CARVER, Robert

(16th century)
Robert Carver or Carvor is now acknowledged as Scotland's greatest com­poser, but his work was unpublished and unrecorded until the early 1990s, and the details of his life are largely conjectural. His birthdate has been variously given as 1484/85 and 1487/88; his death is unrecorded, but he was alive in 1568. Some documents list him as "Carvor alias Arnot," leading to speculation that he may have been the natural son of David Arnot, archdeacon of Lothian and later bishop of Whithorn and the Chapel Royal of Scotland, located at Stirling. Alternatively, Bishop Arnot may have been his patron. Carver's father may have been David Kervour, who worked on the construction of the Chapel Royal. Associated with Scone Abbey, the Chapel Royal, and Stirling Parish Church, Carver was probably in the Augustinian order. He may have been ed­ucated at the University of Louvain, which lists a "Robert from St. Johnstone" (Perth, near Scone) on the matriculation roll in 1504. It has also been suggested that Carver was the Robert Arnot who was a burgess of Stirling, holding offices of bailie, council member, and master of work in Stirling between 1519 and 1550.
Five masses and two motets signed by Carver are the highlights of the Carver Choirbook, a manuscript largely in his hand. The other compositions are anon­ymous, except for one by Franco-Flemish Guillaume Dufay. Carver's Five-Part Mass is based on the lament of Jacob when he believes that his son Joseph has been slain by wild beasts; various explanations have been advanced for the choice of this obscure text, including the conjecture that Carver lost a son in the plague. The complexity of the vocal parts in Carver's music—one motet is in nineteen parts—suggests the influence of the Gaelic vocal tradition in addition to familiarity with contemporary English and continental music.
D. J. Ross, Musick Fyne: Robert Carver and the Art of Music in Sixteenth Century Scotland, 1993.
I. Woods, "Towards a Biography of Robert Carvor," Music Review 49, no. 2 (May 1988): 83-101.
Jean Graham

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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