Suggested Listening: “Io non compro più speranza” by Marco Cara

Today’s SUGGESTED LISTENING for the CLASSICAL MUSIC SKEPTIC brings together two very different renditions of an Italian Renaissance classic.  Here’s Marco Cara’s Io non compro più speranza, performed below by Marco Beasely, tenor, with the Accordone Ensemble (Italy); and The Bastard Sons of Dioniso, rock band (Italy).

About the Composer:

Marco Cara (1470?-1525?) was the 16th-century equivalent of a singer-songwriter.  Except, instead of working for a record label, he worked for a super-rich family of Italian noblemen (the Gonzaga of Mantua, if you were wondering).  And instead of guitar, he played lute.  (Fun fact: the proper term for a lute player is lutenist.  If you say “lutist”, your music history TA will laugh at you.  Trust me, I know.)  Cara was, and is to this day, one of the most famous composers of frottole — that’s plural of frottola, a type of Italian secular song.  In the 15th and 16th centuries, secular music was popular music — the stuff aristocratic kids tried to learn on lute, the same way kids teaching themselves guitar today learn “Stairway to Heaven.”  Marco Cara: Renaissance rock star. 

About the Piece:

Yes, Io non compro più speranza is a frottola.  That is, after all, what Signor Cara did best.  But if you don’t know or, more likely, simply don’t care what makes a frottola a frotolla, why should you care about this piece?  Well, for one thing, it was among the first pieces of music ever published — like, really published, with a printing press.  Ottaviano Petrucci, the Venetian printer who first used Gutenberg‘s recently-invented movable type to put notes and lyrics and the musical staff all together on a printed page, published a whole book of frottole in 1504 — and this gem by Cara was included.  Like many pop songs today, the lyrics (below) deal with love and broken hearts and absurd metaphors.  Like many pop songs today, the piece includes an instrumental introduction and a repeated refrain, and new words set to the same old music in each verse.  Like many pop songs today, the lyrics rhyme, and the tune is syncopated, and there’s a simplicity to it that makes it easy to figure out by ear and hum to yourself for the rest of the day.  No wonder Italian X-Factor contestants The Bastard Sons of Dioniso saw Io non compro as the perfect song to cover.  All they had to do, really, was replace the lute with electric guitar.  Bam: instant rock song.


(Courtesy of Norton Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 1)

Io non compro più speranza

Ché gli è falsa mercancia.

A dar sol attendo via

Quella poca che m’avanza.

Io non compro più speranza

Ché gli è falsa mercancia.


Cara un tempo la comprai,

Hor la vendo a bon mercato

E consiglio ben che mai

Non ne compri un sventurato

Ma più presto nel suo stato

Se ne resti con costanza

Io non compro…


El sperare è come el sogno

Che per più riesce in nulla,

El sperar è proprio il bisogno

De chi al vento si trastulla.

El sperare sovente anulla

Chi continua la sua danza.

Io non compro…

I’ll buy no more hope,

which is fake goods.

I can’t wait to give away

the little that I have left.

I’ll buy no more hope,

which is fake goods.


Once I bought it at a high price,

now I sell it cheap;

and I would advise that never

should the wretched buy it;

rather let them in their condition

remain in constancy.

I’ll buy…


To hope is like a dream

that mostly results in nothing,

and hoping is truly the need

of him who plays with the wind.

Hoping often annihilates

the one who continues its dance.

I’ll buy…


4 thoughts on “Suggested Listening: “Io non compro più speranza” by Marco Cara

  1. Alessandro October 14, 2013 / 5:56 pm

    Hi there…I am a huge supporter of the Rock band you mentioned… and surprised you know about them from abroad!
    Actually, they rearranged this “frottola” far before attending the x-factor. They represent a huge exception in the Italian musical scene. One of the few examples of young musicians who prefer to play good music and stay coherent with their principles instead of searching an instant but transient success.They decided to use this song because of their musical studies and also because of their interests. and this is not the only case: to quote only another example, within their song “mi par che per adesso”, they included a few lines from “The Coronation of Poppea” by Monteverdi. here is the link:

    take care!

    • musicjg9 October 14, 2013 / 7:21 pm

      Grazie per il tuo commento! Non conosco molto bene la musica di BSOD – ho trovato “Io non compro” per caso quando stavo cercando canzoni italiane sullo YouTube per imparare l’italiano. Grazie per il link. Forse farò menzione di questa canzone in un post futuro. Mi piace trovare momenti così, in cui la musica classica e la musica popolare si incontrano. (:

      WordPress mi mostra dove i visitatori al mio blog lo trovano, sicché ho visto il tuo post al sito di BSOD. Sono americana – vivo a Rochester, New York – ma studiavo l’italiano da tanti anni. Sono d’accordo che BSOD è un gruppo molto talento e intelligente. Dovrei ascoltare la loro musica di più!

  2. Alessandro October 14, 2013 / 8:26 pm

    Thanks to you!
    I am Italian, even though I’m living in the UK now… it is curious: I’m italian but I’m writing in english to you… and you are american but you are writing in italian to me! (and in a quite good italian, too)
    TBSOD are my greatest musical passion… you should check their youtube channel and/or their website to listen to their albums… or: in my youtube channel there are more than 800 live movies I took myself during their concerts…
    this is the link, should you be interested:

    thanks again!

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