Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/614

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602

��SONG.

��of writing songs for either one or many voices seems to have been common in England, as in Italy ; and in both countries alike the lute or theorbo sustained the under parts when sung by one voice. 1 Dowland's contemporary, Thomas Ford, published songs for one or four voices, one of which, ' Since first I saw your face,' not only still retains its popularity, but is remarkable as being one of the earliest melodies written by a trained musician in modern tonality.

With the 1 7th century there commenced a period of transition in the history of music, and especially in the history of the Song. This period was distinguished, as Mr. Hullah has observed, by the acceptance of many new principles in musical composition, and by a steady growth of skill in instrumental performance ; but its most marked characteristic was a constant increase of attention to the conformity of notes with words ; that is, to ' the diligent study of everything that goes to perfect what is called Expression in music.' 2 And this was a natural develop- ment of the monodic revolution whose origin in Italy has already been described. 3 But the success of the new departure was at first as partial and imperfect in England as it was else- where. In Burney's words, ' Harmony and con- trivance were relinquished without compensation. Simplicity indeed was obtained, but without grace, accent, or invention. And this accounts for the superiority of Church music over secular in this period over every part of Europe, where harmony, fugue, canon and contrivance were still cultivated, while the first attempts at air and recitative were awkward, and the basses thin and unmeaning. Indeed the composers of this kind of music had the sole merit to boast of affording the singers an opportunity of letting the words be understood, as their melodies in general consisted of no more notes than syllables, while the treble accompani- ment, if it subsisted, being in unison with the voice part, could occasion no embarrassment nor confusion.' *

To the very beginning of the 1 7th century be- longs Eobert Johnson's beautiful air 'As I walked forth one summer's day'; and about 1609 Fera- bosco, an Italian by parentage but a resident in England, published a folio volume of 'Ayres,' which includes the fine song ' Shall I seek to ease my grief.' He was also a contributor of several pieces to the collection published by Sir Wm. Leigh ton in 1614 under the title of 'The Teares and Lamentacions of a sorrowfulle Soule.' But the contents of this collection were mostly songs in four parts. It was reserved for Henry Lawes 5 (born 1595), a professed writer of songs, to be the first Englishman who made it his study to give expression to words by musical sounds.

1 Orlando Gibbons's Silver swan,' a 5-part madrigal, is given in the ' Echos du Temps passe".' as a soprano solo with accompaniment 'Le chant du croise"'-an unjustifiable act no doubt, but a strong testimony to Gibbons's melody. 'In going to my lonely bed,' by Edwardes 50 years earlier than Gibbons might be similarly treated.

2 Hullah's ' Transition Period,' p. 183. 3 See MONODIA.

  • Burney's ' History,' vol. iii. p. 395.

6 The reader will find the dates, biographies, and lists of works of the composers mentioned in the text under the separate notices of them in this Dictionary.

��SONG.

Compared with the Madrigalists, Lawes was not a scientific musician. Moreover he failed in the development of his ideas, and his melody is often fragmentary ; but the honour ascribed to him in Milton's well-known lines was justly his due. He

First taught our English music how to span Words with just note and accent. 8

His care in setting words to music was recognised by the chief poets of his day, and they were glad to have their verses composed by him. One of his best-known songs, ' Sweet Echo,' is taken from Milton's Comus. Several books of * Ayres and Dialogues for one, two or three Voices,' were pub- lished by him, with assistance from his brothel, William Lawes, whose fame as a song-writer chiefly rests on his music to Herrick's words ' Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.' The strong partiality displayed in the 1 7th century for 'Ayres and Dialogues' can plainly be traced to the in- fluence upon all musicians of the Italian recita- tive style. Henry Lawes was undoubtedly familiar with the works of his Italian contemporaries and recent predecessors ; and especially with Monte- verde, whose blemishes and beauties his own music reflects. A good illustration both of his skill in setting words and of the fragmentary character of his melody will be found in his music to Waller's ' While I listen to thy voice,' which is here reprinted exactly from the original :

To a Lady singingj

�� ��While I list - entothyvoyce, Chloris.l feele

�� � � �-^-TH^-g. i.r c & ' i.i >

my life de - cay, that pow'rfull noyse cal's my

�fleet - lag

� � � �� ��soul a-way; O sup -press that ma-gick sound.

��Which destroyes without a wound 1 Peace ! peace ! Chlorit,

��See Sonnet addressed to Lawes by Milton In 1645-6.

7 Page 13 of 'Ayres and Dialogues For One, Two and Three voyces. By Henry Lawes Servant to his late Ma cie in his publick and private Musick. The First Booke. London, Printed by T. H. for John Play- ford, and are to be sold at his Shop, in the Inner Temple, near the Church door, 1653.' (The words are by Waller.) Keprinted in Book I. of Playford's ' Treasury of Musick ' in 1669. The song will be found with an expanded accompaniment in Hullah's English Songs.

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