Skip to content

Saturday morning quotes 7.18:What we want

Antico

Those of us who value and study history know that among the many appealing tidbits of our cultural past, there lay disturbing events and elements that describe the true but sometimes unpleasant nature of our species. Although we are told that history outlines a progressive evolution of homo sapiens, unfortunately, the same stories of amassing wealth and power and manipulation of the narrative seem to crop up again and again.  In fact, it has been clearly demonstrated that a greater portion of the brand of history taught in the US public school system consists of warm and fuzzy details cherry-picked and polished to conform to a particular point of view.

“Few people know that mammals evolved at the same time as dinosaurs, more than two hundred million years ago.  They did not arise later and drive dinosaurs to extinction by their superiority.  They lived, rather, for one hundred million years as small, rat-sized creatures in the interstices of an ecological world ruled by dinosaurs.  In no way did they challenge or displace dinosaurs.  Then, some sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs were wiped out (along with many other forms of life) in one of the great episodes of mass extinction that have punctuated the history of life.  The small mammals survived and took over a world emptied of its former rulers.”

– Stephen Jay Gould (1941 – 2002), Professor of Geology and Biology, Harvard University

Some of those small mammals evolved over time and eventually a select dexterous few became players of plucked strings, as depicted in the 1517 illustration at the top of the page.  Interestingly, the noble simian lutenist appears to be playing complex overtones at the top of the instrument’s range, while the tangle-fingered button pusher seated at the keyboard drools and stares blankly at the putti occupying the space where a score ought to be.  Meanwhile, the glamorous spokesmodel lovingly indicates her preference for the diminutive lutenist with outstretched digit.

Actually, this interpretation is exactly the opposite of what publisher Andrea Antico (c. 1480 – 1538) was attempting to portray in Frottole intabulate da sonare organi Libro primo, Rome, 1517, a collection of popular vocal music arranged for keyboard with ornamented variations.  Antico wished to elevate the status of the keyboard to that of the much more popular position occupied by the lute and, in a pre-Darwinian age, he drives his point home by depicting the lutenist as a monkey.  Our point is that the message morphs somewhat depending upon who delivers it and how the information is contextualized, or spun.  This is the very foundation of what we call “sales talk”.

Despite plenty of examples from Plato, Buddhism, Islam and the New Testament, on the whole, humans haven’t really evolved to the point where an egalitarian concept of equality, peace, fairness and justice is the default position of human interaction.  Instead, nearly all systems of governance allow aggressive elements with bad intent to rise to positions of authority.

“Criminal cabals arise to prey upon the public goods produced by larger scale institutions. Elites take advantage of key locations in the fabric of society to extract disproportionate private rewards for their work.”

– Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson, “Culture and the evolution of human cooperation“, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, published 5 October 2009.

If we pause for a moment and reflect, love of money is in fact the root of all evil.  It is difficult to balance concepts of equality, peace, fairness and justice when the primary goal of economics is amassing wealth, and when economics rule the system of government.  It has been thus for the whole of the 20th century to the present time; at least since 1925 when Calvin Coolidge stated that “the chief business of the American people is business.” As usual, the story behind that quote is a bit more nuanced.

“There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences.”

“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”

– President Calvin Coolidge, “The Press Under a Free Government”, an address to the Society of American Newspaper Editors, January 17, 1925, Washington, D.C.

In his address, Coolidge demonstrated a bit of moral grounding when he went on to state:

“Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence…But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness. In every worthy profession, of course, there will always be a minority who will appeal to the baser instinct. There always have been, probably always will be, some who will feel that their own temporary interest may be furthered by betraying the interest of others.”

– President Calvin Coolidge

But that very same year, business was actively engaged in using propaganda to revise the notion of “quality of life” by planting the seeds of envy, evident in this quote by Paul Mazur, a banker with the now defunct Lehman Brothers, who authored the standard textbook on retail business, Principles of Organization Applied to Modern Retailing, Harper, New York, 1927.

“We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

– Paul M. Mazur,  “The logic of department-store organization”, Harvard Business Review, April, 1925, pp. 287-296.

A few years later, President Herbert Hoover reinforced this notion when he told a group of advertisers and public relations specialists:

“You have taken over the job of creating desire and have transformed people into constantly moving happiness machines. Machines which have become the key to economic progress.”

– President Herbert Hoover, 1928

We don’t want our readers to be “constantly moving happiness machines”, just human beings exercising intelligent choices and spreading goodwill through music.  In that spirit, we are asking our readers to not participate in the spending frenzy happening this weekend, and we have chosen what we consider to be one of our best recorded efforts and made downloads available for whatever price you choose for Saturday and Sunday.

PAX

 

Saturday morning quotes 7.18: Last tear

dowlandsig

We return with just a few final words supplementary to our seven-part series on John Dowland’s Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, and we add a bit more commentary on the most substantial piece of evidence revealing a glimpse of the character of the man himself,  Dowland’s 1595 letter to Robert Cecil.

In a previous post, we mentioned Fretworks Editions’ 400th anniversary publication of Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, edited by Lynda Sayce and David Pinto (2004).  A copy of this excellent edition was bequeathed to us by our much lamented correspondent, the late Edward Doughtie (1935 – 2014), author of the important critical compilation of texts from the golden age of English lute songs, Lyrics from English Airs, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1970.  Tucked in amongst the other arcana Ed kindly shared with us is an unassuming envelope containing a crystal clear photograph of Dowland’s 1595 letter, taken some 50 years ago.

As briefly as possible on this very busy Saturday, we share a few of David Pinto’s prefatory remarks from his modern edition of Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, as well as images from the letter, posted below.

Flogging away at the theme of a distinctly modern reformist tendency toward the secularization of the past, we refer again to remarks made by the ensemble Phantasm’s director Lawrence Dreyfus in the notes to his recording:

“Dowland dedicated Lachrimae to Anne of Denmark – Queen of England and Scotland – whom he praises as an ideal amalgam of three pagan goddesses: Juno, Pallas Athena and Venus. Having invoked a female trinity, Dowland can scarcely have intended a reference to Christianity.”

