English term in use from the 16th century to the early 18th. Occasionally it simply denoted the last item in a collection of music (as in Antony Holborne’s The Cittharn Schoole, 1597), but more frequently it was used for a valedictory piece expressing sorrow or grief upon the departure or death of some person. The farewells or verses written by condemned men before their execution may be the source of the title.
A number of farewells for consorts have survived, not all in their entirety. These include Edward Blankes’s Mr Blankes his Farewell and two pieces using the In Nomine form by Christopher Tye – My Farewell and Farewell my good l[ady] for ever. A farewell for the Earl of Sandwich (d 1672) is found in Musick’s Recreation on the Viol, Lyra-Way (RISM 16829), and two such pieces for keyboard commemorating respectively Lord George Digby (d 1677) and the royalist soldier George Holles (d 1675) are included in the 1678 edition of John Playford’s The First Part of Musick’s Hand-Maide (16786). Sefauchi’s [Siface’s] Farwell by Purcell appeared in the second part of this book, and The Queen’s Dolour, also attributed to him, is described as a farewell in an early 18th-century manuscript (GB-Lbl Add.22099), the index to which shows clearly that the genre was regarded as constituting a distinct musical category.
In the second half of the 17th century the farewell took the place of the commemorative pavan which previously had often been employed in a similar way as a lament. Although Gottfried Finger’s ode Weep, all ye Muses (1696) was referred to as ‘Mr Purcel’s Farewel’, in general the term was applied to instrumental compositions consisting of a single short movement of no prescribed form. Paisible’s The Queen’s Farewell, for the death of Queen Mary in 1695, is a binary piece for a four-part consort of oboes, tenor oboe and bassoon, to which kettledrums may have been added in performance. ‘Mr Purcell’s Farewell’, from the Music on Henry Purcell’s Death by Jeremiah Clarke (i), imaginatively employs repeated drumstrokes on a tonic pedal with sustained harmonies in trumpets and recorders against which the strings reiterate a dolorous ostinato figure. Finger’s ode required ‘sharp’ and ‘flat’ (i.e. natural and slide) trumpets; these examples suggest that in farewells written for an ensemble the expressive use of instrumental colour was an important factor.
(b Woburn, Beds., 24 Sept 1766; d London, 6 Jan 1826). English geologist and writer on music. He was a tenor in the Surrey Chapel Society which met weekly in Southwark to practise sacred music. In 1791, when that society became part of the Choral Fund, Farey served as secretary and librarian and became acquainted ‘with numbers of the most eminent’ practitioners of music. The next year he returned to Woburn as the Duke of Bedford’s land steward and warden of Woburn parish church; from 1802 he lived in London.
Farey found the study of systems of musical temperament ‘a favourite source of amusement, while relaxing from … professional studies and practice’. His thoughts on music appeared mainly in numerous articles in the Philosophical Magazine and reappeared in contributions to David Brewster’s Edinburgh Encyclopaedia and to Abraham Rees’s Cyclopaedia: indeed Rees named only Charles Burney and Farey as ‘co-adjutors’ of the musical articles in the Cyclopaedia. One of Farey’s principal interests was the promotion of a notation in which any interval likely to be used in a temperament may be expressed in terms of three very small intervals that in effect are postulated to be atomic. With the assistance of C.J. Smyth, he published tabulations of various proposed temperaments in the new notation, which had occurred to him after study of Marmaduke Overend’s manuscripts. Farey hoped that musicians and theorists would find the notation easier to use than ratios (of string lengths) or their logarithms, and demonstrated several elementary theorems about the notation to facilitate its use. He heartily endorsed the realization of musical instruments (notably Henry Liston’s ‘euharmonic organ’) on which alternative temperaments could be produced and compared, and often professed failure to understand why many musicians were ignorant of, or indifferent to, this aspect of musical science, which he regarded as both important and fundamental.
An incomplete list of Farey’s signed scientific articles, including 21 on music, is given in Catalogue of Scientific Papers (1800–1863) Compiled by the Royal Society of London, ii (London, 1868), 561–3; Farey’s letter to Benjamin Silliman, published as ‘On Different Modes of Expressing the Magnitudes and Relations of Musical Intervals’ (American Journal of Science, ii, 1820, 65–81), summarizes and provides a key to many of Farey’s writings on music.
DNB (G.C. Boase)
J.Doane: A Musical Directory for the Year 1794 (London, c1794)
Obituary, Monthly Magazine, new ser., i (1826), 430–31
W.S.Mitchell: ‘Biographical Notice of John Farey, Geologist’, Geological Magazine, x (1873), 25–7
L.E.Dickson: History of the Theory of Numbers, i (Washington DC, 1919), 155–8
J.M.Eyles: ‘Farey, John’, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. C.C. Gillispie (New York, 1970–80)
E.Regener: Pitch Notation and Equal Temperament: a Formal Study (Berkeley, 1973)
T.D.Ford and H.S.Torrens: ‘John Farey (1766–1826): an Unrecognised Polymath’, introduction to new edn of J. Farey: General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire (Sheffield, 1985) [originally pubd London, 1811–17; incl. bibliography]