Tobias Hume

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Born: c.1569

Died: 16 April 1645, London


English composer and viol player. As a professional soldier he served as an officer in the Swedish and Russian armies, and as a viol player published two important volumes of music, principally for the Lyra viol. When in 1629 he entered the Charterhouse almshouse he was probably 60, the minimum age of admission (or 50, according to other sources); he later died there.

All of Hume's known compositions are contained in his First Part of Ayres (1605) and Captaine Humes Poeticall Musicke (1607), the former constituting the largest repertory of solo music for the lyra viol by a single composer in the early 17th century. Together, these works comprise instrumental dances, pieces with descriptive, fanciful or humorous titles, programmatic pieces and songs.

Hume's First Part of Ayres contains what may be the earliest examples of pizzicato (‘play one straine with your fingers, the other with your Bow’, ‘to be plaide with your fingers … your Bow ever in your hand’) and col legno (‘Drum this with the back of your Bow’). This book includes a number of playfully suggestive titles – My Mistresse hath a prettie thing, She loves it well and Hit it in the middle – as well as a Lesson for two to play upon one Viole which requires one player to sit in the lap of the other.

His second collection, dedicated to Queen Anne, is more staid in tone; it earned for the composer ‘according to her highnes comandment and pleasure [by warrant, 6 June 1607]: 100 s[hillings]’. While making no great technical demands on the performer, the music displays much skill and invention, both in the exploitation of the potential of the viol and in the effectiveness and the variety of sonorities in the ensemble works.

He was a particular champion of the viol over the then-dominant lute, something which caused John Dowland to publish a rebuttal of Hume's ideas.

View the Wikipedia article on Tobias Hume.

List of choral works

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  • The first part of ayres (London, 1605)
  • Captaine Humes Poeticall Musicke (London, 1607)

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