The dedicatory remarks to which Dreyfus refers are from Dowland’s original 1604 publication, reproduced by David Pinto in his own introduction:

“Triply blest, with you as queen, the Scots-English-Irish: You [who are] sister and wife, also mother, of a king.  Jointly you hold three realms, three godheads in one: Juno in might, in thought Pallas, in form Venus.”

As Pinto elucidates, Dowland, in his 1604 dedication to Queen Anne, was addressing a fellow Catholic recusant:

“In 1598 [Dowland] accepted possibly easier-going medium-term service to a Lutheran, the Danish King Christian IV; but Lachrimæ, appearing soon after the death of Elizabeth I, betrays his longer-term ambition.  By no coincidence, its dedication was to a fellow-convert: Christian’s sister Anna, otherwise Anne of Denmark, the new queen consort in England.”

– Pinto, p. iv

The use of imagery from classical mythology was actually more than a mere fancy—Dowland had insider knowledge of courtly entertainments, and the Queen had quite recently played the part of Pallas Athena in a masque:

“The same ‘conceit’ was served to Anne by Emilia Lanier in Salve Deus Rex Iudæorum (dated 1611; issued late 1610), stanzas 2-3.  Hyperbole of this sort was her lot, so long as artists’ hopes lived that as  ‘Ori-Anna’ she would prove more bountiful than her predecessor ‘Oriana’.  Dowland’s compliment was still timely: a few months before publication, Anne enacted the part of Pallas in Samuel Daniel’s masque The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, presented in the Great Hall at Hampton Court, 8th January 1604.  Lucy Harrington, Countess of Bedford, the dedicatee of Dowland’s Second Booke (1600), the queen’s great favourite on her first coming into England, was its rectrix chori.”

– Pinto, p. ix

As for the religious nature of Dowland’s sequence of seven pavans from Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, Pinto observes:

“The traditional fourfold ‘passions’ were grief, fear, hope and joy.  Any irregular, baroque sevenfold extrapolation on that basis must be Dowland’s own.  The only concerns that can have shaped it were personal: his, or those of his dedicatee, Queen Anne.  The only valid means to convey either of those publicly (if by preference we restrict evidence to the verifiable) was in religion.  Queen and subject alike encountered opposition to their faith in England.  Anne’s recusancy, public[ly] report[ed] in London after her coronation, possibly emboldened Dowland to seek access to her in 1603.  In his resulting musical offering, the dedicatory preface and musical layout show that the cycle of Tears was that part addressed to her personally: his audience with her confirms its aptness.”

– Pinto, p. ix

On to Dowland’s letter to Cecil, Pinto astutely observes that, while Dowland showed every outward sign of remorse for having fallen in with enemies of Queen Elizabeth, he did not in fact deny his religion.

“Admissions that he made in 1595 from Germany, writing back with reckless frankness to the guarantor of his travel, Robert Cecil (later 1st Earl of Salisbury), also deserve scrutiny.  To Cecil, the greatest enemy of a new catholic missionary zeal that England held, he was prepared or even obliged to concede himself a thing illegal there: a youthful convert to Rome of fifteen years standing, held unemployable by his own queen by being — in his own words — ‘a catholic at home’ whom she had tartly declared ‘a man to serve any prince in the world, but I was an obstinate papist’. He promised Cecil conformity to English law and severance from the sect of the Jesuits (or any exiled faction that plotted regime-change in England), but significantly did not otherwise renounce his recusant status.  There is every sign that he still looked for sympathetic or co-religionist English patrons.  Certainly, he panicked while in Italy (on the unlicensed excursion that was bound to alienate Cecil), and forewent chances of a position in Rome as the implications of exile sunk in.”

– Pinto, p. iv

For much more contextual detail and astute critical commentary on Dowland’s letter, we refer our readers to  John Dowland, Letter to Robert Cecil (1595), A critical hypertext edition by David Pinto, The Philological Museum.  We leave you today with a reproduction of Edward Doughtie’s photo of the letter, written in Dowland’s own hand.

dolandi002

dolandi003

dolandi004

Saturday morning quotes 7.17: XV

OvidQuindecim annos on October 25th 2003, Duo Mignarda performed their first concert at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Cleveland, Ohio.  The program was based around music from the court of the last of the Valois monarchs, Henri III, featuring the music of Polish lutenist Jakob Reys (Jacques Polonois), and French airs from the same period by Pierre Guédron, Antoine Boësset, and Jean Baptiste Besard—the anthologizing physician best known today for his enormous output of error-ridden music for lute solo, ensemble, and lute and voice.

The concert was originally meant to feature a program of lute duets with a concentration on music from Poland, but half of the duet got cold feet at the last minute and I was forced to punt, thus began Donna’s career as a vocal soloist. From that first concert, we realized that our symbiotic approach to music was something rare—the chance of two performers specializing in a niche repertory to find such an empathetic connection is one in a million. From that moment, we decided the responsible thing to do was to continue our exploration of early music and to dedicate our lives to sharing the magic of this vast treasure trove of forgotten historical songs with listeners sorely in need of a dose of quiet elegance.

Since that time, we have produced eleven CDs and have published a dozen music editions and countless articles and reviews. We have traveled tens of thousands of miles to share this music with audiences across the U.S. through concerts, lecture/recitals, workshops and master classes. We have performed in radio and television studios, on YouTube, and in recital halls, art galleries, libraries, mansions, museums, school rooms, conference rooms, and living rooms. We have taught and coached young musicians at all levels, ranging from rural elementary schools in upstate NY to graduate seminars at Cornell University, and have offered our sacred music programs in tiny country churches and in majestic Basilicas. We have shared our discoveries with attendees at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the National Music Museum in South Dakota, and the International Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Binghamton, NY.

