Thomas Morley

As part of my research for Part 3 I listened to an album of Morley’s music called ‘Ayres and Madrigals‘, a collection of secular, mostly unaccompanied songs from the sixteenth century. They are quite varied – some very jolly with often funny lyrics (‘Arise, Awake, You Silly Shepherds Sleeping’!), and others quite sorrowful.  In the latter category I very much liked ‘Phyllis, I fain would die now’, which is sung as a kind of conversation between two groups of singers, one all female and one all male.

Some general observations below:

  • The different vocal parts frequently imitate each other both rhythmically and melodically
  • The parts take it in turns to have the first entry, often coming in a fifth higher than the previous one
  • There is often no identifiable ‘main’ melody, rather all the parts are equally important
  • The most contrapuntal sections are often in the refrains between verses, e.g. sung to ‘fa la la…’ rather than words
  • The melodic lines finish together at the cadences
  • Passages running up or down the scale are quite common, often with one part continuing where another part has just left off
  • The music is very much written to reflect the words e.g. ‘stay heart’ (sung slowly) followed by ‘run not so fast’ (a fast passage)
  • The minor songs often resolve with a major chord which seems quite typical of this era of music
  • You can sometimes hear sustained bass notes while the harmony changes in the upper parts
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  1. Pingback: Renaissance Composers – Emma Arandjelović

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