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Author Topic: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff  (Read 5915 times)

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Chris Brimley

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #40 on: December 30, 2015, 01:46:20 PM »

Interesting, Mike.  I don't think you're suggesting that this tune goes into A dorian, are you? - that C# crops up too frequently.  Your approach to this whole subject seems akin to mine, I think.

If I can nail my colours to the mast, as it were, I find modal theory interesting and convincing, but not perhaps as useful as many suggest.  It seems to me that it started as a 'descriptive' and theoretical tool, and musicologists such as Maud Karpeles sought to show that it was applied by folk melody writers in bygone times.  OK, applying post hoc rationalisation, many tunes fell into that category, it seemed.  But to categorise something is not to explain it, particularly as it is somewhat unlikely that folk musicians understood the theory.  More likely, they wrote tunes on limited instruments, such as the bagpipes, and were therefore constrained.

Some people, such as Chris's French virtuoso players, have clearly developed modal theory into new directions - a sort of 'suggestive' role for the rules.  Nothing wrong in that, interesting music results.  You need to be a bit careful not to turn music into an academic exercise, because that isn't how it's listened to by most audiences, but hey, most listeners are broad-minded enough to open their ears to that too.

But where I have difficulty is where modal theory takes on a 'predictive' role, because that actually limits the writer's original intent, and imposes 'musical' rules that were never actually there.  In the AH tune for example, unless someone shows that William Ross actually specified that he wanted an E major or an E minor chord against the melody (pretty unlikely, I guess he just wrote out the melody line for the pipes?), then I feel it's open to a player to interpret as they see fit.  Personally, I 'hear' an E major chord, but only because I've listened to a number of other Scottish tunes, and it seems to me that this would not only be in keeping with the genre in which he was writing, but would also allow the A to G and back key changes that I suspect are being heard by most audiences, because of the modern-day musical  influences they receive.  If others feel that there's a silent G natural throughout, and an Em7 chord would therefore fit better, that's simply a different and valid interpretation, because the music itself does not specify.
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Mike Hirst

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #41 on: December 30, 2015, 03:09:37 PM »

For me I enjoy playing the melody in A mixolydian (on a one row in D). The modality is defined by my choice of instrument. Similarly the 9 note pipe chanter forces a mixolydian modality. For others that mode is not so clearly defined and could be major, or perhaps the mode could switch between parts.

I personally find clearly defined modality a useful tool. However I have no qualms about switch modality to suit different instruments. Indeed, the Ross Collection contains many examples of melodies whose modality has been switched from Dorian, Ionian, or Aeolian to the more pipe friendly Mixolydian mode.

Another useful point worthy of consideration would be the increased use of chromaticism in late medieval and renaissance harmony. Many melodies from this era, although clearly modal in character will often include closing phrases which contain non scalar tones.

A good example of this would be La Folie. The chord structure:

Dm - A7 - Dm - C - F - Dm - A7 - etc.

is in parts clearly modal (Dorian) in structure, but the inclusion of A7 suggests a chromaticism which is not necessarily implied in the melody.
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Jack Campin

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #42 on: December 30, 2015, 08:57:44 PM »

The Folia is primarily a chord sequence, not a melody.  It pretty much marks the beginning of tonality - you shouldn't expect modal thinking to have much to say about how it works.

BTW "Athol Highlanders" predates William Ross by 150 years and Uilleam Ross by 100.  Seventh chords are pretty rare in published harmonizations of Scottish tunes in the period it dates from.  Here is an early 19th century version for the flute, hexatonic all the way through except for the odd little fanfare nobody plays any more:

Code: [Select]
X:417
T:The Duke of Atholl's Pibro'
S:Lieut. Tapp's MS, NLS MS 21735
M:6/8
L:1/8
Q:3/8=80
K:G
  G//A//B//c// |d3   dBG |dBG  ABc |d3   dBG |ABc  B2
  G//A//B//c// |d3   dBG |dBG  ABc |Bgd  edc |BcA  G2:|
  B            |GBd  GBd |Gce  Gce |GBd  GBd |ABc (B2
  G//A//B//c//)|d3   dBG |dBG  ABc |Bgd  edc |BcA  G2:|
(3g/f/e/|d2(3c/B/A/ B2(3g/f/e/|d2(3B/A/G/ A2
(3g/f/e/|d2(3c/B/A/ B2(3g/f/e/|d2(3c/B/A/ G2:|
 (G/A/)        |B>GB B>GB|c>Ac c>Ac|B>GB B>GB|B>GB A2
  G/A/         |B>GB B>GB|c>Ac c>Ac|Bgd  edc |BcA  G2:|
  G//A//B//c// |d2G  B2G |d2G  B2G |d2G  B2G |ABc (B2
  G//A//B//c//)|d2G  B2G |d2G  B2G |Bgd  edc |BcA  G2:|
(3d/e/f/       |gdd  d2B |gdd  d2B |gdd  dcB |ABc  B2
(3d/e/f/       |gdd  gdd |ecc  d2c |Bgd  edc |BcA  G2:|

or, even less session-friendly (you might say somewhat moonstruck):

