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Subject: Re: <an old thread>
From: David Daye <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 28 Jun 1999 08:33:52 -0400
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At 01:22 AM 6/28/99 -0700, John Walsh wrote:

>>It's been said by some that only a native gaeilge speaker can
>>accurately convey the phrasing of a traditional slow air.

>it has to help to speak the language well. Most---but not all---of the
>classic piping airs are from the sean nos tradition of singing, and the
>best way to learn them on the pipes has to be to first sing---and
>understand (!)---them, since the piping style comes directly from
>sean-nos singing.

>(But as for me, I'll start...tomorrow...) The usual advice I've heard is
>to learn the song, phrasing and all, from a singer, rather than from
>another piper, and then translate it onto the pipes. (Trying to learn
>from staff notation is the worst choice, by the way.

Just a thought from the loyal opposition,

All of this presumes that the only purpose of playing airs is to
express the *song* and not the underlying *tune.* Incidentally I'm
completely in favor of song-like renditions, and when I know a march
or dance tune to have lyrics (especially if known to immigrant
people before me) I'll often adjust my expression to suit. So
please continue discussing sources for the lyrics for airs but:

I hear instrumental renditions of songs that I know all the time,
often greatly altered from the lyrics I know, and it doesn't usually
bother me. Granted my culture does not produce anything resembling
airs, which might be an important distinction.

I haven't made much of a study of Irish airs but I know a few
Highland Gaelic airs to have a simple underlying 3/4 time signature
which, it seems to me, has been seriously perturbed in selected
places to fit the phrasing of one particular set of lyrics that we
may come to know. This is especially apparent when particular melodic
phrases acquire extra notes etc. in some verses and not in others;
a root phrase can reasonably be inferred from internal comparisons.

[ I once made a transcription of such a song in a straightforward
3/4 time that could be easily rendered by amateur bands. I shared it
but made the mistake of sharing a recording of "the" song. They insisted
that my tune be rephrased to fit "the" lyrics, and the piece has
since been played at the World Pipe Band Championships by a top band.
However "the" song was only created in the 1980's when a contemporary
singer fit a modern poem into an antique wordless melody. So my
approach was actually correct in this case, and it shows me that
we have a bias towards a song-like phrasing even when it has no
history at all!]

Many traditional tunes have carried different lyrics over time
or from one region to another, which in the case of airs must surely
result in significant variation in the timing in sections of phrasing.
I don't see that it is *necessarily* bad for an instrumentalist to
work from either an [the] underlying tune or from some heard rendition.

Of course there may be an argument for working clearly in one direction
or the other. If a rendition is going to be songlike, it ought to be
very close, otherwise sufficiently different to focus attention on the
air and not the words.

??

David



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