Thomas Whythorne

(1528 - 1595)

English composer and writer. He attended Magdalen College School, Oxford, and matriculated at Magdalen College. For a time he was servant and scholar to John Heywood; subsequently he found employment as a music tutor and was taken into the service of the Duchess of Northumberland. Whythorne travelled widely in Europe 1553-5, then returned to England and taught music in Cambridge and London. In 1571 he published seventy-six Songes for Three, Fower, and Five voyces, which proved to be the only English secular set published between 1530 and 1588; his compositions are essentially in the tradition of the older English part-song, rather than showing the influence of the Conitinental models he claimed. They are archaic by continental standards, and technically unresourceful in many places. Nonetheless some of them, notably the contrapuntally accompanied solo song, do look forward to the luter ayres, to which they are clearly related.

Also in 1571, he was appointed master of music at the Chapel of Archbishop Parker.

Arguably, his importance is less as a composer than as an autobiographer. He published his in or about 1576; it was rediscovered in 1955, and reveals much about both musical and social practice of the time.

IV M: England Through 1635  |  English Lute Composers through 1635