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Biography

Tobias Hume (1569?-1645) was an English composer, viol player, and soldier.

Little is known of his life. Some have suggested that he was born in 1569 because he was admitted to the London Charterhouse in 1629, a prerequisite to which was being at least sixty years old, though there is no certainty over this. He had made his living as a professional soldier, probably as a mercenary. He was an officer with the Swedish and Russian armies.

His published music includes pieces for viols (including many solo works for the lyra viol) and songs. They were gathered in two collections, The First Part of Ayres (or Musicall Humours, 1605) and Captain Humes Poeticall Musicke (1607). He was a particular champion of the viol over the then-dominant lute, something which caused John Dowland to publish a rebuttal of Hume's ideas.

Hume was also known as a prankster, as some of his rather unusual compositions illustrate. His most notorious piece was "An Invention for Two to Play upone one Viole": two bows are required and the smaller of the two players is obliged to sit in the lap of the larger player. This work was notated in tablature and is indeed technically possible to play. His instructions to "drum this with the backe of your bow" in another piece, "Harke, harke," constitute the earliest known use of col legno in Western music.

He died on 16th April 1645.

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