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Author Topic: Melodeon Key and Regional culture  (Read 9964 times)

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Bob Ellis

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #60 on: August 14, 2015, 11:22:08 AM »

A classic example of English melodeonists narrowing the choice of keys is Jump at the Sun. Written by John Kirkpatrick in Gm and often played in Dm in France (where it is so popular that I have twice had French musicians tell me that it is a traditional French tune!), English melodeonists have ensured that it is almost always played in Em in sessions.
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Theo

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #61 on: August 14, 2015, 11:37:01 AM »

Theo said "There is also an argument that in England the introduction of the DG melodeon has narrowed the choice of keys".
Whilst I think this is true (melodeons playing Rose of Raby in Am when its written in Gm etc) I think it can be overstated. I did an analysis of the keys written down in the various tune books from the Lake District - William Irwin, Henry Stables, Matthew Betham etc - and found that 37% were in D and 30% in G, making 67% for D or G. Only 9% were in C.

That does mean that 33% are not in D or G! Certainly some will be in minor keys that are accessible on a DG box, but the occasional tune in other keys is like the seasoning in in food - it's a very small proportion but it has an effect that is disproportionately large.
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Theo Gibb - Gateshead UK

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Chris Ryall

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #62 on: August 14, 2015, 01:39:28 PM »

Yes, Jump at the Sun is a totally standard piece in France, asserted as "Trad Burgundy" to me at the Luzy Accordéon festival a few years back, heard at many if not all bals traditionels. I have to say that most of my friends in the SE play it in Am (perhaps a regional cultural variation).

I have only heard it in Gm from John himself, and in the Elsinore "holier than thou" session at Whitby, performed by the concertina chap in the special chair and his friend of PA, (rest of room silent)

That's to say that there are social as well as cultural issues in what is being discussed ;)
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Rob2Hook

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #63 on: August 17, 2015, 02:24:56 PM »

Assuredly the key in which one plays Jump at the Sun is purely dependant on the home keys of the box you're playing at the time!  This does indeed link to the original subject of the thread, but is rather strange in that JK famously said he couldn't understand why it was so popular on melodeon as it derived from a pattern available on the B/C/C# without any major displacement to reach the accidental.  He could have played it in any key just by moving his hand along a little, so I guess Gmin happens to be a comfortable position on the keyboard?

Rob.
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emcintosh

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #64 on: August 17, 2015, 03:34:05 PM »

Changing key on BCC# also changes the *shape* of the tune on the keyboard (and where the bellows direction must change). On a CBA, a key change would involve the simple 'move the hand a little' I think you're suggesting. The only trivial transposition is ± a semitone by moving it between the B&C and C&C# rows (as George Garside has mentioned before).

Perhaps it's because Gm includes all the notes that are only available in one direction on BCC# (push G; pull A, Bb & D), forcing you to play bouncily?

It's nice to hear that some tunes are written with my own peculiar version of melodeon in mind!
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Bob Ellis

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #65 on: August 17, 2015, 04:01:01 PM »

Assuredly the key in which one plays Jump at the Sun is purely dependant on the home keys of the box you're playing at the time! 
Rob.

Not if you are playing in a band led by a piano accordion player and a mandolinist! They choose a key they like and the rest of us have to fit in!  :(

Having said that, I quite like playing Saut vers le Soleil as our band delights in calling Jump at the Sun, in Dm, although I sometimes struggle with the fingering patterns.
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #66 on: August 17, 2015, 05:00:34 PM »

Jump at the Sun is not the best example, as even in 'friendly' on row minors it is non diatonic. It uses … well in C it's  :o

  C D Eb F F# G Ab (Bb or B?) C

Which is sort of aolian (or harmonic, if he's in the mood and choses B natural) minor with bebop style F# sharp 4 in there too. I don't think he'd done a load of musical theory whe he wrote it - therein the genius! You could also regard it as a cross between harmonic minor and blues scale - indeed many jams it gets played in do (latterly) lapse into blues? (Web scale find faciilities are unable to name it either)

On a diatonic instrument (as per JK's BCC#) - yes, it either plays where you can fit it - or you use those bellows quite a lot and get to know those accidentals!
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Bob Ellis

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #67 on: August 17, 2015, 05:44:03 PM »

I don't think he'd done a load of musical theory when he wrote it - therein the genius!

