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What are 'Humo(u)rs'?

GUEST,Ian cookieless 25 Jun 09 - 07:25 PM
MartinRyan 25 Jun 09 - 07:39 PM
Charley Noble 25 Jun 09 - 10:05 PM
NightWing 25 Jun 09 - 11:12 PM
Rowan 25 Jun 09 - 11:29 PM
Jack Campin 26 Jun 09 - 03:09 AM
theleveller 26 Jun 09 - 03:15 AM
Crow Sister (off with the fairies) 26 Jun 09 - 03:42 AM
peregrina 26 Jun 09 - 04:17 AM
Tattie Bogle 26 Jun 09 - 06:14 AM
The Sandman 26 Jun 09 - 06:19 AM
GUEST,Henryp 26 Jun 09 - 07:29 AM
MartinRyan 26 Jun 09 - 10:35 AM
Jack Campin 26 Jun 09 - 11:03 AM
Amos 26 Jun 09 - 11:11 AM
GUEST,Lighter 26 Jun 09 - 11:30 AM
wysiwyg 26 Jun 09 - 11:40 AM
Zen 26 Jun 09 - 11:47 AM
squeezeboxhp 26 Jun 09 - 05:37 PM
Jack Campin 26 Jun 09 - 05:43 PM
GUEST,Russ 26 Jun 09 - 05:45 PM
David Ingerson 26 Jun 09 - 06:51 PM
Jack Campin 26 Jun 09 - 07:45 PM
GUEST,Ian cookieless 26 Jun 09 - 08:06 PM
wysiwyg 26 Jun 09 - 11:32 PM
Jack Campin 27 Jun 09 - 02:38 AM
Phil Edwards 27 Jun 09 - 04:29 AM
David Ingerson 27 Jun 09 - 04:44 AM
MartinRyan 27 Jun 09 - 05:36 AM
Jack Campin 27 Jun 09 - 08:19 AM
Rumncoke 27 Jun 09 - 11:04 AM
David Ingerson 27 Jun 09 - 04:11 PM
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Subject: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless
Date: 25 Jun 09 - 07:25 PM

There are lots of Irish tunes called 'The Humo(u)rs of ...' followed usually by a place name (though there's also 'The Humours of Whiskey' and '... Winter'). What exactly are 'homo(u)rs'? And do these tunes have anything in common musically (I certainly can't spot anything)?   

Thanks

Ian


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 25 Jun 09 - 07:39 PM

The "humours" were the four (?) bodily fluids thought to determine a persons well-being. So, I suppose, it meant the life-blood of a place. Nothing in common musically.

Regards


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Jun 09 - 10:05 PM

Jan-

"Humours" were part of the medical diagnosis by doctors in the 18th century, and the term may well have escaped from the medical practitioners to musicians as a catchy phrase to describe a tune.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble, who often humors his humours


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: NightWing
Date: 25 Jun 09 - 11:12 PM

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humorism):

Essentially, this theory held that the human body was filled with four basic substances, called four humours, which are in balance when a person is healthy. All diseases and disabilities resulted from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. The four humors were identified as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Greeks and Romans, and the later Muslim and Western European medical establishments that adopted and adapted classical medical philosophy, believed that each of these humors would wax and wane in the body, depending on diet and activity. When a patient was suffering from a surplus or imbalance of one fluid, then his or her personality and physical health would be affected. This theory was closely related to the theory of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air - earth was predominantly present in the black bile, fire in the yellow bile, water in the phlegm, and all four elements were present in the blood.

Theophrastus and others developed a set of characters based on the humors. Those with too much blood were sanguine. Those with too much phlegm were phlegmatic. Those with too much yellow bile were choleric, and those with too much black bile were melancholic. The idea of human personality based on humors contributed to the character comedies of Menander and, later, Plautus.

Through the neo-classical revival in Europe, the humor theory dominated medical practice, and the theory of humoral types made periodic appearances in drama. Such typically "eighteenth-century" practices as bleeding a sick person or applying hot cups to a person were, in fact, based on the humor theory of surpluses of fluids (blood and bile in those cases). Ben Jonson wrote humor plays, where types were based on their humoral complexion.

