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Saturday morning quotes 3.29: Innocent mistake

November 30, 2013

“Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels—bring home for Emma.”

–  The Holy Shopping List, from Walter Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz, J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia (1959).

We greatly appreciate the work of scholars who nobly dedicate their lives to rifling through dusty archival records in an attempt to trace and document the movements of obscure musicians of the remote past—like, for instance, the unfortunately-named fiddler, Rowland Rubbish. Such archival information can at times illuminate important aspects of historical music and save us endless hours of unintentional pilgrimage, wandering aimlessly up and down the virtual aisles of the big-box supermarket internet library searching for that elusive can of enlightening kraut.

But scholars can indeed get it wrong sometimes and, as in the odd example of the sainted Leibowitz from Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz referenced above, random snippets of information can be misconstrued and misapplied. Such is the case with the ensemble dance piece that has been recorded several times under the title “Pavin of Albarti” and attributed to one Innocenzio Alberti (c. 1535–1615) by Paul Doe, editor of Musica Britannica 44: Elizabethan Consort Music I, Stainer and Bell, London (1979).   Several recordings of the pavan/galliard pair are available including Elizabethan Consort Music: 1558-1603, Hesperion XX, Jordi Savall (Alia Vox AV 9804), Elizabethan Songs and Consort Music, Rose Consort of Viols, Catherine King (Naxos 8.554284), and ‘Musique of Violenze’: Dances, Fantasias and Popular Tunes for Queen Elizabeth’s Violin Band, Peter Holman / Parley of Instruments Renaissance Violin Consort (Hyperion CDA66929).

The tune for the instrumental dance seems to be related to an earlier chanson, ‘Si je m’en voy’, attributed to Claude Gervaise (1525–1583), a composer/ arranger known for his association with the music printer Pierre Attaingnant (c. 1494–1552). The same tune is also found intabulated for lute as ‘Pavane si je m’en voy’ with ‘Galliarde of the precedent pavane’ on pages 58 and 62 of Adrian LeRoy’s A briefe and easie instruction to learne the tableture, English translation published in London, 1568.

The source of the pair of dances transcribed by Doe in Elizabethan Consort Music I is Roy. App. 74 (folios 41 and 40), from a set of music manuscripts collectively called the Lumley Partbooks.  Interestingly, Paul Doe attributes the pair of dance pieces to Innocentio Alberti,  based on the title ‘Pavin of Albarti’ and a stray marking, ‘Innocents’ found  on one of the noodly inner parts for a completely unrelated galliard on folio 39.

Peter Holman, who penned the notes to both the Hesperion XX and Parley of Instruments recordings mentioned above, proposed an alternative composer in one Albert of Venice (died 1559), a founding member of the Jewish-Italian violin band first established by Henry VIII.  A fascinating history and description of the violin band, whose primary function was to provide dance music, is found in Peter Holman’s excellent book, Four and Twenty Fiddlers: The Violin at the English Court 1540-1690 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993).

There are a few problems with Doe’s and Holman’s conjectural attributions.  First, as Holman gets right, it is more likely that the piece would have been ascribed to the fiddler’s first name as per the convention of the time, and doubt would have been removed had the tunes been ascribed to ‘Innocentio’ rather than ‘Albarti’ and ascribed to the pieces in question rather than an unrelated piece a few pages earlier.  Secondly, there is a clear attribution of the very same music in a published source of lute music – ‘Pavane d’Albert’ and its ‘Gaillarde’, as found as the final pieces (f.22v-24) in the Cinquiesme livre d’Albert, published by Guillaume Morlaye (1554) in his collection of music by the famous Italian lutenist, Albert da Rippe (c. 1500 – 1551), who was a highly-compensated musician to the French king François Ier (1494 – 1547).

Our particular Albert, the famous lutenist, was known to have traveled to England and, on 12 February 1529, he apparently performed before Henry VIII. It seems logical that so famous a musician would have left behind a piece or two as a souvenir of the visit.  In the title pages to the series of published lute books featuring music of Albert da Rippe, Guillaume Morlaye describes the music as ‘Composées par feu Messire Albert de Rippe, de Mantoue, Seigneur du Carois, joueur de Leut, & varlet de chambre du Roy nostre sire’.  It is probably not a coincidence that a pair of dance pieces by so famous a musician would have been arranged in parts as a consort piece by Henry’s dance band.

In A Canticle for Leibowitz, an entire religious ritual was based upon a misunderstood scrap of information and the irony is duly noted. While speculative attributions to rather light but pleasing historical dance tunes may not be quite so important, it is interesting to follow how, through commercial recordings cited above and scholarly tomes, this misinformation lives on.  For example, “Chapter 5, International Influences and Tudor Music,” in A Companion to Tudor Literature, edited by Kent Cartwright, Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., Chichester (2010), p. 84, Ross Duffin repeats the Alberti attribution (Innocently and with Holman’s slant) as though it were gospel.

This is the sort of avoidable faux pas that occurs all too often when musicologists, through dismissive ignorance, disregard the greater strength of historical sources of lute music.

An article that describes more contextual background and includes a print of the lute setting for Albert da Rippe’s music, with an intabulation of the music from the Lumley books arranged for two lutes, can be found in a 2006 publication of the (UK) Lute Society (Ron Andrico, “A pavan by Albert da Rippe, in an unnoted concordance,”  Lute News No. 79, October 2006).

For our lutenist readers who would like to try the music, you can find a pdf on our website here.

  1. Esha (first syllable pronounced like saying the letter A, to rhyme with "may") permalink

    Could pass this on to Peter Holman…


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  1. Saturday morning quotes 4.7: Impressions | Unquiet Thoughts

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