Oh, I think he had! He was a student at the Guildhall School of Music at the time. More or less contemporaneously with Jump at the Sun, John wrote a four part harmony medley of Morris tunes to be sung by the London Student Chorale, of which Sue Harris and I were both members. I have a hand-written copy somewhere. While I haven't used it for several decades, I can still recall some of the complex harmonies - beautiful!
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Bob in beautiful Wensleydale, Les Panards Dansants, Crook Morris and the Loose Knit Band.
Clément Guais 3-row D/G/acc.; Karntnerland Steirische 3-row G/C/F; Ellis Pariselle 2.6-row D/G/acc.; Gabbanelli Compact 2-row D/G with lots of bling, Acadian one-row in D; Junior Martin one-row in C.

oggiesnr

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #68 on: August 17, 2015, 10:46:33 PM »

I don't think he'd done a load of musical theory when he wrote it - therein the genius!

Oh, I think he had! He was a student at the Guildhall School of Music at the time. More or less contemporaneously with Jump at the Sun, John wrote a four part harmony medley of Morris tunes to be sung by the London Student Chorale, of which Sue Harris and I were both members. I have a hand-written copy somewhere. While I haven't used it for several decades, I can still recall some of the complex harmonies - beautiful!

He was also a chorister which is about the best musical training you can get.

Steve
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squeezy

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #69 on: August 18, 2015, 12:58:07 AM »

Yeah - John hides his musical training under a folk bushel - but it's certainly there alright!

When considering that he wrote jump at the sun on a B/C/C# box in G minor - maybe we should give him a bit more credit and allow for the fact that he actually wanted that as the key for it to be played in?  Different keys can have wildly differing sounds on all kinds of instruments and really change the nature of the piece if transposed ... I don't have perfect pitch - but I can really appreciate the different mood that can be achieved by changing the key I play a piece in.  Jump at the sun for me is lovely in Em on a D/G box - and I don't think that anyone should be able to say "you can't do that" - not even JK himself - but I do prefer to hear it in Gm as it was intended.  Once you have written a piece of music - you should set it free!
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oggiesnr

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #70 on: August 18, 2015, 10:37:10 AM »


Once you have written a piece of music - you should set it free!


Who was it who said something on the lines of "You don't publish songs, you abandon them and see what happens?"  (:)

My memory says Frank Zappa but I'm not sure.
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #71 on: August 18, 2015, 10:47:08 AM »

I met John K at folk camp in 1970.  Gobsmacked (I was 17) at some of his play I asked him straight about "training" and he denied any. ::)  So I'm quite pleased (speaking as a jealous fellow musician) to hear he was lying through his smile. (Sue turned up at the Derbyshire camp in 1972) :|glug
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Gary Chapin

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #72 on: August 19, 2015, 02:47:08 AM »

Once you have written a piece of music - you should set it free!
Yes, Absolutely. I don't usually chime in to say what he said!

But ... WHAT HE SAID!
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Howard Jones

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #73 on: August 19, 2015, 09:27:23 AM »

 "There is also an argument that in England the introduction of the DG melodeon has narrowed the choice of keys".
 
Isn't it simply that the introduction of the melodeon has narrowed the choice of keys?  Any diatonic instrument is unavoidably limited in the keys it can play, whether D/G or something else.  If people are going to play together, rather than give individual performances, then those who play chromatic instruments must expect to compromise.

It was also inevitable that with increased mobility there would be increased standardisation of instruments as more people want to be able to play together. Fiddlers should at least be thankful that we have settled on a standard instrument which is in fiddle-friendly keys, despite arguably not being the best-sounding pitches for the instrument.  If we'd settled on Bb/Eb as standard they'd have more grounds for complaint.

