Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life (No 13 In Musical Humors)

Tobias Hume, 1569 - April 16, 1645; composed during the Renaissance period

Captain Tobias Hume was a remarkably unsuccessful composer in his lifetime, but the qualities that put off his contemporaries attract today's admirers of viol music. Hume's music was nearly as eccentric as the man himself; it exploited the viol's wide dynamics and ability to sustain a melodic line, in contrast to the more contrapuntally oriented lute, which the viol was slowly supplanting in popularity during Hume's lifetime. Hume filched brief musical phrases from other men's compositions and incorporated them into new pieces of widely varying moods, often with odd titles (My Mistresse hath a Pritty Thing, Twickledum Twickledum). Hume himself was every bit as colorful as his music, perhaps more so. Despite his serious musical efforts -- he published two extensive collections of pieces -- he thought of himself primarily as a soldier. Nothing is known of his early life; he seems to have spent many years traipsing across Europe as a mercenary, serving as an officer in the Swedish and Russian armies (it was in the former that he achieved the rank of captain; late in life, he claimed to be a colonel). The end of the war between Sweden and Poland in 1629 probably sent Hume back home to England for good. He did not enjoy financial success; that year he entered London's Charterhouse, a former priory redesigned as a home for "distressed" gentlemen, and died there in 1645, after several years of issuing periodic, unanswered missives offering his services to the English king to, among other things, crush the Catholic rebellion in Ireland that began in 1642. / Even while soldiering, Hume aspired to be a recognized composer promoting the virtues of the viol against those of the lute. He published two big books of music; the first, in 1605, is full of fanciful instrumental dances and meditations and stands as the largest collection of music for solo lyra viol by a single composer in the early seventeenth century. The second, from 1607, titled Captaine Humes Poeticall Musicke, is more stylistically circumspect, intended as it was to gain the patronage of Queen Anne. In general, Hume's pieces make few technical demands on their players (suggesting that Hume himself was no virtuoso), relying instead on interesting sonorities and musical invention  [--commentary by] James Reel, Rovi (source from Pandora | One internet radio)


  1. I admire the way the highlighted words create both a poetic summary of the (amusing) article as well as a poem that stands on its own virtues. At first I wanted to ignore the greyed-out text but then found it worth my effort to absorb.

    1. It's great to have your presence on IMUNURI again, Ed! I appreciate what you shared, as the piece of writing is the Muse in this case, along with how moved I have felt while listening to Tobias Hume's compositions. I was awed by what I read about him and it was this WEAVE that I wished to honor, as I realized that every word we use has already been spoken or written thousands of times before we choose to include it in a poem. Such is the holographic nature of all poetry, alas! Thanks so much for sharing your comment!

  2. Agree with Ed. I loved reading the essay and enjoy the improvement (IMHO) to the black-out poem form where you aren't permitted to read what's been excised. In this form, the new poem has a relationship with the prose, and that's fascinating.

    Just hours ago, I was looking into John Fred, thinking of including one of his songs in a playlist. He was a 60s one-hit-wonder bubblegum rock singer who has some interesting parallels with Hume: 1) his musical career lost ground due to his commitment to playing and coaching basketball. 2) his hit was based on a lyric borrowed/satirized from the Beatles (Judy in Disguise with Glasses). 3) "few technical demands" and instead "interesting sonorities and musical invention." Hmm