Through it all, we have made it a particular point to perform for diverse audiences with no previous exposure to early music, performing in places like the Center for the Arts at Homer, NY, which usually features acts like Janis Ian or more current pop music. 21st century technology has made it possible for us to reach listeners across the globe: every week, we hear from listeners from the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, South American countries and even the U.S. Donna’s video recording of Tantum Ergo Sacramentum topped a million views this year, and continues to accrue thousands of hits every week.

We have truly built our audiences one person at a time, and we are humbled by the number of comments we receive from listeners that describe how our music touches their hearts and souls.  We quote just a few of our favorites:

“Wow. Many thanks for the lovely performance and the video–very appropriate and atmospheric. And thank David Hill for flattering an old amateur. A music video! We’re Rock Gods! I’ll have to spread this around.”
Edward Doughtie

“Une superbe interprétation et quelle voix !!!!! Vous jouez superbement bien du luth et cette musique nous emporte dans un voyage extroardinaire ! Vraiment je vous dis bravo!”
– Enola Babin

“I really have to say [Sfumato] is stunning . The Interplay of the lute and voice was wonderful and the singing was timeless in its beauty. Why aren’t you famous yet?”
Mel Wong

“Your concert was revelatory in several ways, especially as it challenged our ears and hearts to enter a realm difficult to access these days, where subtlety and elegance trump flash and flamboyance, and content, rather than effect, is primary.”
– Rev. Cullie Mowers

“Congratulations on a really exquisite rendering of your selection from ‘Pilgrimes Solace‘! The lovely open quality of Donna’s voice I find really endearing, and so suitable for giving us the ‘inner passion’ of these marvellous texts. I would love a copy of the CD, if you can manage that..”
Anthony Rooley

“Thanks for your way to make music: it’s full of good taste, that is something rare in this strange world of the “early music”.  And thanks to the singer, for her beautiful voice and elegance.”
Marco Beasley

“I always enjoy reading your Saturday Quotes and I believe that you and Donna form the pre-eminent lute song duo of our time. Please keep up the good work!”
– William Samson

With fifteen years’ worth of music, memories and friendships cultivated one at a time, we could spend hours and yards of column space reminiscing about the good times and the bumps in the road. But we prefer to look ahead, and we are full of ideas for new projects.  And you’ll likely be the first to hear of them here on Unquiet Thoughts.

Saturday morning quotes 7.16: Lachrimæ VII

handwriting

This is the seventh and (perhaps) final post of our series on John Dowland’s Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, a work of instrumental ensemble music for five bowed instruments and lute published in 1604.  For our seventh post on the subject we offer a summation of important points we have made thus far in the series.

1. We traced the likely inspiration for Dowland’s falling tear motif to the most obvious source, “Piango che Amor, a four-voice madrigal by Luca Marenzio, where the motif occurs as the last notes of the cantus voice as it utters “pianto”, which translates as “crying”.  Although the musical falling tear motif was used in a variety of settings by a number of composers throughout the sixteenth century, the example we identify offers a very strong case for Dowland’s inspiration with the musical motif appearing as the final notes of the cantus of Marenzio’s madrigal.   While we may never know for certain when Dowland began his infatuation with the music of  Luca Marenzio, the timing is right since Marenzio’s Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci was published in 1588 and Dowland’s use of the theme as the Lachrimæ pavan for solo lute does not appear before that time.

To strengthen the link between Marenzio’s “pianto” and Dowland’s Lachrimæ, the term “pianto” has been used to describe a musical theme closely related to the Lachrimæ motif by musicologists since since the time of Hugo Reimann (1849 – 1919).

“As an example of an iconic topic, we may consider the pianto…This, the motive of a falling minor second, has represented a lament since the sixteenth century. At first it always accompanied the textual idea of weeping—words like “pianto” or “lagrime”—but it soon began to signify merely grief, pain, regret, loss—in other words, the indexicality of its immediate object.”

Raymond Monelle, The Sense of Music: Semiotic Essays [large pdf], Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2000, p.17 (with more detail p. 68).

While Dowland’s Lachrimæ theme is not chromatic, it shares a conceptual relationship with the musicological “pianto” in that, as in Lachrimæ, the complete theme outlines a falling fourth.

2. We discussed the various versions of the Lachrimæ pavan for solo lute and arrived at the important interpretive information that Dowland’s Lachrimæ Antiquæ is not based on the lute solo but rather on the ayre, “Flow my teares fall from your springs”, published in Dowland’s Second Booke (1600). Michael Gale and Tim Crawford point this out in their study John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’ in its Continental Context by identifying the similarity between the treble and bass of the lute ayre and of Lachrimæ Antiquæ, as well as strains of the inner parts.

3. We elucidated the form and structure of Dowland’s publication with remarks by Peter Hauge and David Pinto.  Hauge pointed out that the “number seven has a special meaning as it is composed of three, signifying Trinity and the universe, and four, symbolising the elemental world.”  He further described how the structure of Dowland’s ordering of the music in the publication demonstrated a sequence and hierarchy of importance of the pieces, as well as paid homage to the dedicatees of the lighter dance pieces.  David Pinto related Dowland’s seven pavans thematically to the seven Psalmi Davidis pœnitentialis published by Orlande de Lassus in 1584.

4. We shared a few viewpoints on the meaning of the Latin titles for the seven ensemble variations on the Lachrimæ pavan.  Peter Holman related the titles to the various types of melancholy, while David Pinto convincingly connected each title to the theme of each of the seven Penitential Psalms as they move through the stages of sorrow for sin.

5. Reinforcing the seemingly opposing ideas of Holman and Pinto, we presented evidence for the religious nature of Dowland’s overarching theme for the seven Lachrimæ pavans.  While modern historians often characterize “Elizabethan melancholy” as an entirely secular affliction, we quoted Timothy Bright from A Treatise of Melancholie, 1586, that melancholy is not wholly secular, and that the “…difference is betwixt natural melancholie and that heauy hande of God vpon the afflicted conscience, tormented with remorse of sinne, and feare of his iudgement…”

6. We offered an overview of a selection of recorded performances of music from Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, expressing our preference for interpretations that convey the sound of six capable musicians well versed in the contextual elements of their repertory, playing their parts as a part of the whole with ears open to creating the sonic subtleties as the music unfolds before them.  Our favorite recording of the Lachrimæ pavans lets the music breathe in an organic and unrushed manner, and our least favorite recordings either sounded as though the performers just couldn’t wait to be done with Dowland’s masterpiece—choosing frivolously fast tempi—while other performers expressed a thoroughly 21st-century sentiment about Dowland’s music and the horse he rode in on, both in the sound of their interpretation and in their written notes.

