Dowland Downloads
July 8, 2009 7:34 PM   Subscribe

John Dowland was a lute player and composer roughly contemporaneous with William Shakespeare. In a recent article Mark Padmore, a frequent performer of Dowland's work, compared Dowland to Morrissey and Bob Dylan. Whether that's accurate or not is a fine website with many recordings available either in mp3 format or as videos. There are essays on the site but it also points towards many other Dowlandian treasures online, including this fine biography and lyrics. Among Dowland's best known works are Flow, My Tears, Stay, Time, Awhile and An Heart Thats Broken and Contrite [mp3 links] but my favorites are In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell and Sorrow Stay [YouTube]
posted by Kattullus (20 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
A sensitive man, prone to bearing grudges, Dowland felt that Britain never appreciated him and spent much of his life looking for employment in France, Germany and Denmark.

Today I hath decree'd
That lyffe be takyng; not giving
England be myne
And it oweth me a living.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:57 PM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Lutenist Nigel North lived at the end of our street several years ago. I used to love strolling sloooowly by his house in the summertime when he would practice songs like this with the windows open. Thanks for this wonderful post-- Dowland's music is an accessible treasure.
posted by Heretic at 8:00 PM on July 8, 2009


I am a fan of Lachrimae Antiquae. This is a nice cd set for people who might want to get a Dowland's Graetest Hittes collection.

Lute Cat has a posse!
posted by winna at 8:07 PM on July 8, 2009

Many years ago, when I was in Amsterdam, I visited the Rijksmuseum and met a guy by the name of Peter Blanchette who was playing a most unusual instrument. On the spot, I bought his CD, "La Style Brisée", and became an aficionado of baroque and Renaissance guitar & lute music.

A few years later, I was wandering by Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco and happened across a guy playing a familiar-looking instrument. He had a cardboard sign propped up next to him saying 'NO, it's not a lute, and NO, you probably haven't seen one of these before". When he stoppped playing, I said - "That's an arch guitar. Do you know Peter Blanchette?" He turned out to be one of the few other arch guitar players in existence, Elliott Gibbons, and both of them had recorded tracks by John Dowland amongst their repertoires.

I have since bought the two-CD set by Paul O'Dette - Complete Lute Works of John Dowland - and Paul O'Dette, Peter Blanchette, Peter Michelini (the third of three arch-guitar players in the US, AFAIK) and Elliott Gibbons are my baroque, Renaissance and otherwise 'early music' heroes.

Rocque onne!
posted by kcds at 8:22 PM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

This is wonderful. So wonderful. I feel like a kid in a candy store, except the candy is made of LUTES AND COUNTER-TENORS.
posted by brownpau at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

but my favorite[ is] In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell

Me too, and that's a great performance. Thanks for the link.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 9:20 PM on July 8, 2009

Never seen an archguitar before, but one year at Ashland the green show featured an archlute, and it was very interesting to hear.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:48 PM on July 8, 2009

Dowland Top Hits on Last, many full tracks.
posted by meehawl at 10:15 PM on July 8, 2009

O Sting, where is thy death?
posted by Wolof at 10:53 PM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Once when I was playing the melody of "If my complaints could passions move" in a park, a dog came up to my park bench and sat down to listen. Except it was summer and he had a big cheerful grin-pant thing going on. Dogs just don't know how to read the room.
posted by No-sword at 11:06 PM on July 8, 2009

posted by honest knave at 12:08 AM on July 9, 2009

"Semper Dowland, semper dolens."

Flow My Teares is the saddest song ever. I bust it out whenever I need extra sadness. (That said, this site does seem to have a bias towards the sad songs -- what, no "Fine Knacks For Ladies"?)

One thing that strikes me about Dowland's partsong arrangements is that each part is also a coherent melody of its own -- which means that his alto lines are much easier for me to remember, and still leap to mind after a span of years. Some of the songs were actually written so that the parts could be performed either together or "severally." Dowland was ye man.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:58 AM on July 9, 2009

I used a lot of John Dowland when making a mix for a Queen Elizabeth set. It blended surprisingly well with some of the artier flavor of pop. The CD opened with Dowland and ended with the Divine Comedy's "To Die A Virgin".

Ahhh, good times.
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on July 9, 2009

Sorry if it's in the links, but there is a Dowland-Philip K. Dick connection

Dick occasionally wrote under pen names, most notably Richard Philips and Jack Dowland. The surname Dowland refers to Renaissance composer John Dowland, who is featured in several works. The title Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said directly refers to Dowland's best-known composition, "Flow My Tears". In the novel The Divine Invasion, the 'Linda Fox' character is an intergalactically famous singer whose entire body of work consists of recordings of John Dowland compositions. Also, some protagonists in Dick's short fiction are named 'Dowland'.

The short story "Orpheus with Clay Feet" was published under the pen name "Jack Dowland". The protagonist desires to be the muse for fictional author Jack Dowland, considered the greatest science fiction author of the 20th century. In the story, Dowland publishes a short story titled "Orpheus with Clay Feet", under the pen name "Philip K. Dick".

posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on July 9, 2009

The Whelk: Dowland-Philip K. Dick connection

That's interesting. I didn't know that. I had noticed the Flow, My Tears and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said thing but didn't know that Dick had a Dowland fixation. Of course, that would just about be the most normal thing PKD fixated on.
posted by Kattullus at 9:17 AM on July 9, 2009

I picked up that Sting CD, and I have to say I didn't think his voice went very well with the music at all, and the brief instrumental lute pieces were by far the more interesting. I looked around to see if there was any solo stuff by that guy, but no dice.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:23 AM on July 9, 2009

PKD was a well-known classical musical geek, and worked as a record store clerk for many years. Music is often used for characterisation, usually positive, in his work: In Flow my Tears the Policeman Said, the works of Dowland are used to portray Felix Buckman, the eponymous policeman, as a thoughtful and humane character. The Magical Flute is used in similar way in Do androids dream of electric sheep.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2009

OMG, Katullus .. .THANK YOU!

As a lapsed lutenist (University of Texas Madrigal Singers, Collegium Musicum 1969-1975), from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

"Flow not so fast, ye fountains ... "

...there are so many more gems from the period, both before and after JD (consider Pierre Attaignant's collections from France, for example, or the magnificent Italian collections that Respighi used for his compositions [Ancient Airs and Dances] that included pieces by no less than the astronomer Galileo's father!) ... but if there was only one to choose, it would be Dowland, "whose touch upon the lute, doth ravish human sense."

Again, thank you ... "Semper Dowland, semper dolens" ... semper delightful!
posted by aldus_manutius at 11:50 AM on July 9, 2009

Thank you! Dowland's music is beautiful. A great example of art music that (was) popular music -- I wish there weren't so much separation between the two in the last 60 years or so.

I also have a real thing for countertenor voices. Horrifically, I sometimes find myself sympathizing with Stravinsky in the (probably apocryphal) tale:

When asked by the Pope what the Catholic Church could do for music, Igor Stravinsky is reputed to have answered without hesitation, "Give us back castrati!"
posted by mormolyke at 8:31 AM on July 10, 2009

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