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LOWLAND AMUSEMENT

One piper's exploration of the music of the Scottish Lowlands, its history and its performance. It's a diary of discovery, not a series of essays. You're invited to make your own contributions using the comments option on most pages.

 

Hacking Hackie Honey

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I've spent this week practicing 'Hackie Honey' from Wm Dixon's MS and this morning had a moment of enlightenment. This is one of those tunes whose quaver runs sometimes seem to end at a cliff-edge - here is the first two bars of strain 5, for instance:

the last two notes of each bar seem to hang in the air with the result that, when I play them, the very last one, arguably the most important, gets thrown away in the rush to get the next note in place. I've struggled often with this kind of thing in music with this feature - a common device in the early 18th century repertoire, not just Dixon.

So what did I discover today? I found the trick, which is to treat those last two notes not as the end of the current phrase but as the beginning of the next phrase, almost as a pick-up.  The music then runs on into the following passage and each note is much more likely to get its due attention.

What's more, this principle can be applied to all those six-quaver groups, and to many of the four-quaver ones too - treat the last two notes as the beginning of the next phrase.

Not only does this give the notes their full value, but it keeps the music driving on, shifting the 'weight' onto the next beat, just as the dancers shift their weight ready for the next step.

Maybe this is news to no-one but me; but if so, I wish someone had told me ages ago...

 

Through the Debateable Lands

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I see the last entry here was in March. It has been a very eventful year, starting around that time, with workshopd and presentations, festival shows, two issues of Common Stock, a trip to the USA to give workshops on both sides of the country and back for lexctures at the Ntionl Piping Centre, and ending with the collapse of my hard-drive last wednesday.

Another fascinating weekend i spent at new Lanark, four days of workhops on composition organized by Distil.

The result of this has been the beginnings of an extended compostion for smallpipes/harp and string quintet. The working title 'Throug the Debateable Lands' is taken from Norman MacCaig's poem 'Crossing the Border'. The basic concept is to evoke the border lands as they were in the eraly years of James VI, using as thematic materilal a few tunes from the area/era, esdpecially the original border air of 'The Twa Corbies'. More about this soon I hope, as well as news of a pilot one-day workshop in Edinburgh in early April next year...

hornpipe and diddle

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I've been planning to say something about the hornpipe, but till now haven't been able to figure out where to start.

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The Lowland Mazurka

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Last year I managed to pursude the Music Dept. of Edinburgh Central Library to purchase a copy of the recently published  edition of the Balcarres lute book. This manuscript, for so long unavailable for research, is a treasure house of Scottish music at its turning point at the very end of the 17th century. I was aware of many of the wonders it contains, but I was taken by surprise by two settings of a tune it calls 'Rothes Rant', and which comes nearer than anything I have yet encountered in the Scottish sources to being a mazurka.

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1 2 3 continued

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An intruiging demonstration of the matter of performing 3-time tunes from the early 18th century was suggested to me by a post on the tradtunes email list; it involves a discussion of the difference between two dance forms, the 'muineira' and the 'Jota'

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Johny Cock Thy Beaver

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Playford's 1684 setting of this well-known lowland tune ['A Scottish tune to a ground' is Playford's note] was one of the tues I played recently at the LBPS evening at the Glasgow Piping Live! Festival. This is one of thoe tunes that the more I play it, the more complex the  interpretation of its simple notation becomes.

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Distractions, distractions

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Just in case you thought this blog was completed deceased I thought I'd better add a post, just to say I am yet again distracted, first by updgrading the website, then by upcoming presentations , to the International Bagpipe Conference on March 9th and then a workshop at the Bagpipe Society Blowout at the end of May, not to metnion the LBPS competitin. However, I have been listening again to some recordings I made a while back of tunes from Henry Atkinson's fiddle manuscript and from William Dixon's book. Hopefully I will get a moment to post about these soon...

Lowland Amusement -ABC notation

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Highland Laddie

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This is the Tune of the Month for the LBPS and the NSP

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