Through The Eyes Of...
Today I have to go to market to buy the items that I will need to get by on for the next week or so. This is a distraction as my time as my master's musician is precious to me. I have the glory of the Lord burning in my soul and the burning seeks expression through music, so I must return to it as quickly as I am able.
I approach the town on foot. The year is 1440 and it is a hot summer's day. The first thing that assails me is the stink as I pass across a bridge - over Shitbrook - as I near the great wooden entrance gates. There I espy the severed heads and limbs of traitors on display. Then I am further pressed by the beggar boys who come out of the town to meet visitors, such as myself who travel long distances to buy at the market.
Inside the town gates, I am faced with some of the finest houses and inns but then I encounter narrow lanes of poorly built and dilapidated dwellings. Yet further in the streets become a little wider again and much noisier, contrasting with the gentle country sounds of birds and breeze. I hear street music and soon enter the quarter where all the trades people live and work. I have written people's music such as the merry tones that I hear and indeed the tunes I write in my maturity are mightily indebted to them.
Who Am I?
However, it is the Lord's music that I am bidden to write both by my employer and by the Creator Himself. I have studied the Quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. I am said to be knowledgeable about the stars and planets but it is music that I know and love best. Soon I am to travel abroad with my Duke of Bedford. On these trips I learn much about music in other countries and I can tell you that we in England are making quick progress.
I myself have made it clear to those who will listen that harmony in several lines can be made better to the ear if the repeating of octaves and fifths is sore limited and the thirds and sixths used to the full. Also, I make it easy on the voice with smaller leaps than before. This means that the purity of the music can be fully expressed and my Lord and Maker pleased to the full.
I watch a cruel prank being played on an old man who has his hat stolen and is tripped by the beggars. They run off while everyone who sees laughs openly and long at the poor bewildered fellow.
This is a cruel age, one in which laughter is made from misfortune. A knight will weep on encountering the beauty of a flower but would straight away cut his enemy's head off with no qualm. I ponder on how badly our women are treated, too. But that suits me, as most men, for we have our clothes cleaned, our meals cooked and our sexual appetites sated so that we can concentrate on God's work and making money.
Truly the Father of English Music, John Dunstable lived in brutal times but became known throughout Europe as a great composer, beginning to lay down a basis for the rules that have governed counterpoint from his day until ours.
Born in 1390 in England at the beginning of the Renaissance, England was during his time under the rule of Henry V who was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. Dunstable died in London in 1453.
Henry prosecuted with vigour his campaign in the 100 Years' War with France, culminating in the Battle of Agincourt. Well educated, Henry had a particular interest in liturgical music; he gave pensions to well-known composers of his time.
Henry V was followed by Henry VI and Dunstable would have been living during the period when the Wars of the Roses began.
Dunstable and his music was known and well respected on the continent for he travelled frequently abroad in Europe during his time.