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THIS ESSAY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THREE EXTRAORDINARY COLLECTIONS (Stewart, 2007) which contained editions of three early 18th century publications of fiddle music, Thomas Marsden’s Collection of Original Lancashire Hornpipes (1705), Daniel Wright’s An Extraordinary Collection of Pleasant & merry humours etc. (1713) and John Walsh’s Third Book of the most Celebrated Jiggs, Lancashire Hornpipes etc., (c. 1730; the ‘First’ book, advertised in 1705 is now lost, as is any 'Second')

.For many years this article has contained an error in para. 3 line 9; I have now corrected it ...

The first thing about Marsden’s collection that will be unfamiliar to today’s traditional musician is the announcement on the cover that the tunes come ‘with divisions on each’. However, although something of a lost art today, the making of divisions was once second nature to country musicians. William Chappell (Chappell, 1895, II, 797) tells us that
”Country fiddlers and pipers perhaps thought more of their bases than of their tunes, trusting to their facility in making divisions or variations for the latter”.
These ‘bases’ were what art-music calls ‘grounds’. They might be chord progressions, in which case they would be chosen from a number of named forms such as the ‘bergamasca’ (I-IV-V-I, A-D-E-A), which Thurston Dart, without, it seems, much real justification, called ‘The Hornpipe’ ground) or they might be simple melodic lines; either way the ground would be repeated throughout the performance, even if only in the mind of the solo player, while divisions and variations were developed above it. Charles Simpson, in one of several manuals on the playing of divisions published during the 17th century, claims to teach how they can be played ‘ex tempore’ that is, improvised.
Simpson’s manual also makes clear the distinction between ‘Divisions’, that is the expanding and elaborating of intervals in the ‘Ground’ or repeating bass-line, and ‘discants’, that is the creating of melodic lines above the ground. It was this latter technique that the ‘old fiddlers’ used, as exemplified by Marsden (the only example in these collections that includes the bass is ‘Sgr Geminiani’s Minuet’). Marsden’s ‘grounds’ are so simple, consisting in the main of two notes only, that his ‘divisions‘ are better seen as variations on his ‘discants'. It is worth noting that the ground of Aston’s hornpipe, which is written out in the manuscript and which Ward gives as AAGG, is a ‘melodic’ ground’ (strictly speaking it is a ‘tenor’); though it appears to be a ‘double tonic’ sequence, the harmonic structure is an orthodox I-V-I, IV-II-IV sequence, whereas Marsden’s are all true ‘harmonic’ two-note sequences of the type that has become known as a ‘double-tonic’ ground. The difference is significant, since this kind of structure is often said to have been derived from a bagpipe chanter with ‘flat’ leading notes (G natural in A, producing a Myxolodian scale). The effect is thus to generate two ‘tonics’ a tone apart (either G and A or A and B in the case of a bagpipe in A, one of which acts as the ‘home’ tonic and the other of which supplies a ‘substitute dominant’; when played against the drone this produces a ‘cadence’ equivalent to that of the more orthodox V-I (E-A) progression.
Given this harmonic parsimony, few structures are possible, especially taking into account another feature of hornpipe music, its consistent use of four-bar measures, each made up of two-bar ‘rhyming’ phrases. (Martha Curti (Curti, 1979) pointed out that this feature was so consistent that it must reflect something about the nature of the original dance.) If we use Matt Seattle’s notation (Seattle, 1995, 2003), in which X stands for a bar of the ‘home’ tonic and Y for a bar of the ‘substitute dominant’, then Marsden’s 25 tunes are made up from only three basic forms, XXXY, XYXX , and XXYY, though this last can also appear as YYXX.
A further striking feature of the hornpipes in the current collections compared to those most familiar today is their rhythm. For more than a hundred years the hornpipe has been understood, with only a few exceptions, as a dance tune in common, 4/4 time, whereas, with only three exceptions, Marsden’s are all in 3/2 (the exceptions are all in 9/4), as are almost all the other hornpipes here. This Appendix aims to trace the history both of this music and the dance it accompanied.
When we look at the earliest mentions of both the jig and hornpipe, it is clear that they are to be distinguished from other dances; thus Thomas Morley, having described the Pavan, Galliard and Volto as a sequence of decreasingly grave dances mentions “other kinds of dances (Hornepypes, Jygges and infinite others) which I cannot nominate unto you”. Subsequent commentators seem to agree that these two dances belong amongst the ‘common dancing’ with which a gentleman should have no truck.
This is borne out by the earliest mention of the hornpipe in literature, which occurs in the 15th century morality play now known as ‘Mind, Will and Understanding’ which calls for music to accompany the vices. The character of ‘Will’ calls the hornpipe “a sprynge of lechery”:
‘Your mynstrell a hornpipe mete/ That fowl ys in himself but to the erys is swete’.
It is surprising therefore, that the first mention of music calling itself ‘hornpipe’, though it comes from the same era, appears in a very different context. It is contained in an expense account kept by one George Chely, who in 1474 paid Thomas Rede, “harper of Calles” (Calais being at that time an English town) 4s. 10d “for to learne xiij daunsys and an horne pype on the leut.” (notice that even here the ‘hornpipe’ is kept separate from the ‘daunsys’).
This record marks the beginning of an art-music relationship with this ‘sprynge of lechery’ which was to last for at least three hundred years (Thomas Arne wrote a triple-time hornpipe for the 1760 production of The Beggars Opera). Throughout this period it could be both a cultivated performance on salon instruments and a symbol for all things licentious, as Shakespeare used it in Act IV of A Winter’s Tale (1611): "There is but one Puritan amongst them, and he sings psalms to hornpipes". Indeed, it was on this ambivalence that the American musicologist John Ward based his authoritative study of the subject (Ward, 1990). For Londoners in the 17th century, he says, the hornpipe ‘was a name to conjure with’ and he bases his work on a quote from a play from 1605 where a character exclaims ‘Oh Master Maybery! Before you Servant to daunce a Lancashire Horne-pipe ...”
This quote also reveals that at this time the hornpipe was regarded as peculiarly Northern in origin. Ward gives another quote that bears this out, from a description of life in Virginia published in 1609 in which the author, speaking of the dancing of American Indians, likens it to “our darbyshire Hornepipe, a man first and then a woman, and so through them all, hanging all in a round”. Similarly Ben Jonson talks of “the hornpipes here, of Nottingham and Darbyshire” (see p. 64). In fact, the same could be said for the jig; in his study of the Elizabethan jig (Baskervill, 1929), Charles Baskervill says “the adjectives Scottish or northern are so frequently linked with the word jig in its earliest occurrences as to suggest that the attention of the London public was first attracted by a type of song with dance which came out of the north”. However, he does add that “to the metropolis, this term probably meant little more than rustic or provincial”.
Although it is sometimes suggested that the word ‘jig’ refers to the narrative song-and dance act, often of a bawdy nature, that was performed as an after-piece at the theatre in the late 16th century, Baskervill says that “by the middle of the 16th century a variety of dance or song and dance acts were current among the people, taking the name jig from the type of dance most characteristic in them” and that these ‘acts’ were taken up by comic actors such as Tarlton and introduced into the theatre. He suggests that the jig may well have been a dance-song like the ‘carol’. Though the details are not at all clear, some kind of relationship seems to have existed between the jig and the hornpipe, as suggested by Baskervill, quoting a poem by Robert Chester (c. 1600) which describes the shepherds entertaining their ‘lord’:
“ A homely cuntry hornpipe we will daunce A sheapheards pretty Gigg to make him sport”