Saturday morning quotes 3.21: More from Mace
We have tapped into the words of Thomas Mace (c. 1612 – 1706) with previous quotes in our ongoing series, sharing his delightfully detailed description of the ideal music room. Mace would have been just another obscure and anonymous figure had he not managed to publish his informative and entertaining book, Musick’s Monument, or A Remembrancer of the Best Practical Musick (1676). A paragon of what an industrious champion of music can accomplish, Musick’ Monument was produced and published by subscription, a shining example of what amounts to a 17th century Kickstarter campaign.
The best-remembered and most generous section of the book, “The Second PART, Treats of the Noble Lute, (the Best of Instruments) now made Easie,” is something of an informative and useful paean through which Mace shares his lifelong infatuation with the lute. Mace writes “…My 1st and Chief Design [is] to Discover the Occult Mysteries of the Noble Lute, and to show the Great Worthiness of That too much Neglected and Abused Instrument,” indicating that our favorite instrument was already well on its way out of fashion even in the final quarter of the 17th century.
With nearly 200 pages devoted to the lute in a book that totals 271 pages, Musick’s Monument is sometimes overlooked as a source of more general information concerning practical music and 17th-century performance practice. We call your attention to the first major section of the text where Mace describes the benefits of teaching music to children. Mace lauds music as offering:
Great good Benefit, which would redound certainly to All, or most young Children, who by this means would in their minorities be so sweetly tinctur’d, or seasoned, (as I may say) or brought into a kind of familiarity or acquaintance with the harmless-innocent-delights of such pure and undefilable practices, as that it would be a great means to win them to the love of Virtue, and to disdain, contemn and slight those common gross ill practices, which most Children are incident to fall into in their ordinary and accustomed pursuits.
For if they be once truly principled in the Grounds of Piety and Musick when they are young, they will be like well-season’d Vessels, fit to receive all other good things to be put into them: And I am not only subject to believe, but am very confident that the vast Jarrings, and Dischording-untunableness, over-spreading the face of the whole Earth, might be much rectified, and put into Tune sooner this way, than by any other way (without a miracle) that can be thought upon.
If we can get past Mace’s delightful use of the language and get to the heart of his message, children who are trained in music are likely to be more receptive to indulging in more harmonious pursuits. We actively participate in promoting this ideal and applaud the efforts of others engaged in bestowing the gift of music on children.
Special note: At least one member of the Mignarda team is distinctly NOT a fan of Youtube, but the video in the link above has met the approval of the most discerning film critic and is endorsed as a household favorite.
As for other useful and entertaining material that can be gleaned from Musick’s Monument, even lute players overlook the “Third PART, The Generous Viol, in Its Rightest Use, is Treated upon; with some Curious Observations, never before Handled, concerning It, and Musick in General.” In his own unique language, Mace vigorously encourages players of both viol and lute to play with a sense of line and phrasing by discovering the polyphonic elements of a Lesson and holding the notes for their full value. He provides an example of a Lesson with the viol tuned in the old tuning (the same tuning as renaissance lute), and prints that same piece on treble and bass staves, thereby giving a clear indication of the rhythmic value of the notes.
Since the piece is playable on lute, we offer a pdf of the Lesson available here, coupled with Mace’s transcription on two staves edited and transposed for lute. And we heartily join Mace in urging anyone indulging in the piece to play like you’re playing music.