Talk:John Bull (composer)

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Hi. Where did you find the information that there is evidence that John Bull was sent on espionage missions by Queen Elizabeth I? I'm writing a paper about him, and I'd really like to cite that information from a published source. Thanks.

Sorry, I dunno; however, I'm sure it's in one of the four sources cited at the end of the article, since it was added by User:Antandrus. I don't see anything about it in the online Grove, but it's possible it was in the 1980 edition. My best guess is the Reese, I'm not sure why. You could ask Antandrus and see if he remembers. Mak (talk) 18:46, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
No, I did not add it. It was added by user User:Yellow Lion on 5 September 2005 [1]. I have never read that Bull was involved in espionage. Antandrus (talk) 15:39, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
I added a "citation needed" tag rather than taking it out, since this contributor was otherwise a good editor, and he may have a source we don't. Antandrus (talk) 16:01, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
Oh, sorry, I must have misread the history. Mak (talk) 20:32, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
No problem!  :-) Antandrus (talk) 21:35, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

Composer project review[edit]

I've reviewed this article as part of the Composers project review of its B-class articles. This article is B-class; its principal defect is that it is missing a complete (known) works list. My full review is on the comments page; questions or comments should be left here or on my talk page. Magic♪piano 21:04, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

"Breaking and entering"[edit]

In accordance with Wikipedia's notes on the Citation needed template I removed the following from the article since no citation has been offered since March 2008:

He was also charged with breaking and entering in a bizarre case which involved his attempt to evict the previous tenant of the rooms he was assigned, and an action was filed against Bull in Star Chamber but the outcome of this case is not known.[citation needed]

This doesn't look like vandalism to me, but I think it absolutely requires a citation. In all the literature I have on Bull, I cannot find any mention of anything like it. Nick Michael (talk) 21:55, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

This is from Susi Jean's article in the current New Grove: "Bull, however, had not yet been able to move into his rooms at Gresham House, as they were still occupied by William Reade, Gresham’s stepson; fearful of losing his readership through not living there, he engaged a mason and went with friends (including the City Chamberlain) to the part of the house where Reade lived, broke down a wall and forced an entry into his rooms. This led to an action in the Star Chamber, the outcome of which is unknown." This is from the section "Middle Years" [1]
Sorry about that -- I probably put that in before we were adding inline cites. Most likely I actually took it from the 1980 Grove which I have in hard copy. Antandrus (talk) 14:04, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Thanks Antandrus, I propose you restore it to the article, together with its source! Nick Michael (talk) 14:42, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Excellent -- thank you JK and Nick. I get home from work and it's already done. :) Antandrus (talk) 01:55, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Pleasure. Now that I stop to think about it, this does sound a lot like vandalism. On Bull's part, I mean. Knocking down a wall with the assistance of a mason gives a whole new meaning to the concept of "breaking and entering", doesn't it? Cheers.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:56, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

Bull's 120 canons[edit]

I do apologize for abusing this discussion page by asking a question, but I have for some time been trying to obtain a score of the famous 120 canons by Bull, a mention of which is in the article. However, these are proving most elusive, and for hours of googling, I can find nothing concrete: no scores, no recordings. They are not included in the two Musica Britannica volumes of his "complete" works, and I cannot think where to look further. If anyone can help me find the scores, I'd be most grateful. Nick Michael (talk) 23:24, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

If it makes you feel less guilty, you have called attention to a lapse in documentation in this article, and that is a valid use of this talk page. I, for one, have never heard of this "famous book", and neither have Susi Jeans and O. W. Neighbour, the authors of the New Grove article on Bull. They do say that a "large number" of canons are attributed to Bull in a variety of sources, and they cross-reference Sweelinck, Werken X, 84. FWIW, I was once at a concert by the Academy of Ancient Music where Christopher Hogwood explained from the stage immediately prior to performing an orchestral suite "attributed to" J. S. Bach that the expression "attributed to" is musicologists' code for "certainly not by". I have flagged the passage in question, and perhaps in this case someone will show New Grove to be wrong by at least identifying the manuscript of this mysterious book, if not by bringing forward a source vindicating the attribution of these canons to Bull.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:27, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Echo JK here. I was hoping to provide you with library, shelf, volume, or location of manuscript source, but no such luck -- it's all "attributed to". The line in the O.W. Neighbour's article even includes that rarest of all things in Grove, a typo. I'm skeptical of these "120 canons", though I don't doubt he may have written a lot -- canonic writing was clearly one of Bull's interests. You might want to look up J.H. van der Meer: "The Keyboard Works in the Vienna Bull-Manuscript", Tijdschrift van de Vereniging voor Nederlandse muziekgeschiedenis, xviii/2 (1957), 72–105 (I presume the article is in English even though it's in a Dutch journal.) Good luck! Antandrus (talk) 01:45, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
It is indeed in English, and canons are mentioned from time to time (on p. 74, "These keyboard works are followed by a number of canons by Bull in mensural notation and partly with words"), but there is no mention of a book of 120 canons.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:14, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