Additionally, because people believed that there were finite amounts of humors in the body, there were folk/medical beliefs that the loss of fluids was a form of death.

I would assume that it refers to the temperments of people as they drink (or survive the winter :-): sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. Certainly EVERYONE has met both the choleric (fighting) and melancholic (morose) drunks. Depending on the song's lyrics, perhaps it refers to a progression through those temperments, as you drink more ... or as winter progresses.

BB,
NightWing


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Rowan
Date: 25 Jun 09 - 11:29 PM

A musical (in this case) tribute to the spirit of the place, beverage, season, ...

Cheers, Rowan

Who also, frequently, hopefully routinely, humours humors.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 03:09 AM

I don't think any of these explanations are specific enough. It's not an obvious word to use for a tune. I'd guess that some specific tune (in which the word had a more precise relevance) started the tradition off and the later tunes copied the form of words as if it named a genre, which it doesn't.

"Humours of Glen" (c.1800) must be one of the older ones, and one set of parody words for it uses the phrase in the verse. But I haven't seen the original words for that one. Anybody got a copy of Fleischmann's book handy?


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: theleveller
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 03:15 AM

I've always taken it to mean a state of mind; i.e. the state of mind you're in when drinking whiskey, during the winter etc. I suppose it also has something to do with the idea of 'humouring' someone.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Crow Sister (off with the fairies)
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 03:42 AM

Yeah a humour, is a state of mind - but one associated to the early belief that temperements were determined by certain fluids in the body. It was a form of early typology.

Over time this idea has become a more general term. Being in 'Good Humour' or 'Bad Humour' or indeed any other kind of humour, no doubt (I'd guess) relates back to the four origonal medical humours and the temperements associated with them.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: peregrina
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 04:17 AM

Is it restricted to Irish tune names?
This use of the term might ultimately derive from humoral theory, but if so then it's odd for it to be restricted to Irish tunes; that makes me think an explanation closer to hand would be more convincing. Could it not rather be a by-word for 'air' or a translation of an Irish term? Jack's suggestion above (humours of Glen as a sort of paradigmatic example that gave the term currency) also seems an attractive suggestion.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 06:14 AM

Probably one of the best-known is the Humours of Tulla, but can't shed any further light on why it's so-called (the humour bit, but this one is definitely hcheery and sanguine!)


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 06:19 AM

the Humours of Ballydehob[The spirit],in this cae sunny,jolly.come to Ballydehob where the sun always shines.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: GUEST,Henryp
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 07:29 AM

I've been told that the performance of a tune entitled 'Humours' included, or allowed, an element of improvisation in the second half.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 10:35 AM

As I thought I posted earlier - bear in mind the art music usage of "humoresque", also.

Regards


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 11:03 AM

Probably no connection - the first art music usage is decades later than "Humours of Glen", from the other end of Europe and an entirely different kind of piece. The art music titles are also standalone rather than "Humoresque of...".


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Amos
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 11:11 AM

In addition the fluids which tempered the tides of the blood in Galen's ancient model of human makeup, the word also came to mean a passing fancy or sentiment, or whimsy.

"humours - In medieval physiology, four liquids in the human body affecting behavior. Each humour was associated with one of the four elements of nature. In a balanced personality, no humour predominated. When a humour did predominate, it caused a particular personality. ...".

I suspect, but do not know for sure, that the usages meaning "whimsey" and "funny" are descendants of the Athenian usage. The Ayurveda school of medicine which developed originally around the time of Buddha uses a similar model, and the word may come from the Sanskrit.

