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improvising and northumbrian variatons

The Sandman 26 Jan 17 - 12:17 PM
Jack Campin 26 Jan 17 - 07:41 PM
The Sandman 27 Jan 17 - 05:55 AM
Jack Campin 27 Jan 17 - 08:33 PM
GUEST 31 Jan 17 - 05:46 PM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 31 Jan 17 - 06:21 PM
GUEST,matt milton 01 Feb 17 - 05:15 AM
GUEST,matt milton 01 Feb 17 - 05:18 AM
GUEST,AR 01 Feb 17 - 05:57 AM
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Subject: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Jan 17 - 12:17 PM

Wondered what other musicians think how much jazz influence there has been on imporovisation in the northumbrian pipes tradition.


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Jan 17 - 07:41 PM

Do you have somebody specific in mind?

Matt Seattle's intro to his edition of the William Dixon MS retrofits some chordings to it that Django Reinhardt would have found a bit weird. It's quite easy to invent a past that never was when tracing the origins of musical styles.


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: The Sandman
Date: 27 Jan 17 - 05:55 AM

not really jack, i find it intriguing that the northumbrian tradition,is unusual in that they have written variations.


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 Jan 17 - 08:33 PM

The first written-out Northumbrian variations are from around 1800. In Scottish music they go back nearly 100 years before that, and it's clear that bagpipers all over Britain had fixed sets of variations that might as well have been written down back in the 17th century. The piobaireachd variation form is as explicit and fixed as any written notation and goes back to about 1500 - it was based on European forms that you can trace on paper back about 1300.

The reason Northumbria looks different is that it was one of the few places where variations could still get an audience - aristos like the Armstrongs and Percys could employ a piper to perform big listening pieces, and variation form is an obvious way to construct those out of traditional materials. The fiddlers to the Scottish aristocracy did the same. Further south, the aristocracy could afford the larger forces of full-on art music, and that had more prestige, so the link between folk and art music idioms was mostly cut.

I'm sure somebody at the college in Gateshead is doing fusions of jazz and Northumbrian variation-mongering but I haven't heard anything like that. Northumbria never seemed to pick up on jazz the way Scottish trad did in the mid-20th century (Willie Johnson's Shetland guitar style from the radio station in Schenectady, Angus Fitchet's strathspeys with bal-musette chording).


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jan 17 - 05:46 PM

I seem to remember Angus Fitchet was a silent movie musician (fiddle) so his influences may have been the movement in the films.
In times past the great exponents of the Northumbrian pipe tradition were steeped in the tradition and tried to stay true to it .They were very critical of any deviaton in style and content.


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 31 Jan 17 - 06:21 PM

I find the Jazz influence in the Breton groups, such as Le Gop and Gwertz to be interesting. Seeing as these seem to stem from bagpipe tunes as well could make a rewarding study for someone.

Robin Madge


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 01 Feb 17 - 05:15 AM

Improvising variations - known as 'Divisions' - goes back many centuries. Classical musicians would have been expected to improvise to a 'ground' or bass. I think it's the same principle.

In collections like the Thomas Marsden, the tunes all have written-out variations, which I gather was unusual, and the fact that the Marsden title page boasts that it contains Divisions on each tune would support that. Some of the suggested variations are good, some are interminably banal.

So I don't think Northumbrian practices of improvising variants comes from jazz. Wouldn't the timescale be wrong anyway?

Improvisation aside, I do find, however, some melodic aspects in common between some Northumbrian tunes (especially the show-off hornpipes) and early jazz. Some hornpipes sound a bit ragtime. Ones that have a lot of chromatic runs in. Things like 'Flee like a Bird'.

Although I'd say this is coincidental, it nevertheless seems like synchronicity: in the late 19th century you hear a fair bit of jazzy turns of phrase in American folk tunes and also in classical music. I think it's perfectly possible that different musicians thinking and playing different types of music can be having similar ideas at similar times, without ever hearing each other or being directly influenced by each other. Certain progressions of an art form just seem to be in the air.


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 01 Feb 17 - 05:18 AM

Sorry, just to make it clear: when I said that it was unusual to have written-out variations, I meant that it was the 'written-out' bit that was unusual at the time [Thomas Marsden's time], not the variations themselves.


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Subject: RE: improvising and northumbrian variatons
From: GUEST,AR
Date: 01 Feb 17 - 05:57 AM

Not strictly Northumbrian, but some people reading this thread might be interested in a recent CD release from Vic Gammon and Friends on Fellside Recordings entitled 'Early Scottish Ragtime: Proto-Ragtime and American Dance Tunes in Britain in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries'.


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