Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ULRICUS - Instrumentenbau - Wilfried Ulrich

Link here: http://www.ulrich-instrumente.de/index.html

In page on the Hummel:
Die Hummel war ein weit verbreitetes Volksmusikinstrument im 19. Jahrhundert - nicht nur in Norddeutschland. Durch die immer mitschwingenden dicken Begleitseiten, die an das Summen der Hummeln erinnerten, entstand der lautmalerische Name für die Instrumente. In Schweden heißt das Instrument Hummla, in den Niederlanden Hommel oder Noardske Balke, in Belgien Vlier und in Frankreich Epinette, in Tschechien Kobza. (vergleichbar Scheitholt)

Die Melodiesaiten wurden mit dem linken Zeigefinger oder einem Spielstab niedergedrückt, während die rechte Hand die Saiten mit einem Plättchen oder Federkiel traktierte. ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Appalachia: A note for flatlanders (moved from faculty website)

Since the Appalachian dulcimer is played by people from New England to California these days, the following note is offered as a public service. People who live in Appalachia have their own way of saying the word. There's even a poem sometimes offered for the edification of flatlanders. It goes like this:

"Snake," said Eve,
"If you try to deceive,
I'll throw this apple atcha."
-- Loyal Jones and Billy Edd Wheeler. Laughter in Appalachia. Little Rock: August House, 1987. 90

Monday, June 15, 2009

HUM 223 (fall 09): New textbook in roots music course

Ordered today at the BenU-Springfield bookstore:

It's "The Black and White of American Popular Music" by Vera Lee. Here are the product details from Amazon:
Paperback: 376 pages 
Publisher: Schenkman Books (February 14, 2007) 
Language: English 
ISBN-10: 0870470779 
ISBN-13: 978-0870470776 
Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches 
Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces 

Replaces "American Music: A Panorama" by Lorenzo Candelaria and Daniel Kingman. We'll still use "Deep Blues" by Robert Palmer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

'Boys of Bluehill' has a (sort of) Chicago connection

This from Andrew Kuntz' Fiddler's Companion (scroll down to the song). :

BOYS OF BLUEHILL, THE (Buacailli Ua Cnoc-Gorm). AKA ‑ "Beaux of Oak Hill," “Boys of North Tyne,” "Lads of North Tyne," "Silver Lake" (Pa.), "Jenny Baker," "Lonesome Katy,” “Two Sisters,” “Twin Sisters." Irish, Reel or Hornpipe. D Major. Standard tuning. AABB (most versions): AA’B (Moylan). [Capt. Francis] O’Neill (who said the melody was unknown to Chicago Irish musicians beforehand) had the tune from a seventeen year old fiddler named George West, who, though gifted musically, was somewhat indigent and did not own a fiddle. He had formed a symbiotic musical relationship of sorts with one O’Malley, who did own a fiddle and who eked out a meagre living playing house parties despite the loss of a finger from his left hand. O’Malley, however, invariably could only make it to midnight before he became too inebriated to bow, at which time West took over his fiddle and finished the night’s engagement. “Thus lived the careless, improvident but talented Georgie, until an incident in his life rendered a trip to the far West advisable." Early American recorded versions on 78 RPM’s give the title as “Boys from the Hill” and “Slieve Gorm.” Fiddler Tommy Dandurand (Chicago/Kankakee, Illinois) recorded the melody as “Beau of Oak Hill” in 1927, and it is this title that is familiar to many American fiddlers not influenced directly by Irish repertoire (of which “Boys of Bluehill” is a staple hornpipe).
"The tune is perhaps older in American tradition than in Irish," adds Kuntz, "although its provenance is unknown, although in American tradition it is almost always played as a reel rather than a hornpipe." He cites a printed version as “The Two Sisters” in George P. Knauff’s Virginia Reels (1839) and variants from southwestern Virginia, North Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and the Ozarks. An Ohio variant dates to 1842.

There's a fascinating biography of Captain O'Neill in the program notes for "The Police Chief Who Saved Irish Music" on WTTW public television of Chicago. Lengthy excerpts available online from Irish Minstrels and Musicians (1913).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Links to 'Escomb Prayer'

Discussed in Robert Jonas' article "Blowing Zen in Belfast" and included on his CD New Life From Ruins: Zen Celtic Sacred Songs and Meditations ... text is available online in a blog called theology, life and faith in the UK by Maggi Dawn, a British free-lancer with credits on spiritual topics.
As the rain hides the stars,
As the Autumn mist hides the hills,
As the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
So the dark happenings of my lot
Hide the shining of thy face from me.

Yet, if I may hold thy hand in the darkness,
It is enough.
Since I know, that though I may stumble in my going
Thou dost not fall.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Porkchop from old blog profile

Copied here so I don't lose it while I switch to a new home PC ...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Misc. links to psalmodikon articles in Denmark, Sweden, Maine and southeastern Minnesota

1. 2. Kirsten Ostenfeld. "Psalmodikon - et dansk musikpædagogisk eksperiment." http://dvm.nu/files/musik_forskning/1978/mf1978_03.pdf.
ca. 30 pages. Published in 1978.

