Peter Nightingale & His Lutes!

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I am not about to give up my day job as a physicist at the University of Rhode Island, but I play sixteenth and seventheenth century Renaissance lute music, spiced up with self-accompanied lute songs. Here are some photos of my archlute, made by New Hampshire luthier Joel van Lennep. As those who know such things know, one lute is never enough. In one of the picture displayed below, you will see an eight course Renaissance lute. and then there also is the seven course bass lute, which is not in any of the pictures.
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Photographs by Ed Lefkowicz

"How does a person fall into the basin of attraction of the lute?" one may ask in physics speak. Here is one answer to that question:

Physicist Pulls Strings

A sings. In fact, Physics Professor Peter Nightingale not only sings, he plays the Renaissance lute. Two of them actually, a tenor and a bass lute.

“I love the sound of the lute and Renaissance music in particular. I originally chose the guitar because one of my fellow graduate students in theoretical physics advised me to choose a harmonic instrument rather than the flute, in which I had expressed an interest,” Nightingale recounted. “His argument was that a harmonic instrument could be played as a solo instrument and did not require either phenomenal skill or an ensemble. That was good advice, given that theoretical physicists tend not be particularly gregarious.”

Nightingale started singing self-accompanied lute songs about 10 years ago. Since 2003, he has been singing and playing the lute as an Elizabethan character named Marteyn van Ockeghem, Marty Ock for short, during the annual King Richard’s Faire, a Renaissance fair held in Carver, Mass., which starts on Labor Day weekend and continues into mid-October.

“Whether I sing and play, or just play at the Faire depends on my voice and also on my mood,” he said. “I can play endlessly, but that isn’t true for singing, because I use a countertenor (male alto) voice, which is hard work. The sound can also be hard on the audience, which for the most part has never heard a guy sing such femininely high notes.”

Nightingale sings with the URI Concert Choir, which typically performs three times a year in the URI Concert Hall, and also takes voice lessons with URI’s PREP Program.

He plays the lute daily with few exceptions. “One side of my brain does physics; the other side does music. Extended family and friends have to make do with the rest,” said the physicist/musician with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

By Jan Wenzel
Photos by Nora Lewis
From: URI professors are note worthy in Quadangles, the URI alumni magazine.

Here you may sample the competition:

A role model Some lute music
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Frans Hals - Luitspelende Nar
(Jester With a Lute)
Contact Peter Nightingale