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The lute song was a generic form of music in the late Renaissance and very early Baroque eras, generally consisting of a singer accompanying himself on a lute, though lute songs may often have been performed by a singer and a separate lutenist. A bass viol was very often used to support the bass line in performance.
Many of the composers of lute songs were themselves lutenists, and performed the songs themselves; many were also madrigalists or composers of chansons. In general, lute songs were written from about 1550 to around 1650, though there is evidence that some music was performed this way much earlier (for instance, Baldassare Castiglione mentions that frottola were sometimes performed by solo voice and lute, presumably in the first decade or so of the 16th century.)
The lute song flourished in England, France and Italy; it had different styles and names in each location. In England, it was called the ayre (or air). Famous composers included John Dowland, Thomas Campion and Philip Rosseter. The French lute song was called the air de cour, and had a somewhat longer lifespan than elsewhere, due to the influence of musique mesurée; it also influenced early French opera. In Italy, composers of lute songs included Vincenzo Galilei and Luzzasco Luzzaschi; the songs written later in the 16th century were the first to show Baroque characteristics.
- Chew, Geoffrey (1980). "Song". In Sadie, Stanley. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians xvii (1 ed.). London: Macmillan. pp. 510–521.
- Fortune, Nigel; Greer, David. "Air" in ibid., i, 180–182.
- Reese, Gustave (1954). Music in the Renaissance. New York City: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-09530-2.
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