This being the seventh installment of our series, we have a few observations to add, both practical and theoretical in nature.

Firstly, we are obliged to point out that Dowland was most likely not intending to publish works that would cause so much discussion 400 years hence.  The lutenist-composer was much more interested in obtaining a court appointment that would enable him to give his increasingly arthritic fingers a bit of rest now and then.  And while today we attach great importance to the depth of meaning in the music and in the publication as a whole, the composer was simply adhering to the much higher standard for literature and music of the time, and Dowland was merely living up to the literary examples of Samuel Daniel, Edmund Spenser, and John Donne, and the musical examples of Alfonso Ferrabosco, Peter Philips and William Byrd.

There is also the mundane aspect of making a living while waiting for that court appointment.

“For a composer such as Dowland, who held no privileges or monopoly for the printing of his own music, once he had sold his manuscript to a publisher or printer he no longer legally owned his works, nor was he party to profit beyond the hoped-for customary financial reward from the noble dedicatee and the initial sale of the manuscript, or perhaps, in some cases, the first edition. Lachrimae, entered in the Stationers’ Company register by Thomas Adams on 2 April 1604, for instance, seems, according to the directions on the title page, to have been sold by Dowland himself from his home at Fetter Lane. Yet, despite the composer’s relatively limited hopes of profit and the lack of rights pertaining to legal ownership, the appearance of his name in print nevertheless also enabled him to promote his role as the originator of his works, and thereby to at least publicise the intellectual ownership of his works.”

– Kirsten Gibson, “’How hard an enterprise it is’: Authorial self-fashioning in John Dowland’s printed books”, Early Music History (2007) Volume 26, p. 49.

From our modern perspective, we imagine that the great works we most appreciate today were written for us to admire as museum objects on display; artifacts of genius that today we are barely equipped to understand.

“It seems most likely that Dowland, the composer, editor and publisher, was very conscious of the way in which he compiled the volume of music, creating sections and placing the movements in a specific order. He employed symbolism and allegory to create an entity, suggesting a hidden meaning in the same way as the universe contained secret knowledge.”

– Peter Hauge, “Dowland’s Seven Tears, or the Art of Concealing the Art,” Danish Yearbook of Musicology 29 (2001), p. 13.

The fact is that Dowland was a talented musician and composer who was compelled do what was necessary to make a living, but he was working within a sphere occupied by other great talents and great minds.  The standard was higher for a number of reasons but partly because great talents were acknowledged for their worth and not merely for their presentation, and great minds achieved their potential because they were not full to the brim with menu options, passwords, and an absurd number of choices for consumer items. Enough said.

Lastly, we are offered a blurred interpretation of Dowland’s music today due to the modern phenomenon of the secularization of history.   Somehow, modern historians have managed to divorce the fact of religious ritual that was part of daily life from the events of history in a manner that leads us to believe that religion was as it is today: a choice rather than a fact.  Religious ritual was a significant element of a musical education in Dowland’s time and integral to daily life, and it cannot be stated too strongly how much influence religious practice had on music of the sixteenth century.  There was a cross-pollination of secular tunes used as cantus firmi for settings of the Mass and sacred motets, and themes from Mass settings and motets and bits of plainsong found their way into instrumental fantasias and even into dance tunes.  And after the advent of the Reformation, Psalm-singing was so common as to be heard in taverns.

Today we have historians and musicologists rewriting history to fit their own concepts with absurdly unsupported remarks like those of Phantasm’s director Lawrence Dreyfus in the notes to his recording of Dowland’s Lachrimæ: “Dowland dedicated Lachrimae to Anne of Denmark – Queen of England and Scotland – whom he praises as an ideal amalgam of three pagan goddesses: Juno, Pallas Athena and Venus. Having invoked a female trinity, Dowland can scarcely have intended a reference to Christianity.” Seriously.

On the other hand, we have imaginative and clear-thinking individuals who make an effort to probe the integrated Tudor/Stuart mind, like David Pinto who understands well the depth of Dowland’s religion and paints an altogether realistic portrait of Dowland and his use of symbolism in Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares.  If one doubts Dowland’s consistent fixation on the image of tears of the penitent sinner, one need only sing through the devotional songs of Dowland’s Pilgrimes Solace (1612).  Or Dowland’s settings of the Penitenial Psalms as found in his Lamentatio Henrici Noel (1597). Or read John Dowland, Letter to Robert Cecil (1595), A critical hypertext edition by David Pinto, The Philological Museum.

The music of Dowland is full of depth and meaning that touches us across the span of 400 years.  But Dowland is wholly a product of his own age—and of his religion—and there is perhaps more dimension to his music than we grasp merely hearing the underdeveloped combination of notes dished up by modern performers who Dowland, were he alive today, would have “them remember that their skill lyeth not in their fingers endes: Cucullus non facit Monachum.”

The depth of Dowland’s music fills a void in modern life, the expanse of which few take the time to fully comprehend.  But even though there are a few surviving remarks lauding his touch upon the lute, in his day he was probably best known as a songwriter, and perhaps his music is relevant today because he had a knack for setting words to music in a way that speaks across the centuries.

“These Dowland songs, by the way, are common property, as much as any folk song or traditional melody. Their lyrics, usually anonymous (but surely often by Dowland), belong to that great age when poet and songwriter had not yet parted company. The language is essentially modern English, and it is not hard to find a line in a Dowland song which, taken out of context, could have been written yesterday. “I’ll cut the string that makes the hammer strike.” Or lines which, though identifiably archaic, are made out of elements that are in common usage: “Cold love is like to words written on sand, / Or to bubbles which on the water swim.” This is typically Elizabethan: “Come away, come sweet love, The golden morning breaks. / All the earth, all the air, Of love and pleasure speaks.” It is typically Elizabethan, but, unlike the lute, we do not have to learn it, to reconstruct its meaning or its sounds.”

