Three English Airs For Flute And Cello




This composition is an adaptation, with substantial variation, for flute and cello of the melodies of three English Renaissance vocal pieces: I die whenas I do not see her by John Danyel, Ay me that Love by Philip Rosseter, and When to her lute Corinna sings by Thomas Campion.

The audio file was created with software as a demo:  Three English Airs for Flute and Cello.mp3

Also available at SoundCloud Three English Airs For Flute And Cello.

I haven't posted the score on the internet, but if anyone wants to see it, please PM me on this site.

Comments welcome.


Please note that while this composition is based on melodies in the public domain, this setting of them is an original creative work under copyright.

For performance or recording permission, please see my permissions page.

Sources: P. Warlock and P. Wilson, English Ayres v. 1 (1922); J. Dodge, Twelve Elizabethan Songs (1902)

Image: Bartolomeo Veneto, Woman playing a lute

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  • Hi Jon.

    I enjoyed listening to this. I wonder what motivate you to make the adaptation for these pieces? Are they your favorites in the first place? And how did you first make the adaptation? Solely from the original melody? I listened to the original When to her lute Corina, and I believe your piece is within the same key signature. Am I right? Is adaptation always written in the same key, or can we go as far as we want, so long as the main theme is somehow projected? Kindly tell us how you made through the process.


    • Thanks for liking the piece.

      I've always been a fan of Elizabethan music; the Campion piece is one of my favorites, though I hadn't listened as much to the other two.

      I've developed a general process for creating compositions inspired by traditional sources. I take the music first from usually one source, though sometimes multiple ones, in the public domain. Usually these sources give the vocal monody and an instrumental accompaniment, usually but not always piano. This type of score is characteristic of the many "parlour piano" books published in the 19th and early twentieth centuries for home use when most middle-class homes had a piano and people often entertained themselves and their guests with music.

      My adaptations are sometimes for a singer with accompaniment, like the originals, but more often I turn them into instrumentals. I start a score with a simple melodic line, usually arbitrarily scoring for flute or violin. Then I decide whether to use another instrument for the vocal line, and work on the accompaniment. I also usually transpose the key, the main consideration being to find a key that accommodates the ranges of the instruments I’ve chosen. Then I create variations and other details.

      In this composition, the score my sources gave for the Campion piece is in two flats, like my own version, but this is really just coincidence. The first and second songs, which in my version are respectively in two flats and one flat, are in the source in one flat and C major. To complicate things, my sources may themselves have changed the original keys, and one song may have different arrangements in different keys in various sources. And of course, with folk songs there may be attested all sorts of different versions in all sorts of different keys.

      I always call my compositions of this kind “adaptations” rather than “arrangements”, since it seems that the word arrangements makes many people think of things like “Great Hollywood Film Music” or “Fab Beatles Hits.” That’s not the sort of thing I’m doing at all. My adaptations are original creative works legally under copyright, and should be considered as such, not as “arrangements”, by music programmers, including those who manage calls for scores, which often sniffily specify “No arrangements.” I’m not arranging; I’m working in a tradition of adapting or incorporating traditional folk melodies into classical compositions, a tradition which is as old as classical music itself and includes compositions by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Bartok, Copland – in fact, a list of composers who have written compositions in this tradition would be very close to a list of all major classical composers. I wonder if some of Beethoven’s Scottish Songs or Chopin’s Mazurka’s or Copland’s Rodeo were submitted to a call for scores today if they would be rejected as “mere arrangements”.

      I’ll add (since I seem to be holding forth at length) that I particularly value Elizabethan music for its purity, simplicity, and immediate appeal, qualities which classical music composers today seem to have forgotten are not incompatible with sophistication and depth. I’ll quote in this connection the two best things I think have been said about music:

      A naked Ayre without guide, or prop, or colour but his owne, is easily censured of everie ear; and requires so much the more invention to make it please.” – Thomas Campion


      “Music should humbly seek to give pleasure; within these limits great beauty may perhaps be found. Extreme complication is contrary to art. Beauty must appeal to the senses, must provide us with immediate enjoyment, must impress us or insinuate itself into us without any effort on our part.”
      -- Claude Debussy



      • Cf. also Keats on poetry: 

        "Poetry should… should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance."

      • Hi Jon,

        Thanks so much for the rich explanation. I've learned so much from you. Could it be possible if there were those who were supposedly considered as the very first/original tranditional source, which were then adapted by someone through traditional folk songs, and these second songs are the ones which gets familar through generations, while the original one being forgotten?


        • I'm an amateur as a folklorist -- and for that matter as a composer -- but my impression from what I've read is that most folklorists would agree that there is usually no "original" version, or "Ur-Version" to use the German concept, of a folk song.  A linguist will tell you that a word changes meaning every time it is spoken or written, and the current meanings of a given word are the cumulative result of all those changes, usually over a very long time.  Likewise with folk songs: any version is the result of many cumulative changes over a long period of time, and it’s not useful to call any one version in this process “the original version.” To do so is like trying to determine where a person’s ancestry stops.

  • Truly beautiful music, and the adaptation is professionally created.

    You are a very gifted musician, and thanks for sharing your talent.


    • Thanks for the kind comment.

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