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  • Bruce Hamilton

    Bruce Hamilton May 28, 2006, 9:14 p.m. (Message 45416)

    Re: Reels and Hornpipes

    Steve Wyrick wrote:
    > Out of curiosity I read through my copy of Ryan's Mammoth Collection
    > (American, 19th C) from which Cole's 1000 was later derived.  It  
    > has a huge
    > hornpipe section, 251 of them from various origins.  Out of those,  
    > 205 had
    > the stereotypical "bom bom bom" ending in at least one of the 2  
    > parts, and
    > most of the others had some derivation with 3 strong beats (i.e.,  
    > triplets,
    > dotted eight/sixteenth pairs, etc), so I would take from this that  
    > the 3
    > strong beats at the end is a reasonably reliable indicator of the  
    > tune form.
    Thanks for taking this trouble, Steve (and thanks to Sylvia for  
    suggesting it).  It's the method I use myself, along with a sense  
    that the tune wants to be played slowly and dotted (for all but the  
    "pom, pom, pom"s) so that it has a distinctive "swing."  If you'll  
    forgive my trying to do this in text, the signature phrase ending is  
    "yaa, di-daa, di-daa, di-daa, di-dum, dum, dum."
    > I suppose this begs Goss' question though; were they originally  
    > written as
    > hornpipes, or later classified that way because of the ending?   
    > Also some of
    > these are newer American compositions which could be simply  
    > imitating the
    > style.
    I don't think anybody knows. Did the "waltz" name, the waltz rhythm,  
    or the dance come first?
    A few miscellaneous things:
    * The instrument was doubtless a pipe made of horn. The Harvard  
    Dictionary of Music (which I don't have handy) has a picture which  
    isn't very clear, but shows no bag attached. The Concise Oxford  
    Dictionary of Music has no picture, but says it had a reed  
    mouthpiece, suggesting that it was blown directly, rather than via a  
    * In referring to rhythms (vs. instruments), the *term* hornpipe  
    changed meaning some time in the late 18C. Many sources mention this  
    change, but none that I've seen explains why.  Before about 1750 the  
    term "hornpipe" refers to a tune in 3/2 time (e.g. the famous theme  
    in the Water Music, "Alla Hornpipe"). After about 1800 the same term  
    refers to a tune in the rhythm Steve describes.  The tunes didn't  
    change, and the dances to them didn't change; the terminology  
    changed. So we have to be careful when we talk about what a hornpipe  
    is, to say which meaning of the word we are using. Steve and I are  
    using the modern meaning.
    * The urge to "dot" or syncopate a hornpipe (at least in English and  
    Irish dancing) is so strong that most of them are written as even  
    eighth notes, with the understanding that the musician will play them  
    dotted (long-short, long-short, etc.). You will even find references  
    to an "undotted hornpipe," which means that the musician will play  
    the notes evenly. (An example of the exception which proves the rule!).
    > Incidentally, this book also has a section of approx. 50 Clogs,  
    > which to my
    > eyes look like somewhat ornate hornpipes written in 4/4 time  
    > instead of 2/4.
    > Can anyone explain the difference, which I assume has to do with  
    > the dance
    > forms rather than the tunes (some of the hornpipes are annotated  
    > "can be
    > played as a clog")?
    English clog dances (vs. Irish and American) are generally danced to  
    hornpipes.  Although the judges look for accuracy of form, once  
    that's satisfied, the showier the better. Thus, more beats per bar.  
    Thus a trend to play the tune even slower than a regular hornpipe (no  
    metronome nearby, but strathspey tempo is close). At this speed, BTW,  
    the dotted nature of the tune is even more important for it to stay  
    interesting, so the musician slightly exaggerates that character.
    There's a good collection of information on Colin Hume's web page:
    Bruce Hamilton   650-328-0474 (home)  408-553-2818 (work)  408-553-3487 (fax)

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