Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Anon: The Duke of Milan's Dump

Philip II of Spain, Duke of Milan when Holmes' Lute Book was written
Painting by Titian

I was browsing the facsimile of Matthew Holmes' Lute Book in Cambridge (you can see it here) when I noticed this intriguingly titled piece. Fortunately, the ever industrious Sarge Gerbode had made a transcript of it, which I used to make the arrangement for low-G ukulele.

The normally rather dry and dusty Oxford Companion to Music (10th edition) has this charming definition:

DUMP, DUMPE. An old dance of which nobody now knows anything, except that the word is generally used in a way that suggests a melancholy cast of expression ... There is a Triste Dumpe in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, and it is not particularly doleful – but then it is Irish.
Meanwhile Collins' Dictionary of Music says:
dump, 16th and 17th century musical term, probably indicating an elegy or lament. The original meaning of 'dump' is a fit of melancholy or depression, [hence] 'to be down in the dumps'... All [dumps] are instrumental and most are constructed on a simple ground bass.
Well, hard as I try I cannot think that this piece is particularly melancholy. Dumps were often written in remembrance of a deceased personage, so perhaps whoever wrote this piece wasn't particularly sad about the demise of the duke. The Lute Book was written in England c. 1588–95, and the incumbent Duke of Milan was the Hapsburg Philip II of Spain who reigned 1540 to 1598 and married Mary I of England. Spain was not that popular at the time, and one wonders if there was a message here in the cheeriness of the lament. Or, have I read too much Hilary Mantel and CJ Sansom? (I am always open to correction from the cognoscenti.)

Anyway, it's a simple jaunty little tune, with a lot of ground bass on the open 4th string. On the lute, this is played on the 7th (F diapason) course, so we uke players have to do our best. My main liberties with the original have been:

  • Moving the ground bass to the 3rd string in § D, so it's not a bass any more.
  • Moving the melody up an octave in § D' (which is not in the original) to leave room for the bass. This means that bars 21–25 have to be played with a 2 barrĂ© on the top 2 strings.

You can download this piece in the following formats:
pdf (preview)
pdf (automatic download)

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I hope you enjoy these arrangements. I would welcome your views, and comments on possible errors or improvements.