2. Hans Lundgren. "Östervålapräst grundade församling i USA" Upsala Nya Tidning Jan. 8, 2009. Article on 200th anniversary of Lars Esbjorn's birth in Swedish newspaper. Excerpts:
Esbjörn tog psalmodikon med sig till USA, ett slags folklig föregångare till gitarren. Johan Dillner hade uppfunnit ett siffernotsystem så att vem som helst kunde spela på instrumentet. L.P Esbjörn transkriberade också noter för psalmodikon. Musiken förbättrade sången och spred psalmerna.
Håkan Nilsson, dagens kyrkoherde i Östervåla, fascineras av den dådkraftige Esbjörn:
- Han förtjänar verkligen att lyftas fram. När han kom tillbaka till Sverige år 1863 var han en stor man också inom kyrkan. Han hade tänkt sig återvända till Dellenbygdens blå berg, men dåvarande kyrkoherden i Östervåla, just Johan Dillner, dog och Esbjörn ersatte honom.
* * *
I Östervåla har för övrigt gator uppkallats efter de två samt kyrkoherden Forssell.
200-årsfirandet av Esbjörns födelse har redan inletts i Östervåla. På hans grav på gamla kyrkogården brinner ljus varje dag och under sommaren skall där finnas färska blommor hela tiden. Officiellt startar firandet söndagen den 6 april med en kontraktshögmässa till hans minne.
- Intresserade inbjuds det veckoslutet bygga sitt psalmodikon med en expert som kursledare, säger Håkan Nilsson.
I sommar besöker ett 70-tal studenter från Augustanasynodens collegekör Sverige. De kommer till Östervåla kyrka och Uppsala domkyrka i början på juni. I början på juli besöker biskopen Ragnar Persenius Östervåla.

3. Matthew Shippee, contractor, Maine Arts Commission, Traditional Arts Division, "Report On Discovery Research Fieldwork in the Swedish Colony" June 2001. Cultural Directory, Maine Swedish Colony. http://www.geocities.com/mscguide/shippee/">http://www.geocities.com/mscguide/shippee/ Excerpt quotes Alma Huddleston, who plays piano or keyboard to accompany singing in Covenant church:
Alma's regular repertoire consists of some Swedish hymns which have become so popular in other Christian churches that most people don't know them as "Swedish" hymns. These include: "How Great Thou Art," "Day by Day," and "Children of the Heavenly Father." These and most hymns sung at the church are in English. Alma says that, in contrast with even 10-20 years ago, now she only plays other "really traditional Swedish hymns" two or three times per month. She speculates that the reason for this is lack of familiarity with the language and music. "If people at church can't sing the songs we don't want to play them," she says. And, she adds, "Even at Midsommar, when we sing both the American and Swedish Anthems, the Swedish one gets quieter and quieter every year because fewer people know it."

It is a telling sign of the times to hear Alma lament that, "I play the old Swedish hymns at funerals more than any place else now. A lot of the old people and their families want that music."

Still, Alma feels that Swedish music will continue to have some presence in the church. She says she finds the rewards for playing it are great, even in the face of a fading tradition: "When we do sing those old hymns in church I love it. I really love to hear the older people sing them because you can tell how meaningful it is to them."
A psalmodikon is on dispaly in the New Sweden Museum. "It is roughly 40 inches long and has markings indicating finger positions. It most closely resembles a dulcimer, but with only one string."

4. On a website maintained by the "Friends of Wasioja," a local historical society in southeastern Minnesota, an account of an "old-fashioned Christmas service at "the historical Baptist Church" in Wasioja, Minn., preserved and maintained by the Dodge County Historical Society. Cite as from Don Green, "Christmas at the Wasioja Baptist Church," Dec. 19, 2008. Unheated building with 10 inches of fresh snow on the ground. Greene writes:
Marlyn Schroeder from Mantorville brought her grandfather's psalmodikon and did a solo, Jeg Er Sa Glad. It was very unique, and she shared the history of this instrument. It is a single-stringed musical instrument. It was developed in Scandinavia for simplifying music in churches and schools. Beginning in the early 1800s, it was adopted by many rural churches in Scandinavia; later, immigrants brought the instrument to the United States. At the time, many congregations could not afford organs. Dance instruments were considered inappropriate for sacred settings, so violins were not allowed. The psalmodikon, on the other hand, was inexpensive to build, was not used for dancing, took up little space, and could be played by people with little musical training. Its slow, melodic quality worked well with the hymns of the period. Examples of older printed music from these churches often have numbers written over the words. These corresponded to numbers painted on the fret board of the psalmodikon. This allowed players who could not read standard musical notation to accompany hymns. As churches saved money for organs, psalmodikons became less common. By the late 20th century, they were rarely seen outside of museums. Marlyn also brought her violin and was accompaniment for the carols, and also played a violin solo, Ashokon, a Civil War melody.
Not a bad summary. Nice color.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Praetorius pix / scheitholt / hommel (w/ sound file)

Creative Commons pix of diverse violins from Praetorius' "Syntagma Musicum" (1618) showing scheitholt and the "pochette" violin mentioned in Ralph Lee Smith's book on Kentucky songcatchers.


