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Dowland’s signature song, “Flow my tears, fall from your springs,” performed by Phoebe Jevtovic Rosquist, soprano, and David Tayler, archlute.
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Q. What is Early Music performance, or historical performance?
A. We play on instruments from the time of the composers, and we use the original music and playing techniques: it’s a special sound.
Q. Why are there no conductors?
A. Conductors weren’t invented until the 19th century; since we seek to recreate a historical performance, the music is led from the keyboard or violin, or the music is played as chamber music~or both
Q. What are period instruments or original instruments; how are they different from modern instruments?
A. As instruments became modernized in the 19th century, builders and players tended to focus on the volume of sound and the stability of tuning. Modern steel strings replaced the older materials, and instruments were often machine made. Historical instruments, built individually by hand and with overall lighter construction, have extremely complex overtones—which we find delightful. Modern instruments are of course perfectly suited to more modern music.
Q. Why is the pitch lower, or higher?
A. Early Music performance uses many different pitches, and these pitches create different tone colors on the instruments. See https://goo.gl/pVBNAC
Live, HD video from the “Saturday Night at the Movies” concert presented by the Early Music ensemble Voices of Music, January, 2014, in San Francisco.
Dowland’s song, also know as “Lachrimae”, which means “tears” in Latin, was the most famous English song of the early 17th century and was well-known throughout Europe–many composers wrote variations on Dowland’s theme and harmonies. The first four notes of the melody form the bass part for Dowland’s song, “I saw my lady weep,” both works were published in the Second book of Ayres (London, 1600).
The poem is the subject of many articles. My own view is that “night’s black bird” refers to the Greek goddess Nyx, the black-winged goddess of the night and one of the “protogenoi” (first-born elemental gods). In one creation myth, Nyx was born from Chaos, and her symbols were the bird and shadows–the shadow theme appears at the end of the poem as well as in Dowland’s other works. According to the philosophy of the time, tears were also a symbol of lost hope (“are my hopes since hope is gone”), and this sentiment is described by Thomas Hobbes in 1658, even as the idea of “humours” was falling out of favor.
Once a year, Voices of Music invites early music groups to participate in a day of filming in San Francisco. You provide the music, we provide the cameras, and we all watch the magic.
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