Simon Ives (sometimes spelled Yves) (1600 - 1662) was
an English composer and organist who was active in the
court of Charles I of England. He composed many
pastoral dialogues, partsongs, glees, and works for
organ. He also composed music for the theater.
His music was perpetuated in the music collection of
Playford, for example, and we know he composed vocal
and instrumental music. His Ayres for two bass viols
(British Library Add MS 31424) are important for those
of us interested in bass viol music, and especially
music for two unaccompanied bass viols. He has been
referred to the likes of Michael East and John Ward in
this regard, with links to similar duets accompanied by
organ, as in the case of Coperario.
String players will appreciate the eighth-note runs of
short motive imitation, moments contrasting with
pseudo-chordal passages, with passages in thirds. Ives
worked to this pattern, commencing his ayres with fluid
melodies broken up into very short imitative passages
and contrasting them with a second repeated section
(the structure being most often AABB) with strident
Ives "splits" the melody and bass lines, so players
swap them between themselves every few bars. From an
aural perspective, it sounds (or is supposed to sound)
like a vocal-like, lute song. In practical terms of
course, the players are in fact darting from melodic
fragment to supporting bass line: hence the challenge
or 'conceit' of playing these duets. The pieces are
short as a consequence, few longer than 20-50 measures,
so it is all about short sprints to a finish line
rather than considered, drawn-out 'conversation'
between many voices.
He wrote tablature music, so it's not surprising that
these duets originally featured chords and
double-stops. Unlike tab though, these duets feature no
ornaments. The transferability of ornamentation from
tablature lyra-viol music to these duets and consort
music in general is of course the subject of
conjecture. Is Ives after the suavite of melodic line
(short as they are in this case) over complex
I've "flattened out" Ayre Number 2 from the set, so
that the melody line appears in one stave and the bass
in the other. Basically the A Section of Ayre No.2 is
in a simple 8 bars, while the B Section pushes the
imitation a bit more and runs out to thirteen bars or
so. Both sections start with a crochet upbeat, as is
the case with other Ayres.
Although possibly written for two (2) Viols, I created
this arrangement for Viola Duet.