A Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song by William Bathe (Hardback) book cover

A Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song by William Bathe

Edited by Kevin C. Karnes

© 2005 – Routledge

152 pages

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Hardback: 9780754635444
pub: 2005-04-18

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About the Book

Although unjustly neglected by modern writers, William Bathe’s contributions to music pedagogy in late sixteenth-century England were profound. Bathe’s A Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song (1596) not only includes the first explication of a four-syllable, non-hexachordal solmization method published by an English writer (a system similar to that which would become the standard in England during the seventeenth century) but also outlines a combinatorial method for composing canons that is remarkably forward-looking in both conception and design. In addition to providing the first modern edition of Bathe’s treatise, the volume examines the complicated compilation and publication histories of the book, the historical and theoretical foundations of Bathe’s contributions, and the relationship between the 1596 book and Bathe’s 1584 treatise A Briefe Introduction to the True Arte of Musicke (the extant text of which is included as an appendix).


’…Kevin C. Karnes's new critical edition of Bathe's two treatises provides a welcome addition to Ashgate's new series 'Music Theory in Britain, 1500-1700: Critical Editions'… it is in Karnes's thorough explications of Bathe's writing, and in his correction of Bathe's errors - both in the Introduction and in the notes to the edition itself, in which at times he virtually provides translations - that he makes perhaps his most valuable editorial contribution to the volume, one that will make future research relating to Bathe considerably easier… the texts of the two treatises themselves are reproduced meticulously…and therefore provide an accurate and reliable reading of Bathe's work. The inclusion of Karnes's thoughtful and perceptive commentary and notes on Bathe's pitch system…and his explanation of the numerical method for composing two-part canons, makes interpretation of Bathe's contribution to late sixteenth-century British theory considerably less onerous than it has been until now.' Music and Letters

Table of Contents

Contents: Part I Bathe's A Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song: History, Context, Significance: Towards a history of Bathe's treatise; The contents: a reassessment; Conclusion: Bathe's uncertain legacy. Part II William Bathe, A Briefe Introduction to the Skill of Song: Editorial note, Edition. Part III Bathe's A Briefe Introduction to the True Arte of Musicke: The Extant Text: Andrew Melville's commonplace book (University of Aberdeen MS 28) and its copy of Bathe's 1548 treatise; Relationship between the treatises; Editorial note; Transcription. Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Music Theory in Britain, 1500–1700: Critical Editions

The purpose of this series is to provide critical editions of music theory in Britain (primarily England, but Scotland, Ireland and Wales also) from 1500 to 1700. By 'theory' is meant all sorts of writing about music, from textbooks aimed at the beginner to treatises written for a more sophisticated audience. These foundational texts have immense value in revealing attitudes, ways of thinking and even vocabulary crucial for understanding and analysing music. They reveal beliefs about the power of music, its function in society and its role in education, and they furnish valuable information about performance practice and about the context of performance. They are a window into musical culture every bit as important as the music itself.

The editions in this series present the text in its original form. That is, they retain original spelling, capitalization and punctuation, as well as certain salient features of the type, for example, the choice of font. A textual commentary in each volume offers an explication of difficult or unfamiliar terminology as well as suggested corrections of printing errors; the introduction situates the work and its author in a larger historical context.

Jessie Ann Owens is assisted on the series by Series Assistant Editor, Minji Kim.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General