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Re: Maclean-Clephane/Torloisk mss

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  • Alasdair Codona
    Dear Simon, ... the basses look composed and not harpy to me, and many of the tunes are apaprently copied from Patrick MacDonald (of the 1784 collection fame)
    Message 1 of 8 , 6 Nov 08:10
      Dear Simon,

      >People rave about how important this ms is but I sometimes wonder -
      the basses look composed and not harpy to me, and many of the tunes
      are apaprently copied from Patrick MacDonald (of the 1784 collection
      fame) - so may have been "tweaked" by him, and also the M-C sisters
      were not collecting for our sakes but to arrange it all for pedal
      harp or piano and publish it in lush romantic arrangements.<

      What's new though, Simon, eh? Borrowing from previously printed
      sources was common at that time. Only Bunting presents basses
      purporting to be straight from the fingers of harpers and even then
      there are difficulties.

      One reason I was punting the Torloisk MSS as being particularly
      important is because of the harp puirt in section B. These are all
      set in keys which relate directly to the two main tunings given by
      Bunting and I play them all in the keys as notated with the exception
      of the Bb which I believe to have been an afterthough and alteration
      of the tonality to bring the pieces concerned more into line with
      contemporary musical fashion.

      Thus Port Gordon (Port 2nd) might be seen to be originally a D final
      tune with a strong F tonality (range aaa-G). It is given in the key
      of F one flat in Dow (range bbbflat-G). Fàilte Mhic Càidh (Port 4th)
      is also given in the same key as in Dow, that of A natural (range in
      both aaa-G). Is Eagal Leam am Bàs (Port 6th) likewise in D natural
      in Dow but is given the remarkably inappropriate 'afterthought' Bb in
      the Torloisk (range in both aaa-a). This feature should cause us to
      consider treating the keys in both this part of the Torloisk and in
      Dow as very significant and possibly traditional. Being set for
      fiddle, the ranges all fit happily above sister G.

      The only key I would have questions about in Dow is that of Fuath nam
      Fìdhleirean in D. This could be an example of Bunting's fuígheall
      mhór key but I'd like the opinion of others on this. The song 'am
      Bruadar Grad' (the Quick Dream) beginning on the same page is set in
      F minor; not a tuning I'd want to use on my harp.

      Beannachdan,



      Alasdair



      --- In clairseach@..., Simon Chadwick <pocmloc@g...>
      wrote:
      > Robert,
      >
      > The NLS only has a photocopy, not the real thing. Also note that
      any
      > copy you get will be copyrighted and so it would be a massive
      copyright
      > infringement to put it online without permission of either the NLS
      > and/or the owner of the actual manuscripts.
      >
      > But by all means write to the library and ask for a copy - at worst
      > they can refuse.
      >
      > 15 tunes from the mss have been published in the 2001 Ossian
      edition of
      > Donal O'Sullivan's "Carolan", many are obviously not Carolan tunes
      and
      > the bass lines have been stripped away.
      >
      > People rave about how important this ms is but I sometimes wonder -
      the
      > basses look composed and not harpy to me, and many of the tunes are
      > apaprently copied from Patrick MacDonald (of the 1784 collection
      fame)
      > - so may have been "tweaked" by him, and also the M-C sisters were
      not
      > collecting for our sakes but to arrange it all for pedal harp or
      piano
      > and publish it in lush romantic arrangements.
      >
      > Anyway I agree it ought to be edited and published, and then
      studied by
      > all of us!
      >
      > Simon
    • Alasdair Codona
      A chairdean, While I m on the keys in Dow, I d like to gather all your opinions on whether Fàilte Mhic Coinnich, the first tune in Dow, might have originally
      Message 2 of 8 , 6 Nov 08:19
        A' chairdean,

        While I'm on the keys in Dow, I'd like to gather all your opinions on
        whether Fàilte Mhic Coinnich, the first tune in Dow, might have
        originally been played in F one flat... Would the Scottish harpers
        have avoided flat tunings like their Irish counterparts? Or was a
        finish on the note F just out of the question for Gaelic harpers even
        as a transposition of a C mode? Indeed, is the Bb in the published
        tune an intrusion into the melody?