Many thanks for your trouble gentlemen. I can find nothing in Walker Cunningham's "Keyboard Music of John Bull" (but haven't read it from cover to cover), nor even in Leigh Henry's doubtful biography (since he expanded about three known facts to 300 odd pages, you'd have thought he'd have jumped at the idea of 120 canons). However, the online Oxford Grove Music Encyclopedia says: Much of Bull's music was lost when he fled England, but there survive 120 canons, a dozen or so anthems and a vast body of outstanding keyboard music on which his fame mainly rests. …. The remarkable canons, mostly on the Miserere chant (e.g. the six-part Sphera mundi), perfect the austere technique of Blitheman and Tallis… and [2] says: Bull also left a substantial number of complex canons, notated in open score; these are among the most complicated examples in the genre, including those of Johann Sebastian Bach. Moreover, the Sphera Mundi mentioned above can be found on our very own doorstep: [3] I really don't know what to make of it all... Nick Michael (talk) 14:44, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Could you pinpoint that citation from Grove Online, please? I have just done an electronic search of the text for "120", "fame", "mainly", and "miserere" without finding the passage. By rights, it ought to fall in §5: Works, but there are only two occurrences of the word "canon" there: "The chromatic Hexachord Fantasia (K17), … is unusual among Bull’s compositions in giving scope to the side of his mentality that enjoyed constructing complex canons", and "He [Blitheman] passed on to him [Bull] his enthusiasm for the English tradition of elaborate figuration in plainsong settings for keyboard, and apparently introduced him as well, if only as an exercise, to the plainer three- and four-part styles of the mid-century. In the latter class the Antwerp manuscript contains a number of hymn verses and alleluias attributed to Bull which pose a peculiarly intractable problem of authenticity. One is known to be by Tallis, but the rest can scarcely be by him: they suggest the work of a somewhat later generation, for instance in their use of rhythmic ostinato, sequence, loosely spaced canonic writing and later styles of figuration. They could be by Blitheman, or by Bull himself".
As for what to make of it all, it seems straightforward enough. None of the sources appears to disagree that Bull was fond of composing canons, and that he wrote "a large number" of them. We just have not yet found a source that properly accounts for the number 120, and locates them in one or more sources. Jeans and Neighbour (that is, the Grove Online article) enumerate: Canon, 4 in 2, K50 (under "Keyboard music: various short pieces"), Canon 2 in 1 with running bass, K51 (under "misattributed works", with a note that is is actually by Tallis), and finally, under "Consort music: Canons": "Many canons of English provenance on Miserere and puzzle canons are attributed to bull [sic, possibly the typo referred to by Antandrus, above] in A-Wn 17771, GB-Llb R,M.24.c.14 [sic, should read "R.M.24.c.14", another candidate for Antandrus's typo], R.M.24.f.25; also Sweelinck, Werken, x, 84". The Vienna manuscript (A-Wn 17771) appears to be the most likely source for a larger number of canons. The K numbers refer to the Musica Britannica edition of the complete keyboard music, but Neighbour adds a cautionary note: "for a more systematic numeration see Cunningham (1984)" (but you have already consulted that source). This does not solve the problem of where any of these canons might be published, but the two volumes of Musica Britannica contain only the keyboard music, and these canons are mostly or exclusively vocal/open-score compositions. The last recourse of the desperate in these situations OCLC, turns up a microfilm reproduction of R.M. 24.f.25 (described as "24 Canons" or "Canons, misc.", and "organ music"), produced in 1969 by the British Museum Photographic Service (copies are held by the Indiana University Music Library in the US, and Queensland University Library in Australia), and an arrangement of one four-part canon (unidentified, but it could well be the keyboard canon mentioned above) in a collection of arrangements for brass ensemble, Tria i kwartety na instrumenty dete blaszane (Kraków: Polskie Wydawn. Muzyczne, 1968).—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:46, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
The reference is in the third article here, for what it's worth. I've now been through Cunningham, and found the following on pp. 19-20:
Vienna, Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod.17771 (Vi)
The fourth of the chief sources of Bull's keyboard music, Vi, is important for the number of unique texts from Bull's late period which it provides. ... Written in German organ tabulature, the keyboard portions of the manuscript contain 10 complete pieces, one from which the first page is missing (the chromatic hexachord fantasy), and a fragment, the "Fantasia" beginning of f. 18 and having no continuation. Following the first section of the manuscript, f. 7-21, 127 canons have been entered in mensural notation.... All the music in vi is ascribed to Bull. [Note: For further discussion of vi see Lydia Schierning, Die Ueberlieferung der deutschen Orgel- und Klaviermusik aus der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts (Kassel, 1961), p. 62-63; and J. H. van der Meer, The Keyboard Works in the Vienna Bull Manuscript, TVNM 18 (1957), pp. 72-105] ... Vi gives a cross-section of the composer's work, including fantasies, plainsong settings, a prelude, a variation set, a dance, a programmatic piece, and a large number of canons.
And that, disappointingly, is all Cunningham has to say about the canons.What now? Nick Michael (talk) 23:03, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
It looks like '' gets their info from the Concise Grove Dictionary of Music (1994). That's a different publication from the huge New Grove, which both JK and I are accessing online. I have the hard copy 1980 Grove at home (where I'm not at the moment) and can look in there as well; I wouldn't be surprised if that article contains a "120 canons" reference. Didn't they create the Concise by abridging/shortening the 1980? I can check and post what I find later.
