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Sting, John Dowland and old hearing habits that die hard

July 23, 2010

I’m one of those people who didn’t know how to take Sting’s “Songs from the Labyrinth.”

Probably spent way too much time in school singing madrigals, having been groomed to expect a certain sound when dealing with Dowland and Orlandi di Lasso. People love to beat down on Sting and Karamazov for their interpretation of John Dowland.

Well, I decided to get over myself and simply accept the fact that Sting’s offering his interpretation and not someone else’s. And right then and there it makes sense to me and and I see what he means. Now I love it. Old hearing habits are a powerful thing and can be the one thing standing between you and the music that could fill you. Might take some conscious effort to rid oneself of “expectations” when hearing a name. Sting’s voice is certainly not what comes to my mind when I hear the word “madrigal”. But I came to appreciate his selection of Dowland’s letters and songs. It’s a wonderful reintroduction of the lute into the mainstream. This music suffered way too long from living a fringe existence during “Renaissance Fairs”. People should thank Sting for bringing it to the mainstream’s attention.

Can She Excuse My Wrongs?

Can she excuse my wrongs with Virtue’s cloak?
Shall I call her good when she proves unkind?
Are those clear fires which vanish into smoke?
Must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?

No, no, where shadows do for bodies stand
Thou may’st be abus’d if thy sight be dimmed
Cold love is like to words written on sand
Or to bubbles which on the water swim
Wilt thou be thus abused still
Seeing that she will right thee never?
If thou cans’t not o’ercome her will
Thy love will be thus fruitless ever

Wilt thou be thus abused still
Seeing that she will right thee never?
If thou cans’t not o’ercome her will
Thy love will be thus fruitless ever

Was I so base, that I might not aspire
Unto those high joys which she holds from me?
As they are high, so high is my desire
If she this deny, what can granted be?

If she will yield to that which Reason is
It is Reason’s will that Love should be just
Dear, make me happy still by granting this
Or cut off delays if that I die must
Better a thousand times to die
Than for to live thus still tormented
Dear, but remember it was I
Who for thy sake did die contented

Better a thousand times to die
Than for to live thus still tormented
Dear, but remember it was I
Who for thy sake did die contented

Another wonderful one.

“Weep You No More, Sad Fountain”

Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heav’n’s sun doth gently waste.
But my sun’s heav’nly eyes
View not your weeping
That now lies sleeping,
Softly, softly, now softly lies sleeping.

Sleep is a reconciling,
A rest that Peace begets.
Doth not the sun rise smiling
When fair at e’en he sets
Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,
Melt not in weeping
While she lies sleeping,
Softly, softly, now softly lies sleeping.

I couldn’t quite remember what the personal significance used to be in listening to Dowland, and then it suddenly dawned on me…deep in my moving boxes I found an old recording because it was John Dowland’s music that brought some of us into the inside of a recording studio for the very first time- watching that red light come on.

So here are the memories of a particularly popular John Dowland- a bunch of 17 year olds who found themselves confronted with an amazing number of microphones. It’s not the best recording ever, neither stylistically, nor vocally, but hey, we had fun. (during breaks we used to try to come up with weird a cappella arrangements for Michael Jackson’s “Blood on the Dance Floor” while running around ping pong tables)

What If I Never Speed

What if I never speed,
shall I straight yield to despair,
and still on sorrow feed
that can no loss repair;
or shall I change my love,
for I find pow`r to depart,
and in my reason prove
I can command my heart?
But if she will pity my desire,
and my love requite,
then ever shall she live my dear delight.
Come, come, come, while I have a heart to desire thee.
Come, come, come, for either I will love or admire thee.

John Dowland :What If I Never Speed

And since we’re in the flow of things and we’re talking about “High Renaissance” stuff, I have to post another one that we tried our best to deface.

Orlandi di Lasso’s “Ich liebe dich”. (“I love you”). The best memory of this is a conductor who was sitting on a raised chair of sorts. He got so emotional and into the groove of things (we understood later when we met his girlfriend)- that he fell off that thing with a big crash while us teenagers couldn’t stop laughing in hysterical screams for the next 3 hours. Unfortunately we never got to hear the recording with him falling and us laughing while a few brave ones are still singing “I love you.”

Ich Liebe Dich

Ich liebe dich mein’s Lebens Zier.
In steter Treu ergeben dir.
Bis zu des Herzens letztem Schlag.
Was auch der Neider flüstern mag.
Ich liebe dich mein’s Lebens Zier.

Orlando di Lasso: Ich Liebe Dich

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