‘Musicall Humors’, by Tobias Hume

How I became acquainted with the “Musicall Humors” – Jordi Savall (Prague, 28th of May 2004)
It was almost forty years ago, as the hot summer of 1964 drew to its close, that I made the fascinating discovery of the Musicall Humors of Tobias Hume [c.1579 – 16 April 1645]. I had just completed my cello and music studies at the Barcelona Conservatoire and was beginning to study and teach myself the viola da gamba, an instrument which at that time was extremely rare and played by only a handful of pioneers and enlightened enthusiasts scattered all over the world.

After the Trattado de Glosas by Diego Ortiz (Rome, 1553), the first published work essentially devoted to the art of improvisation (for viola da gamba and accompaniment), The First Part of Ayres, containing the Musicall Humors  of Tobias Hume (printed in London in 1605), was the first historical edition of works composed for the solo bass viol. With more than one hundred pieces for this instrument, it became a unique and major source for our understanding of the bass viol’s repertory and historical development.

I was eager to find an opportunity to study these collections with their fascinating titles and intriguing tablatures.  That opportunity came a few months later in London, in the magical silence of the British Library’s Reading Room. I can still remember my excitement in that venerable place as I imagined how Loves Farewell, Death & Life, and the various Souldiers March, Galliards and Resolutions might sound, and tried to crack the code of those old notation systems and tablatures.
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