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What's a breakdown?

Wesley S 09 Oct 08 - 11:59 AM
Bernard 09 Oct 08 - 12:22 PM
Desert Dancer 09 Oct 08 - 12:27 PM
The Villan 09 Oct 08 - 12:31 PM
GUEST,crazy little woman 09 Oct 08 - 11:03 PM
Darowyn 10 Oct 08 - 03:23 AM
Arkie 10 Oct 08 - 11:17 PM
Mo the caller 11 Oct 08 - 05:09 AM
GUEST,Dontreadplay. 14 Jan 17 - 05:36 AM
Thompson 14 Jan 17 - 01:43 PM
Mrrzy 14 Jan 17 - 04:52 PM
The Sandman 14 Jan 17 - 05:32 PM
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Subject: What's a breakdown?
From: Wesley S
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 11:59 AM

I know a breakdown when I hear one but is there a definition of what they are exactly? How old is the term? And does it predate bluegrass music?


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Bernard
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 12:22 PM

Mental? Mechanical? Nervous?

I would guess, as it's an instrumental piece, that the meaning is derived from an instrumental 'break'...


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 12:27 PM

Here are two good responses for the same questions from The Session:

1)
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/reed/hrabout.html
Breakdown: instrumental tunes in duple meter (2/4 or 4/4) at a quick dance speed. This general term in the American South is roughly equivalent to the term "reel" elsewhere in the English-speaking world. But it does not imply a particular type of dance; a "breakdown" tune may be used for square dances, longways dances, or other group dances, as well as for solo fancy dancing.
Reels: a class of dance tunes in duple meter (2/4 or 4/4 time), played at a fast tempo. The reel as a dance was originally a "longways" dance with couples forming facing lines, but the reel as a tune class is used for all sorts of group dances. In the American South the reel class has expanded into the large and generic breakdown class of dance tunes.
# Posted on October 19th 2007 by wyogal

2)
In American Old Time fiddling the term "Breakdown" is used mostly in the Southern mountainous regions of the U.S ranging from the Appalachian chain westward into the Ozarks - with some spill over into the bordering areas.

In these regions the term "Breakdown" means an up-tempo dance tune that's played mostly by bowing two adjacent strings simultaneously while noting one or the other of'em. The two adjacent string pairs that are bowed will change as the tune's played.

This technique's especially effective when the fiddle's "cross-tuned" usually to ADAE for the key of D or AEAE for the key of A. The effective is to create a louder sound and to impart greater energy to the dancers - who are usually clogging.

In these regions a tune that's played by using mostly single note sequences to impart the melody and rhythm is often called a "Hornpipe" - without regard the how the term's used outside these regions - dotted eighth rhythm.

Southern OT fiddlers who prefer to render a tune using mostly single notes sequencesare sometimes referred to as "Hornpipe Fiddlers". This usually a derisive term unless the target's especially good at it. Probably Cyril Stinnett from Missouri was one of our best - if not the best - American "hornpipe fiddler".

Most OT fiddle tunes combine a bit of both styles of playing. Any of these might be called a Breakdown, or sometimes a Reel, or sometimes even a hornpipes, though usually they just have a name that doesn't include any of these terms. We don't really have a rule book... ;-)

In Texas and points West the term "Breakdown" has been replaced by the term "Hoedown". I don't know the origin of the newer term. In Texas - and many of the Prairie states" - it's too hot to clog so the dance of choice there is the "Two step" that wants a slower tempo than that used for clogging. As dancing to live fiddling as has died off over the years, Texas fiddlers have used the slower tempo of the Hoedown as an opportunity to improvise on the older Breakdown tunes - creating the newer "Texas Style" of contest fiddling.

--OTJ
# Posted on October 19th 2007 by OTJunky

and, from the Online Etymology Dictionary, under the entry for "break dancing":
breakdown "a riotous dance, in the style of the negroes" is recorded from 1864.

The Slang Dictionary: Or, the Vulgar Words, Street Phrases, and ... (Google Books Result) by John Camden Hotten - 1869
"BREAK-DOWN, a noisy dance, and violent enough to break the floor down ; a jovial , social gathering, a FLARE up; in Ireland, a wedding"

~ Becky in Tucson
Googling in the morning


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: The Villan
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 12:31 PM

Hope its not this

breakdown


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: GUEST,crazy little woman
Date: 09 Oct 08 - 11:03 PM

Around here (Kansas City) a breakdown is a fast, improvisatory section that follows a more sedate song or dance. There's no pause between the firat tune and the breakdown. It is loosely based on the song or dance, usually very loosely.


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Darowyn
Date: 10 Oct 08 - 03:23 AM

In modern electronic dance music, House, Garage, Trance etc., the breakdown is the opposite. It's the part of the tune where the driving bass and kick drum parts are dropped out of the mix for a few loops.
It's mainly a device to add variation to what is fundamentally a highly repetitive group of genres- and it allows the producer to give the tune a big lift when the beat comes back in.
At least in this genre the word breakdown is used in its most literal sense of breaking the arrangement down. I've never previously understood how the word comes to describe the faster and more elaborate section on bluegrass and old-time styles.
Thanks for the education.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Arkie
Date: 10 Oct 08 - 11:17 PM

Some of the older fiddlers here in the Ozarks referred to any fast fiddle tune used for a square dance as a breakdown. Jimmy Brown the Newsboy would be called a breakdown if played at a fast tempo for dancers.


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Mo the caller
Date: 11 Oct 08 - 05:09 AM

Interesting.
There is a popular square dance called Chinese Breakdown.
And a contra dance called Homassassa Hornpipe that isn't danced with the step-hop that I would expect from the term.
But then words change their meanings in the Appalachians 'do-ce-do' is a completely different move too.


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: GUEST,Dontreadplay.
Date: 14 Jan 17 - 05:36 AM

Somebody posted a definition in another blog from the old time fake book.
I don't know much but I do know you will never find anything about old times fiddling in there.
A break down is simply an old time up tempo dance tune that makes you want to get drunk, fight and..... (oh well! I'll leave the other to your imagination)


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Thompson
Date: 14 Jan 17 - 01:43 PM

Isn't it also in dancing terms a section of a dance?


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: Mrrzy
Date: 14 Jan 17 - 04:52 PM

I always thought it was where you played so fast that you broke down and couldn't play any more...


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Subject: RE: What's a breakdown?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Jan 17 - 05:32 PM

could it be joe offer dancing with rage as a moderator? or when mods start calling people certified assholes etc.


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