        Beannachdan,


        Alasdair



        ---In clairseach@..., Simon Chadwick <pocmloc@g...>
        wrote:
        > Robert,
        >
        > The NLS only has a photocopy, not the real thing. Also note that
        any
        > copy you get will be copyrighted and so it would be a massive
        copyright
        > infringement to put it online without permission of either the NLS
        > and/or the owner of the actual manuscripts.
        >
        > But by all means write to the library and ask for a copy - at worst
        > they can refuse.
        >
        > 15 tunes from the mss have been published in the 2001 Ossian
        edition of
        > Donal O'Sullivan's "Carolan", many are obviously not Carolan tunes
        and
        > the bass lines have been stripped away.
        >
        > People rave about how important this ms is but I sometimes wonder -
        the
        > basses look composed and not harpy to me, and many of the tunes are
        > apaprently copied from Patrick MacDonald (of the 1784 collection
        fame)
        > - so may have been "tweaked" by him, and also the M-C sisters were
        not
        > collecting for our sakes but to arrange it all for pedal harp or
        piano
        > and publish it in lush romantic arrangements.
        >
        > Anyway I agree it ought to be edited and published, and then
        studied by
        > all of us!
        >
        > Simon
      • Simon Chadwick
        Sorry, I forgot about the ports, I have played through them once or twice but never really studied them, I really should. Don t you think that they re later in
        Message 3 of 8 , 6 Nov 12:10
          Sorry, I forgot about the ports, I have played through them once or
          twice but never really studied them, I really should. Don't you think
          that they're later in style and more florid than the early lute book
          versions?

          Simon
        • Alasdair Codona
          Dear Simon, ... early lute book versions?
          Message 4 of 8 , 6 Nov 17:53
            Dear Simon,

            > Don't you think that they're later in style and more florid than the
            early lute book versions?<

            They are, aren't they, but they are for fiddlers of the period and
            I've seen worse in Bunting. These gracings are mostly superficial and
            largely leave the tune unaffected. A keyboard setting of Is Eagal
            Leam am Bàs (much degenerated) from the Torloisk MSS and marked Tempo
            di Minuetto is much barer with only two slurs.

            In the 'port' section, there are a few more dotted rhythms, as seen in
            Port Ballangowne and a few fussy slurs and runs as found in Is Eagal
            Leam am Bàs but apart from that kind of thing I can't think offhand of
            much else very remarkable. The style is not unrestrained, as in Port
            3rd, and Bunting's harpers would not be far off the same style at all:
            think of the Lyons' material. The Féachain Gléis is also a good case
            in point, particularly being partnered with Cumha Bharúin Loch Mór
            (Scott's Lamentation). These kind of gracings are also already found
            in Oswald and Dow so they're not alien by any manner of means.

            Ultimately, the problem is that we don't know which sources prior to
            Bunting's manuscripts most closely reflect the quantities and kinds of
            gracings Gaelic harpers would have used. It may have varied from
            person to person and would certainly vary according to type of tune.
            Whether a lute arrangement can be taken as indicative of the typical
            proportion of graces to melody notes in a Gaelic tune is a difficult
            point.

            The fiddle only has to play the melody which allows it the more
            freedom to explore decoration of the melody. Lute arrangements have
            to cope single-handedly with the rigors of fingering both treble and
            bass, although some lute arrangements nevertheless demonstrate a not
            insignificant use of gracings. Offhand I think it would be right to
            say that gapped slurs are not a feature of the harp pieces in the lute
            sources but does this indicate that, contrary to ap Huw usage, Gaelic
            harpers would not have used them around the period of the lute sources?

            Beannachdan,


            Alasdair







            Damn good question.

            --- In clairseach@..., Simon Chadwick <pocmloc@g...>
            wrote:
            > Sorry, I forgot about the ports, I have played through them once or
            > twice but never really studied them, I really should. Don't you
            think
            > that they're later in style and more florid than the early lute book
            > versions?
            >
            > Simon
          • Simon Chadwick
            Thankyou Alasdair, for suggesting one flat tuning - I have an experimental gold string on the top b string and it won t go higher than Bb!!! But I have to say
            Message 5 of 8 , 7 Nov 10:34
              Thankyou Alasdair, for suggesting one flat tuning - I have an
              experimental gold string on the top b string and it won't go higher
              than Bb!!! But I have to say I don't like it - the comhluighe strings
              seem to change from being useful to being in the way. Unless you have
              cheated and coloured in the strings with permanent marker pens, there
              is no real difference between playing the tune in F one flat than in G
              one sharp, except for the position of comhluighe in the scale. There
              was a big discussion in Kilkenny this year about the purposes and uses
              of comhluighe and I was very taken with the idea that the unison
              strings acted as an important note in the mode. So with comhluighe at
              G, it seems that G mode, C modes and D modes are all fine because they
              would have comhluighe at the base note of the mode, the fourth and the
              fifth respectively. But F mode would have comhluighe at the second- not
              an important note in any modes I know of!!! I suppose the unison drags
              one's attention to that pitch and makes the harp resonante slightly
              more at that pitch and its consonances...

