The tune we are going to learn is ‘The Bonny Miller’ which appears in the William Vickers Manuscript, dated around 1770. [In fact, Matt has proposed a number of amendments to the original, all of which, for the purposes of this lesson, I have adopted.]
Any tune from the traditions of dance and song music comprises two basic elements, ‘Taste’ and ‘Engine’. These may not be familiar concepts so I’ll explain briefly what they mean. ‘Taste’ is a term I have borrowed from Joseph MacDonald’s Tutor for the GHB; it has some aspects of scale or mode but it implies more than that – it is a kind of ‘map’ of the performance to come [MacDonald suggests playing it before the tune itself]. It lays out the landscape of the tune in terms of the intervals and pitches involved. The ‘Engine’ plays a similar role in determining what is to come, but is concerned with the elements of rhythm, though it is much more than simply ‘the beat’; it’s what drives the music along.
Before we look at how these terms work for our tune, let’s take a long-distance look
What do we know from this one hearing? Hopefully you will have noticed the following:
1 the tune has three distinct parts. These parts are quite short, and each is repeated before moving to the next.
2 the basic rhythm- you would probably say it was ‘in three’; I want to describe it as ‘Long-Short’
3 Each part has a different feel; MacDonald would say it has a different taste.
You may have also noticed a number of other things about the way the tune is put together, but for the moment let’s deal with these three and how they incorporate our two basic elements, taste and engine.
Each part has its own taste and its own engine, but they have a great deal in common [they are, after all, parts of the same tune]. If we consider the whole tune as a poem then it clearly has three verses. Each verse has the same number of lines and the same basic ‘metre’; there are also elements of a rhyme-scheme discernable, but we can best determine these by looking closer at each individual verse. The overall affect of the poem is the result of the way these individual verses work together. There are things to be said about this ‘working together’, and some of them are a help to memorizing the tune, but they would take us too far into theorising and we’d never get to play in this lesson.
So, let’s take a listen to the first verse: