Online LuteFest 2023 Class Descriptions
Download a PDF of the full class descriptions: LSA LuteFest 2023 Class Descriptions
Further Considerations About the Position of the Right Hand in the Baroque Era
In an article about right hand position for the lute that I wrote at the tender age of 24, and that was published in the LSA Journal in 1979, I discussed right hand position on the lute. Now, after nearly a half century of experience as a lute player, I would like to return to this subject, especially as it concerns the baroque lute. I will present historical evidence about right hand position in the baroque era, and I would like to have a discussion with participants of the class who play the baroque lute about their own experience—how and why their choice of hand position may differ from what might be gathered from historical records.
The Capirola Manuscript and its Place in the Early History of the Renaissance Lute
The appearance of the Capirola manuscript in the second decade of the 16th century, and the fact that it has survived intact until now, is exceptional in many ways. In this class I will talk about how it compares to other contemporary lute sources, and speculate about how it may have been composed. Since this manuscript was not written by the composer himself, but by a student, I will look at the master-student relationship and how the lute was taught in this period. I will also examine the practice of lute playing in the early 16th century in general and how we may apply this knowledge to our own attempts to master the art of the lute.
Lute Playground Ahead (Find Your Way Through this Extraordinary Labyrinth)
This class offers beginners an overview of important elements necessary for learning the lute and offers tips for developing good practices and work routine right from the beginning.
Make the Lute Sing (Without a Singer!)
This class takes us to the core of contemporary thinking on the interpretation of renaissance lute music; from breathing to phrasing, and through articulation, expression and ornamentation. Each participant is encouraged to play and to bring some music and questions to be discussed in the class. Intabulations are especially welcome. All Lutes at 440!
Playing the Lute with (Good) Attitude
Developing confidence through technique. Developing a good practice routine. An overview of approaches to the lute: general posture, right and left hand positions and techniques, sound production, etc.
Codex Jacobides— Prague circa 1600
The lute tablature fragment with the signature CZ-Pnm XIII B 237, also known as the Codex Jacobides, is one of the most seminal Czech relics of lute music, and instrumental music in general, of the early 17th century. It comes from Prague during and after the reign of Emperor Rudolf II. In all likelihood, it was written and used by someone connected with the Prague University, presumably a student. Unlike all the other lute tablatures from the Czech milieu dating from this era, Codex Jacobides also contains art music for solo lute, including the earliest surviving instrumental piece where we know the name of the Czech composer. Codex Jacobides also includes intabulations of Regnart’s German villanelle, of French chansons and Italian madrigals, and period dances from various countries—a testimony to the international culture of Prague during the reign of Rudolf II.
Class 1 TBA
Class 2 TBA
Intabulation of Renaissance Madrigals.
The class will focus on an analysis of the tablatures for 6-course lute of the madrigals “Alcun non puo saper” by Vincenzo Ruffo intabulated by Antonio Paladino and “O felici occhi miei” by Jacques Arcadelt intabulated by Pierino Fiorentino.
Basso Continuo Applied to Any Plucked Stringed Instrument
This class offers an approach to the compositional, performance and improvisatory practice of the 17th and 18th centuries through musical discursive formulas (opening, development and cadences). The accompaniment of early baroque works details will be the main focus.
The Vihuela Today: Instruments, Repertoire and Performance Practice Today.
This will be a talk to bring up-to-date the things that I have written about in previous years such as my JLSA article “At court and at home…” and my chapter in Victor Coelho’s book on lute, vihuela and guitar performance.
It will also include something of a guided tour of my online database https://vihuelagriffiths.com/
Performing Sixteenth-Century Fantasias and Ricercars.
This will have a much more practical focus based on the principles I’ve been developing over the last forty (maybe fifty) years about the fantasia/ricercar as discourse, and the convergence of principles of rhetoric and architecture.
Focusing Your Practice
With our world’s increasing demands upon our attention and time, it’s often difficult to commit to a regular practice routine. When we do get time alone with our lutes, our practice can easily become unfocused and inefficient such that we continue to practice our mistakes. Using the class’s participants as a supportive community, we’ll inspire each other to overcome our personal barriers to regular and effective practice, whether they be logistical or psychological. We’ll encourage each other to slow down, isolate technical & musical challenges, and create optimal practice strategies that will lead to cumulative improvement. Players of all experience levels are welcome, and a few willing participants are invited to screen-share a short passage of music we can use to discuss possible practice strategies.
