Captaine Humes Poeticall Musicke, London 1607 - The First Part of Ayres, London 1605
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Tobias Hume is only known to us through a few documents and through his two prints. The First Part of Ayres, London, 1605, and Captain Hume's Poeticall Musicke, London, 1607; a complete edition of these (edited by Sterling Jones and with an introduction by Veronika Gutmann), published by Amadeus Verlag in Winterthur (Switzerland), appeared in 1980 as volume two of the series Prattica musicale.
The print of 1605 provides the earliest point of reference concerning Hume's life story, from the dedication to Lord William, Earle of Pembrooke, it appears that his life was devoted to soldiery, his leisure, however, to music and that he wished to offer his services in both fields to the Lord. Judging from the titles of pieces from the 1605 print and from the title of the 1607 book, he must have attained the rank of an officer, of a captain, in the military. Some information found in the 1607 print suggest that he lived in unfortunate circumstances, a fact that is confirmed by the next concrete piece of evidence from 1624 concerning his life story: at the end of that year he entered the London Charterhouse as a "poor brother". This institution, formerly a Charthusian monastery, served as a practice ground for young soldiers and as an honorary refuge for old ones. At the same time Hume sent an (unsuccessful) petition to Charles I, asking that he be allowed to participate in a military undertaking, apparently under the Swedish king. From these documents we learn that he had served as a "Captain" in many countries. In 1642 he petitioned the Parliament, requesting food, clothes and money, as he could no longer bear his poverty. His conditions must have deteriorated visibly, he died on April 16, 1645.
Hume apparently strove to offer something special, to set himself off from others; this is indicated, for example, in the 1605 preface, where he writes that he wants to publish his own works and not arrangements of "foreign" pieces. His commitment to the viola da gamba and his preference for it over the lute may to a certain degree also be explained by his tendency toward the extraordinary; the way had been paved, however, by the increasing popularity of the viola da gamba as well as by the viol's use of the lute repertory as exemplified by Robert Jones' Second Booke of Songs and Ayres which already appeared in 1601. For the first time in this book, which only contains songs, the accompaniment is given for the lute or viola da gamba in two differing tablature versions. With it two farreaching innovations appear in English music: (1) the equal importance of the viola da gamba in relation to the lute and (2) the notation of viol music in French lute tablature which had been reserved for plucked instruments up until that time. Jones characterized the accompaniments notated in tablature as being "after the leero fashion". The term "Lyra Viol" refers primarily to the notation in tablature (as opposed to mensural notation) as well as to the possibility of using tunings varying from the norm and only secondarily to a somewhat smaller bass viol. The music for lyra viol consists mainly of dances (pavan, galliard, almaine, coranto, etc.), ayres and vocal accompaniments. Hume's main innovations lay in the fact that he transferred known lute and bandora repertory to the viola da gamba and that he was the first to publish music for solo viola da gamba (lyra viol) as well as for several violas da gamba. Concealed behind his imaginative titles are, on the one hand, personal references, which can no longer be deciphered, and on the other, homages to certain, aristocratic people, such as the Earle of Pembrooke (1605) and Queen Anne (1607) to whom the prints were dedicated.
The texts set by Hume may well have been written by himself. This is supported mainly by the fact that the topics appearing in some of the songs reflect his personal joys, interests and problems: soldiery (The Souldiers Song), music, love (Tobacco; Fain would I change), as well as deep sorrow and despair (Alas poor men; What greater griefe) are celebrated in song. The texts, which at times are somewhat awkward, often show signs of a certain vulgarity, whereby it is, however, not always clear whether irony is concealed behind it and if so, how much. His suggestions for instrumentation in the print of 1607 are in line with the great variety of possibilities available at that time: of the eight suggestions, four are limited to the various sizes of viola da gamba and come into question for pieces with one to three parts; the 5th and 6th groups include plucked instruments (lute, orpharion), the 7th takes the voice into consideration and the last, the 8th, names the "broken consort" under which a mixed instrumentation is understood, in which lute, viol, virginal, wind instruments and voice may take part. In this spirit the pieces on this recording display various, very colourful instrumentations which do justice to the music. Thus, on the one hand, in the purely instrumental pieces, only lutes and violas da gamba may be found and, on the other, various combinations of both of these may be heard as well as the "broken consort" in which they are in addition joined by wind instruments such as recorder, curtal, cornett and trombone. The voice is always accompanied by the viola da gamba and in one example by a lute as well. The pizzicato sections for the viol, expressly required by Hume ("You must play ... with your fingers"), such as the beginning of Fain would I change, are exceptional and most likely represent the earliest instruction of this kind.