"AMBITION is like choler; which is an humor that maketh men active, earnest, full of alacrity, and stirring, if it be not stopped. "
(Francis Bacon)

Origin:
1300–50; ME (h)umour < AF < L (h)ūmōr- (s. of (h)ūmor) moisture, fluid (medical L: body fluid), equiv. to (h)ūm(ēre) to be wet (see humid ) + -ōr- -or 1


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 11:30 AM

One sense of the word "humor," derived from the medieval theories, is "mood," which I suspect is what it means in the tune titles.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 11:40 AM

The fluid that fills the eyeball is called the Vitreous Humor (humour).


In the later stages of alcoholism the eye gets a permanently wet, glassy look.



I suspect these phenomena (as given upthread as well as in this post) are all related.

If alcohol is a factor, some of the ways they are related will be poorly articulated ("elephant in the living room" or "it's just part of the culture" types of communication), so it could be hard to get it untangled to musicological satisfaction.

~S~


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Zen
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 11:47 AM

I tend to agree with Guest, Lighter that, in this context "Humours" means "moods" or perhaps "spirit" as suggested by others.

Zen


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: squeezeboxhp
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 05:37 PM

in the building trade humour means to fill out the difference between two or more gradients of a footpath or ramp to make ease of passage possible or coursing between old masonry and the new work attached to it


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 05:43 PM

I don't think that last one is known to the OED - tell them about it (with a documentable citation if possible).


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 05:45 PM

Although the four humours were located in the human body, the basic pattern of four was used to explain a wide variety of phenomena.

For example the blood humour was assocated with the spring seaon, the element of air, and the qualities of warm and moist.

So, the balance of the humours in a person or group of people would be influenced by such things as the time of year and their geographic location.

Thus people in different locations (warm and moist as opposed to cold and moist)would be expected to display different temperaments.

Russ (permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 06:51 PM

One issue that has not been mentioned (and should be considered, especially if we are going as far back as 1800) is that we might be dealing with a translation from the Irish language. I'm afraid I don't have a whole lot of light to cast on this issue, but I did find some interesting information in O'Neill's Music of Ireland, Eighteen hundred and Fifty Melodies.

He lists 3 airs or songs starting with "The Humors of..."
20 double jigs
1 slip jig
4 reels
3 hornpipes

He also lists the names of his tunes in English and in Irish, and in every one of the 20 or so that I checked (by finding where the tune is printed--and the only place its Irish name is listed), in every case the Irish word is "sugra" which means playing, sporting, or fun.

I don't know if the names of these tunes originated in the Irish or in English (possibly some in each) or which way the translations went in O'Neill's collection, or even who did the translating. Sugra might well be a translation from the English. Even if it is a translation from the English, though, it does give a slightly different light to the meaning of "humour."

So, although this is not very authoritative, humo(u)rs, in this usage, might more aptly mean the "joys" of this place, or the "light-heartedness" of that place.

David Ingerson


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 07:45 PM

Looking up Gore's "Scottish Fiddle Music Index", I get these dates for "Humo[u]rs of ..." tunes:

Hillsbrough (Rutherford, London, 1750)
Glen (Charles MacLean, Edinburgh, 1774)
Covent Garden (Bride, London, 1780s)
Dublin (McGlashan, Edinburgh, 1781)
Kilkenny (McGlashan, Edinburgh, 1781)
Graignamanoch (Aird, Glasgow, early 1780s)
Limerick (Aird, Glasgow, 1780s)
Listivain (Aird, Glasgow, 1780s)
The Point (Aird, Glasgow, 1780s)
Panteen (Bowie, Perth, 1789)
Burrow (William Campbell, London, 1790s)
Nairnshire (composed by a lady from Morayshire, pub Nathaniel Gow, Edinburgh, 1798)
Kildare (William Campbell, London, c1800)
Cullen (Christie, Edinburgh, 1820)

All are in 6/8. None have alternate Gaelic titles. The original idea seems to be English. Anybody know of one earlier than "The Humors of Hillsbrough"?


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 08:06 PM

Thank you all for contributing to a discussion wider than I had anticipated. Any more, anyone?

Ian


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 26 Jun 09 - 11:32 PM

I can't recall why I might know this, or think I do, but wasn't "humours" also once used to describe foggy mists or vapours?

