Friday, November 20, 2009

Wild Barley

In 1596, William Barley published three books of tablature, one each for the lute, orpharion and bandora. They are among the very few printed sources of English solo lute music.

In the introduction to the orpharion book, he explains that the pieces for lute can also be played on the 'stately Orpharion', and vice versa. But since the orpharion is strung with wire strings, and the lute with gut, the orpharion requires a 'more gentle & drawing' stroke than the lute. The right hand must be easily drawn over the strings, and not 'suddenly gripped or sharply stroken as the lute is', otherwise the wire strings will clash together and make a nasty sound.

He's very insistent on this, and repeats: "sudden and sharpe as the Lute is alwaies stroken." Today, we tend to think of the lute as a gentle, sweet-sounding instrument. Perhaps we're wrong?

No comments: