David Gorton/John Dowland-a collaboration

Posted on December 11th, 2013 by

Ph oto: Marius Skaerved iDecember 2013 (Stuff from our shelves...)

Photo: Marius Skaerved December 2013 (Stuff from our shelves…)

Composer David Gorton is moving towards a large-scale work for strings, rooted in the Lachrymae  of John Dowland. To begin the process, he has arranged this work, and Byrd and Randall’s take on it for strings. I have then made a ‘next step’ throwing Dowland and Gorton into the same space, collapsing material from David’s Caprices and Austeriy Measures onto the bass line from Dowland’s work. The workshop door wide open. This page is actually part of the process, as he and I exchange ideas.

On the 13th December at 630 pm, see where this leads, as we bring this material, plus Matteis, Walther, and other composers, to the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum. LINK


John Dowland-Arranged David Gorton-Lachrymae William Bryd/John Dowland-Lachrymae  William Randall/Dowland-Arranged David Gorton-Lachrymae David Gorton/Dowland – Layering Caprices 4 & 7, with Lachrymae bassoJohn Dowland-Arranged David Gorton-Lachrymae (3-part version)Workshop session. Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Mihailo Trandafilovski-Violinst, Lucy Railton-Cello, Diana Mathews-Viola 11 12 13

David Gorton working on the electronics of his Cello Sonata. Malmo November 15th

David Gorton working on the electronics of his Cello Sonata. Malmo November 15th

Here’s the supporting literary ‘undertow’ for my intervention in the project. Reading on the 12th December 2013.


 The true and liberal ground of imitation is an open field: where, though which proceeds has had the advantage of starting before you, you may always propose to overtake him. It is enough however to pursue his course; you need not tread in his footsteps; and you certainly have a right to outstrip him  if you can … I can recommend nothing better, therefore, than that you endeavour to infuse into your work what you learn from the contemplation of the works of others (Reynolds)


In addition there is the hazard of proper execution: for it is impossible for another man (whoever he may be) to match my character and expression perfectly, just as it is impossible for another to perfectly resemble me. All the same, in all order to make my character and my intentions clear, I should say that I seek the greatest possible affinity with nature and am least at home in matters of art: for if I possess any art at all, it is that of imitating nature.’ Tartini to Algarotti. 


The Past

I do sincerely think that this age is better than ancient times’ (James Boswell)


Dealing with History is simply a matter of compiling a handful of truths with a mountain of lies. This kind of history is useful in the way a fable is, where major events become the constant subject of our pictures, poems and conversations, and allow us some moral or other. (Voltaire)


Our moral criticism of past ages can easily be mistaken. It transfers present-day desiderata to the past. It views personalities according to set principles and makes too little allowance for the urgencies of the moment (Burckhardt


Even all that is written down is not certain to survive, and books perish, just as tradition is forgotten. Time, which can conquer iron and marble, does not lack strength against more fragile things. (De Balzac-Conversation with Marquise de rombouillet)



‘Another reason for the present decadence of music is the peculiar dominion it has taken upon itself to found, and which today has reached such a height. The composer behaves like a despot, doing exactly as he likes, concerned solely with musical matters. There is no way in the world to make him understand that his role has to be subordinate, and that music produces its best effects when it ministers to poetry. Its proper function is to subordinate the mind to receive the impressions made b y the verses, and so to stir the emotions that analogous to the precise ideas that the poet is to elicit, in a word, to give the language of the Muses greater vigour and energy.’ (Algarotti)


André Erneste Modeste Grétry (1741-1813), whose admiration of Rousseau knew no bounds, expressed how this ‘sublime science’ might offer an ideal for melody: “…if there is too much learning in music, and too many complications in the accompanying parts, the melody-which is the main point of this art-is destroyed. I would much prefer unaccompanied song (if it is good) to [song] accompanied by many orchestral parts that smother it and make me search for it as a diamond lost in the brushwood.”




I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undicover’d before me.’ (Newton)


‘There still remains to mortify a wit.

The many-headed Monster of the Pit.

A senseless, worthless and unhumor’d crowd;

Who to disturb their betters mighty proud.

(Anthony Pasquin 1796)


 I loved all solitude-but little thought/to spend I know not what of life…. (Byron-The Lament of Tasso, Verse 7)

This a Dark Lanthorn of the Spirit

Which none see by but those that bear it.

A light which falls down from on high,

For spiritual Trades to cozen by;

An Ignis Fatuus, that bewitches

And leads men into pools and ditches

(Samuel Butler)




Hans Sloane’s material medica includes ground Egyptian mummies fingers as ‘proper for contusions’


A piece of wood, an apes head, a cheese etc: all kinds of shells, the hand of a mermaid, the hand of a mummy, a very natural wax hand under glass, all kinds of precious stones, coins, a picture wrought in feathers, a small piece of wood from the cross of Christ (German Visitor to Tradescant’s ‘Ark’)


A speculum of Kenel Coal in a leathern case. It is curious for having been used to deceive the mob by Doctor Dee, the Conjuror, in the reign of Queen Elisabeth (Horace Walpole)




It is a man’s proper business to seek happiness and avoid misery. Happiness consists in what delights and contents the mind. Misery is what distorts, discomposes or torments it. I will therefore rule it my business to seek satisfaction and delight and avoid uneasiness and disquiet and have as much one and as little of the other as may be (John Locke)


Does one need to love? Don’t ask feel it. (Pascal)




The values of a society where science and rational discourse were accorded respect as the cause of true Religion and sound Government (Jos. Banks)



Thus from a mixture of all kinds began

That heterogeneous thing an English man…

We have been Europe’s sink, the jakes where she

Voids her offal outcast progeny…

Fate jumbled them together, God knows how’

Whate’er they were, they’re true-born English now.





In animals, we shall find, not only most curious component shapes but most stupendous mechanisms and contrivances (Robert Hooke)


I cannot see how it can be properly said that nature sets the boundaries of the species of things; … we ourselves divide them by certain obvious appearances, in to species, thus we may easier under general names communicate our thoughts about them (John Locke)



Putting the question to Nature (Francis Bacon)


There is inherent in Nature’s works no prudence, no artifice, no intelligence, but these only appear to our thinking to be there because we judge of the divine things of nature according to our special faculties and peculiar manners of thought (William Harvey)



Take Nature’s path, and mad Opinion’s leave

All States and reach it, and all head’s conceive (Pope)



Nature Revolves, but Man Advances’ (Edward Young)


Thus I sang of the care of fields, of cattle, and of trees, while great Caesar thundered in war by deep Euphrates (Virgil)


The Country Arcadia (according to Sir Philip Sidney) was noted for the well-tempered minds of the people (Sidney-Arcadia)


Nor think, in NATURES STATE they blindly trod;

The state of Nature was the state of God




We find the works of nature still more pleasant, the more they resemble those of art (Addison



The Country Arcadia (according to Sir Philip Sidney) was noted for the well-tempered minds of the people (Sidney-Arcadia)


There were many who detested the vagueness of the very idea, such as the Scottish philosopher and historian, Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), who wrote: “Of all the terms that are used in treating of human affairs, those of natural and unnatural are the least determinable in their meaning.”


Wordsworth wrote:

‘I listen, but no faculty of mine/ Avails those modulations to detect,/ Which, head in foreign lands, the Swiss affect With tenderest passion; leaving him to pine (So fame reports) and die, his sweet-breathed kine Remembering and green Alpine pastures decked With vernal flowers. Yet may we not reject The tale as fabulous. Here, while I recline Mindful how others love this simple Strain, Even here, upon this glorious Mountain (Named of God himself, from dread pre-eminence) Aspiring thoughts, by memory reclaimed, Yield to the Music’s touching influence. And joys of distant home my heart enchain



Mrs Rowe’s Rural Adventure, which was reprinted in A Common Place Book. She wrote: “I had a great inclination to ramble in these agreeable shades, and, alighting, ordered my footman to wait at the place where I left him. It was not long before I came to the centre of the forest, in which there was a large grass plot of a circular figure, with a double row of high elms growing in the same form round it. In the middle of the green was a little mount, which, by easy steps of turf, had a winding ascent to the top, where stood an arbour of jessamine, woodbine, and roses, twisted together with a sort of elegant disorder. The gaudy blossoms pleased the sight, while the mingled sweets perfumed the ambient air. On the lower branches of the circling elms hung several gilt cages, with a variety of singing birds in them, which were now chanting their evening songs, while a musical flageolet, in clear and shrill responses, answered from the delicious arbour.”




When a Frenchman reads of the Garden of Eden, I do not doubt but that he concludes it was something approaching that of Versailles, with clipt hedges and trellis work. (Horace Walpole)



An Iland where the fayre hornbeam stands with a stand in it and seats under Neath/An Iland with a Grott/An Iland with Rock/An Iland mounted with flow’rs in ascents/An Iland pav’d and with pictures/An Iland with an arbour of musk roses sett all over with double violets for sent/A Fayre bridge to ye middle great Iland onely, ye reste by bote (Francis Bacon)