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Down in the dumps

June 9, 2012

This is a short bonus post for all the lute players out there who faithfully visit our blog every week.  We have a broad range of interests and topics that sometimes stray fairly far afield from the world of the lute, so bringing things back down to the topic of interest is in order from time to time.

And what is the primary topic of interest for lute players?  Free music, of course.

Ed Durbrow asked a question on the lute list about the piece titled ‘Dump philli’ from the large manuscript of lute tablature housed in Archbishop Marsh’s Library, Dublin, the The Marsh Lute Book, c.1595. A facsimile, published by Boethius Press but likely in short supply, is still available in the US from Old Manuscripts & Incunabula.

The lute solo, which most certainly has nothing to do with Philip van Wilder,  is one of the more popular sets of variations found in the Marsh manuscript and the question had to do with the obvious missing bars of music toward the end of the variations.  The missing music interrupts the regular pattern of the tonic – dominant ground and, up until now, performers have been comfortable playing it with with the missing music, pursuing the ground like a runaway wheelbarrow careening downhill and describing the gap as a quaint respite from the sameness of the ground.  But a ground is a ground, and mistakes in copying happen.  This one needs to be fixed.

What is a dump?  Good question.  John Ward wrote a characteristically excellent article on the subject long ago,  The “Dolfull Domps”, (Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 4, No. 2. (Summer, 1951), pp. 111-121) and Christopher Goodwin published new insights in the article, “What is a dump?” in The Lute (Volume 42, 2002).  We think the archaic term describes a reverie of sorts.

There are probably a few edited versions of the lute tablature out in the world, and our online friend, Wolfgang Wiehe, writes to say he has contributed a reconstructed version that exists on Sarge Gerbode’s page of fronimo scores.  By way of a bonus post today, we add to the confusion by making  available Ron’s reconstructed version of the piece, originally published circa 2000 in the Lute Society of America Quarterly.  The edited version is legibly and charmingly hand-written and, as always, formatted to fit on two pages for ease of performance.

You can access it here.

UPDATE May 2016: Links to our former website archive are disabled.  If readers are interested in a piece mentioned in the essay above, feel free to write to us using the contact button at the head of the page and we will be happy to send the piece.

UPDATE II April 2017:  A live recording of Ron Andrico’s performance of “Dump philli” may be heard here.

  1. Dan Winheld permalink

    Thanks for the link- this piece has been annoying me for a couple of years, now I can do something about it!

  2. wolfgang permalink

    Hi Ron,
    thanks for your version of this dump. I didn´t know it.

  3. This item was discussed a bit on the lute forum and, mostly for the sake of organization, I’m copying my further comments here. RA

    While many interpretive approaches are perfectly valid, the ‘Dump’ seems to have filtered into our collective lute-playing consciousness via certain recordings by certain prolific lutenists. I’ll name names here because it’s both entertaining and worth the trouble to step back and look at extremes of recorded interpretation and how they may have affected our own ideas.

    Paul O’Dette recorded the piece as ‘Dump philli (Philip’s Dump), Philip van Wilder? (d. 1557)’ on Electra/Nonesuch LP 9 79123-1, recorded 1985, timing 3:58. Christopher Wilson recorded the piece as Arthur’s Dompe – Philip van Wilder (c. 1500 – 1553) on the 1987 LP, CRD 1148, timing 6:12.

    Differences abound. The interpretations range from O’Dette’s forward-leaning pulse that pushes the piece ahead whether it wants to or no. Wilson takes his time, favoring the center of each and every note to the point that you will know its life story before it has finally gone away. Extreme ends of the spectrum in attribution, pacing, style and interpretation: One is almost gleeful and the other quite doleful. But both players make an event of the missing music, which they omit simply because it wasn’t there in the score.

    The best information available today points to the definition of ‘dump’ as a reverie of sorts, which doesn’t necessarily preclude a little faster interpretation but it’s probably not meant to be aggressive. However, I tend to agree with John Ward’s reckoning in Music for Elizabethan Lutes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1992, Volume one, page 4, that 1) the piece is probably not to do with Philip van Wilder, and 2) the missing music is a copyists’ mistake, and the ground is meant to have a more formal proportion. In the Elizabethan world, proportion was important, which is a little difficult for our modern minds to grasp. We seem to like things that are different and kicky. But while you could likely find some examples of irregular grounds (French baroque chaconnes, for example) a ground is a ground because it’s predictable.

    I think the missing music is a mistake in copying and prefer a pulse and tempo that translates as wistful, or perhaps nostalgic, but not interminable.


  4. And more…

    While it’s a obsolete term, I think the definition of ‘dump’ is not so removed from understanding, a once common term gone out of fashion, rather like the term,’maggot’. John Fowles used the term in his historical novel, A Maggot, and defined it as meaning a “whim, quirk, obsession, or even a snatch of music.” And of course there are the musical titles from 17th and 18th century sources, ‘Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot,’ ‘Mr. Isaac’s Maggot,’ and ‘Jack’s Maggot’.

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines dump as follows:

    1. A fit of abstraction or musing, a reverie; a dazed or puzzled state,
    a maze; perplexity, amazement; absence of mind; 2. A fit of melancholy
    or depression, Heaviness of mind, dejection, low spirits, and 3. A
    mournful or plaintive melody or song; also, by extension, a tune in
    general; sometimes app. used for a kind of dance.

    While [the] intriguing reference to the Welsh harp tradition is new to me, I think the oblique reference in OED, both to the pensive quality and to the dance form rather bear out my idea that a wistful interpretation with a regularity of pulse is not out of the question.

    As for the missing music and whether it is a mistake or a ‘moment’, I compare such pieces as Dowland’s ‘La mia Barbara’ pavan in the Schele ms. While the piece has a bit more harmonic interest than the tonic-dominant ground of our dump in question, there is an obvious break in the C-prime section that would just sound silly were it left unresolved. But isn’t this the same situation? Dare we reconstruct it? Or should we play it as it stands because that’s how it appears in the manuscript? When is it OK to reconstruct and when is it not?

    …I have to say, I just don’t buy the CD notes that refer to the “sprightly rhythms and playful arpeggiated figures” characteristic of the dump. That is pure conjecture based on an opinion and on interpretive decisions, and indefensible as the final word on the matter. In fact, there is no final word on the matter, and I hope we will all continue to form our own personal interpretations.

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