~S~


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 02:38 AM

It occurred to me that the Hillsborough in the first recorded instance of this name probably wasn't the site of the stadium disaster (northern England), but instead was Hillsborough Castle in County Down, Ireland. The Marquess of Downshire was made Earl of Hillsborough in 1751, which is consistent with the castle (really a Georgian mansion) being a venue for fashionable dances by 1750 when the tune was published.

I don't remember Bride's book (read through it a few years ago) but it was common for English tunebooks of the period to include a few Irish tunes. They are the main period source for Irish repertoire that old - Irish dancing masters would have used English books (or books simultaneously published in London and Dublin) for a lot of their Irish repertoire, particularly the new and trendy stuff.

I don't believe anybody used most of O'Neill's Gaelic titles in real life - he must have got a Gaelic-speaking associate to make them up.


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 04:29 AM

The OED defines "humours", between the 16th and 19th centuries, as

"Moods or fancies exhibited in action; vagaries; fantastic, whimsical, odd, quaint, or humorous traits."

A couple of the citations seem quite close to the musical usage:

1674 "To shew the Apish Fashions, and ridiculous Humors and Conversations of some of our Town-Gallants."
1763 "Observe the humours of a Country-Christening, and you will find no Court in Christendom so ceremonious."

I think it's as if you had a tune entitled "Whimsy of Hillsborough" or "Caprices of Hillsbrough" - it's shorthand for "here's a daft little tune I wrote for a lark, the other day in Hillsbrough".


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 04:44 AM

It seems that Jack, you have nailed the history of the word. I noticed an interesting progression in the Irish collections:

Bunting (with collections dated 1796 and 1840) has no tunes named "Humours of..."

Petrie (collections dated 1855 and 1882) has one tune starting with the word.

O'Neill (1903) has 31 tunes named that way.

From these dates and the dates of the Scottish tunes listed by Jack, it would seem to have been first a Scottish naming convention, originally in English, which then migrated to Ireland.

Cheers,

David


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 05:36 AM

Yep - that seems to make sense. I'll see what I can find out about O'Neill and Irish.

Regards


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 08:19 AM

I think most of those early tunes are Irish, as the names indicate. Gore's index doesn't just cover Scottish tunes - he indexed any book that was the primary source for a significant number of Scottish tunes, and for each book he covered, he indexed all of it rather than try to filter out the non-Scottish material (that way lies madness). The result is that his index includes a lot of English and Irish tunes as well (and Italian and French ones to a lesser extent). There were so few publications specifically of Irish tunes before the 19th century that these English and Scottish books are the major source for older Irish dance music.

A better index to use in looking up Irish stuff is the National Tune Index, an enormous and very complicated index on microfiche that covers almost every tunebook published in the British Isles and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries - Bruce Olson is the only private individual I've ever heard of who owned one.

It might be worth finding out what the social scene in those places was like. Hillsborough was a meeting point for the Anglo-Irish elite (and still is). My guess is that these tunes were all written by professional musicians for dance assemblies of the upper classes in Ireland - none of them are really "folk" in the core sense. The dancers at those assemblies would have understood hifalutin literary allusions to Galenic physiology. Perhaps there are literary sources (novels or diaries) that explain what "humours" meant to the wealthy Anglo-Irish?


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: Rumncoke
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 11:04 AM

Could the connection be more in the way of to humour someone who has some sort of excentricity or fixed idea?

I mean in the sense of not going against that idea - so that a humour of a place would be evocative of it so the humours of a valley in music would perhaps evoke thoughts of rippling streams, birdsong, wind in the trees and suchlike.

Just a thought.

Anne Croucher


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Subject: RE: What are 'Humo(u)rs'?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 27 Jun 09 - 04:11 PM

Well, yes, Jack. You are right, of course. (Now that I notice the names of the tunes--with a red face--and not just the dates and where they were published.) Thanks for all that background information.

This is a fascinating thread, but I think I'm in a little over my head. Thanks for asking the question, Ian.

Cheers,

David


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