– James Fenton, “New tunes from an old lute,” The Guardian, Sat 14 Oct 2006

Saturday morning quotes 7.15: Lachrimæ VI

dowland_lachrimaeSo far our series on Dowland’s Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares has offered a discussion on the origins of the Lachrimæ motif, a survey of the pavans for lute solo that were and were not the basis for the seven pavans for viols or violins and lute, a few theories on the Latin names, the symbolism and the overarching meaning of the set, and we touched upon a few of Dowland’s possible motives for publishing the music.

There are so many facets to the gem that is Dowland’s 1604 collection of instrumental consort music that we could very likely devote an entire year’s worth of weekly posts to the subject and still miss some important aspect that deserves thorough discussion.  But our post today will temporarily depart from the arcane historical details of who, what and why, and deal with the music as it sounds.

We present a survey of a personal selection of the many available recordings of the music, and with the information digested and presented thus far in this series, we discuss how modern interpretations may or may not take into consideration early 17th century performance ideals.

While taking the time to listen through all the available recordings may seem a bit of an indulgence, it happens that we own a handful of these recordings and have been intimately familiar with the performance details for some years.  Other recordings were tracked down from a fairly comprehensive list of some 41 available vinyl LPs or CDs (remember those?).  In the case of the recordings below, we were able to find each and every one on a platform which, while both completely legal and ubiquitous (our recordings are there too), will not be mentioned in these pages because said platform is the very embodiment of evil and is the cause of much wailing and gnashing of teeth in our household.

For all of the recordings, we chose to listen to and compare each ensemble’s interpretation of the first pavan in the collection, Lachrimæ Antiquæ, which offers a very clear example of the ensemble’s overall approach to Dowland’s music.  As a primary point of comparison, we take the pulse of the ensemble and list their timing of Lachrimæ Antiquæ.  While it may seem unfair to examine a limited number of the recordings under a microscope, we do so with the best of intentions and to highlight what we see as important positive—or questionable—interpretive choices.

We begin on a positive note with our favorite choice:

Ensemble Daedalus, Roberto Festa, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Accent 98128 D.  This recording contains the set of seven Lachrimæ pavans without the additional dances.  The interpretation is sublimely elegant and nuanced, the performance is unhurried, and the recorded sound is nothing less than wonderful.  Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given a suitably relaxed and utterly melancholy pulse that honors the intent of the music, and at 5:44 it wins the race as the longest recorded performance.  An absolute favorite.

Second on our list of favorites is The Dowland Consort/Jakob Lindberg, John Dowland: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, BIS LP – 315.  The recording features an excellent ensemble balance, with the lute up front and attractively audible.  The recorded sound reveals a lushness of character in the lower-pitched viols (A=390?), which lends a certain gravitas to what is a very musical interpretation, but the playing is just a bit more rushed than one would wish, with Lachrimæ Antiquæ coming in at 3:50.

Next is Dowland: Lachrimae, Consort of Musicke – Anthony Rooley, L’Oiseau Lyre 421 477.  This recording was part of the monumental project that resulted in a collection of the complete works of Dowland, and the Consort of Musicke offers an excellent performance that allows the melancholy pulse of the music to emerge.  Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given 4:44, which is a minute less than our first choice, but worthy of an honorable mention.

It is always interesting to hear what sort of interpretation Hespèrion XX – Jordi Savall will offer when presenting a program of English music.  The ensemble is known for its passionate performances, and indeed Dowland: Lachrimae, Astrée 8701 is beautifully played and excellently recorded.  But the ensemble has an idiosyncratic approach to pulse, which is absolutely vital to almost any music of the period, be it ever so subtle.  Lachrimæ Antiquæ comes in at a reasonable 4:42.

John Dowland’s Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, The Rose Consort of Viols, Saydisc/ Amon RA CD-SAR 55.  The set of seven pavans is beautifully recorded but the performance is a bit bouncy for such melancholy music that was surely not intended for dance (as opposed to the dance tunes that comprise the balance of the publication).  Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given a springy 4:04.

Fretwork, Dowland: Lachrimae, Virgin Veritas 45005.  The excellent ensemble offers a well-balanced sound with an interpretation that can be described as smooth, if a little fast for our taste. Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given 4:17 of breathing space.

Next we have two recordings that opt for violins instead of viols.  Seaven Teares: Music of John Dowland, The King’s Noyse – David Douglass / Paul O’Dette, Harmonia Mundi USA 907275, offers the seven Lachrimæ pavans interspersed with some of Dowland’s more melancholy ayres.  The violins lend a sprightly and cheerful air to the proceedings, and with Lachrimæ Antiquæ coming in at 4:09, it feels as though someone is pushing the beat.  Dowland: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, Parley of Instruments / Paul O’Dette, Hyperion CDA66637, is beautifully played but offers a rather chirrupy performance somewhat lacking in the essential gravitas—someone seems to be pushing the beat here as well, and Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given a brief 3:58.

Parley of Instruments director Peter Holman writes:

“According to the title page [the Lachrimae collection] is ‘set forth for the Lute, Viols, or Violins, in five parts’.  It is normally played today on viols, but professional string groups would have played sets of viols and violins as a matter of course, choosing the most appropriate according to circumstances.  It is unlikely that Dowland intended the two families to be combined in a mixed consort; the normal practice was to use complete sets of instruments as alternatives on a musical menu, rather than as ingredients in a single dish.  The whole collection can be played as it stands on the standard five-part violin consort of the time, consisting of a single violin three violas and bass—the arrangement preserved well into the Baroque period by the French royal orchestra, the Vingt-quatre Violons.  But one of the pieces, M. Thomas Collier his Galliard, has two equal treble parts and requires the more modern scoring of two violins, two violas and bass, and the situation is complicated by the fact that, with one exception, the pieces divide into two high- and low-pitched groups, about a fourth apart.  The former (all the lighter pieces except Sir John Souch his Galliard) work well as they stand, but the rest are consistently too low to be effective on violins.  Therefore we have transposed them up a fourth, which brings the seven ‘passionate pavans’ into D minor, the key of the earliest consort settings of Lachrimae Antiquae.”

