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8.554126 - HUME: Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke, Vol. 1
English 

Tobias Hume (c.1575?-1645)
Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke (1607)

Relatively little is known of Tobias Hume. His date of birth has been inferred from his admission, in 1629, as a pensioner, to the Charterhouse, where regulations stipulated that those admitted should have reached the age of sixty, but the inference seems open to question. He published two collections of pieces for viols and songs, The First Part of Ayres in 1605 and Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke in 1607. His dedication of the first of these, to Lord William, Earle of Pembrooke, L. Herbert of Cardyf, L. Par and Rosse of Kendall, Lord Marmion, and S. Quintin, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, and Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, tells us something of him: My Life hath beene a Souldier, and my idleness addicted to Musiicke, of both which I here doe offer the service to your best worthy selfe. His second collection is dedicated to Queen Anne, in an apparently desperate attempt to secure royal favour. The third Earl of Pembroke, identified by some as the Mr W.H. to whom Shakespeare's sonnets are dedicated, was an important patron, but seems to have failed to oblige Captain Hume. In 1607 he offers this last hope of my labours, to your most princely acceptance, humbly imploring that, it would please your thrice-royall spirit, not to esteeme my Songs unmusicall, because my Fortune is out of tune. This dedication again seems to have had no positive result. From other sources, notably his application in 1611 to King Charles I for permission to engage in a military expedition under the King of Sweden, a request that was denied, it may be gathered that Hume had had varied experience as a soldier, including in the service of the Swedish King, who now asked for his return. The next documentary evidence of his life is found in his application in 1629 to enter the Charterhouse as a 'poor brother'. In 1642, apparently in some distress, he seeks money from Parliament, describing himself as a colonel and hoping to enter military service again, now, seemingly, nearly seventy, in the expedition to suppress the rebels in Ireland. He died in 1645. It will be gathered that the conjectural date of birth of 1569 offered by some, based on the supposition that he must have been sixty when he applied to enter the Charterhouse in 1629, leads to gross improbabilities. Others have suggested a date in the region of 1575 for his birth and this at least makes marginally more credible his hope of renewed military service in 1642. Problems of chronology lie in the fact that by 1605 he had already had experience, seemingly abroad, as a soldier, but then military life could start relatively early. The Charterhouse was not simply a home for pensioners, but also provided military training for younger soldiers and one might guess that Hume had some part to play in this latter activity, as an experienced officer, in spite of the described terms of his admission. Then again, rules of admission to the Charterhouse might have been waived in certain cases.

Hume claims originality in his compositions. He is a particular champion of the viola da gamba over the lute, claiming for the former instrument the possibility of providing polyphony, expression and diminution or variation. His defence of the viol provoked Dowland into a reply, declaring the claims of Hume and others like him to be wrong. Hume emphasizes his own originality in his addresses to the reader in both volumes. The Preface to the earlier publication reads as follows:

To the understanding Reader
I Doe not studie Eloquence, or professe Musicke, although I doe love Sence, and affect Harmony: My Profession being, as my Education hath beene, Armes, the onely effeminate part of me, hath beene Musicke; which in mee hath beene alwayes Generous, because never Mercenarie. To prayse Musicke, were to say, the Sunne is bright. To extoll my selfe, would name my labors vaine glorious. Onely this, my studies are far from servile imitations, I robbe no others inventions, I take no Italian Note to an English dittie, or filch fragments of Songs to stuffe out my volumes.

These are mine own Phansies expressed by my proper Genius, which if thou dost dislike, let me see thine, Carpere vel noli nostra, vel ede tua, Now to use a modest shortnes, and a briefe expression of my selfe to all noble spirites, thus, My Title expresseth my Bookes Contents, which (if my Hopes faile me not) shall not deceive their expectation, in whose approvement the crowne of my labors resteth. And from henceforth, the statefull instrument Gambo Violl, shall with ease yeelde full various and as devicefull Musicke as the Lute. For here I protest the Trinitie of Musicke, parts, Passion and Division, to be as gracefully united in the Gambo Violl, as in the most received Instrument that is, which here with a Souldiers Resolution I give up to the acceptance of all noble dispositions.

The friend of his friend,
Tobias Hume.

If you will heare the Viol de Gambo in his true Maiestie, to play parts, and singing thereto, then string him with nine stringes, your three Basses double as the Lute, which is to be plaide on with as much ease as your Violl of sixe stringes.

