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Jim Besser

Theme Of The Month, May 2014: Speed Zone Ahead!

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This month's theme is a little different: fast tunes played slow - or slow tunes played fast

 

For a while I was in a band with a woman who always seemed to hear the music we played on a deeper level than the rest of us. Once we were tearing through a Scottish reel at a lively clip when she stopped us and said:

 

"Slow it down - way down - and listen to what a beautiful tune this really is."

 

We did, and she was right.

 

As sort of the flip side of this, my ceilidh band recently took a Morris dance jig normally played at a slow, deliberate pace and sped it up for a rollicking ceilidh dance. The dancers loved it, and the speedup gave this great tune a whole new dimension.

 

So that's May's challenge: take a tune normally played fast and slow it down. Find ways to make it work at a radically different speed.

 

Or take a tune usually played at a slow and stately pace and turn on the afterburners. The goal isn't just to make it fast - anybody can do that - but to make it sound good when sped up.

 

Let's have some fun with this!

 

 

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Have to go for the original version first, Robert - however you don't seem to have destroyed thar I'd say...

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Here's the common Morris dance tune Cuckoo's Nest. It's commonly played at a moderate tempo; my ceilidh band also does it as part of a fast dance set.

 

I wanted to try it slow and lyrical, but I think you can still hear vestiges of my Morris playing in it. Experimenting with some different chords. Played on a 30 button G/D Jeffries Anglo.

Edited by Jim Besser

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Well, "normally" can be very different for different individuals and also for different cultures. But rather than harp on that (I've never been good with stringed instruments), I'll start with this submission: Planxty Irwin.

This O'Carolan tune is often played as a waltz, but I like to play it very freely as a slow air, then a bit more quickly and steadily, though still not as briskly as when I play it for folks to actually waltz to. Here I've started with that "halfway" version, then tried to turn it into a jig. I'm not 100% satisfied with the result -- there are too many "twiddly" bits, and I don't feel I have the stress quite right, -- but as an experiment in improvisation I think it's an acceptable start. B)

Edited by JimLucas

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Well, "normally" can be very different for different individuals and also for different cultures. But rather than harp on that (I've never been good with stringed instruments), I'll start with this submission: Planxty Irwin.

This O'Carolan tune is often played as a waltz, but I like to play it very freely as a slow air, then a bit more quickly and steadily, though still not as briskly as when I play it for folks to actually waltz to. Here I've started with that "halfway" version, then tried to turn it into a jig. I'm not 100% satisfied with the result -- there are too many "twiddly" bits, and I don't feel I have the stress quite right, -- but as an experiment in improvisation I think it's an acceptable start. B)

 

Nice. I sorta like it as a jig. More than acceptable, I'd say

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Planxty Irwin gives one pause doesn't it? Like Fanny Poer you find it written out in 6/8 in the Sullivan book. Both of them seem to work well in 6/8 as jigs or at least as jig like tunes. Interesting too that John Irwin is written in C in Sullivan. Bearing in mind that Carolan was a singer and there are words that makes better sense. But I've never heard it played in anything except G.

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That's still a nice one Jim, and all the more with contrasting the two parts. Love the running upwards when resuming the signature motif within the A part - might fit into the B part as well...

 

Best wishes - Wolf

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So I was wondering how some Cotswold Morris tunes would work as rapper jigs. The one I tried was Balance the Straw, normally played at a relatively modest pace.

 

A failed experiment, I think; it sounds sort of dumb. And it's not fast enough for rapper! Somewhere along the way I lost track of A and B parts.

 

https://soundcloud.com/concertinist/balance-straw-fastmp3mp3

Edited by Jim Besser

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So I was wondering how some Cotswold Morris tunes would work as rapper jigs. The one I tried was Balance the Straw, normally played at a relatively modest pace.

 

Jim B.'s Balance the Straw for rapper (take 1)

 

A failed experiment, I think; it sounds sort of dumb.

Dumb? I don't think so.

Failed? No. You can learn from it and try again. Besides, I think you're criticizing the result for the wrong reasons.

 

And it's not fast enough for rapper!

