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Luys Milán (ca 1500 – 1561), also Luis Milán or Luis de Milán, was a Spanish Renaissance composer, vihuelist, and writer on music. He was the first composer in history to publish music for the vihuela de mano, an instrument employed primarily in the Iberian peninsula and some of the Italian states during the 15th and 16th centuries, and he was also one of the first musicians to specify verbal tempo indications in his music. He seems to have been employed by the ducal court until around 1538. In 1535 he published his first book, a parlor game with music, entitled El juego de mandar; in the next year he published what was to be his most important book (more detail below). This book was dedicated to King John III of Portugal; this dedication, and the existence of six villancicos which Milán wrote in Portuguese, suggest that he may have traveled to that country and spent some time there.
The music of Luys Milán, especially the six Pavana pieces, is still popular with performers on vihuela or the present-day classical guitar.
El Maestro, libro de música de vihuela de mano was printed in December 1536. It is the first collection of vihuela music in history, and was in part intended for students of the instrument, with scores presented in grades from simple to complex so that vihuelists could proceed from elementary to harder pieces.
Italian tabulature was used by Spanish composers Mudarra, Fuenllana and others in the 16th century in music for the vihuela and Renaissance guitar. It almost looks like modern tabulation in that is uses numbers to represent the frets (zero for an open string, “1” for the first fret, “2” for the second fret, etc.) The duration of the notes are above the staff and look like our modern notes (whole notes, half notes, quarter notes), including dotted notes.
There is one Fantasia (out of a total of 40) and two Tento pieces (out of a total of 4) by Luys Milán available for free. Visit this page to download these pieces and many others.
Arrangements in Books 1 to 6
The books are of increasing difficulty with the first book being the most accessible pieces to play and the fourth book with the most challenging pieces.
Selection of Pieces for Inclusion in Book 1
This book of ukulele arrangements contains all six Pavana pieces and eight Fantasia pieces (out of a total of 40).
Selection of Pieces for Inclusion in Book 2
This book of ukulele arrangements contains six Villancico pieces (out of a total of 12), two Ronamce pieces (out of 4), three Soneto pieces (out of 6), and four Fantasia pieces (out of 40).
Selection of Pieces for Inclusion in Book 3
This book of ukulele arrangements contains six Villancico pieces (out of a total of 12), two Ronamce pieces (out of 4), three Soneto pieces (out of 6), and three Fantasia pieces (out of 40).
Selection of Pieces for Inclusion in Book 4
This book of ukulele arrangements contains eight Fantasia pieces (out of a total of 40) and one Tento (out of 4).
Selection of Pieces for Inclusion in Book 5
This book of ukulele arrangements contains seven Fantasia pieces (out of a total of 40) and one Tento (out of 4).
Selection of Pieces for Inclusion in Book 6
This book of ukulele arrangements contains nine Fantasia pieces (out of a total of 40).
Notes on the Pieces
The pavana or pavane is a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century. The decorous sweep of the pavane suited the new more sober Spanish-influenced courtly manners of 16th century Italy. It appears in dance manuals in England, France, and Italy. It has a slow duple metre with two strains of eight, twelve, or sixteen bars each. The pavane’s popularity was from roughly 1530 to 1676. As a musical form, the pavane survived long after the dance itself was abandoned, and well into the Baroque period.
NOTE: Two of these Pavana are in “The Renaissance Ukulele” and “A Trove of Pavanes for the Ukulele” and all six of them are arranged in “Six Pavanes for Ukulele Quarter” from Ancient Music for Ukulele.
A fantasia or fantasie is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. The term was first applied to music during the 16th century, at first to refer to the imaginative musical “idea” rather than to a particular compositional genre. Its form and style consequently ranges from the freely improvisatory to the strictly contrapuntal, and also encompasses more or less standard sectional forms (i.e. it sometimes but doesn’t always follow the “rules”).
Derived from medieval dance forms, the 15th century a villancico was a type of popular song sung in the vernacular and frequently associated with rustic themes. With the decline in popularity of the villancicos in the 20th century, the term became reduced to mean merely “Christmas carol”.
A romance is a characteristic poem of the Spanish oral tradition. It was very popular during the 15th century when compilations of romances were made in books called “romanceros”.
The generic term soneto had no consistent meaning among Spanish vihuelists. It is certainly a setting of a poem, not necessarily a sonnet.
Tento (or Tiento) is a musical genre originating in Spain in the mid-15th century. It is formally analogous to the fantasia (fantasy). The word derives from the Spanish verb tentar (meaning either to touch, to tempt or to attempt), and was originally applied to music for various instruments. The tento is formally extraordinarily diverse, more a set of guidelines than a rigid structural model. Nearly all tentos are imitative to some degree.
Notes on the Tabulature in El Maestro
Pure Italian tabulature has the highest sounding string on the bottom line and the lowest sounding string on the top line (i.e. upside down from modern tabulation). However, Milán’s publication El Maestro reversed the order of the lines and so it looks more like modern tabulature.
All the selections are from Milán’s publication El Maestro (1536), libro de música de vihuela de mano.
All of the arrangements are derived from music for the voice with vihuela accompaniment or solo vihuela; however, it has been altered so that the 3rd string on the modern or Renaissance guitar or ukulele need not be lowered by a half tone (i.e. normal tuning is keep for your guitar or ukulele). Also, since the vihuela has 6 strings and the ukulele only has 4 strings, the bass notes have been changed while retaining the original harmonies whenever possible.