The Carman's Whistle
The title refers to the occupation of "carman" (or carter, as we would say today). Carmen were known for their habit of whistling, which according to William Chappell was effective in the management of horses. Risqué lyrics have survived including a version entitled "The Courteous Carman and the Amorous maid: Or, The Carman's Whistle".
A version of this tune for the lute has been attributed to Robert Johnson or his father John Johnson. However, the best-known version is a keyboard arrangement by William Byrd, who used the tune as the basis of a set of variations. Byrd's piece was included in two of the most important collections of keyboard music of the Renaissance, My Ladye Nevells Booke and the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. My Lady Nevells Booke is dated 1591, which provides a terminus ante quem for Byrd's composition.
The Carman's Whistle, was one of Byrd's most popular works in the 16th century, and was used for teaching purposes (it is in C major, usually regarded as an easy key for keyboard players). In the twentieth century it was arranged by Percy Grainger.
- Davitt Moroney, who has recorded all Byrd's keyboard music, has played the piece on the chamber organ.
- Christopher Hogwood has recorded the complete My Ladye Nevells Booke.
- Julian Bream, Paul O'Dette and Christopher Wilson have recorded the version by Johnson (whichever one it was).
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