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Locke's keyboard music is not major stuff. Most of the pieces come from his Melothesia, or Certain General Rules for Playing upon a Continued-Bass. It is essentially a practical treatise, with delightful pieces by way of illustration, concise and pithy. Many of the movements are English in name and style, both catchy and robust. A 'Country Dance' in C makes the point at once [listen -- track 7, 0:01-1:08]. When Locke calls a couple of G minor pieces 'Virago' and 'Roundo', it is as well to remember that a virago need not always be a harridan; indeed in the Latin Bible, Adam calls Eve 'virago', for the good reason that she took her shape from his manly rib [listen -- tracks 10 and 11]. It is much the same with Locke's 'Rant'. Automatically one thinks of politicians and the season of party conferences. Locke may not have done so. Ben Jonson's secretary, Richard Brome, wrote a play, The Jovial Crew, later turned into an 'operetta'. It was highly successful, and Locke may well have been amused by it. One of the characters declares his philosophy: 'The more the merrier, I am resolv'd to Rant it to the last.' Locke's music concurs [listen -- track 21, 0:00-0:57]. So far Terence Charlston has used only single and double harpsichords, both modern reproductions of the sort of instruments Locke knew.

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Copyright © 16 November 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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