England, circa 1600: Making our own ornamented repeats
Most solo lute pavans, galliards, almains, etc. from England include a written-out repetition of each section with embellishments. But what should we do when these decorated repeats are missing? In this class, we’ll work from the premise that a skilled player of the time would have composed or improvised his/her own decorations, and that we can do the same. We’ll build our stylistic vocabulary by studying original lute solos whose written-out repeats make use of broken chords, simple divisions, and other accessible variation techniques. Then we’ll look at some similar pieces which are missing their repeats and begin to have fun inventing our own embellishments in the style of Dowland, Cutting, etc. This class hopes to be of interest to players at all different levels.
John Wilson: a Man with Something to Hide? Wilson’s Manuscript and Mid-17th Century Song in England
In this class we will take a look at the life of John Wilson, and explore the lute book which he left at the Bodleian Library in Oxford on condition that nobody look at it until after his death. We’ll explore whether tablature has something to offer continuo players then and now, and whether the tablature conceals a richer harmonic palette than the often associated with the music of Wilson, Lawes and Lanier.
Exclusive Conversations: Lute music in 17th-Century France and its Relation to Court and Salon Culture
Taking its title from Elizabeth Goldsmith’s book on “the art of interaction in seventeenth-century France,” in this class we will look at French lute style from the perspective of codes of communication among the aristocracy, as well as the would-be aristocracy who were buying the books by Gaultier, Mouton and Gallot. Did these books reveal or conceal the masters’ secrets? We’ll also look at the next generation, especially the “updating” undertaken by Robert de Visee and his transfer of the style to guitar and theorbo.
What’s in a name? How a Search For the Meaning of the Titles Given to Pieces in The Rhétorique Des Dieux Led to a Closer Examination of the Very Element Thought By Detractors to Be Missing in 17th-Century French Lute Music.
After a brief narrative describing the path which started with the question, “Do the titles really have nothing much to do with the piece to which they’ve been given,” we will explore the increasingly tantalizing congruences which lead to important aspects of understanding and performing this repertoire.
Invention, Association, Evocation: Italian & English Settings of the Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Mi Figure
One measure of a composer’s skill during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was his or her ability to set figures that conjured up familiar musical or extra-musical ideas. These musico-rhetorical figures (to evoke the language of Henry Peacham and Francis Bacon) drew upon associations shared by musicians and audiences alike, similar to the way in which jazz and blues players today use snatches of familiar tunes when improvising. One such figure beloved by leading composers of the renaissance and baroque periods was Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, Mi. This series of four ascending notes followed by a descending semitone was skillfully set in many of their best compositions. In his famous madrigal “Il bianco e dolce cigno,” Jacques Arcadelt expresses the words “cantando more” with this figure. John Dowland employs the figure in the final strain of his exquisite funeral pavan dedicated to Sir Henry Unton, as if to push the soul onward toward the Elysian Fields. Palestrina sets a variant of the figure at the beginning of his madrigal “Io son ferito, ahi lasso.” Chris will share his research on the significance and use of this figure, what creative and technical lengths composers and lutenists went through to set it in their vocal and instrumental compositions, and what potentially the figure could have meant to well informed listeners of the time.
Fundamentals of Renaissance Lute Playing
In this course, Chris will cover the basic physiological mechanics involved in playing the Renaissance lute well. He will deal with the fundamentals of right-hand thumb-under technique, the principles of left-hand finger placement (with special emphasis given to the thumb and little finger), and the “order,” or method, of choosing felicitous fingerings. He will also provide a checklist of problems to avoid, while offering insights into various ways of holding the lute, practicing, producing good tone, and playing in a relaxed, focused manner.
Wire Connection—Wire-Strung Instruments From the Lute Family
Wire-strung plucked-string instruments were widely used since the middle ages. Hardly heard today (with some exceptions), they come in a surprisingly wide variety of shapes, tunings and sizes. This class will present a survey of these instruments, their music and the playing techniques, with an emphasis around the year 1600. Aiming to awake some more interest in some of these forgotten animals it will end in an open discussion to share precious personal practical experience from which we can all learn and progress.
Download a PDF of the full class descriptions: LSA LuteFest 2023 Class Descriptions