Little is known of Ravenscroft's early life. He probably sang in the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral from 1594, when a Thomas Raniscroft was listed on the choir rolls and remained there until 1600 under the directorship of Thomas Giles. He received his bachelor's degree in 1605 from Cambridge.
Ravenscroft's principal contributions are his collections of folk music, including catches, rounds, street cries, vendor songs, "freeman's songs" and other anonymous music, in three collections: Pammelia (1609), Deuteromelia or The Seconde Part of Musicks Melodie (1609) and Melismata (1611), which contains one of the best-known works in his collections, The Three Ravens. Some of the music he compiled has acquired extraordinary fame, though his name is rarely associated with the music; for example "Three Blind Mice" first appears in Deuteromelia. He also published a metrical psalter (The Whole Booke of Psalmes) in 1621. As a composer, his works are mostly forgotten but include 11 anthems, 3 motets for five voices and 4 fantasias for viols.
As a writer, he wrote two treatises on music theory: A Briefe Discourse of the True (but Neglected) Use of Charact'ring the Degrees (London, 1614), and A Treatise of Musick, which remains in manuscript (unpublished).
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Free scores by Thomas Ravenscroft in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki) Free scores by Thomas Ravenscroft at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Thomas Ravenscroft at AllMusic
- The Significance of Thomas Ravenscroft Z. D. M. Bidgood Folk Music Journal, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1980), pp. 24-34
- Thomas Ravenscroft: Musical Chronicler of an Elizabethan Theater Company Linda Phyllis Austern Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), pp.238-263 Article DOI: 10.2307/831565
- The Sacred Music of Thomas Ravenscroft Ian Payne Early Music, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jul., 1982), pp.309-315
- "The Music of Thomas Ravenscroft" site by Greg Lindahl containing modern editions, commentary, bibliography and facsimiles, including:
- Thomas Ravenscroft at Naxos
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