged from their own unguided sense of discovery, which is surely the foundation upon which inter-generational trust is built.

Saturday morning quotes 7.34: Fortune

Att 9vAtt 10We have written previously on the subject of Fortune in early music (or slightly less early), and we have also previously featured music from our CD survey of sixteenth-century French chansons.  Today we feature our unique interpretation of a particular chanson from a seminal publication printed a mere 491 years ago.

The publication is Tres breve et familiere introduction pour entendre & apprendre par soy mesmes a jouer toutes chansons reduictes en la tabulature du Lutz…, Pierre Attaingnant, 1529.  The collection was intended to serve as a guide for arranging part-music to be played on the lute, and most of the chansons included in the collection had some degree of popularity at the time.  In essence, the collection was sort of a “fakebook” that enabled the lutenist to sample popular music at home in the absence of a full complement of singers.

The idea was not new, and Attaingnant was emulating the Italian models published by Petrucci in 1509 and 1511, but with the notable difference of setting popular French chansons and employing French lute tablature.  The concept endures today with the direct parallel to our early lute books in the form of piano arrangements for more current pop songs.

The featured song is Fortune laissez moy la vie, text and translation below.

Puis que tu prins tous mes biens
Je te desclaire quíilz sont tiens.
Mets doncques fin ton envie.

Helas, níes t point assouvye
De tourmentier moy et les mien
Qui níont vers toy mesfaict en riens?
Míest doncques fin ton envie.

Helas, je fusse bien tíamye
Mais tu me traicte rudement
Et je te ayme parfaictement.
Par toy je fineray ma vie.

Fortune, let me have my life.
Since you want the delights
I declare them yours.
Put an end to your envy.

Alas, are you not yet satisfied
Having tormented me and mine
Who have not done you any harm?
Put an end to your envy.

Alas, I have been your friend
But you have treated me cruelly,
While I loved you completely.
Because of you I end my life.

The song was printed by Attaingnant in two forms, in lute tablature, as can be seen above, and with the texted superius.  Using the tablature as a guide, we ornament the vocal line on the second and third verses in a completely integrative and idiomatic manner that adheres to the mood and texture of the text and the music.  While there may have been extravagant virtuoso performers at the time who employed florid ornaments and basked in attention, we feel strongly that our interpretation is more typical of ornamentation rendered through the winning combination of excellent musicianship and good taste.

Our interpretation of the chanson may be heard here.

Taking an abrupt left turn, we move on to our quotes for the day that have nothing to do with music, but everything to do with leadership and current state of public scruples.  This is from Il Cortegiano by Baldasarre Castiglione (1478 – 1529), and given an English translation by Sir Thomas Hoby in 1561.  Since the 1561 English may be a little heavy going, we have taken the unusual step of modernizing the text to enhance clarity.

[Among many vices that we see nowadays in many of our Princes, the greatest are ignorance and self-liking: and the root of these two mischiefs is nothing else but lying, which vice is worthily abhorred of God and man, and more hurtful to Princes than any other, because they have more scarcity than of anything else, of that which they need to have more plenty of, than of any other thing: namely, of such as should tell them the truth and put them in mind of goodness: for enemies be not driven of love to do these offices, but they delight rather to have them live wickedly and never to amend: on the other side, they dare not rebuke them openly for fear they be punished.]

[As for friends, few of them have free passage to them, and those few have a respect to reprehend their vices so freely as they do private men: and many times to curry favor and to purchase good will, they give themselves to nothing else but to feed them with matters that may delight, and content their mind, though they be foul and dishonest.]

– Baldasarre Castiglione, Il Cortegiano, translated by Sir Thomas Hoby, 1561, further translated by RA