              So to answer your question, yes I see the Bb in that tune as being
              easily omitted, but I am not convinced it is a good
              mode/tuning/tonality to play it in. I'd shift it up to C I think... I
              would think avoiding flat keys is not a regional eccentricity but part
              of the fundamental nature of the instrument.

              Simon


              > might have originally been played in F one flat... Would the Scottish
              > harpers have avoided flat tunings like their Irish counterparts? Or
              > was a finish on the note F just out of the question for Gaelic harpers
            • Alasdair Codona
              Dear Simon, Gold on the TOP B string? Whatever are you up to? Well done at getting a Bb out of it. Have you got gold on the A string yet? Your idea of the
              Message 6 of 8 , 7 Nov 16:13
                Dear Simon,

                Gold on the TOP B string? Whatever are you up to? Well done at
                getting a Bb out of it. Have you got gold on the A string yet?

                Your idea of the key of F clashing with the sisters from a fingering
                point of view rings lots of sympathetic bells and is perhaps
                supported by the relative lack, in the surviving instrumental
                repertoire, of tunes which are based on oscillations between chords G
                and F in teud leagaidh tuning. In fact, I find chords of G and A are
                more frequent. So you might well be onto something here, I dare say.

                Against the idea might stand Bunting's description of teud leagaidh
                tuning which emphasises that the teud leagaidh itself is normally set
                on F, rather than E. The name of the string (meaning `falling
                string') also implies F as a primary position and this has echoes in
                Welsh harp tradition. This would suggest that F had more importance
                than E as a bass tonality in the all naturals tuning.

                Another couple of things that might stand against the idea is the
                degree of presence of F tonality in the Gaelic repertoire, especially
                in some D mode/D final tunes. It is also possible that the sisters
                existed when the Gaelic harp may have been used for the accompaniment
                of Gregorian chant which had modes nameable as D, E, F and G (at
                least by Kenneth Levy, no less!). A string of Bb need not have been
                adopted though as the use of the B/Bb feature was not universal in
                the ecclesiastical tradition.

                Taken to its logical extreme, your argument might be a good reason to
                remove the sisters! My own bass for `Is Eagal Leam am Bàs', due to
                the lack of a teud leagaidh string on my fff-GG Queen Mary, feels a
                bit tricky in D mode round the A, G, F area. I'm sure Ruaidhri Dall
                had a bigger harp than me!

                Mind you, most of tunes I play where F tonality pops up to some
                degree usually pose no problems for me in the bass (Straloch p4 Port,
                Torloisk 'Keiking' Port 1st and Port (Gordon) 2nd, Carolan's Isabella
                Burke) This is perhaps because the rise and fall of the tunes keep a
                fairly parallel bass line from rising above the sisters.

                Beannachdan,



                Alasdair


                --- In clairseach@..., Simon Chadwick <pocmloc@g...>
                wrote:
                > Thankyou Alasdair, for suggesting one flat tuning - I have an
                > experimental gold string on the top b string and it won't go higher
                > than Bb!!! But I have to say I don't like it - the comhluighe
                strings
                > seem to change from being useful to being in the way. Unless you
                have
                > cheated and coloured in the strings with permanent marker pens,
                there
                > is no real difference between playing the tune in F one flat than
                in G
                > one sharp, except for the position of comhluighe in the scale.
                There
                > was a big discussion in Kilkenny this year about the purposes and
                uses
                > of comhluighe and I was very taken with the idea that the unison
                > strings acted as an important note in the mode. So with comhluighe
                at
                > G, it seems that G mode, C modes and D modes are all fine because
                they
                > would have comhluighe at the base note of the mode, the fourth and
                the
                > fifth respectively. But F mode would have comhluighe at the second-
                not
                > an important note in any modes I know of!!! I suppose the unison
                drags
                > one's attention to that pitch and makes the harp resonante slightly
                > more at that pitch and its consonances...
                >
                > So to answer your question, yes I see the Bb in that tune as being
                > easily omitted, but I am not convinced it is a good
                > mode/tuning/tonality to play it in. I'd shift it up to C I think...
                I
                > would think avoiding flat keys is not a regional eccentricity but
                part
                > of the fundamental nature of the instrument.
                >
                > Simon
                >
                >
                > > might have originally been played in F one flat... Would the
                Scottish
                > > harpers have avoided flat tunings like their Irish counterparts?
                Or
                > > was a finish on the note F just out of the question for Gaelic
                harpers
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