I'm beginning to think that the count of 120 canons is inaccurate, the number being whittled down by reattribution to others, or perhaps a miscount to begin with. Antandrus (talk) 23:21, 5 January 2011 (UTC)
Aha! And yet, the number of canons listed by Cunningham is at least close to 120 (a lot closer than the 24 in R.M.24.f.25). Whether we suppose seven of them have been determined to be misattributions or, alternatively, if the number 120 is only an approximation, the Vienna MS seems almost certainly to be the intended source. Now if we could only find somebody other than ourselves who would say this, we could put it into the article without violating Wikipedia:No original research!—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:20, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
I've found it. it's in the article in the 1980 Grove, by Susi Jeans ("John Bull", Vol 3 p 442, 1980, ISBN 1-56159-174-2). I think the problem is that Thurston Dart left his book on Bull unfinished on his death in 1971, and Jeans repeated some of his findings but without the published book to back them up. There are actually more than 120 canons, though there was indeed a book of 120 – if Dart was correct. This quotes from Jeans: "His most remarkable, but least known, contribution is his large collection of canons, of which only a few have appeared in print. Thurston Dart called them 'Bull's art of canon', which he described (in a section of a projected book on Bull) as 'an unparalleled demonstration of intellectual power'. The canons surpass in ingenuity and complexity those of his contemporaries (including the 1163 canons of the industrious George Waterhouse) and they enhanced his legendary reputation. The main source of them is a minute manuscript (in A-Wn) in the shape of a prayer book, which once belonged to the bedroom library of the Emperor Leopold I. It begins and ends with keyboard pieces, all in German tablature and ascribed to Bull. Among them is the Fantasia chromatica, dated 1621, which is now known to be by Sweelinck. Of the 120 canons, 116 are based on the plainsong Miserere. Many of the canons bear Bull's name, and there is a note at the end, 'finis Johan dottor Bull Canones'. The first (Sphera mundi, though not so called in this manuscript) is a circular puzzle canon, with its resolution on the following page. It is one of Bull's best-known pieces and is in six parts, combining two canons – a canon four in one on a four-note descending ostinato and a canon two in one below it. ... Dart further examined the large collection of canons in the British Library (GB-Lbm RR.M.24.c.14) ascribed to Elway Bevin and found that many of them were the same as those in the Vienna manuscript. He estimated that Bull's surviving canons number well over 200." Antandrus (talk) 02:50, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Addendum: A-Wn is Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Musiksammlung. Antandrus (talk) 02:57, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
Hmm. Well, then, we have 120 canons by Bull in A-Wn 17771, plus 24 in R.M. 24.f.25 (except that several of these are duplicates of pieces in A-Wn 17771). If Dart was correct about the total coming to over 200 canons, and if the list of sources in New Grove has not disregarded some sources Dart thought reliable, then GB-Llb R.M.24.c.14 must contain in excess of 60 canons. Well done, Antandrus, I think you have at least supplied a source that can be used for a (modified) claim of the book of 120 canons, but we could still use more information about the other canons.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 05:34, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
An additional thought: Although Antandrus has now discovered the likely source of the claim, in the Old-New Grove article by Susi Jeans, Oliver Neighbour must have had a reason for removing it when he revised Jeans's article for the second edition. It would be well to know whether, on the one hand, evidence had emerged between 1971/1980 and 2001 that disproved Bull's authorship of a substantial fraction of the canons or, on the other, if Neighbour simply distrusted the source enough to tip its contents (in his view) over from "probably by Bull" into the "doubtful" category. There are many examples from that period of what are called "commonplace books", in which the compiler has collected together a large number of his favourite pieces, often with some common feature (a particularly spectacular example is the commonplace book by John Baldwine, a famed copyist in the 1590s responsible amongst other things for the exquisitely calligraphed collection of William Byrd's keyboard music, My Ladye Nevells Booke). Because commonplace books were made for personal use, the compiler was not always careful to annotate each piece with the composer's name, and might well mix in compositions of his own with those by others. In addition, A-Wn 17771 sounds suspiciously like a composite manuscript, in which the 120/127 canons may have been bound into the centre of a separate collection of keyboard pieces. In light of this, I think it might be advisable to say in the article that this collection of 120 canons was "once thought" to be mostly or entirely by John Bull (referencing Jeans 1980), but that the authorship of many of the canons is now considered doubtful (citing Jeans/Neighbour 2001).—Jerome Kohl (talk) 18:57, 6 January 2011 (UTC)
That would be fine with me. I had exactly the same thought -- why did Neighbour choose to rewrite the "Works" portion of the article for the 2001 update, leaving out all mention of this spectacular book of canons, and leave Jeans' 1980 section for "Life" pretty much as it was? Indeed that's why I didn't edit the article. I second JK's suggestion to word it this way. My original-research speculation is that Jeans had Dart's unpublished manuscript, or corresponded with him directly in the years before his death, but Neighbour had other information and in his judgement the 120 canons were no longer sufficiently certain in attribution to go in. Antandrus (talk) 19:02, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Fine with me too. Many thanks to both of you for all your hard work. Nick Michael (talk) 22:17, 6 January 2011 (UTC)

