“Tonal Strategies and Rhetorical Processes in John Dowland’s Lutesongs: Two Case Studies.”
Jeffrey Meyer

The English Renaissance composer John Dowland is considered the preeminent composer of the lutesong, praised for his musical settings of Elizabethan poetry. This study argues such praise arises from how Dowland complements the poetic strategies found in a poem by employing a similarly designed and structured musical rhetoric, as well as how the composer represents the poem’s central conceit through purely musical means. Dowland’s musical rhetoric is rooted in general rhetorical training of the time and in the concepts articulated by Elizabethan music theorists to describe contemporary elements of tonality. This study employs a new, melodically- based analytical method to discover Dowland’s compositional and rhetorical approach to setting texts. The beauty and effectiveness of his compositions are demonstrated through the detailed study of two of his lutesongs: “Tell me true love” and “Weepe you no more.” Dowland’s compositional strategies of concision and abundance not only mirror the rhetorical strategies of these two poems, but also effectively interpret the poems through large-scale tonal organization and the manipulation of musical space.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/ijmpa.v4n2a1