Morley, Thomas, famous English composer; b. Norwich, 1557 or 1558; d. London, Oct. 1602. He studied with William Byrd. From 1583 to 1587 he was organist and master of the choristers at Norwich Cathedral. In 1588 he received his B.Mus. from Oxford. About this time he became organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral. By 1591 he had turned spy for the government of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1592 he was sworn in as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and was made Epistler and then Gospeller. He was also active as a printer, holding a monopoly on all music publ. under a patent granted to him by the government in 1598. In addition to publishing his own works, he acted as ed., arranger, translator, and publisher of music by other composers. Notable among his eds. was The Triumphes of Oriana (1601), a collection of madrigals by 23 composers. He gained distinction as a music theorist, his A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musiche(1597) becoming famous as an exposition of British musical schooling of his time.
vocal: madrigals:Canzonets, or Little Short Songs to Three Voyces(London, 1593; 3rd ed., enl., 1602, as Canzonets...with Some Songs added by the Author); Madrigalls to Foure Voyces: The First Booke(London, 1594; 2nd ed., enl., 1600, as Madrigalls...with Some Songs added by the Author)} The First Booke of Balletts to Fiue Voyces(London, 1595; 3rd ed., 1600); The First Booke of Canzonets to Two Voyces(London, 1595); Canzonets or Little Short Aires to Fiue and Sixe Voyces(London, 1597); he ed. the last 3 in Italian editions as well; he also ed. Madrigales: The Triumphes of Oriana, to Fiue and Six Voyces Composed by Divers Seurall Aucthors(London, 1601). solo songs:The First Booke of Aires or Little Short Songs to Sing and Play to the Lute with the Base-Viol(London, 1600; it contains the song “It was a lover and his lasse” from Shakespeare’s As You Like It).Many of the preceding works were ed. by E.H. Fellowes in The English Madrigal School(4 vols., 1913 et seq.: I, Canzonets to 2 Voices and Canzonets to 3 Voices, rev. by T. Dart, 1956; II, Madrigals to 4 Voices, rev. by T. Dart, 1963; III, Canzonets to 5 and 6 Voices, rev. by T. Dart, 1966; IV, Ballets to 5 Voices, rev. by T. Dart, 1966). The Triumphes of Oriana was ed. by E.H. Fellowes in The English Madrigal School, A Guide to Its Practical Use(London, 1926; rev. by T. Dart, 1962, in The English Madrigalists). The First Booke of Aires was ed. by E.H. Fellowes in The English School ofLutenist Song Writers(London, 1920–32; rev. by T. Dart, 1966, in The English Lute- Songs).Modern eds. of additional works by Morley include H. Andrews and T. Dart, Collected Motets(London, 1959), and T. Dart, ed., Keyboard Works, in English Keyboard Music(London, 1959). Morley ed. The First Booke of Consort Lessons, made by divers exquisite Authors for sixe Instruments to play together, viz. the Treble Lute, the Pandora, the Citterne, the Base Violi, the Flute, and the Treble Violi(London, 1599; 2nd ed., corrected and enl., 1611; modern ed. by S. Beck, N.Y., 1959). His treatise A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke(London, 1597) was publ. in a facsimile ed. by E.H. Fellowes (London, 1937); a modernized ed. was publ. by R. Alec Harman (London, 1952; 2nd ed., 1963).
O. Bekker, Die englischen Madrigalisten William Byrd, T. M. und John Dowland(Leipzig, 1901); J. King, An Aesthetic and Musical Analysis of the Madrigals of T. M., with Special Reference between Text and Music and Some Comparison with the Madrigals of John Wilby, John Bennet, and the “Triumphs of Oriana”(diss., Univ. of Toronto, 1950); J. Uhler, M.’s Canzonets for Two Voices(diss., Univ. of La., 1954); idem, M/s Canzonets for Three Voices(Baton Rouge, 1957); C. Murphy, T. M. Editions of Italian Canzonets and Madrigals(Tallahassee, 1964).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis Mclntire
The composer, organist, and theorist Thomas Morley (ca. 1557-ca. 1602) was the chief English exponent of the Italian madrigal tradition.
Thomas Morley was born about 1557 and, sometime between 1602 and 1608, died after a long illness. During his early years he studied composition with William Byrd and organ under Sebastian Westcote. In 1588 Morley received a bachelor of music degree from Oxford and took the position of organist at St. Giles, Cripplegate. In 1591 he became organist at St. Paul's, joining the Chapel Royal the following year. About this time Morley married; he and his wife, Susan, had three children between 1596 and 1600.
During this period Morley, like Byrd a Roman Catholic, encountered trouble as a recusant. Charles Paget, an agent, had intercepted letters which held enough incriminating evidence for him to have had Morley hanged. He repented so abjectly, however, that Paget let him off.
In 1598 Morley applied successfully for the license to print music. But by then his health had begun to fail, and the new outlet proved more burdensome than productive. He had already published his Canzonets to Three Voices (1593), Madrigals to Four Voices (1594), Ballets to Five Voices, and Canzonets to Two Voices (both 1595), and his Canzonets … Selected out of … Italian Authors, Canzonets to Five and Six Voices, and his treatise A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music (all 1597). Between 1598 and 1601 he produced and published a new collection each year and also reedited a great many of his earlier publications. He also left a great quantity of unpublished music, including ten motets, four services, five anthems, keyboard music, and viol consorts.
Morley has been called the father of the English madrigal. He was the earliest and the chief figure in the wholesale transplantation of the Italian madrigal tradition to England, and the quick assimilation of Italian styles and forms into a burgeoning English tradition was largely of his doing. Single-handedly he translated the Italian canzonet into a native form, the English short ayre, in his Canzonets of 1593 and 1595. In the latter collection he also included nine two-part instrumental fantasias, which, though bearing fanciful Italian titles, are marvelous examples of a new and sprightly English counterpoint. In these canzonets, as in the Madrigals to Four Voices and Ballets to Five Voices, Morley obviously patterned his works after Italian models, even paraphrasing a few, but he surpassed these models in harmonic variety and tonal sophistication.
Morley's sacred music is more deeply serious and moving than the canzonets and madrigals. But these sacred works show no greater contrapuntal skill, no more elegant finish in the new English style than the hundredodd secular pieces he had composed on models straight from late Renaissance Italy.
Morley's A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Music was edited by R. Alec Harman and contains a brilliant foreword by Thurston Dart (1952). In the absence of a monograph on Morley, the following readings are suggested: Peter Warlock, The English Ayre (1926); Edmund Horace Fellowes, English Cathedral Music (1941; rev. ed. 1970), and The English Madrigal Composers (1948); and Joseph Kerman, The Elizabethan Madrigal: A Comparative Study (1962). □