Let the Songs be Loud, and Cheerful, and not Chirpings, or Pulings. ( Francis Bacon, ' Of Masques and Triumphs')1
The most frustrating aspect of studying music for the English court masque is that, for so much of the time, it no longer exists. In this respect, masque texts are like fossils -- they can give a vivid impression of what was once there, but the substance itself, the music, has often disappeared. Certain types of vocal music (most obviously 'full songs' and almost all the other ensemble pieces) are missing altogether. Occasionally, the texts go as far as indicating the precise scoring of these pieces. The first song in The Masque of Blackness ('Sound, sound aloud') is a case in point. A Triton and a pair of sea maids 'began to sing to the others lowd musique, their voyces being a tenor, and two trebles' (Il. 94- 5). The final song in Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue was performed 'by 2. trebles, 2. tenors, a base, and ye whole Chorus'.2 Jonson's poem is both long (twentysix lines) and metrically irregular; it would be good to know how it was treated musically.
The Lord Hay's Masque is the only Jacobean masque in which details about vocal ensembles can be related to surviving settings (and then only in two songs). 'Now hath Flora robbed her Bowers' was sung 'in a base, Tenor, and treble voyce' (p. 215) -- and this scoring is confirmed by the setting printed with the text.3 'Move now with measured sound' was sung by two pairs of voices: 'a treble and base were placed neere his Maiestie, and an other treble and base neere the groue, that the words of the song might be heard of all' (p. 220).4 (Another 'Dialogue of foure voices, two Bases and two trebles' must____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640. Contributors: Peter Walls - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 43.