Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last week we did a lecture-demonstration for Deanne Williams's theatre class.

Here's Deanne looking in her pencil case so you can see what the room was like. The students bravely sang a round from the original print of music on the overhead. There's a lot of specialist early music singers who balk at having to do that. 

They'd been looking at Hamlet so we talked some about melancholy the disease and melancholy the artistic movement in the last years of Elizabeth I's reign and into James I's. Timothy Bright was a physician and a churchman, so was concerned with what they'd call 'soul' and we'd call 'psyche'. A man called Thomas Vautrollier published Bright's Treatise of Melancholy in 1586. At the time Vautrollier had an aspiring actor and playwright called William Shakespeare working for him as a proofreader, so it's very possible that Shakespeare read Bright's book. From the way characters like Hamlet, Pericles, Jaques (from As you Like It) and many, many more tick off the checklist of melancholy symptoms it would seem the playwright had some medical knowledge anyway. We also touched on how some years later the other big writer on the subject, Robert Burton, seemed to think that psychological reasons (your parents were too strict, you've got PTSD from your lover dumping you or some setback in career, etc.) cause melancholy rather than diet, which is what Bright had suggested. Shakespeare, of course, didn't think that Hamlet had had a too rare steak and then worked out so hard as to burn the blood into black bile (Greek - 'melancholy'). For Hamlet it's his Freudian relationship with his mother. Similarly, in the songs we sang, by the official composer of melancholy, John Dowland, the melancholy singers (and we know they are because they have the symptoms) don't mention that beef and red wine they had last night, but do mention lovers and other setbacks. One of the songs we sang of course was Flow my tears which you can hear us sing here.

We continued on with what songs could be re-constructed from Twelfth Night, which I'll write more about next week except I'll leave this round by Ravenscroft for you. Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek et al. stumble out of the pub and sing this. Since 'you don't buy beer, you only rent it' you can imagine what piece they were holding, because drunks singing in the street are not holding the peace, but disturbing it.

If you want to sing it at home middle line is C (though you probably want to start on a lower pitch) the second voice starts where the sort of backwards question mark with 2 dots under is over the first line and the double X in front of the note for the last 'thou' is a sharp sign. It's just turned on it's side a bit. 

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