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Mastery of Sorrow and Melancholy Lute News Q

Mastery of Sorrow and Melancholy Lute News Q

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Two chromatic fantasies Forlorn Hope & Farewell by Dowland
Two chromatic fantasies Forlorn Hope & Farewell by Dowland

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Published by: לוי שפטוביצקי on Apr 12, 2012
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12/09/2012

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 Mastery of Sorrow and Melancholy: Expressivity in Two Chromatic Fantasias by John Dowland 
 Levi Sheptovitsky
“To Musicke bent is my retyred mindeAnd faine would I some song of pleasure sing;But in vaine ioys no comfort now I finde,From heau'nly thoughts all true delight doth spring.”Thomas Campion (1567-1620)As it is the task of an orator, not only to decorate a speech with beautiful, lovely and lively words and delightful figures, but alsoto perform well and to move the emotions and in this hesometimes raises his voice, now lowers it, sometimes speaks witha full voice, now softly and gently:In the same way, it is the task of the musician not only to sing, but to sing artistically and beautifully: and so the listener’s heartand emotions are moved, and so the song may reach the goal itwas made for.Michael Praetorius (1618, tr. DK)
OHN
D
OWLAND
S CREATIVE PERIOD
, from 1585 to 1615, falls within the transition from thelate Renaissance to the Baroque—one of the most remarkable times in the history of music
.
This time was characterized by a highly dramatic perception of life and heightenedattention to tragic motives. It revealed a sense of uncertainty and sometimes despair produced bythe crisis of confidence in the Renaissance ideals. The former optimism became replaced by astark approach reality, self-doubt and spiritual confusion; the ideal of the harmony of the human being and his endless possibilities gave way to an emphasis on his duality, inconsistency,depravity. The religious uncertainty, soul-searching and social instability were paralleled byartistic unrest and decadence.Artists frequently drew on such themes as the inconstancy of fortune, unstable values of lifeand almighty fate and chance. They tried to express the discrepancy between shell and content,the clash between the essence of the body and the spirit, and between beauty of the world and thetransience of earthly existence. The quintessential notion was that of Man’s descent of hisheavenly position at the side of God to the mundane earthly condition where the soul isimprisoned in the body. Shakespeare encapsulated this notion in
The Merchant of Venice
(Act V):
“Such harmony is in immortal souls;But, whilst this muddy vesture of decayDoth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.”
The Renaissance conception of harmonious structure of the Universe was being revised
1
andEurope turned away from a theocentric vision towards one of rationalism. The aesthetics of thenew epoch proclaimed that it is disharmony that reigns in the world. Therefore music and artmust express various collisions and dissonances. The Renaissance rigidity regarding the rules inmusic and art was called into question.
 
