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Thread: English fiddling essay (no mando)

  1. #51
    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dagger Gordon View Post
    Hi Paul,
    I thought I recognised Jamie's name - a quick Google reveals that he was in a band called Tom Shepley's Band in the seventies. My friend Duncan MacGillivray was in the Battlefield Band at the time, and these guys were friendly with them - indeed one of the band, Martin, was their roadie for a bit. I think they were quite influenced by the very early Battlefield sound, which featured a lot of Stefan Sobell citterns and mandolin (Hurray - got the thread back to mandolin stuff!). I never heard Tom Shepley's Band, but it sounds like they were worth hearing.

    https://www.fatea-records.co.uk/maga...omShepley.html
    Thanks David,
    Small world isn't it and great to hear of the links between them and the Battlefield band. It seems that Tom Shepley's band started playing Scottish and Irish music but expanded their repertoire after Jamie researched tunes from North England.

    Hopefully I'll be able to speak to Jamie and throw some more light on this, and yes am somewhat relieved that on the photo in this link there are various mandolin family instruments including what looks like a Sobell octave mando.

    https://www.eponarecords.com/?product=how-do-you-do

    According to that link, the person with the Sobell is called Martin Colledge (presumably the same Martin) who, according to wikipedia at least, did sound engineering and some playing on this album by the Battlefield band. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Is_Where_the_Van_Is
    Last edited by Paul Cowham; Oct-06-2021 at 8:29am.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cowham View Post
    Thanks David,

    According to that link, the person with the Sobell is called Martin Colledge (presumably the same Martin) who, according to wikipedia at least, did sound engineering and some playing on this album by the Battlefield band. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Is_Where_the_Van_Is
    Yes that's right.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    So, does 'modern traditional' mean anything now, did it ever, and does it matter? You could say it's just a convenient label to indicate you're hearing folk instruments and folk style vocals, but how about all those Eastern European and Scandinavian metal bands with folk style vocals, bagpipes, nyckelharpas, hurdy gurdies and so on? Also, there's more and more of a generic European fiddle band sound, well illustrated by at least two of the fine fiddlers above, who could be from any part of Western Europe (I've got CDs to illustrate that). Swarbrick is another good example, because his excellent fiddling tended to be very much in his own distinctive style, which happened to suit English, Irish, and some Scottish tunes equally well. When he played electric fiddle with a loud band, was that suddenly 'rock', or was it still folk? Could we have discerned the difference if listening to a mix of the band with the fiddle turned down?

    For me, the good news is that many of the musical barriers between different styles have broken down - many will disagree... Maybe we can leave it with Big Bill Broonzy, who is reported to have said in 1953 (?):

    “Some people call these folk songs. All the songs I’ve heard in my life was folk songs. I never heard horses sing one of ‘em yet.”

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  5. #54
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    So, does 'modern traditional' mean anything now, did it ever, and does it matter? You could say it's just a convenient label to indicate you're hearing folk instruments and folk style vocals, but how about all those Eastern European and Scandinavian metal bands with folk style vocals, bagpipes, nyckelharpas, hurdy gurdies and so on? Also, there's more and more of a generic European fiddle band sound, well illustrated by at least two of the fine fiddlers above, who could be from any part of Western Europe (I've got CDs to illustrate that). Swarbrick is another good example, because his excellent fiddling tended to be very much in his own distinctive style, which happened to suit English, Irish, and some Scottish tunes equally well. When he played electric fiddle with a loud band, was that suddenly 'rock', or was it still folk? Could we have discerned the difference if listening to a mix of the band with the fiddle turned down?

    For me, the good news is that many of the musical barriers between different styles have broken down - many will disagree... Maybe we can leave it with Big Bill Broonzy, who is reported to have said in 1953 (?):