– Peter Holman, notes to CD

To summarize observations on these recordings using violins, in other recorded performances the lower-pitched viols lend a melancholy air of gravitas without even trying, and an ensemble has quite a bit of work to do in order to imbue the music with appropriate melancholy if choosing an alternative performance on what were described historically as “sprightly” violins.  Transposing up a fourth further robs the music of its melancholy character.  That said, the Parley of Instruments performs well, just rather fast and bouncy for a rendering of Dowland’s most melancholy music.

Last on our list is Dowland: Lachrimae or Seven Tears, Phantasm, Linn CKD 527, where Lachrimæ Antiquæ is permitted a lifespan of 4:02.  We obviously have an alternative point of view, since Phantasm has won prestigious awards for this recording, but our point of view is certainly thoroughly informed and we have taken the time to gain a deep understanding of the context of Dowland’s music.  In this recording, the sense of ensemble, the dynamics, phrasing, articulation are well planned and executed in a controlled manner, but likewise in a manner that evokes the aesthetic of the modern string quartet rather than that of the early music ensemble. While this sort of presentation will invariably draw praise from reviewers whose ears are likely more accustomed to the lush sound of Brahms than the quaint little aural museum that is early music, one wishes for a little less modern professionalism.

We hear excellent musicianship and Linn’s unimpeachable recorded sound, but we miss the sense of discovery transparently transmitted to the listener as the individual instruments engage in an organic collaborative interpretation of Dowland’s melancholy.  Instead, what we hear is the product of a strong personality and a modern professionalism that has more to say about 2018 than about 1604.  But we also react to an all too prevalent approach to the symbolic content of the Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares set.

Phantasm’s director Lawrence Dreyfus in the notes to his recording:

“Dowland dedicated Lachrimae to Anne of Denmark – Queen of England and Scotland – whom he praises as an ideal amalgam of three pagan goddesses: Juno, Pallas Athena and Venus. Having invoked a female trinity, Dowland can scarcely have intended a reference to Christianity.”

This modern point of view may fit well with Dreyfus’ 21st-century approach to Dowland’s music, but he seems to have entirely overlooked the more nuanced and integrated sensibility of the Tudor/Stuart mind.  Of course reading and quoting from the Classics (likely in Golding’s translation) was an essential component of an Elizabethan grammar school education. But familiarity with historical mythology did not negate the firm presence and daily practice of religious ritual that was the norm for Dowland and all who breathed the same air in 1604.  Dismissing this sort of important contextual information is nothing other than the imprinting of a modern aesthetic on the past.

A scholar risks credibility by deliberately cancelling out the inconvenient elements of history that may not align with his 21st-century viewpoint.  This amounts to what we see as a pervasive modern “secularization” of early music, a theme we will explore further in future posts.

 

Saturday morning quotes 7.14: Lachrimæ V

Barley_Lachrimae

First published version of Lachrimæ, from Barley, 1596

We return to our series on John Dowland’s Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares after an unplanned interruption with a few posts on the subject of Shakespeare.  For today’s post we revisit the lute solo versions of the Lachrimæ pavan thought to be Dowland’s inspiration for the 1604 collection for five viols—or violins—and lute, and indeed received widespread distribution and served to define the very substance of the composer’s public persona.  But as usual, assumptions tend to evolve when questioned.

We begin with the words of Dowland’s biographer, Diana Poulton:

“The pavan, ‘Lachrimæ’…, was one of those exceptional compositions which, from time to time, appear, and achieve an altogether extraordinary popularity.  In its original form as a lute solo it found its way into almost all the important English MS collections of the period and it appears in numerous Continental lute-books, both MS and printed.  Many of the copies, though purporting to be by Dowland, are very inaccurate and have divisions entirely different from Dowland’s own.”

Diana Poulton (John Dowland: His life and works, University of California Press, Berkeley, Cal., 2nd edition, 1982, p. 124.

The Continental published and manuscript versions of Lachrimæ indeed vary wildly in their divisions (melodically ornamented sectional repeats), and we will return to this point after discussion of English versions of the piece.

In point of fact, we don’t really know how Dowland would have supplied divisions because the only authoritative version of the piece is the unembellished reading that appears as the lute tablature part to “Lachrimæ Antiquæ”, the first of the seven thematic pavans published in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares.  The paucity of surviving lute solos that can truly be linked to Dowland is an important theme that emerges in the dissertation by David Tayler, The Solo Lute Music of John Dowland [large pdf], Department of Music, University of  California at Berkeley, published 1992, revised 2005.

“If we add to the three lute pieces in Dowland’s songbooks the piece in Robert Dowland’s Musicall Banquet and the four or five pieces in Dowland’s handwriting or with his autograph (not including the exercises for his students) we are left with a very small number relative to the very large total, numbering above a hundred pieces, to which Dowland’s name is attached.”

– Tayler, p. 4.

The “above a hundred pieces”, references the 103 pieces identified and edited by Diana Poulton and Basil Lamm in The Collected Lute Music of John Dowland, Faber Edition (1978 edition).  While it stretches credulity to discount the bulk of the repertory we attach to Dowland today, Tayler is absolutely correct in pointing out that, in the strictest terms, very few lute solos we know and love can be positively connected to Dowland, and fewer still have divisions we can authoritatively attribute to the lutenist-composer.

Providing a bit of historical context, Tayler describes Dowland in terms of what today’s marketers would define as a “brand”.

