Robert Johnson (c. 1583 – c. 1634) was an English
composer and lutenist of the late Tudor and early
Jacobean eras. He is sometimes called "Robert Johnson
II" to distinguish him from an earlier Scottish
composer. Johnson worked with William Shakespeare
providing music for some of his later plays. He was the
son of John Johnson, who was lutenist to Elizabeth I.
In 1594 Robert's father died, and in 1596 he joined the
household of George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon as an
apprentice. Robert is assumed to have been around 13 at
the time, as this was a typical age to begin an
apprenticeship, but his date of birth is not known.
Carey and his wife Elizabeth Spencer, were patrons of
the lutenist and composer John Dowland, who dedicated
various compositions to them. The family's country home
Hunsdon House partially survives.
His compositions for the King's Men theatrical company
have been dated to 1610-1617, a period when the company
was using the Blackfriars Theatre as its winter base.
It has been noted that the facilities at the
Blackfriars Theatre offered increased scope for
incidental music — songs and instrumental music —
compared to the larger Globe Theatre. However, the
company continued to perform at The Globe, and other
venues such as the court, where Johnson's theatre music
would presumably also have been heard. At this time the
King's Men were producing plays by Shakespeare and
other playwrights such as Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont
and John Fletcher. Johnson's main claim to fame is that
he composed the original settings for some of
Shakespeare's lyrics, the best-known being probably
those from The Tempest: "Where the Bee Sucks" and "Full
Fathom Five." He is the only composer known to have
composed the original settings of Shakespeare's lyrics.
While other contemporary settings of Shakespeare's
lyrics exist, for example those by Thomas Morley, they
have not been proved to be connected to a stage
In Nomine is a title given to a large number of pieces
of English polyphonic, predominantly instrumental
music, first composed during the 16th century.
This "most conspicuous single form in the early
development of English consort music" (Edwards 2001)
originated in the early 16th century from a six-voice
mass composed before 1530 by John Taverner on the
plainchant Gloria Tibi Trinitas. In the Benedictus
section of this mass, the Latin phrase "in nomine
Domini" was sung in a reduced, four-part counterpoint,
with the plainchant melody in the mean (alto part). At
an early point, this attractive passage became popular
as a short instrumental piece, though there is no
evidence that Taverner himself was responsible for any
of these arrangements (Bowers, Doe, and Benham 2001).
Over the next 150 years, English composers worked this
melody into "In Nomine" pieces of ever greater
Although originally written for Viol Quartet, I created
this arrangement for Bassoon Trio.