The Cure of Religious Melancholy
Music by John Dowland (1563-1626)
Fr. Madden Auditorium, Carr Hall
St. Michael’s College
Jan. 30th, 2015
Lecture 7:30PM, Concert 8PM
From silent night, true register of moanes
Lachrimae antiquae novae
The Humble Suit of a Sinner
If that a Sinners sighes be Angels foode
Thou mighty God-When Davids life-When the poore criple
Where Sinne sore wounding
In this trembling shadow
Sorrow Come - arr. William Wigthorpe (c.1570-1610)
The Musicians In Ordinary
Named after the singers and lutenists who performed in the most intimate quarters of the Stuart monarchs’ palace, The Musicians In Ordinary for the Lutes and Voices dedicate themselves to the performance of early solo song and vocal chamber music. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards have been described as ‘winning performers of winning music’. A fixture on the Toronto early music scene for over 10 years, in 2012 MIO became Ensemble in Residence at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. They have concertized across North America and lecture regularly at universities and museums. Institutions where MIO have performed range from the scholarly to those for a more general public and include the Shakespeare Society of America, the Renaissance Society of America, the Shakespeare Association of America, Grinnell College, the Universities of Alberta, Toronto and at California at San Diego, the Kingston Opera Guild, Syracuse, Trent and York Universities and the Bata Shoe Museum. They have been Ensemble in Residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Christopher Verrette has been a member of the violin section of Tafelmusik since 1993 and is a frequent soloist and leader with the orchestra. He holds a BMus and a Performer’s Certificate from Indiana University and contributed to the development of early music in the American Midwest as a founding member of the Chicago Baroque Ensemble and Ensemble Voltaire, and as a guest director with the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra. He collaborates with many ensembles around North America, performing music from seven centuries on violin, viola, rebec,vielle and viola d’amore. He was concertmaster for a recording of rarely heard classical symphonies for an anthology by Indiana University Press and collaborated with Sylvia Tyson on the companion recording to her novel, Joyner’s Dream.
Eleanor Verrette began her studies on violin in Toronto with Gretchen Paxson and Aisslinn Nosky, going on to study viola in Montréal with Pemi Paull and Anna-Belle Marcotte at McGill University. She graduated from McGill University in 2012 with a Bachelor's in viola performance. She appears regularly with the Musicians In Ordinary, and is featured on recent album releases by acclaimed folk-rock artists Lakes of Canada and Corinna Rose. She has also performed with Aradia Ensemble and Montréal singer-songwriter Ari Swan, and plays vielle as a founding member of the Pneuma Ensemble.
Stephen Marvin is a writer, musician and craftsman living in Toronto. Since 1977, he has specialized in early music, performing with and leading many well known ensembles. Stephen has been a principal violinist and violist with Tafelmusik Orchestra for 20 years, but now performs in about half of their season's programs. Stephen’s primary devotion to chamber music has included many ensembles, especially recitals and trio performances of late eighteenth century repertoire with fortepiano. He is the violist with the Lumiere Quartet. Stephen plays on more than 60 recordings, most notably with Sony and enjoys an international reputation as a bow-maker. For 25 years he has specialized in 17th and 18th century reproductions for early music specialists, like himself. He has published articles and given lectures on the history and construction of old bows. More recently he has begun making modern bows after examples by Tourte, Peccatte and others.
Brandon Chui is Assistant Principal Viola of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Hamilton Philharmonic. Having held leading positions in the Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra in Germany, he has also performed with the Canadian Opera Company, Tafelmusik and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with many of today's most celebrated conductors, such as Semyon Bychkov, Valery Gergiev, Philippe Herreweghe, Paavo Jarvi, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Extensive touring has brought Brandon to such venues as Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Berlin's Konzerthaus and Philharmonie, L.A.'s Walt Disney Hall, Lucerne's KKL, Zurich's Tonhalle and the opera houses of Genoa, Lyon and Versailles.
