The Dowland Alfabeto Project

This is one of my favorite projects.  As far as I know, nothing like it has been attempted.  The project is so obscure, there are probably only a handful of people in the world who would even be interested in it!  This is certainly a project inspired by a SCAdian mindset, but might also be of interest to other early music enthusiasts interested in the five-course guitar.  When I first discovered that alfabeto notation originated in the SCA period, I began looking into how I might apply alfabeto style guitar in the SCA setting.  Alfabeto (see my guitar notation page for more information) shares some similarities with modern day guitar chord notation that accompanies many sets of lyrics and staff notation.  However, at the time alfabeto became popular (very late SCA period), chord names as we know them were not used in the alfabeto.  Rather, alfabeto books each had their own chart of alfabeto chords.  To follow the alfabeto for any given manuscript or publication, one must consult the accompanying alfabeto chart.  Certain chord forms were consistent among the various alfabeto books.  Alfabeto was to become the notation of choice for the five-course guitar (guitarra spagnola).  In considering how to apply alfabeto style guitar in the SCA, I thought about a Spanish ambassador to England or France, who loved their guitarra spagnola, but who also would have encountered the delicate lute music of John Dowland in the English and French courts.  The Spaniard well-versed in alfabeto style accompaniment on his guitar would likely have been able to easily follow along to these famous lute songs being sung around the court.  Thus, the Dowland Alfabeto Project was born.  In preparing alfabeto style guitar arrangements of the Dowland lute songs, I have consulted the strum patterns presented in Montesardo (1606) and the extant alfabeto charts from the 1590s, along with Dowland's lute music, which accompanies his lute songs.  I have tried to match the chord "progressions" and rhythms for these alfabeto style arrangements to the chords/rythms of the original Dowland lute music.  The result has been a fun, historically informed new style of playing the Dowland lute songs.  This is one of several ongoing projects, and I will update this page as I have opportunity.  Follow the links below to some of my alfabeto style arrangements of the Dowland lute songs.

  • Fine Knacks for Ladies
  • Wilt Thou Unkind Thus Reave Me
  • Flow My Tears
  • Come Again

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Johann von Solothurn

Johann is a bard and Court Musician in the Kingdom of Atlantia.  Johann enjoys sharing his art.  If you would like Johann to assist you in organizing or judging bardic/music competitions, teaching classes, or if you would like him to drop by your camp and perform, just send him a note (email below).  

Johann von Solothurn

Barony of Black Diamond

email/contact Johann here