It is clear from this preface, and the very similar preface to the publication of 1607, that Hume is suggesting something that others may question. He stresses his own originality, while his praise of the viol at the expense of the popular lute, was bound to bring about a reaction, as it did from the lutenist-composer John Dowland. The instrument that Hume prefers is the so-called lyra-viol, or, at least, the technique of performing on a bass viol in the lyra-way, as the title of Playford's 1682 publication suggests: Musick's Recreation on the Viol, Lyra-way. The lyra-viol itself seems to have been a smaller form of bass viol, with certain other modifications and a wide variety of possible tunings. The instrument or the method of performance, since it seems that music for the lyra-viol could also be played on the bass division viol, won great popularity in England during the seventeenth century. There were experiments at first with the addition of sympathetic strings, but these did not lead to any lasting change in the instrument. If the bow was not used, it was possible to use the lyra-viol as a plucked instrument, and the practice of plucking an open string with the left hand, while bowing with the right, as on the later baryton, was used. Hume's publication of 1605 is a very early source for the practice of plucking the strings and for the use of the wood of the bow in col legno, although he makes no use of the later practice of the thump, the plucking of a string with the left hand while bowing.

Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke carries on its title-page a list of the contents. The collection is of music Principally made for two Basse-Viols, yet so contrived, that it may be plaied 8, severall waies upon sundry Instruments with much facilitie. The eight ways are for one bass viol in parts, for two bass viols, for three bass viols, for two tenor viols and a bass, for two lutes and a bass viol, for two orpharions (a form of lute) and bass viol, for the voice with three bass viols or two orpharions and one bass viol, and finally the possibility of using all the instruments together, with virginals or with wind instruments and voice. The music of each publication is, for the most part, in tablature, the system of instrumental notation that used the six lines of the stave to represent the strings of the viol and letters to show the fret to be stopped. The first collection includes 117 pieces, 104 of which are for solo viol, and the second contains 25, with the varied instrumentation outlined on the title-page.

Hume’s collection opens with the song Cease Leaden Slumber, subtitled The Queens New-yeares gift. The words and music express the fashionable humour of melancholy, of which Dowland and his contemporaries made so much. This is followed by The King of Denmarkes delight, a cheerful instrumental piece that may remind us of the interest in music shown by King Christian IV of Denmark and in particular the favour he showed to English lutenists and viol-players. He was the brother-in-law of King James I and brother to Queen Anne, to whom Hume had dedicated his second work. Next comes A Mery Conceit, subtitled The Q[ueens] delight, as cheerful as the preceding piece.

The collection continues with My hope is revived, The Lady of Suffolkes delight, music in a more melancholy vein. Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, was Lord Treasurer under King James and enjoyed particular favour through the marriage of his daughter Frances Howard to the King's favourite Rohert Carr, after the annulment of her marriage to the Earl of Essex. Involvement of Frances Howard in the scandal of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury ensured the downfall of the family. My joyes are comming, The Lady of Bedfords delight is cheerful in mood, a necessary tribute to the Queen's closest friend, the cultured Lucy, Countess of Bedford. The following Musicke and Mirth, The Lady Hattons Delight contrasts moods of lively gaiety with more introspective moments of music. The Hattons had won particular power under Queen Elizabeth, when the then Sir Christopher Hatton served as one of the Queen's ministers, having first drawn her attention through his dancing. The Earle of Mountgomeries delight takes its title from another royal courtier, with Start, The Lady of Sussex delight following.

The ninth piece in Hume's collection is An Almaine, The Lady Canes delight, which is followed by a second allemande, An Almaine, The Duke of Holstones delight, The Dukes Almaine, a reminder of the great popularity of the dance, particularly, at this time, among English lutenists and virginalists. King Christian IV of Denmark also held the title of Duke of Holstein. The next piece is A Maske, The Earl of Sussex delight, leading to A French Almaine, The Duke of Lenox delight, a suggestion of the connection with the French court established through the King's cousin, Esmé Stuart. For this Hume directs the lowering of the bottom strings. A further allemande An Almaine M.S. Georges delight completes the group of instrumental dances.

There follows a song, What greater griefe, described as Grave Musickes for three Bass-Viols with the Voice. This is the epitome of melancholy, expressed not only by the minor mode but also by the descending melodic line. Sweete Musicke, The Earle of Salisburies favoret, pays respect to the Lord Treasurer who had served Queen Elizabeth, before the accession of King James in 1603, and to whom Byrd and others had paid musical tribute.


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