I disagree. Speed it up if you like, but not everyone does rapper at Formula 1 speeds... not even in America. ;)

 

Somewhere along the way I lost track of A and B parts.

That's no big deal. Rapper tunes don't necessarily hold strictly to AABB format, but instead should follow the figures. If you had dancers to watch, you shouldn't have a problem, and without dancers, it shouldn't matter.

 

The main point where I think it gets a little awkward is in the "stick tapping" part, where you seem to lapse into your Morris style of chording and lengthened notes. In the rest of the tune you double up (or split, depending on your perspective) quarter notes into two eighths, but there you don't. To show what I mean, I've just experimented with eighth notes all the way through (and a couple of very small melodic changes, which just seemed to follow from that), so here it is, "warts and all":

Jim L.'s Balance the Straw for rapper (take 1)

 

Another thing that seems not quite rapperish to me is that for most of the tune your harmony line seems too heavy, dragging at the melody. I would suggest that no note of that lower part be held longer than an eighth note (possibly staccato, and definitely no quarter or dotted quarter held below 2 or 3 eighth notes in the melody), and that you also drop the triples of harmony eighth notes where you have them paralleling similar triples in the melody (in the harmony, just play the first of the triple).

 

One last thing is that you seem to be giving only one stress per measure (per 6 eighth notes), where rapper should have two, and those stresses should be nearly equal, as rapper stepping doesn't give more emphasis to one foot than to the other. Your phrasing in that respect follows the Morris phrasing, but the Morris double step takes twice as much of the melody as a rapper shuffle step. (Hmm, listening to my own recording above, I think I'm also not giving enough of the second stress. Too used to playing it for Morris. I should work on that and try again.)

 

Note: These are suggestions from my personal perspective. Our tastes don't necessarily agree, and I can't even guarantee that these suggestions will produce the results I intend, but I think they're worth a try.

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The main point where I think it gets a little awkward is in the "stick tapping" part, where you seem to lapse into your Morris style of chording and lengthened notes. In the rest of the tune you double up (or split, depending on your perspective) quarter notes into two eighths, but there you don't. To show what I mean, I've just experimented with eighth notes all the way through (and a couple of very small melodic changes, which just seemed to follow from that), so here it is, "warts and all":

Jim L.'s Balance the Straw for rapper (take 1)

 

Another thing that seems not quite rapperish to me is that for most of the tune your harmony line seems too heavy, dragging at the melody. I would suggest that no note of that lower part be held longer than an eighth note (possibly staccato, and definitely no quarter or dotted quarter held below 2 or 3 eighth notes in the melody), and that you also drop the triples of harmony eighth notes where you have them paralleling similar triples in the melody (in the harmony, just play the first of the triple).

 

One last thing is that you seem to be giving only one stress per measure (per 6 eighth notes), where rapper should have two, and those stresses should be nearly equal, as rapper stepping doesn't give more emphasis to one foot than to the other. Your phrasing in that respect follows the Morris phrasing, but the Morris double step takes twice as much of the melody as a rapper shuffle step. (Hmm, listening to my own recording above, I think I'm also not giving enough of the second stress. Too used to playing it for Morris. I should work on that and try again.)

 

Note: These are suggestions from my personal perspective. Our tastes don't necessarily agree, and I can't even guarantee that these suggestions will produce the results I intend, but I think they're worth a try.

 

 

Jim - I agree with most of your comments, especially "The main point where I think it gets a little awkward is in the "stick tapping" part, where you seem to lapse into your Morris style of chording and lengthened notes. In the rest of the tune you double up (or split, depending on your perspective) quarter notes into two eighths, but there you don't. I could hear that as I was playing. The tune might not be the best candidate for "rapperizing" because it is so obviously a dance with a sticking chorus; it needs some tweaking of the B part to work.

 

Regarding speed: American rapper groups tend to dance much faster than many UK teams, which sometimes seems to limit the range of usable tunes - and is why some fiddlers play tunes written specifically for rapper, which make it easier to maintain both the speed and the rat-a-tat feel. Maybe I'll get to that before the month is out!

 

So tell me: what common Cotswold tunes do you think would work best as rapper jigs?

