Although the bowed string instruments most overwhelmingly associated with the Renaissance period are the various viols (particularly the viola da gamba), David Douglass became interested in the use of his instrument during that period. Written accounts of the period and pictures make it clear that violins (in this case meaning the whole family, including violins of varying sizes, viola, and violoncello, but excluding the string bass, which, being a viol, is not a member of the violin family) were present and popular, especially for dance music.
Douglass believed that unlike the other strings, the violin instruments were regarded as the province of professionals and were taught by direct individual instruction from master to apprentice, with the secrets of technique rarely written down. Viols, on the other hand, were often played by amateurs, so there were plenty of instruction books and books of tunes and consort music for them to play.
Douglass has researched the set-up and performing style of the violin, and tours as a Renaissance violin soloist. He is a member of Musicians of Swanne Alley in addition to the Newberry Consort, in which he plays other medieval stringed instruments including the viola da gamba. He has been a guest artist with the Harp Consort, the Parley of Instruments, the Toronto Consort, and the Folger Consort.
Douglass’ researches into 16th and 17th century dance and consort music led to his founding the King’s Noyse. Douglass has provided much of the group’s repertory by his arranging of tunes found in dancing manuals of the time and other sources, drawing on a rich stock of British ballad and country dance tunes, as well as improvising on bass lines and playing tunes from memory. In addition, the group plays compositions more often played today on consorts of viols, which is appropriate since much of the string consort music of the period was written so it could be played by either type of instrumental formation.
Douglass frequently lectures on early violin technique, style, and repertory, and teaches at many summer festivals and workshops. He records exclusively with Harmonia Mundi USA.