Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640

By Peter Walls | Go to book overview

2

Masque Song

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

____________________
1
Essays ( London, 1625; repr. Menston, 1971), 224. Bacon's first set of essays was published in 1597. An enlarged edition appeared in 1612. The essay 'On Masques and Triumphs' did not appear until the further expanded 1625 edition (which was dedicated to the Duke of Buckingham).
2
Ferrabosco, for example, used this scoring in a number of motets; see J. Duffy, The Songs and Motets of Alfonso Ferrabosco, the Younger (1575-1628) ( Ann Arbor, 1980), App. 4, 350-8 ('Libera me, Domine') and 367-78 ('Noli me projicere').
3
The singers scattered flowers about the stage during the song. Campion is returning to an idea used in one of Elizabeth I's entertainments. In the Entertainment at Elvetham singers scattered flowers as they sang 'With Fragrant Flowers we strew the Way'. See E. Brennecke, "The Entertainment at Elvetham", 1591', in J. H. Long (ed.), Music in English Renaissance Drama ( Lexington, Ky., 1968), 38.
4
The version of this song as 'The peaceful western wind' in Two Bookes of Ayres has treble, bass, and altus

-43-

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Music in the English Courtly Masque, 1604-1640
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Plates xiii
  • List of Tables xiv
  • List of Music Examples xv
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Texts, Scores, and Musicians 7
  • 2 - Masque Song 43
  • 3 - Dance and Instrumental Music 104
  • 4 - The William Lawes Masques 159
  • 5 - Music for the Eyes 206
  • 6 - French Influence in the Caroline Masque 221
  • 7 - Masques Away from Whitehall 260
  • 8 - Realizations 304
  • Epilogue 333
  • Appendix - A Calendar of Masque Texts 341
  • Bibliography 349
  • Index 361
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