Thursday, March 30, 2006

R.I.P. Francie Mooney

Some sad news from IRTRAD-L:

Francie Mooney (Proinsias Ó Maonaigh), died last night (Tuesday 28th March) at 8pm in his home in Cois Cladaigh, Gaoth Dobhair, Donegal. Husband to Kitty, father to Mairéad, Gearóid and Anna, a teacher, writer, footballer, actor and musician. A warm and wise man, generous with his knowledge and music. He was a teacher and inspiration to very many musicians and singers. It was Francie who gave Altan their name and their reason to play music. Francie will be buried in his home parish after 11am Mass on Thursday 30th March. "Slán, slán go fóill, a Dhún na nGall, a chondae shéimh gan smálIs dod fheara brea in am an ghá, nár umhlaigh riamh roimh Ghall. Tá áit i mo chroí do gach fear 's gach mhnaoi, is gach páiste beag agus mór, Atá beo go buan, gan bhuairt, gan ghruaim. Fá Ghleanntáin Ghlas Ghaoth Dobhair". Tom Sherlock

Friday, March 17, 2006

WWW: ITM Streaming Radio

Here are some links to free, streaming radio programs featuring Irish music:

People who don't want their computer brought to a standstill by Real's invasive software might want to consider Real Alternative for listening to the Real format streams.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tunes: Rhythm History

Alan Ng has been plotting the frequency of tune rhythms recorded each decade:

Click the image to access his full report which includes the top ten tunes per decade and more.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Practice: Patience and Perseverance

I found this Chiffboard post and the discussion that followed worthwhile. It began with the following quote from Willie Clancy:

Get a grasp of the Gaelic tongue and develop a love for it. Go to the Gaeltacht and the old people who have it and learn it. I feel that a knowledge of our language is essential if you are to express the true spirit of our music and, as the saying goes, "Don't settle for the skim milk when the cream is at hand". Apart from that have patience; learn to walk before you run. You might have a flair for the music, you might think you're good at it, and you might be tempted to plunge ahead without perfecting your technique; well it might be in your head but your fingers will let you down. So, start playing early and develop your technique with patience, practice and perseverance.

I can remember being frustrated years ago when I realized that I was a much better driver than I was a musician simply because I drove the car more often than I practiced playing, despite telling myself that music was more important. No matter how much you say you value something, doing is how we learn.

So will learning Irish make your reels better? Maybe.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Recordings: Sony Settlement

Did you buy "Live from Dublin" by the Chieftains? If so then their label owes you a new CD and possibly some cash.

Claim your share of the Sony BMG settlement

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tunes: The Atholl Highlanders

Every time I play this tune I ask what I've gotten myself into. With four parts, and some tricky fingerings, it's the hardest tune I play right now. That it lends itself well to speed doesn't help matters much. My teacher says it's a good tune for me to practice as it will help me clean up note transitions which involve moving most or all of my fingers at once, since there are a lot of those in this tune.

It's also a lot of fun to listen to. The Tannahill Weavers have an unusual but excellent arrangement where they play the tune through once, then sing Johnny Cope, then play the Atholl Highlanders again. You can hear this on their albums "Tannahill Weavers IV" and "Best of 1979-1989."

I couldn't find a transcription I liked (read: one which sounded like what The Tannahill Weavers and my local session play), so I ended up making my own. It's a combination of ideas and phrases used in the following versions, plus what I hear on the cited recording:

Here's the ABC:
T:Atholl Highlanders, The
K:A mix
|:e3 ecA|ecA Bcd|e3 ecA|Bcd cBA|
e3 ecA|ecA Bcd|eae fed|cdB A3:|
|:Ace Ace|Bdf Bdf|Ace Ace|Bcd cBA|
Ace Ace|Bdf Bdf|eae fed|cdB A3:|
|:a2e edc|a2e edc|a2e edc|Bcd cBA|
a2e edc|a2e edc|eae fed|cdB A3:|
|:cAc cAc|dBd dBd|cAc cAc|BGB BGB|
cAc cAc|dBd dBd|eae fed|cdB A3:|
Those who like dots can cut and paste this into's ABC Convert-A-Matic.

Since this is a pipe tune I'm using cuts instead of tonguing to separate the (many) repeated notes. My teacher thinks this is excellent cut practice but too much from a listening point of view. I think it makes it sound more "bagpipey." There's probably a happy medium somewhere, but I don't have any recordings of the tune played on tin whistle for reference.

One of the fiddlers in my session plays an interesting variation in the last part. In the fourth measure of that part, he plays B2 B2 B2 instead of BGB BGB. This has the effect of disrupting the march beat and sounds pretty nice when only one person plays it and the rest of the session plays the tune as usual. However, it's too much, in my opinion, when the entire session plays that variation, in part because it's too disrupting to the beat and in part because it gets rid of the G natural, which gives the mixolydian mode its distinctive sound.

Despite being in 6/8 this is a march and not a jig, so it should have a march beat instead of a jig rhythm. I suppose you could play it as a jig if you wanted to, though.

Music theory geek digression: You occasionally see this tune scored in A major with accidental naturals on the Gs. I think that's incorrect, although I've seen an argument for the practice. Since we use the two-sharps key signature for tunes in E dorian, why use three for A mixolydian, which uses precisely the same notes?