The Dump

The "Dump" or “Dompe"
The musicologist John M Ward (Ward 1951) identified 15 English renaissance compositions for lute or keyboard bearing the title “Dump” (or some variation of it such as "dompe" or “doomp”). The pieces are generally variations over an ostinato bass, but the meaning of the title is now unclear. 

Ward’s suggestion was that it may imply melancholy and could derive from the French "tombeau" (lament), or from German "dumpf" (dull or dazed). The word is familiar in other meanings but its only remaining trace in the English language with this meaning is the phrase 'down in the dumps’

However there are many clues to a broader meaning. In Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' Act 4. Scene 5 we see:

"O, play me some merry dump, 
to comfort me, ....."

and a few lines later:

"When griping grief the heart doth wound, 
And doleful dumps the mind oppress..."

which suggests that ‘dump’ had a broader meaning, perhaps similar to the modern usage of the term 'blues’. 

Certainly other more recent writers have posited a wider definition. Goodwin (2002) suggests that the term may refer to a mental fog or reverie and Fink (2008), in his playing edition of 24 pieces (including variants) agrees that the the dump repertoire contains a variety of moods. Clearly the dumps are very different from sung laments and instrumental tombeaux of this and later periods and despite much speculation the meaning of the term remains unclear.

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