Thursday, 12 April 2018

Dowland: Piper's pavan (P8)


At last – back to my genius hero, John Dowland, and one of his most popular pavanes..

The title refers not to a woodwind musician, but to Captain Digory Piper (1559–90). He was a colourful Cornish sailor who was commissioned to harry Spanish shipping, but instead turned pirate and attacked vessels of friendly nations sailing in the English Channel. He was fortunate not to be hanged for piracy. Why Dowland dedicated this piece to him is not clear.

An Elizabethan pirate in full fig, and a dashing figure he cuts.
I can't find an image of Capn Piper, so this one (from elizabethanenglandlife.com) will have to suffice.
The pavane has three strains, of 8½, 8 and 8 bars. In the lute version, the first two strains have divisions (variations) by Dowland, the third a variation by another hand; they are challenging, and I have not transcribed them. 

I have set a stately pace of ♩= 38 bpm, which is near that of Nigel North's recorded lute performance, in which he uses a lot of arpeggiation, and adds ornaments as well. It's up to you to add your own!

If you have played other pieces by Dowland, in this blog or elsewhere, you may well notice something familiar in bars 5, 8, 11 and 24. This is what I have come to think of as the Solus cum sola motif, and I have written briefly about it here. Despite the self-plagiarism, this is an inventive piece, with unexpected turns of harmony and melody, and with some tricky timing. 

Below I summarise the harmonic changes in the ukulele transcription. The harmonies are derived from the lute originals, which are voiced more fully than is possible on a ukulele. My favourite moment is in bar 5: the Solus motif, played on the chord of B major, resolves to Am, and not to the E one might expect; thus the bass moves from B to C.

§a
Am / /  E | Am / E / | A Dm Am / | Am / / / |
B  / Am / | Am / / G | Am Dm F Dm| E  / A / | A / 𝄂

§b
C  / / /  | Bm / E / | Am / G Em | F#m / E / |
G  / / Am | E  / Em B| Em C Em B | E   / / / 𝄂

§c
C  / / G  | G  E A5 / | Am / F  / | C  F / C |
F  / G E  | Am / F  C | G  Am E / | A  / / / 𝄂


You might want to conclude the piece on an extra, full A major chord (the Picardy third).

You can find the transcriptions here:
(A corrected version was loaded on 11/04/18)


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