Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

Ancient Songs, Ballads, & Dance Tunes, Sheet Music & Lyrics - online book

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KEIGIT OF CHARLES II.                                          485
to say in favour of ballad-tunes; for learned counterpoint and skilful harmony were far more highly valued by professed musicians than simple melodies. In his quaint and charming book, called Mustek's Monument (1676), after describing preludes, fancies, pavans (" very grave and sober; full of art and profundity; but seldom used in these light days"), galliards, corantos, sarabands, jigs, &c, Mace speaks of " common tunes," which " are to be known by the boys and common people singing them in the streets;" and says, that " among them are many very excellent and well-contrived;" that they have "neat and spruce ayre," and " in either sort of time," common or triple.
He tells us that the theorbo, a large lute, of which an engraving is given, ia " no other than that which we called the old English lute" and that " in despite of fickleness and novelty, it was still made use of in the best performances of music, viz., in vocal." For instrumental music, a lute of smaller size was used, because the neck of the theorbo was so long that the strings could not be drawn up to a sufficiently high pitch, and it could only be managed by tuning one string to the octave. " Know," says he, " that an old lute is better than a new one;" and " you shall do well, ever when you lay it by in the day-time, to . put it into a bed that is constantly used, between the rug and the blanket, but never between the sheets, because they may be moist. This is the most absolute and best plan to keep it always. There are many great commodities in so doing; it will save your strings from breaking; it will keep your lute in good order, so that you shall have but small trouble in tuning it; it will sound more brisk and lively, and give you pleasure in very handling of it; if you have any occasion extraordinary to set your lute at a higher pitch, you may do it safely, which otherwise you cannot so well do, without danger to your instrument and strings ; it will be a great safety to your instrument, in keeping it from decay; it will prevent much trouble in keeping the bars from flying loose, and the belly from sinking: and these six conveniences, considered all together, must needs create a seventh, which is, that lute-playing must certainly be very much facilitated, and mado more delightful thereby. Only no person must be so inconsiderate as to tumble down upon the bed whilst the lute is there, for I have known several good lutes spoilt with such a trick. . . . Take notice that you strike not your strings with your nails, as some do, who maintain it the best way of playing, but I do not, and for this reason : because the nail cannot draw so sweet a sound as the nibble end of the flesh can do. I confess, in a concert, it might do well enough, where the mellowness (which is the most excellent satisfaction from a lute) is lost in the crowd; but alone, I could never receive so good content from the nail as from the flesh."
Mace had seen two old lutes, " pitiful, battered, cracked things," which were valued at 100/. a piece. Charles II. had paid that sum for the one, and the other was the property of Mr. Edward Jones, who being minded to dispose of it, made a bargain with a merchant that desired to have it with him in his travels, that, on his return, he should either pay Mr. Jones 100/. as the price, or 20/. " for his experience and use of it" during the voyage. Yet lutes of three or four pounds a-piece were " more illustrious and taking to a common eye."

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III