chords/bows & curtseys (coorection)

David Ll. Hills

Message 1090 · 24 Feb 1995 01:38:16 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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On Thu, 23 Feb 95 18:05:00 EWT Anonymous rejoined:

>On Wed, 22 Feb 1995 17:22:58 +0000 David Ll. Hills said:
>>Many say many Strathspeys today are a snail's crawl compared to yesteryear
>>(all part of accommmodating the Greying Masses :-) ? or the RSCDS Ruling
>>Gerontocracy :-) ?).
>If you take this thesis to its extreme, then any Really Ancient Person should
>be able to perform the travelling step in extremely slow motion, perhaps taking
>as much as 5 seconds to execute one step. But what magnificient fitness and
>muscle control would be needed to perform the first extension in such slow
>motion, with that perfection, proximity to the floor and graceful sinking of
>the (upper) body which the standards demand.
>Do you really believe that ?


Ah yes ... the extreme, wonderful place to be; and no I do not, because I
do not accept your premise.

You allow that the strathspey step requires much control for that "which
the standards demand". The construction of these standards, and why you
feel you should yield to their demand, is perhaps a yarn for another

I would like to distinguish between "quality" of execution, and tempo, as in:

high |
| X X
| X X
| X X
low |_X___________X____ tempo
fast slow

X is some person's performance. They cannot do the step well if they do it
very fast, with no time to articulate the sequence of movements; they
cannot do it well if they have to do it very slowly (your point, above).

So I can postulate as an initial (modifiable) premise that there is some
curve of quality which peaks at some tempo, different for each person and a
function too of their age or physical capability.. Perhaps the curve is
flat at the top in some cases where quality is maintained over a range of
tempo. You get the idea?

One person generates a family of curves, as they age from youth to senior
citizen or other life changes. Perhaps quality goes up then down, and/or
the peak moves. I think it impossible to have a uniformly *flat* curve
-consistent quality regardless of tempo. So we are likely to have a
flattened Poisson type distribution curve, which starts at (0,0), the
origin. It rises, inevitably to decline again to zero.

There seems little doubt that Strathspeys have slowed. I ask elsewhere "Why?".
My first theory is the simple difficulty of accommodating the execution of
a carefully scupltured but far from natural collection of movements (the
standards) (and just think of Monty Python and John Cleese "Ministry of
Silly Walks").

If you can do this well I agree it can look spectacular. I cannot, and most
of the hundreds of dancers I have see cannot or do not, to a greater or
lesser degree. (And remember how they do at the end of the Ball when
tired!). It does not seem to matter how much time you give them; measured
against the standards it is performed merely pefunctorily. This is a source
of abiding concern to some, unfortunately, and much energy and muscle
tension go into the possibly futile effort to correct matters (as in
calling on "Scottish Pride" etc).

Since it might well be easier to attempt to obtain the much prized dignity,
while simultaneously doing the strenuous, a slower tempo is likely to help
in most cases, and next time, next decade, an even slower one perhaps. As
you age your quality may deteriorate, measured against the standards, but
*you* may get the feeling, justified or not, that you have done all the
myriad bits in the right way. At the older, faster tempo you will feel

A corollary to this is the distaste for 8x32 bar strathspeys - discussed on
this list a while back. We need to play them faster to reduce the agony,
but can't because we don't do them fast these days, or to do fewer
repetitions but don't, because we dare not modify the dance as currently
written or commanded or demanded - I am never sure which.

I would love to hear other theories to explain the observations.


*David Hills [Opinions mostly mine own; facts are everybody's]
Jet Propulsion Lab, Pasadena CA, U S A
Melanin impoverished, optometrically assisted, cerebrally eximious {}8-^)
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synaptically neuronic, corpuscularly haemoglobinaceous, vascularly pulsing,
callichoreically inclined. harmlessly devastating, clarifying epexegesis,
carphological ataraxia, unbiased opinion.

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Universe. --- Carl Sagan

Man no sooner discovers a new intelligence than he tries to involve it
in his own stupidity. --- Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Self control? Hey I've got bags of self control. I just never get a chance
to exercise it! --- To be revealed

I may not be unique ... but I am one of a kind
--- David Ll. Hills

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radar. --- James Clerk Mixwellandswallow

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perfect, which I denied, as their hanging was omitted.
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