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Old 09-13-2010, 04:13 PM   #41
Blackadder
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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Originally Posted by A.MacDonald View Post
I am not 'out there' trying to preach or convert either.
A pity. You'd have at least one disciple...
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Old 09-14-2010, 05:52 AM   #42
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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I say to students "When you get passionate and emotional about something, do you say in a robotic measured manner: I-am-so-ex-cit-ed-about-you-I-want-to-be-with-you-for-ev-er-and-ev-er"? No, you phrase it with what we would write as commas, full stops, exclamation marks and rising pitch.
Unless one is a poet, in which case the text can be completely divorced from the normal rhythms of speech.

We know the Gaelic poets of yore strictly followed canonized meters. How do we know the ancient performance practice did not follow the style of the poets?
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Old 09-14-2010, 06:07 AM   #43
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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Bob, I would disagree with this. The ap huw ms is a very stylised tablature that tells us absolutely nothing abut rythym. It gives us sequences of sonorities, but they could equally be played in strict timing (3 time or 4 time, we have no idea), or as rubato as you dare. Personally I prefer the latter, for exactly the same reasons as Allan gives with respect to pibroch.
It's difficult to reconcile the concept of the binary measure with free time (That's not my original idea, btw, I got it from someone's thesis on the MS). If they scores aren't meant to be played fairly rhythmically then what is the point of the patterns?

So you speed up and slow down the (repetitive) bass hand with the treble?

I'm thinking, for example, of the tune (it appears to be an etude) on the page numbered 15. It has 24 consecutive g's on the treble hand while the bass hand alternates two sonorities. I can see playing the treble hand straight or swung, but what sort of rubato would you apply?

Interestingly, if you divide the notes up according to the pattern written on the top of the page there are 8 bars of 4/4 in the ground, and each of the other 7 parts has the exact same structure. I've looked at the ones that start on p18 and p20 as well (which are similar to the first), but I haven't gotten further. It's a little difficult to justify spending so much time on this project when I don't even play harp.
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Old 09-14-2010, 10:44 AM   #44
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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<sigh> no luck-- no copies available, no snippets.
I sit corrected; I looked for it on amazon.com, not .co.uk, and found it. For $65! I'll have to see about downloading tracks...
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Old 09-14-2010, 02:36 PM   #45
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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We know the Gaelic poets of yore strictly followed canonized meters. How do we know the ancient performance practice did not follow the style of the poets?

Bob - what's your source on that?
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Old 09-15-2010, 01:43 AM   #46
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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If I go to Brittany to learn Breton tunes I go to the Breton singers like the Breton pipers Bombarde and Biniou players go. In their more measured music they also go to the dancers. If I go to any nation's musical tradition I do the same....I go to the roots....
It is not rocket science.
But where can you find the roots? The unadulterated Gaelic tunes? I began Gaelic classes at the age of 9 in Aberdeen. It was 1970. In those days the educational authorities, (rightly or wrongly), had decided that written Gàidhlig was too complex for the under 12's and should be learned phonetically only.
My teacher at the time was from Lewis and decided that apart from the mundane conversational, the best method of learning the language was through song. A great number of these songs had conventional metre, foot tapping stuff, a number were what, looking back, may have been something akin to 5/4 or more, with apparently enlongated bars to accomodate phrasing.

When I moved to London in the 1980's and went to some Gaelic classes I found that the language being taught seemed to be a hotch-potch of dialects, and that songs being sung by the choirs were heavily reliant on a strict yet skipping 4/4 beat. The whole thing seemed a bit sterile, yet was being presented as authentic. At the same time certain personages wandered the aisles checking what was being sung against the written page, exactly the same personages that frequent the Inverness, Oban and London competitions to this day with a copy of Kilberry on their laps, checking for deviations against the written score.

It's often said that no pronunciation guide can adequately convey the sound of spoken Gaelic. I have a problem in describing adequately the styles of song/tune I heard in my youth, often from older Hebridean guys following the herring round the coast, who would lodge in our already cramped house. (This was before the oil was discovered and everything changed). For this I apologise.
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Old 09-15-2010, 12:13 PM   #47
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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Bob - what's your source on that?
I'm not sure. It's something I've seen references to while reading on other topics. It might be in Sally Harper's book on Welsh Music.

The poets had their official meters, which they went to school to learn. The harpers, looking for some added credibility, invented a history to support their official meters as well, attributing them to some Irish king or another.

It's all pretty interesting, really, how important music, and the formal study of it, was to ancient Gaelic society.
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Old 09-16-2010, 05:16 PM   #48
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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Here you go - its really a great CD - not just songs, interviews with the women singers about the songs and how they played a part of their daily life. Let me know what you think if you get a chance to listen to it. You may get to listen to snippets off this site. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gaelic-Songs.../dp/B000E1NWN2
I found it! The album is available for download from http://www.rounder.com/artist/music/...aspx?pid=62992. You can download the entire album ($9.99 US) or just individual tracks ($0.99 US each). I downloaded the entire album, and it's terrific! It's in the form of a Zip file containing 38 sequentially-numbered MP3s that you can use to create a music CD. The Zip file even includes the cover art as an image file, so you can create an insert for a CD jewel case. (The cover art is also separately downloadable, so you can get it if you just download individual tracks.)

Caveat emptor. The site worked OK for me, and the download went smoothly, but from what I read in their forum it can be pretty horrific to get in contact with them should you need to. Be sure to read the thread in their forum about contacting them before ordering. Fortunately, the download site for your order is good for about 10 days, so if something goes wrong during download you get multiple tries.
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Old 09-17-2010, 06:40 AM   #49
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

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Originally Posted by Adam Sanderson View Post
But where can you find the roots? The unadulterated Gaelic tunes? I began Gaelic classes at the age of 9 in Aberdeen. It was 1970. In those days the educational authorities, (rightly or wrongly), had decided that written Gàidhlig was too complex for the under 12's and should be learned phonetically only.
My teacher at the time was from Lewis and decided that apart from the mundane conversational, the best method of learning the language was through song. A great number of these songs had conventional metre, foot tapping stuff, a number were what, looking back, may have been something akin to 5/4 or more, with apparently enlongated bars to accomodate phrasing.

The recordings I mentioned above sounds like they were done in the late 50's early sixties. The songs were learned in the childhood of the singers and sound pretty unadulterated to me (not that I would know).
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Old 09-17-2010, 03:29 PM   #50
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Default Re: Allan McDonald's thesis

Recordings of Gaelic song that have been enlightening for this piper to listen to are the ones done by William Matheson GAELIC BARDS AND MINSTRELS, School of Scottish Studies (Greentrax 9016D). Annie and Calum Johnstone, also on Greentrax. Also, Rona MacDonald's recent CD, especially the singing of Maol Donn. Mary Smith's new CD is a must, imho. The two CDs that Allan made with Margaret Stewart (both on Greentrax). If you want to hear Gaelic rhythms in ceol beag, listen to Barry Shears' archival recordings, and also his own recording A Cape Breton Piper, available from his web site.

My teacher, who is in his eighties, learned from a student of John MacColl, Robert Meldrum and Ronald MacKenzie. His teacher heard William Ross, the Queen's piper, play when he was young, so he was well acquainted with the Victorian style of piobaireachd, which was several degrees removed from the Gaelic roots and well into a dramatic phase of "improvement." Yet, to compare what my teacher was taught to ceol mor today, he uses the words "square", "mathematical" and "without emotion" to describe most performances today. He uses a few other words I won't repeat here.
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