“For a variety of reasons, including his skill as a player as well as a composer, Dowland’s name acquired a life of its own, as did Lachrimae, his trademark. It is easy to imagine a situation in which amateur players, seeking the best and most fashionable pieces for their lutebooks, acquired “Dowland” pieces from professional players or teachers who had at best only a tenuous connection with the composer. What they got was for other reasons than transmission not likely to have been fashioned entirely by Dowland himself. Unlike the vocal genres, in which a tendency to transmit the basic text unadorned had been almost transformed into a moral duty by Byrd’s several printed strictures about “the carelessness of scribes in making copies,” the lute repertory not only allowed but also encouraged a certain contributory process on the part of players and copyists which resulted in changes to the texts. These pieces, then, tended to circulate in copies, each bearing the additions or personal stylistic features of the copier or player. It seems likely that this social process of disseminating and personalizing works (not all of which may even have been originally by Dowland) is largely responsible for sheer amount of works attributed to Dowland in the modern edition, [Poulton & Lamm’s Collected Lute Music]…”

– Tayler, pp. 8 – 9.

“The degree to which any piece labelled “John Dowland” was actually composed or controlled in all its details by the famous lutanist himself is always under question. The attempt of this study is to draw attention to this situation by taking a highly critical attitude towards each piece. The adjective “authoritative” is reserved for those texts which can reasonably be argued to have evaded the process of elaboration and expansion referred to above or for texts which come to us directly from Dowland’s hand.”

– Tayler, p. 10.

Tayler’s points are well-taken: Since the bulk of the lute solos ascribed to Dowland appear in manuscript or printed sources that do not clearly convey the composer’s authorship, we are forced to speculate how accurately those versions represent Dowland’s intent.  Although there survive a few manuscript lutebooks that bear Dowland’s signature, it is a fact that he did not own up to one single version of the Lachrimæ pavan for lute solo in those books.  However, Dowland did in his own words describe the printed versions in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares as his Lute-lessons which had received composer’s “last foile and polishment”.

For more information on the transmission of Dowland’s famous luto solo, and its final adaptation for Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares, we refer to the comprehensive study by Michael Gale and Tim Crawford, King’s College, London John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’ in its Continental Context.

“…Dowland’s frequent travelling and his fame as a performer resulted in a wide dissemination of his works overseas. Peter Holman has suggested that the 5-part consort version of the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan in Kassel [manuscript] is a pre-publication copy of the LoST [Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares] version, perhaps circulated by Dowland around 1594-5 when he was in the service of Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse (1572-1632), and there is no reason to suppose that his lute pieces were not similarly distributed. Another route of transmission would be through the lutebooks of travelling noblemen (such as Lord Herbert of Cherbury, whose lutebook happens to contain a late copy of the English G minor version); if foreign pieces were added to such a book whilst the owner was abroad, it is quite possible that some of the English contents would also have been copied by local musicians.”

“It is interesting to note that there are no surviving Continental sources of the early English A minor lute setting. (In fact, there are no Continental lute versions in A minor at all; even the lute part to LoST, which constitutes a perfectly respectable solo setting in its own right, is not amongst those LoST parts reprinted by Van den Hove in his Delitiae Musice). The G minor version, however, fared slightly better, being both directly copied (although, curiously, without the divisions so popular in England) and used as the basis for further recomposition. The version in Thysius (compiled ?1620s) is a testament to the longevity of this version, being a very close copy of a piece that was by now well over a quarter of a century old. The adjacent page to this includes another lute part apparently in D minor; it is presumably a duet part for a different sized instrument pitched a fifth lower or a fourth higher, unless it is a simple consort part for a D minor setting analogous with those in Morley and Cambridge Consort.”

Gale and Crawford point out that the instrumental setting of “Lachrimæ Antiquæ the first piece in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares (1604), appears to have been derived from the song setting of  “Flow my teares fall from your springs” from Dowland’s Second Booke (1600) rather than from any version of the pavan for solo lute.

“It was as a song, however, that the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan really seems to have become the ubiquitous ‘hit’ of its age. ‘Flow my teares’ was published in 2nd Booke (1600) as two texted vocal parts with a lute accompaniment, although it enjoyed a lengthy life as a solo continuo song without the lute part… Indeed, the transmission of the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan throughout the seventeenth century can be understood as stemming almost exclusively from the publication of this song. There are perhaps two main reasons for this, the most obvious of which is the size of its print-run; one thousand copies was immense for this period (and the publishers presumably expected to sell every copy). Secondly, the scoring of the song arrangement transformed the piece from a somewhat tricky lute piece (or something that required an instrumental ensemble to perform it) into a contrapuntally coherent two-voice entity, despite the written-out lute part. Thus, not only was the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan more readily available as a text, but it was ironically now more accessible to performers without a lute at hand. As we shall see, the simple two-part reduction offered great potential to both composers and performers.”

“An early example of the exploitation of this model stems from none other than Dowland himself. The ‘Lachrimae Antiquae’ of LoST (and its related versions in Kassel and Melville) is clearly based upon the two vocal parts from ‘Flow’, the inner parts presumably worked into place afterwards. Several clues suggest this dependancy upon the song, not least a handful of melodic details which mirror the syllabic patterns of the texted cantus part (e.g. the reiteration of the melody note of bar 3iv (‘ev-er’) and the exquisite setting of ‘sad in-fam-y’ in bar 6). The previously-discussed auxiliary note in bar 2, so typical of the English lute versions but a notable absentee in ‘Flow’, is also omitted here and, in most instances, the registral shifts and use of accidentals in LoST match those of ‘Flow’. Craig Monson has convincingly argued that a similar creative process resulted in ‘Mr Dowland’s Lachrimae’, a D minor consort setting attributed to William Wigthorpe, as well as a consort-song version of ‘Sorrow stay’ in the same source; both appear to be based upon the respective vocal parts printed in 2nd Booke with inner parts added later.”

