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Dowland and the Lute

7th May 2021

An excerpt from a Short History of English Music.....

The instruments were changing at this time.
The dry and rasping viol was replaced
by sweet robust and singing violins.
The delicacy of the gentle lute 
whose strings the player touched, caressed,
became an obsolescence, while guitars,
much better at projecting in a hall
and with a minimum of strings, usurped.
And with the disappearance of the lute, 
so too a repertoire and history 
until the Early Music Movement of 
the nineteen sixties when the much loved name
John Dowland re-emerged with his four books 
of Jacobean songs. John Dowland was
the greatest lutenist in Europe by
consent of his contemporaries who
copied out in manuscript his tunes
in courts from Edinburgh to Budapest.
There is no portrait of the lutenist
so here's my lute and you can see what skill
and craftsmanship has been revived today.
The object is a work of art itself.
He had a hit with Lachrimae or Flow 
My Teares
and often he was sooner known 
by this than by his name. John Dowland of 
became his calling-card.
The song depicted here though is his sole 
Italian piece although the lyrics are 
deceptive. Lasso mi morire it 
is called, which means 'oh let me die', but it
is no coincidence that lah and so 
and mi fall on the A and G and E
equivalent in tonic solfa terms.