As well as being a founding member of I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble, baroque cellist and viola da gambist Felix Deak showcases his career as a freelance musician with orchestras and chamber ensembles, including Toronto's Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Les Voix Humaines and Opera Atelier. Felix instructs orchestral classes and private students in and around Toronto. He can be heard on CBC Radio Two in performances, and has made recordings for various labels at home and abroad.
The Reverend Lisa Wang holds degrees from the State University of New York (BA), the University of Toronto (MA, MDiv), and the University of London (PhD). She has published in the areas of literature and theology, ecclesiology, and Biblical interpretation. She currently teaches at the Faculty of Divinity, Trinity College, and serves at the Anglican Church of St. Mary Magdelene, Toronto.
In his Anatomy of Melancholy (first published 1621) The Second Partition, (on the Cures of Melancholy), Section 2, Subsection 3, Member 1, the thorough Robert Burton treats of the efficacy of ‘Music of all Sorts, aptly applied.’ Let’s see what the windy Burton, who loved to express himself in quotes from Ancients and Moderns and everyone between, has to say.
- Scaliger gives a reason of these effects, “because the spirits about the heart take in that trembling and dancing air into the body, and are moved together, and stirred up with it,” or else the mind, as some suppose harmonically composed, is roused up at the tunes of music. And 'tis not only men that are so affected, but almost all other creatures.
Timothy Bright, whose 1586 book A Treatise of Melancholy Shakespeare may have read in his day job as the publisher’s proofreader, recommends only ‘such of that kind as most rejoyceth is to be sounded in melancholy ears’, but Burton and others acknowledge that dissonances as heard in Dowland’s mannerist music, will resonate or with the discordant troubled mind and as the music returns to consonance will ‘resolve’ the turbulent mind to consonance with it. And even the more temperate mind can enjoy melancholy music. He says:
- Many men are melancholy by hearing music, but it is a pleasing melancholy that it causeth; and therefore to such as are discontent, in woe, fear, sorrow, or dejected, it is a most present remedy: it expels cares, alters their grieved minds, and easeth in an instant.
The whole of the Third Partition of Burton’s Anatomy treats of Love Melancholy, and a large part of that is taken up with estrangement from God’s love, in the section on Religious Melancholy, which seems to have been a problem at the time. What we would call ‘psychologists’, physician-ministers, found it necessary to treat those driven mad by their certainty of their own damnation. Were they ill with melancholy or merely sorrowful for sin? ‘More needs she the divine than the physician’ says Lady Macbeth’s doctor. And the Cambridge theologian William Perkins wrote ‘When a man is without all hope of salvation, in his owne sense and apprehension it is not a distinct kind of trouble of mind, but the highest degree.’
With his alternating acts of derring-do and retirements to sullen solitude in Wanstead Wood, Robert, Earl of Essex would probably be diagnosed as being on the bipolar spectrum today, but in his day he was recognized as a classic case of Melancholia. Our first ayre, From Silent Night, from Dowland’s last songbook A Pilgrimes Solace, has words by Essex, supposedly written as he awaited execution for his last act of derring-do, an attempted coup d’état. Dowland uses a unique scoring of treble and bass viol (the word ‘viol’ was often used for both families of instruments) and lute and has the ‘tune of sad despair’ sliding chromatically in half-steps up and down. In his how-to-compose book of 1597 Thomas Morley says, ‘When you would express a lamentable passion then you must use your motions proceeding by half notes…these accidental motions may fitly express the passions
of grief, weeping, sighs, sorrow, sobs and such like.’
In 1596 John Dowland had been kicking around the continent of Europe in a series of unsatisfactory court jobs when he received a letter from his friend the courtier Sir Henry Noel. The letter urged him to hurry back to England as Sir Henry thought he had scored him a job at Queen Elizabeth’s court. When he got back though, Dowland found his patron Noel had died, and with him his job. Dowland dedicated to Noel a manuscript collection of penitential Psalms and hymns from the standard Psalter used in England at the time which appear at first glance to be standard settings of hymn tunes, but which have fidgety rhythms and fleeting dissonance that betray the composer.
