Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Music



First Advisor

Joyce Zastrow

Second Advisor

Samuel Adams

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Ricci

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The lute song or "ayre" as it was usually spelled by its Elizabethan and early Jacobean composers was a type of English song whose melody was predominant and its accompaniment carefully composed. It was usually accompanied by the lute and often the viol doubled the bass line. The term "ayre" or "aire" was used by English writers of the seventeenth century in the sense of key or mode. The texture of the lute song was generally homophonic and much simpler than that of the polyphonic madrigal. Of course, lutenist-song composers like John Dowland and John Danyel often used all of the resources of the madrigalists, and their lute songs were generally much more complicated than the rest of the lute song repertoire.

The era of the lute song was inaugurated in 1597 by John Dowland's First Book of Songes of Ayres of Four Partes with Tablature for the Lute and ended with John Attey's collection, The First Booke of Ayres of Foure Parts, With Tableture for the Lute: So made, that all the parts may be plaide together with the Lute, or one voyce with the Lute and Base-Vyoll, in 1622. In those brief twenty-five years, there were more than two dozen collections of lute songs published in London. The lute song quickly outstripped the madrigal in popularity. But the madrigal survived while the lute song faded. The lute sang as a form represented a meeting of minds in music and poetry unlike any other time in English history. English song writing did not approach the lute song's nearly perfect blend of words and music again until the twentieth century.

Lutenist-song composers often wrote the words to their songs while the later Carolinian composers almost always used the poems of the court poets. Elizabethan song books never gave the author of the words of a lute song. The music was generally printed without bars and the irregular barring that did occur was only for ensemble purposes. The muscular accents that modern singers give to the downbeat were unknown to Elizabethan musicians. Singers, who were often the composers as well, were only expected to give a faithful rendering of the natural ictus of the words.

The lute songs of John Danyel represent a curious mixture of the older, polyphonic style of the madrigal and the newer techniques of the monodists. His quiet contemplative verse often contrasts strangely with his vivid, passionate music. He was a composer of great skill who did not rigidly compartmentalize his emotions and thoughts. Unlike his contemporaries, he was willing to experiment with larger forms and anticipated in both his music and verse the spirit of the Baroque. His music must have sounded strange to his contemporaries' ears, but it should not shock ours. Today, his music is rarely, if ever, performed and has been relegated to the shelves of the quaint and the old. It is my purpose in this paper to explore the significance of Danyel's works and urge that his songs be included with those of Dowland in the solo singer's repertoire.

Included in

Musicology Commons