Bevin, Elway

, a musician eminently skilled in the knowledge of practical composition, flourished towards the end of queen Elizabeth’s reign. He was of Welch extraction, and had been educated under Tallis, upon whose recommendation it was that in 1589 he was sworn in gentleman extraordinary of the chapel; from whence he was expelled in 1637, it being discovered that he adhered to the Romish communion. He was also organist of Bristol cathedral, but forfeited that employment at the same time with his place in the chapel. Child, afterwards doctor, was his scholar. He has composed sundry services, and a few anthems. Before Bevin’s time the precepts for the composition of canons was known to few. Tallis, Bird, Waterhouse, and Farmer, were eminently skilled in this most abstruse part of musical practice. Every canon, as given to the public, was a kind of enigma. Compositions | of this kind were sometimes exhibited in the form of a cross, sometimes in that of a circle there is now extant one resembling a horizontal sun-dial, and the resolution, (as it was called) of a canon, which was the resolving it into its elements, and reducing it into score, was deemed a work of almost as great difficulty as the original compoition. But Bevin, with a view to the improvement of students, generously communicated the result of many years study and experience in a treatise which is highly commended by all who have taken occasion to speak of it. This book was published in 1631, 4to, and dedicated to Goodman bishop of Gloucester, with the following title: “A briefe and short instruction of the Art of Musicke, to teach how to make discant of all proportions that are in use; very necessary for all such as are desirous to attain to knowledge in the art; and may, by practice, if they sing, soone be able to compose three, four, and five parts, and also to compose all sorts of canons that are usuall, by these directions of two or three parts in one upon the plain song.” The rules contained in this book for composition in general are very brief; but for the composition of canons there are in it a great variety of examples of almost all the possible forms in which it is capable of being constructed, even to the extent of sixty parts. 1


Hawkins’s Hist, of Music.