And so, Dowland ended up back on the Continent working for Christian IV, King of Denmark where his routine seems to have been get an advance on his salary, sail back to England and get something published to keep him in the public eye, sail back and apologize for overstaying, repeat. On one such trip he had printed Lachrimæ or seaven teares figured in seaven passionate pavans set foorth for the lute, viols, or violons, in five parts. The seven pavans (the pavan was a slow dance in three repeated parts of eight measures each, but no one could have danced to these ones) which begin the collection start with has come to be called the Lachrimae motto. The piece which is called Lachrimae antiquae (Latin for Old Tears) is a re-writing of a pavan that was originally for lute solo which is found in almost all British sources of lute solos and many continental ones from the 1590s to the 1630s and beyond. This lute mega-hit had words written to it beginning ‘Flow my teares’ printed in 1600 in Dowland’s Second Book of Songs. Each of the Lachrimæ or seaven teares pavans takes the first few notes of the original as its point of departure and then wanders off, respectively through Old New Tears (Lachrimae antiquae novae), Sighing Tears (Lachrimae gementes), Sad Tears (Lachrimae tristes), Forced Tears (Lachrimae coactae), Lover’s Tears (Lachrimae amantis) and True Tears (Lachrimae verae). The Lachrimæ or seaven teares print was dedicated to the consort of the new English King James, Anne, who happened to be the sister of the King of Denmark. A job back home was not forthcoming however and Dowland was let go from the Danish court by civil servants fed up with his attendance record. (Christian was away at the time.) In 1612 the fore mentioned A Pilgrimes Solace was published, dedicated to his then employer, who was much too minor a nobleman for the greatest lutenist in Europe and the greatest songwriter in the English language (then, and, we would argue, still and ever). Probably Dowland’s grumpy preface to the book, which complains about ‘strange entertainment’ at court, and the ‘fellows who give their verdict of me behind my back’, shamed the Jacobean court into giving him a place as a lutenist there which had been empty for decades. It’s from A Pilgrimes Solace that most of the remaining ayres heard tonight are taken.
Timothy Bright, in his Treatise of Melancholy, gives us some symptoms. They will be ‘Given to weeping sometimes (if the melancholy be sanguine, they exceed in laughter) sighing, sobbing, lamentation, countenance demisse (downcast), and lowring, bashfulnesse, and blushing.’ The melancholy poet of If that a sinner’s sighes ticks many of those boxes. Dowland borrows the Italian madrigalists’ trick of writing a rest for the singer at the word ‘sigh’ to imitated the physical reaction of black bile (melancholy) expelling air from the body.
The composer borrows yet more Italianisms in the adventurous harmonies deployed in Thou mighty God and In this trembling shadow. In his First Book of Songs Dowland had proudly printed a rather lukewarm commendation by Luca Marenzio, a pioneer of the Mannerist Madrigalists who deployed dissonance to paint the pains of lovers. The most extreme of these composers was Gesualdo, a mad nobleman, and Dowland certainly rivals his expressionistic harmonies here.
Despair, it is held, is a sin. Dowland’s Second Book of Songs makes Songs of Leonard Cohen seem jaunty by comparison, both musically and in its verse. The third song of that book is for one voice and lute, and begins Sorrow stay. The manuscript consort song version you hear this evening gives a variant on the original text, which ends ‘Down, down down I fall/Down and arise I never shall.’ but for the religiously scrupulous the manuscript provides another more extensively rewritten text, which ends, through hope of Jesus’s intercession, with the singer ‘never falling’.
To finish, let’s hear from Burton again:
- In a word, it (music) is so powerful a thing that it ravisheth the soul, regina sensuum, the queen of the senses, by sweet pleasure (which is a happy cure), and corporal tunes pacify our incorporeal soul, sine ore loquens, dominatum in animam exercet, and carries it beyond itself, helps, elevates, extends it.