The Solo Lute Music of John Dowland

The fundamental goal of this dissertation is very simple: to establish the canon of John Dowland’s compositions for solo lute, and then, on the basis of the principles used to establish that canon, to provide an adequate edition. I have tried to reach that goal by making use of both the necessary approaches: consideration of historical circumstance, and consideration of style. In addition, I have tried to make use of each approach at the proper moment. I began, therefore, with historical matters: evidence deriving from paleography, manuscript study, bibliography, documentary sources, and, in particular, Dowland’s pointed comments in the front matter of his songbooks. To have begun with consideration of style would have been quite simply to put the cart before the horse, because owing to the uncritical approach that has been taken to the historical and bibliographic circumstances, Dowland’s style has to be regarded as something as yet illdefined if not virtually unknown.

David Tayler

The first step, then, was to establish, by means of a fresh look at the sources and the historical context, a canon of Dowland lute solos–to identify, that is, the quite small group of lute solos that are not only reliably attributed to Dowland, but also extant in versions that Dowland himself saw and approved. These lute solos, carefully considered against the backdrop of Dowland’s other works, particularly the lute ayres and consort music, became the basis for the construction of a more refined notion of Dowland’s style. That more precise description of style, taken in combination with a further examination of manuscript and other historical evidence, in its turn became the means of identifying, in the case of pieces or versions of pieces of doubtful provenance, what is genuinely Dowland’s and what is not…)
David Tayler      Department of Music
University of California at Berkeley

The Solo Lute Music of John Dowland

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