Edited by Jim Besser

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Maid of the Mill, Ilmington played slowly and then rapper speed?

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZKAl8zyjKc

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo_QD6M8Z8c

 

I have now got close with the tuning, I will wait a week or so. It should be 1/6 comma meantone, converted to A/E using Wheatstone reeds with

G naturals on pull under both little fingers. I did a quick semi bushing by sticking felt flat to fretwork after punching holes.

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So tell me: what common Cotswold tunes do you think would work best as rapper jigs?

 

Now that's an interesting challenge! (And I don't mean that you're personally challenging me, Jim, but that it's a task to challenge my abilities. :))

 

I've taken out my copy of Bacon's Black Bible and started looking at tunes, trying them, and making notes for further experimentation. So far I've gotten through Adderbury and Ascot-under-Wychwood, so I've a long way to go. :o I've already picked a few to try and can see that there are some which would need only minor adjustments (Sweet Jenny Jones), some major (Jockey to the Fair), and some which have so many popular variants that one could debate what's an "adjustment" and what isn't (Haste to the Wedding; remember that one?). :unsure: I hope to continue with a more studied list and commentary, though I can't promise when.

 

But I've already changed my mind about one thing I said (or at least implied) in my previous post.: Longer notes can work just as well for rapper as Jig-git-ty Jig-git-ty. It's very much a matter of crispness of playing and where one puts the stress. And having come to that conclusion, I then discovered that Graham had added his post and video, which I think beautifully demonstrates precisely that point. :)

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So tell me: what common Cotswold tunes do you think would work best as rapper jigs?

 

Now that's an interesting challenge! (And I don't mean that you're personally challenging me, Jim, but that it's a task to challenge my abilities. :))

 

I've taken out my copy of Bacon's Black Bible and started looking at tunes, trying them, and making notes for further experimentation. So far I've gotten through Adderbury and Ascot-under-Wychwood, so I've a long way to go. :o I've already picked a few to try and can see that there are some which would need only minor adjustments (Sweet Jenny Jones), some major (Jockey to the Fair), and some which have so many popular variants that one could debate what's an "adjustment" and what isn't (Haste to the Wedding; remember that one?). :unsure: I hope to continue with a more studied list and commentary, though I can't promise when.

 

But I've already changed my mind about one thing I said (or at least implied) in my previous post.: Longer notes can work just as well for rapper as Jig-git-ty Jig-git-ty. It's very much a matter of crispness of playing and where one puts the stress. And having come to that conclusion, I then discovered that Graham had added his post and video, which I think beautifully demonstrates precisely that point. :)

 

 

Yes.

 

When I used to play at the Half Moon Sword Ale I payed a lot of attention to the different way various musicians played for rapper. Some used the endless jig-git-ty jib-git-ty format; others stripped the tune down and really punched the vastly diminished tune. On the few occasions when I've had to play solo for rapper, I've mostly done the latter, and it seems fine with the dancers. Example: the ubiquitous (in the rapper world) Swallowtail Jig: punching the first and fourth notes of measure thru much of the A part. Sometimes, that seems to give a clear rhythm to dancers than the endless jig-git-ty blur.

 

When a local rapper team was getting started, they recruited a truly gifted fiddler who had never played anything remotely like rapper. Being an ECD player, she went thru the Barnes book, pulled out interesting jigs and adapted them for rapper. The result was outstanding - still very danceable, but not the mind numbing but frantic boredom of so much rapper music.

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Alexandra Park, a jolly tune adapted from Kerr's Merrie Melodies tune book, played faster than usual, on my Wheatstone treble. My wife doesn't think it quite makes it. I'll leave others to judge. :rolleyes:

 

http://soundcloud.com/aeolaman/alexandra-park

 

Chris

 

That is indeed a jolly tune; I'm betting it will find its way into a Tune of the Month poll before too long!

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Alexandra Park, a jolly tune adapted from Kerr's Merrie Melodies tune book, played faster than usual....

 

Which brings me back to my earlier comment/question regarding the relativity of "usual". I've heard this tune before, but always somewhat faster even than the recording you've just given us. So for comparison, how about recording it for us at what you consider to be the "usual" speed?

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