    “Some people call these folk songs. All the songs I’ve heard in my life was folk songs. I never heard horses sing one of ‘em yet.”
    I'm wary of the labels applied to types of music. Many genres are named by outsiders, often record producers and promoters who want merchants to know where to put a recording for sale in their stores. In the 60's, when people who sang folk songs began to write and sing their own material, often individualistic and reflective, their record companies continued to promote them as "folksingers" because folksong was popular at the time. The result is that most people today have very different ideas of folk music than people in the 50's had. Terms like "Traditional" and "Roots" came later, to describe what was formerly meant by "Folk" (songs, tunes, and lore passed on through oral/aural tradition, or composed in traditional styles). However, these terms too quickly lost their meanings. I used to look through the CD racks at a St. John's record store to try to understand how the staff differentiated between "Folk," "Traditional," and "Celtic" music (sadly, this is how folklorists spend their spare time). All I could figure was that if a person was popular in the 60's, their music would likely make it into "Folk," and if a surname started with "Mc," "Mac," or "O'," the music was likely "Celtic". Otherwise, the rules of categorization seemed to exist only in some employee's mind. Such labelling is further complicated by large stores with "Ethnic," "Bluegrass," and "Down East" or "Maritimes and Newfoundland" sections.

    Although I sometimes enjoy the musical results of blurred genres, I do not celebrate the idea that highly differentiated, sometimes complex and subtle, regional and ethnic, musical styles, are blending into one international and commercial genre, familiar enough and easy to understand by outsiders, so that it becomes divorced from the people who originated the music. And I don't think that legendary quote -- this version from Bill Broonzy -- has anything to do with musical barriers breaking down. It's more of a statement that people who play music that scholars study don't necessarily share scholarly interests.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    ...And I don't think that legendary quote -- this version from Bill Broonzy -- has anything to do with musical barriers breaking down. It's more of a statement that people who play music that scholars study don't necessarily share scholarly interests.
    That's an interesting statement, because it suggests that scholarship of music may have more to do with the musical structure on paper than the sound of the tune - but which is the music? I'd argue that the sound character and the rhythmic features can identify it, but may still not reveal the origin. We could easily distinguish some Scottish 'folk' music by seeing repeating patterns of semiquaver/dotted quaver on the page - the infamous 'Scotch Snap'. The notes of the tune (separated from the rhythm) are perhaps less characteristic. Three good examples of that are Princess Royal, Planxty Brown/Maggie Brown's Favourite and Neil Gow's Lament for his Second Wife. All these tunes are played in radically different forms using the same notes. The first is used as an archetypal English Morris dance tune when played in a lumpy rhythmic style, but very much the 'O'Carolan 'Planxty' when played slowly and smoothly. Planxty Brown is played as a 'rumpty tumpty' style jig by English barn dance/ceilidh bands at about twice the speed of the O'Carolan original, and as a somewhat smoother jig in Scotland (I forget what they call it there). Neil Gow's Lament for his Second Wife receives perhaps the greatest revision of them all, going from the original Scottish slow air to (IMO) a somewhat second rate English barn dance reel. However, if you'd only heard the English barn dance version, I don't think most of us would suspect the origin of the tune.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    This has opened quite the kettle of worms. I'm no ethnomusicologist, but one of my interests is "Early Irish/Scottish harp" - which is typically the moniker given the field of study. A prime source of material is of Welsh origin, dating back 700 years or more. Given that the art had died out completely, with the revival the field is wide open to scholarship and the theories are many. There are about a half-dozen or fewer examples of the ancient instrument in existence - each one quite different than the others. The Welsh (Ap Huw) manuscript that constitutes the earliest example of notation of the music has been interpreted to widely reflect Irish origins, as well as Welsh and other names from the greater region. We don't know if the large amalgam is constituted by actual concurrence or coalescence of harpers among the Isles, or if those who documented the manuscripts interpreted thus, or what have we..

    Certainly we have more material to consider with more recent artefact (fiddle traditions, et al), but this all likely derived from much older sources, impossible to trace with absolute accuracy. "Genres" have been "blurring" for a very, very long time.

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  11. #57
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    That's an interesting statement, because it suggests that scholarship of music may have more to do with the musical structure on paper than the sound of the tune - but which is the music?.
    Not really. Folklorists are interested in musical culture, community, performance settings, performers, rules of performance, methods of transmission, and such abstractions as "meaning". I think you'd have a hard time finding a folklorist or ethnomusicologist who would suggest that what's written on paper is "music". Usually we argue the opposite. In fact, it's quite possible to study a folk music tradition (e.g., fiddling in a particular region) without being able to read music. I'm a poor music reader, myself. However, depending on what one's goals are, there might be much more need to read and transcribe music. Ethnomusicologists examine technical matters much more deeply than do most folklorists, and need to be be able to read and write music well as part of their preparation before meeting and recording musicians. Although it may be possible to write down a folk tune with almost all its stylistic components and subtleties of timing and so on, but the transcription would be too complicated for all but a small educated elite to read.