Portrait: John Bull or Thomas Morley?[edit]


This magnificent portrait appears in both this John Bull article and also that of Thomas Morley. I can't discover its whereabouts. It's not in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Google Images have a lot of sites connecting it to Morley, but the inscription around its apparently contemporary frame definitely refers to Bull. Can anyone help with this conundrum? Nick Michael (talk)

Picture accordingly removed from the Thomas Morley article by Antandrus. I'd still like to know where the original is... Nick Michael (talk) 19:50, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
It was once printed in colour in Grove's Dictionary (where this scan doubtless originates), and is to be found in the Bodleian Library, according to Morrison Comegys Boyd, Elizabethan Music and Music Criticism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940), p. 182.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 20:17, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
Thank you Jerome. I've looked in the Bod but can't find it in the online catalogues. However a lot of googling seems to favour the Ashmolean - although I can't find it in their catalogues either. You would have thought it an important enough portrait to attract more notice... Nick Michael (talk) 21:55, 8 April 2012 (UTC)
It's now in the library of the Faculty of Music at Oxford. Painted 1589, artist unknown. See Susi Jeans, "John Bull", current New Grove, section 4. Antandrus (talk) 22:01, 8 April 2012 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:John Bull (composer)/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Last edited at 08:20, 28 April 2009 (UTC).

Substituted at 20:08, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ Susi Jeans and O.W. Neighbour. "Bull, John." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed March 19, 2010).