Dowland’s 450th Anniversary

For this year’s Summer Festival, our Associate Artist Scanner has curated a mini-series of events inspired by John Dowland’s Flow my Tears/ Lachrimae to coincide with Dowland’s 450th anniversary.

Dowland's Lachrimae

Dowland’s Lachrimae

On Saturday 8 June, Scanner has invited Bobby Krlic aka The Haxan Cloak and Computer Junk Orchestra to perform unusual contemporary interpretations of Flow my Tears alongside his own version with electronics and visuals.

Also exploring Dowland’s work is Flow Forms on 21 & 21 June, a secretive underground tour of East London co-curated by electronic pioneer Elizabeth Walling aka Gazelle Twin. Discover the mysterious spaces of Spitalfields by taking a journey via sound installations and pop-up performances featuring established contemporary music artists including Anna Meredith, juice vocal ensemble and cellist Laura Moody of the Elysian Quartet.

John Dowland was an English renaissance composer born around 1560. Most of his music was composed for solo lute, or for lute and voice, and he was largely influenced by popular consort songs and renaissance dance music.  However, these styles of music were not always as cheery as you might initially think and this is reflected in his frequent use of melancholic themes. Dowland quickly gained a reputation for dark and mournful music.

Flow My Tears is based on his previously written instrumental Lachrimae and explores themes of loss and despair. Although Scanner and Gazelle Twin’s interpretations stray far from the original lyrics, have a read through Dowland’s most famous song; how would you use this material to create a contemporary composition?

Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their lost fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.

Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light.
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.

Have a listen to this clip of Scanner’s contemporary interpretation of Dowland’s work which he’ll be performing on 8 June at Bishopsgate Institute.


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