Volume X · Spring 1955 · Number 3
Michael Praetorius and his Syntagma Musicum



Music in the Daily Life of Vermeer: The Hommel
by Adelheid Rech

Very informative on a website about the painter Vermeer about the Flemish hommel. Links to a very brief mp3 file of a scheitholt played by a Helga Wagner (see note below). Quotes follow:

The hommel was primarily played in the privacy of the family circle of the lower classes. The great majority of the players were farmers, craftsmen or itinerant tradesmen who played at the fairs, and in years to come, factory workers. It is indeed the only folk instrument played by women, and more than half of the hommel-players still known by name today, are women. Unfortunately, not a single hommel has ever been detected in paintings of any kind.

The hommel may occasionally have been employed for the accompaniment of the congregational singing. The earlier municipal museum of Ypres (West Flanders), unfortunately destroyed during First World War, once housed a large hommel from the 17th century that substituted a church organ.3

But the hommel also served the military. In 1771 J. W. Lustig mentioned the hommel as an instrument for "soldatenmuziek" ("soldiers' music"). It was especially popular among Belgian front soldiers in First World War.4

During the first half of the 19th century the hommel had gradually fallen out of use and was only sporadically played in Frisia and northern Holland, mainly by elderly people. In his article "De hommel of Noordsche Balk," 5 J. C. Boers reports the story of an old woman from the isle of Föhr (North-Germany) who related that her hommel came from Holland (Frisia) where elder[l]y men or women accompanied home singing and "Sunday afternoon psalms" up to the 1870s.

* * *
The hommel is played with a noter held in the left hand, a stick of hard wood, 5-7 cm long, for the fretting, and by plucking the melody string/s and drones with a plectrum7held in the right hand. Instead of the noter some players use the fingers of the left hand to stop the melody string/s on the frets and pluck with the fingers and occasionally the thumb of the right hand.

Noting (fretting) and plucking are generally done simultaneously; rapid melodic passages and grace notes are played with one single stroke (glissando). While playing, the instrument is usually placed on a table top or chest; the musician sits down or plays standing. Occasionally the hommel is played while held across the lap or knees.

By Googling "Helga Wagner" I found a webpage featuring antique musical instruments made by "Klangwelt" in Süsterseel, Germany 

Musikinstrumente aus aller Welt und aus eigener Werkstatt 

including the scheitholt, the Finnish kantele and the dulcimer  

Monday, June 01, 2009

Turlough O'Carolan, music and MIDI files


From the "Tribute to Turlough O'Carolan" by Bridget Haggerty on the website 
Irish Culture and Customs:

In Carolan's time, there were three musical traditions in Ireland
- art music, folk music, and the harper tradition. The harper
tradition served as a link between art and folk music and was
the main conduit for the oral tradition. Carolan created a
unique style by combining these art forms, and then adding
elements inspired by Italian music which was then fashionable
in Ireland. He was a great admirer of Vivaldi and Corelli,
whose modern music he would have heard in the homes of
his noble Irish patrons, and this admiration is reflected in
the melodic construction and forms of many of his pieces. ...

When he was in Dublin, Carolan was the frequent guest of
Dr. Patrick Delany, Professor of Oratory at Trinity College,
in whose honour he composed a tune. Through Delany he came
in contact with Jonathan Swift. Swift and O'Carolan
collaborated in translating a poem by Carolan's friend,
Hugh Magauran, 'Pléaraca na Ruarcach' or 'O'Rourke's Feast,'
for which Carolan wrote the music.
The website has 213 of Carolan's tunes, from "Lady Athenry" to "Squire Wood's Lamentation (on the Refusal of his Halfpence)." Another website, The IrishPage.Com, has a page on "O'Rourke's Feast" complete with the story of the song, a MIDI file (apparently lacking on the Old Music Project) and Dean Swift's translation, which begins:
O'Rourke's noble fare - Will ne'er be forgot
By those who were there - Or those who were not.
His revels to keep, - We sup and we dine
On seven score sheep, Fat bullocks and swine
Usequebaugh to our feast - In pails was brought up,
A hundred at least, - And the madder our cup,
O there is the sport! - We rise with the light
In disorderly sort, - From snoring all night.
And so on. Nice song. Worth a listen. The website is a project of Jack & Vivian Hennessey