On the other hand we also have to accept that we have chosen an instrument with limited capabilities and that sometimes we will have to sit out a tune which is in another key.

Sebastian

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #74 on: August 19, 2015, 10:43:14 AM »

Isn't it simply that the introduction of the melodeon has narrowed the choice of keys?
It would be interesting to consider, which instruments the melodeon did oust. I don't know about the situation on the isle, but in the german regions it was Hummel and Scherrzither, two instruments with metal strings and diatonic fretboard (antecestors to the modern mountain dulcimer). They more or less already imposed a key. (The same holds true to a great extend for bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy.)
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squeezy

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #75 on: August 19, 2015, 02:48:12 PM »

I don't know about other kinds of uses for instruments - but the instrument of choice in playing for morris dancing seems to have been vaguely Pipe and Tabor > Fiddle > Concertina > Melodeon with quite a lot of overlap.  If you go back far enough in history then there isn't such a thing as a standard pitch either so keys become less important!

The recordings of Jinky Wells (a pre-squeezebox fiddle player for Bampton morris dancers) suggest that keys and pitch were not considered too much! Certainly in this clip he's playing in something which sounds approximately like F# major!
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Squeezy

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Sebastian

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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #76 on: August 19, 2015, 05:40:42 PM »

If you go back far enough in history then there isn't such a thing as a standard pitch either so keys become less important!

The recordings of Jinky Wells (a pre-squeezebox fiddle player for Bampton morris dancers) suggest that keys and pitch were not considered too much!
Yes, of course. I didn't want to say something different.

What I meant was: When building peasant instruments, there were regional traditions, e. g. how long the strings and the fretboards were. And as these instruments were diatonic instruments and had more or less fixed bordun voices, this influences the key the instrument plays in. Wilfried Ulrich in his book "Die Hummel" (Cloppenburg, 2011) [there is an english translation available] measured some 40 plus dulcimer-like instruments. Nearly all instruments from NW Germany (+ what is now Netherland &c.) had playing string lengths of approx. 64 - 74 cm. Instruments from SE Germany (+ neighbouring regions) were all considerably shorter (approx. 40 - 55 cm). This influences the pitch and with that the key the instrument is played in. It is not important, whether the key is F, E or G or something in between. But it is not very likely that such instruments were played in C or B or something in that region.

Another thing: On keyed instruments (e. g. organ) the intervalls were not equal in different keys, so that different keys really had different characters. But similar to you, I don't think this is a topic in this discussion. We speak about musical culture outside the artificial mainstream.
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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #77 on: August 19, 2015, 06:19:54 PM »

I'm not sure that there were ever such conventions of instrument building here in England (outside the classical instruments) - all the evidence I've ever seen was that people used whatever they could get hold of to play which in the late 1700s and early 1800s were violins (as well as hand-me-down classical violins people played instruments they made themselves from old tins!) - so I suppose that's where we get the "traditional" keys of D,G and A from if the violins were played on the natural open string keys of the instrument.

The only other tradition I can think of is the Northumbrian piping tradition where the pipes were historically made in an older sharp version of Bb with tunes being played mainly in a key somewhere between F and F# (modern pipes will play in concert F)
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Re: Melodeon Key and Regional culture
« Reply #78 on: August 20, 2015, 01:38:56 AM »

Maybe not quite old tins but two Norfolk blacksmiths at Briston and Letheringsett made iron cello's for the local church band in the late 17 - early 1800s, both surviving in the respective churches - reputedly 'loud' but tonal qualities unknown - the latter village smith Johnson Jex also devised and made (in their) entirety pocket watches and chronometers and the tools for wheel cutting etc plus 'sceientific instruments' in metal & glass.

Thankfully, if he also created an all iron melodeon rust has (probably) saved us from it, probably
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