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JOHN BLOW (1648-1708)

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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 89 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN BLOW (1648-1708), English musical composer, was born in 1648, probably at North Collingham in Nottinghamshire. He became a chorister of the chapel royal, and distinguished himself by his proficiency in music; he composed several anthems at an unusually early age, including Lord, Thou hast been our refuge; Lord, rebuke me not; and the so-called " club anthem," I will always give thanks, the last in collaboration with Pelham Humphrey and William Turner, either in honour of a victory over the Dutch in 1665, or—more probably—simply to commemorate the friendly intercourse of the three choristers. To this time also belongs the composition of a two-part settingof Herrick's Goe, perjur'd man, written at the request of Charles II. to imitate Carissimi's Dite, o deli. In X1669 Blow became organist of Westminster Abbey. In 1673 he was made a gentle-man of the chapel royal, and in the September of this year he was married to Elizabeth Braddock, who died in childbirth ten years later. Blow, who by the year 1678 was a doctor of music, was named in 1685 one of the private musicians of James II. Between 168o and 1637 he wrote the only stage composition by him of which any record survives, the Masque for the Entertainment of the King: Venus and Adonis. In this Mary Davies played the part of Venus, and her daughter by Charles II., Lady Mary Tudor, appeared as Cupid. In 1687 he became master of the choir of St Paul's church; in 1695 he was elected organist of St Margaret's, Westminster, and is said to have resumed his post as organist of Westminster Abbey, from which in 168o he had retired or been dismissed to make way for Purcell. In 1699 he was appointed to the newly created post of composer to the chapel royal. Fourteen services and more than a hundred anthems by Blow are extant. In addition to his purely ecclesiastical music Blow wrote Great sir, the joy of all our hearts, an ode for New Year's day 1681-1682; similar compositions for 1683, 1686, 1687, 1688, 1689, 1693 (?), 1694 and 1700; odes, &c., for the celebration of St Cecilia's day for 1684, 1691, 1695 and 1700; for the coronation of James II. two anthems, Behold, 0 God, our Defender, and God spake sometimes in visions; some harpsichord pieces for the second part of Playford's Musick's Handmaid (1689); Epicedium for Queen Mary (1695); Ode on the Death of Purcell (1696). In 1700 he published his Amphion Anglicus, a collection of pieces of music for one, two, three and four voices, with a figured-bass accompaniment. A famous page in Burney's History of Music is devoted to illustrations of " Dr Blow's Crudities," most of which only show the meritorious if immature efforts in expression characteristic of English music at the time, while some of them (where Burney says " Here we are lost ") are really excellent. Blow died on the 1st of October 1708 at his house in Broad Sanctuary, and was buried in the north aisle of Westminster Abbey. BLOW-GUN, a weapon consisting of a long tube, through which, by blowing with the mouth, arrows or other missiles can be shot accurately to a considerable distance. Blow-guns are used both in warefare and the chase by the South American Indian tribes inhabiting the region between the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, and by the Dyaks of Borneo. In the 18th century they were also known to certain North American Indians, especially the Choctaws and Cherokees of the lower Mississippi. Captain Bossu, in his Travels through Louisiana (1756), says of the Choctaws: " They are very expert in shooting with an instrument made of reeds about 7 ft. long, into which they put a little arrow feathered with the wool of the thistle (wild cotton?)." The blow-guns of the South American Indians differ in style and workmanship. That of the Macusis of Guiana, called pucuna, is the most perfect. It is made of two tubes, the inner of which, called oorah, is a light reed in. in diameter which often grows to a length of 15 ft. without a joint. This is enclosed, for protection and solidity, in an outer tube of a variety of palm (Iriartella setigera). The mouth-piece is made of a circlet of silk-grass, and the farther end is feruled with a kind of nut, forming a sight. A rear open sight is formed of two teeth of a small rodent. The length of the pucuna is about 11 ft. and its weight 1 z lb. The arrows, which are from 12 to 18 in. long and very slender, are made of ribs of the cocorite palm-leaf. They are usually feathered with a tuft of wild cotton, but some have in place of the cotton a thin strip of bark curled into a cone, which, when the shooter blows into the pucuna, expands and completely fills the tube, thus avoiding windage. Another kind of arrow is furnished with fibres of bark fixed along the shaft, imparting a rotary motion to the missile, a primitive example of the theory of the rifle. The arrows used in Peru are only a few inches long and as thin as fine knitting-needles. All South American blow-gun arrows are steeped in poison. The natives shoot very accurately with the pucuna at distances up to 50 or 6o yds. The blow-gun of the Borneo Dyaks, called sumpitan, is from 6 to 7 ft. long and made of ironwood. The bore, of z in., is made with, a long pointed piece of iron. At the muzzle a small iron hook is affixed, to serve as a sight, as well as a spear-head like a bayonet and for the same purpose. The arrows used with the sumpitan are about ro in. long, pointed with fish-teeth, and feathered with pith. They are also envenomed with poison. Poisoned arrows are also used by the natives of the Philippine island of Mindanao, whose blow-pipes, from 3 to 4 ft. long and made of bamboo, are often richly ornamented and even jewelled. The principle of the blow-gun is, of course, the same as that of the common " pea-shooter." See Sport with Rod and Gun in American Woods and Waters, by A. M. Mayer, vol. ii. (Edinburgh, 1884) ; Wanderings in South America, &c., by Charles Waterton (London, 1828) ; The Head Hunters of Borneo, by Carl Bock (London, 1881).
End of Article: JOHN BLOW (1648-1708)

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