    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    I'd argue that the sound character and the rhythmic features can identify it, but may still not reveal the origin. We could easily distinguish some Scottish 'folk' music by seeing repeating patterns of semiquaver/dotted quaver on the page - the infamous 'Scotch Snap'. The notes of the tune (separated from the rhythm) are perhaps less characteristic. Three good examples of that are Princess Royal, Planxty Brown/Maggie Brown's Favourite and Neil Gow's Lament for his Second Wife. All these tunes are played in radically different forms using the same notes. The first is used as an archetypal English Morris dance tune when played in a lumpy rhythmic style, but very much the 'O'Carolan 'Planxty' when played slowly and smoothly. Planxty Brown is played as a 'rumpty tumpty' style jig by English barn dance/ceilidh bands at about twice the speed of the O'Carolan original, and as a somewhat smoother jig in Scotland (I forget what they call it there). Neil Gow's Lament for his Second Wife receives perhaps the greatest revision of them all, going from the original Scottish slow air to (IMO) a somewhat second rate English barn dance reel. However, if you'd only heard the English barn dance version, I don't think most of us would suspect the origin of the tune.
    I agree with you on that, Max. Where people haven't gone through a standardized musical education, their music takes on a local accent and a personal style, using different rhythms, decorations, etc. By and large, these regional styles can't be learned from tune books. Tune book compilers often recognize these limitations, and recommend that learners listen to records and to live musicians as much as they can. Nearly fifty years ago, I picked up an instructional book of Appalachian fiddling, but had to abandon it as I had no idea what the tunes should have sounded like. I also bought Harding's Collection, which my mother used and which contained many tunes that she played on piano. I could learn from this book, as I already had a sense of a tune's rhythms and accents before I started reading the notes. Someone from another region might have read the same tunes, but emphasized them differently than I did. This is what I love though, how different groups of people make music their own, putting their own regional or ethnic style on tunes. Having spent a great deal of time among Cape Breton fiddlers, it depresses me to run across a group of people in some distant city who call themselves "Cape Breton fiddlers," but sit in a group reading tunes together, emphasizing classical violin stylings over hard-driving, "dancey" rhythms. In the last seventy years, a trend toward musical homogenization happened -- internationally -- affecting many regional styles of music. I'll use Canadian fiddling as an example, because I'm familiar with it. At one time a Scottish-Canadian fiddler from mainland Nova Scotia, an Acadian from New Brunswick, an Ottawa Valley fiddler, and a Metis fiddler from Manitoba would have sounded very different. Now, many young fiddlers have a similar style that overwhelms their regional accents. The effect is a bit like one big national speech class (TV?) that allows us to preserve a few of our quaint idioms, but essentially dictates that there's a proper way all Canadians (Americans, Brits, or whomever) should speak. There's something great about young musicians from all over the country (and internationally), gathering and playing together, but a great deal is being lost in the process.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    Thanks for all that, Ranald. People here in UK have been becoming more aware of Canadian music for a few years now - French Canadian music to be specific, thanks to the yearly UK tours by the excellent Vent Du Nord band from Quebec. They also have the great driving rhythms that you hear from eg Cape Breton accompaniment pianists, with also the addition of 'podorhymie' - the foot stomp rhythm board the fiddlers play while fiddling. I got a board, but haven't deployed it yet. The Vent Du Nord guys sometimes fiddle, stomp and sing at the same time - that's really rubbing it in!

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    Default Re: English fiddling essay (no mando)

    catmandu2 posted on Welsh harp music. Performance of that music must really be an area of speculation - my understanding is that the original instrument ('Celtic' harp style?) may have been rather overshadowed by the introduction of the chromatic triple harp (developed in Italy?) which in turn was ousted by the pedal harp in the late 19thC, presumably because the pedal harp is easier to play chromatically and has a lot less strings to tune for the same octave range? One might expect the playing style at that stage to reflect more classical music techniques than previously?

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