 Levi Sheptovitsky
2
The music, of the turn of the century, like the visual arts and literature, became more dramaticand expressive, more personal. It tried to reflect the spiritual life and psychological contrasts of the artist. The idea that music imitates the passions or states of soul goes back to ancient Greece(Aristotle,
 Politics
, 8, 1340a, b; cf. Plato,
 Laws
, II, 665, 668-70, 812C). In his book 
 Rhetoric
 Aristotle wrote about
 pathos
 —the use of strong emotional expressivity as a means to sway anaudience. The Renaissance theorists, artists and musicians scoured the ancient treatises in thehope of discovering the lost secrets of the ancient artistic power. Searching for the aesthetic idealand new expressive devices, Vincenzo Galilei (1533-1591) suggested the renovation of musicthrough a revival of the art of antiquity and all its glories. The new musicians appealed toPythagoras, Plato, to the esoteric wisdom embodied in Hermetic studies, the Jewish Cabbala andtheir own contemporary philosophy based on these teachings.
2
This was the age of symbol:emblems, numerology, astrology and alchemy were all considered immensely satisfyingsubjects, and most artists of standing were quite conversant with their basic ideas.Musicians, like other artists, employed formal devices that renovated the musical language. Amusical composition was perceived like a well-made speech, intended for ‘trained ears’ andamenable to analysis according to rhetorical figures.
3
This symbolism and rhetoric in music was,in a way, an extension of the Renaissance idea of 
musica reservata.
 The growing union between rhetoric and music in the latter part of the 16th century developedin all the major musical centers of Europe. In the early 17th century, following the practice inGermany, the widespread application of rhetoric to music was most clearly evidenced inEngland.
4
The musical expression of affections was not through imitation of natural sounds andmovements, but rather by means of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic formulas or 
musical-rhetorical figures
, which together with symbolism and numerology drawn from Greek culture,were a sign of the new musical lexicon. Not only vocal works with literal texts, but purelyinstrumental compositions too served as examples of such ‘program-music’, where the‘program’ was realized not by a development of dramatic events, as in the post-Beethovenian period, but by a comprehensive description of one
 Affekt 
.John Dowland was one of the most remarkable composers of this time to achieve such deepexpression in his works. He was a genius of sorrow and melancholy, which left their mark on both his instrumental music and his songs: such titles as
 Lacrimæ
,
 Flow my tears
,
 MelancholyGalliard 
,
 In darkness let me dwell 
,
Semper Dowland semper dolens
(Always Dowland, alwayssorrow), etc., express a brooding emotion and discontent with fortune. Without doubt, the titlesof his two chromatic fantasias,
 Farewell 
and
 Forlorn Hope
, provide invaluable ‘instructions’ byas to their emotional intent.The fantasias, probably composed at the turn of the 16th century,
5
illustrate the aesthetic andtechnical features of a new instrumental style and are prominent examples of the artisticexpression. These dramatic compositions are masterpieces of invention for the lute, where themost impressive feature is the complexity of the musical language. The polyphonic writing,chromaticism, dissonances, the methodicalness with which the composer exhausts the polyphonic possibilities and the range of the instrument are traits of the rational instrumentalstyle of the epoch. Dowland’s ingenious utilization of these techniques make the fantasiasoutstanding not only in the lute repertory, but in the contemporary solo instrumental music ingeneral. The importance of Dowland’s fantasias is so obvious that the possible influence of hiscompositions on the contemporary keyboard music is discussed in modern musicological studies.
6
 For the musical expression of the
 Affekt,
the two fantasias introduce a number of specialcharacteristics, the most prominent of which is a new musical lexicon using
musical-rhetorical 
 figures.
7
One such powerful melodic figure known in esoteric circles was a perfect fourth—ahighly significant interval in numerology and musical symbolism. When filled in by semitonesthis figure was termed the ‘chromatic fourth’, ‘chromatic tetrachord’ or ‘chromatic hexachord’.Both fantasias take this melodic formula for their theme, which is placed in ascending anddescending in
 Farewell 
and
 Forlorn Hope
, respectively:
 
 Mastery of Sorrow and Melancholy
3
Ex. 1
The chromatic fourth, which became one of the popular melodic figures of the end of the16th—beginning of the 17th century,
8
had its prototype in the Greek melodic system, where thetetrachord was the most important structure.
9
Ancient musicians thought not so much in terms of octaves as in terms of sequences of fourths, which they called ‘tetrachords’. From the middle of the 16th century, musicians and theorists fascinated with Greek music theory sought to apply thisto their contemporary music. They experimented with the ancient
 genera
, or three principal typesof tetrachords of Greek melodic organization:
diatonic
,
chromatic
and
enharmonic
, each of which spans the interval of a perfect fourth with a different combination of whole, half andquarter tones, as depicted in the following example (from the high tone to the low):
Ex. 2Diatonic tetrachord (genus) Chromatic tetrachord (genus) Enharmonic tetrachord (genus)1 1 ½ ½ ½ 2 ¼¼
 The Renaissance theorist Nicola Vicentino (1511-
c
.1576) in his treatise
 L'antica musicaridotta alla moderna prattica
(Rome, 1555) experimented with the Greek 
 genera
, andincorporated the chromatic tetrachord into his motet "Hierusalem convertere":
Ex. 3
The earliest known example of a complete chromatic fourth is
Calami sonum ferentes
,
 
a songfor four basses by Cipriano de Rore published in Lassus’s opus primum,
 Il primo libro dovesicontengono madrigali
(Antwerp, 1555):
10
 
Ex. 4
From this time on the figure began to appear in many compositions, as it still does today. Side by side with the idea of reincarnation of the ancient music, one of the reasons for its popularitywas the contrapuntal and harmonic possibilities that this melodic figure offered the composer.

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