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strathspey@strathspey.org:45444

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  • John Chambers

    John Chambers June 1, 2006, 5:15 p.m. (Message 45444)

    Re: Divided by a common language (was Reels and Hornpipes)

    Jim Healy <xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxx.xxx> wrote:
    | John Chambers wrote:
    |
    | >For example, the terms "reel" and "jig" are used  by  both  musicians
    | >and  dancers,  but  with unrelated meanings.  And most of them aren't
    | >even aware of the problem.
    |
    | Until the dancer asks a piper to play a 'jig'
    
    Yeah. And over the years, I've played for a lot of Morris and related
    dance styles, where "jig" simply means a solo dance. The music can be
    just about any rhythm, though most that I've  heard  or  played  were
    hornpipes.   I've  read a couple of places that "jig" originated as a
    term for lively, bouncy dances, mostly of the sort where  the  dancer
    is  occasionally airborn.  How musicians came to use the term for one
    particular rhythm seems to be a bit of a historical mystery.
    
    The same things seems  to  happened  with  "reel",  which  apparently
    started  life as a term for the sort of dance figures where you weave
    or zig-zag among the other dancers. This is still how dancers use the
    term,  but somehow musicians decided to apply it to a particular sort
    of very busy duple rhythm. A reel can be done to music in any rhythm,
    so this was a nonsensical use of the word.
    
    My general theory is that most of these things happen through various
    sorts of misunderstandings. If you watch interactions between dancers
    who aren't musicians and musicians who aren't dancers, you'll see all
    sorts  of miscommunications.  It sometimes seems amazing that the two
    crowds manage to communicate at all, despite their obvious  symbiotic
    relationship throughout history.
    
    How little is actually known about all this is illustrated by the
    Oxford Dictionary, where the "jig" entry says "XVI. of unkn. orig."
    and the reel entry says "OE. hreol, of which no cogns. are known."
    
    One of my favorite anecdotes on the topic is the report a  couple  of
    years  back  from  some  astrophysicists, who had discovered that one
    stable solution to the Three Body  Problem  is  an  orbit  that  they
    called  the Scottish Reel (for 3).  In looking for stable orbits of N
    bodies, they had calculated that you  could  place  three  bodies  of
    roughly  equal mass in a straight line, and give them all a push that
    results in them following this familiar dance figure until an  outide
    force  disturbs them.  As far as I've read, no actual example of this
    orbit is known.  One likely place for it is at the  so-called  Trojan
    Points in a heavy planet's orbit around the sun.  There are groups of
    asteroids known to be at these points in the orbits  of  Jupiter  and
    Saturn,  so  it's  possible that some of them are doing a reel for 3.
    Studying them isn't easy, but this is on the To-Do lists of a  number
    of astronomers. Whether they'll be found to be dancing to any special
    rhythm in the Music of the Spheres is a topic for further research.
    
    
    --
       _,
       O   John Chambers
     <:#/> <xx@xxxxxxxx.xxx.xxx>
       +   <xxxxxx@xxxxx.xxx>
      /#\  in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, Earth
      | |
      ' `
          

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