– Michael Gale and Tim Crawford, John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’ in its Continental Context 

As we pointed out in our first post in this series, while the cycle of the seven Lachrimæ pavans had their own artistic unity, Dowland’s 1604 publication, Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares, complete with the additional ensemble dances, was obviously influenced by Anthony Holborne’s collection of dance music, Pavans, Galliards, Almains and other short Aeirs, published in 1599.  Holborne’s publication of dance music included the pavan “Ploravit” (No. 49), which opens by quoting Dowland’s Lachrimæ theme.  Dowland acknowleged the favor the following year in his Second Booke by dedicating “I saw my Lady weepe”, the first song of the publication, “To the most famous, Anthony Holborne”.  It is of no little significance that this dedication is attached to the song that immediately preceeds “Flow my teares fall from your springs”.  Holborne was a gentleman of Queen Elizabeth’s court, a position Dowland coveted, and Dowland appears to have expended quite a bit of creative energy exploring every possible means to gain his own royal appointment.  Perhaps even including spying.

Peter Hauge has identified correspondence between Dowland and English diplomat Stephen Lesieur, wherein Dowland is explicitly asked to keep his ears open while performing his duties at the Danish court, and to report back home.  The correspondence intimates that there would be a reward forthcoming.

“It is conceivable that he had already started ordering the collection during the winter of 1602, after or at the same time that he sent his third book of airs to the printer in London…Elizabeth was still alive and it was during this period that [Dowland] was asked to procure information for the English delegation in Bremen…Perhaps the original intention was to dedicate Lachrimæ to Elizabeth, in a gesture suggested by Lesieur’s promise of a reward and introduction to the queen, on condition that Dowland undertake and be a successful informant.”

– Peter Hauge, “Dowland in Denmark 1598 – 1606: a Rediscovered Document”, The Lute, Volume XLI, 2001, p. 16.

Hauge proposes that Dowland may have originally intended to dedicate the Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares collection to Elizabeth before her untimely death in 1603, and that by shifting the dedication to Queen Anne, sister of his employer Christian IV of Denmark, it may finally have opened the portal wide enough for Dowland to get his foot in the door for the long-awaited court appointment in England.

More to come in our next post.

Collaborative Shakespeare II

Florio 2Having written and posted a piece on Shakespeare and his collaborators in great haste, we find it necessary to add a few additional points that may have been glossed over in the previous post.

The first point of clarification has to do with John Florio, pictured to the left, and his participation in editing material in Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623.  Significantly, Florio was also brother-in-law to  Samuel and John Danyel, John being the noted lutenist-composer and Samuel the noted poet.  Florio and both brothers were luminaries among the circle who explored the themes of melancholy, light and darkness, patronized by Lucy, Countess of Bedford, a circle that also included John Donne, Edmund Spenser, Ben Jonson, and John Dowland, to name a few.

Florio is an important literary figure in his own right, and his association with the Danyels and the Countess of Bedford’s musical/literary circle has been mentioned in previous posts, including our feature on the Willow Song.  Perhaps the topic will be featured in greater depth in a future post.

The second topic we address has to do with a computer analysis conducted years ago, a study that purportedly puts the matter of Shakespeare authorship to rest.  As far as we can tell, this study is titled, Was the Earl of Oxford the True Shakespeare? A Computer-Aided Analysis by Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza, Claremont McKenna College, dated April 7, 1991.

While one does not wish to disparage the authors’ research methods, model for analysis, nor their conclusions, it is important to note that any study that attempts to take something as ephemeral as language, even in the form of the written word, and establish parameters to analyze the use of that language by occurrence of keywords or phrases is doomed to produce results that must focus on the mechanical aspects rather than quality of artistic expression.

Turning great prose and poetry into data may excite those with an analytical bent, but language is full of nuance, and keywords or patterns that are extracted from their context and subjected to analysis will produce results that utterly destroy the meaning and the subtlety of the whole, turning a poem into nothing more than a collection of letters and words.  It’s likely that the authors of the study in question knew this at the outset, but proceeded with the task at hand with the tools available to them and with the best of intentions.

Elliott and Valenza’s study divided segments of text into blocks and counted 52 keywords in each block, choosing “middling common words such as ‘about’, ‘again’, ‘ways’, and ‘words’”.  Rather than counting keyword occurrences, the study measured:

“…patterns of deviation from a writer’s normal rates of word frequency. [The modes] measure the way an author uses, or avoids using, words together. In Shakespeare’s poems, modal analysis has revealed a few very strong, characteristic modes, quickly tailing off into many weak modes. All 90 blocks of Shakespeare’s poems, and a block or two of sonnets taken from his plays, show the same characteristic pattern, while many blocks of other authors do not.”

The authors of the study examined hyphenated compound words (HCWs) and total relative clauses (TRCs), and produced rudimentary graphs that depict line-ending trends in Shakespeare’s plays, and other factors such as the frequency of feminine endings.  Conclusions were presented objectively:

“Our conclusion from the Clinic was that Shakespeare fit within a fairly narrow, distinctive profile under our best tests. If his poems were written by a committee, it was a remarkably consistent committee. If they were written by any of the claimants we tested, it was a remarkably inconsistent claimant…We do not claim to have said the last word on this subject, nor to have solved the Shakespeare authorship mystery. But, if it strains credulity to suppose that Will Shakspere, the Stratford grain dealer, could have written Shakespeare’s poems and plays, it also strains credulity to suppose that people like [the Earl of] Oxford, with entirely different stylistic idiosyncrasies from Shakespeare, could have been the true authors of his poems and plays.”

Again, the authors of the study appear to have constructed a reasonable model for analysis with the tools available to them at the time, and they presented their results in an objective manner.  But even the authors of the study will admit that this does in no way represent the final word on the issue.  There are far too many factors to consider to say that this or any other mechanical analysis of the works of Shakespeare will offer the final word on the identity of the author.

If John Florio was indeed responsible for editing a substantial portion of the text in the First Folio of 1623, then any objective researcher will admit that the source material has been tainted beyond recognition.  There survives exactly zero text in Shakespeare’s hand in manuscript form, so we will never have an untainted sample to establish a baseline of text by the “real” Shakespeare in order to compare.  Those of us who edit early music from historical source material know this to be true.  When will the literary experts catch on?