Singing with the lute

– In search of new tools for interpreting and performing lute songs –

Solmund Nystabakk, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Faculty of Fine Arts

This project is an attempt at bringing new perspectives and work methods to the interpretation and performance of lute songs. In terms of repertoire, the main focus of the project will be on English, French and Italian songs with lute accompaniment in tablature1 from the 16th and 17th centuries. My work will also comprise historical and modern translations of songs into other languages than the above-mentioned, as well as other repertoires that I find relevant to the project, notably solo lute music and non-tablature based vocal music.

My point of departure is Historically Informed Performance (HIP). My claim is that the performance of lute songs is lagging behind the general development in HIP. Moreover, I feel that HIP in general has been reluctant to consider certain aspects of the performance of music, generally over-focusing on various detail areas.

I want to update the approach to the lute song repertoire from within HIP, hoping to produce results that are more varied, nuanced and communicative than what I see as the current state of lute song performance. My main goals for the project are:

  1. a new and better understanding of the lute song repertoire among musicians and audiences alike,
  2. to widen the perspective of Historically Informed Performance to actively embrace more areas of music-making, and
  3. to contribute to the discourse about what HIP is, and challenge the current norm of (partly) commercially motivated practices.

In order to reach these goals I aim to:

  • explore and show how the re-interpretation and application of existing research through practical experiments can enhance performance in a genre that from a HIP perspective still has potential for development.
  • develop work methods to strengthen skills that I see as important to performers of early music in general and lute songs in particular, such as improvisation and arranging/intabulation.
  • search within HIP for ways in which to communicate specialised interpretations of mostly unknown music to non-specialised audiences, considering aspects like performance setting and geographical context.