Code: [Select]
X:32
T:Favorite Scotch Divertimento
T:The Athole Highlanders
S:Gale's Pocket Companion for the German Flute or Violin
N:New Edition, adapted by R.A. Smith
B:NLS Mus.Box.s.19.14
M:6/8
L:1/8
N:the g natural is my idea
K:D
(d//e//f//g//)|a3  afd|afd efg| a3    afd| efg     f2
(d//e//f//g//)|a3  afd|afd efg|(fd')a bag|(fg)e    d2:|
 f/e/         |dfa dfa|dgb dgb| dfa   dfa| eAg ({g}f2)
 e            |dfa dfa|dgb dgb|(fd')a bag| fge     d2:|
(3d'/c'/b/|a2(3g/f/e/ f2(3d'/c'/b/|a2(3f/e/d/ e2
(3d'/c'/b/|a2(3g/f/e/ f2(3d'/c'/b/|a2(3g/f/e/ d2:|
 e|Tf>df   Tf>df   |Tg>eg  Tg>eg |Tf>df Tf>df|(e/a/^g/a/g/a/) Aa
=g|.f.d.f  .f.d.f  |.g.e.g .g.e.g| f<d'a bag | fge            d2:|
a | d'aa   Ta2f    | d'aa  Ta2f  | d'aa  afd | eAg            f2
a | d'a/a/a d'a/a/a| bg/g/g afd  | f<d'a bag |(fg)e           d2:|

(Can't recall where the earliest version of that tune I've seen came from, but it was around the 1780s and had all five parts).
« Last Edit: December 30, 2015, 09:00:54 PM by Jack Campin »
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Howard Jones

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #43 on: December 31, 2015, 11:11:44 AM »

In my simple world, Chris Brimley's description is the best - it's in A with an accidental.

That's simply a question of terminology. The point is, it's a consistent accidental throughout the tune, and the reason for it is that it uses a different construction of the scale, which is still based on A.

A basic understanding of modes, or at least an awareness of them, brings with it the realisation that there are many more ways of constructing a scale than the simple major/minor dichotomy most of us grew up with.  Add to that the point that many tunes don't use all the notes of the scale and are therefore to some extent ambiguous in terms of key/mode, and you become aware that it is possible to play in many more keys on a two-row melodeon than might at first seem possible.  The greatest constraint is going to be the lack of suitable left hand chords.

It also shows that a key signature is open to multiple interpretations.  We are used to the idea that one sharp means G major but that it could also be E minor. With modal tunes it could also be one of several other possibilities. It is this which accounts for the strange key choices you sometimes see in ABC transcriptions, especially on The Session. If this is all too confusing then there is no reason not to write out the tune in the 'standard' key signature and add accidentals throughout where appropriate.

Chris Brimley

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #44 on: December 31, 2015, 12:00:20 PM »

'The point is, it's a consistent accidental throughout the tune'

Not quite my point my view, Howard - in terms of the bare melody, there is no G or G# anywhere else in the tune, so it can't really be said to be 'consistent'.  However I'm still of the view that the E major or E7 accompaniment that occurs regularly elsewhere in the version I originally learned from would imply that G#, earlier on.  Now that version, which appears in several publications, may or may not be faithful to the original, and I think it's quite likely that somebody put that chord in after the original tune was written, but it seems to me to be a valid interpretation, as is the alternative A mixolydian (G natural throughout) interpretation.

To know whether the original writer of the tune on the bagpipes had in his mind a mixolydian scale, or just bits of an A major scale that he/she happened to be able to play, is something we'll never know the answer to.  He may well not have been all that sure what he was doing, he just liked the sound of the tune!

However, what I can say with a fair degree of certainty is that when a modern-day audience whoops because they notice the key has gone up a tone (from the previous tune in G major), they are probably not thinking in terms of a mixolydian scale.  And when they hear that bar with the G major chord, they just think, 'Oh it's gone down again for a bit, that's nice!'  Assuming they think anything at all, of course. 
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Chris Brimley

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #45 on: December 31, 2015, 12:14:41 PM »

And Mike, from your previous comments, where you say that you like to use a one-row to play the tune (I tried it, agree it works for this melody, if not the accompaniment), and that this defines the modality, I anticipate you'd agree that this is only true when you are using all the notes in the octave? 
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Anahata

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #46 on: December 31, 2015, 02:17:18 PM »

It also shows that a key signature is open to multiple interpretations.  We are used to the idea that one sharp means G major but that it could also be E minor. With modal tunes it could also be one of several other possibilities.

Absolutely right. There is only one interpretation of a key signature that works universally: for example if the key signature has an F♯ in it, it means all occurrences of F are to be played as F sharp by default, and it means nothing else.
Then when you encounter a Macedonian tune whose key signature consists of a B flat and  C sharp you don't tie your brain in a knot by trying to decide what key it's in. (it turns out to be a sort of A minor-ish scale, but certainly none of the classical modes) You just play what's written and it works.

All assignations of keys, modes etc. are a matter of opinion and taste.

For my money, though, if every note of a tune fits a particular mode and the tune has an obvious home note (typically the last note), then you might as well use that mode as a shorthand for describing what key it's in. For that reason I don't subscribe to the "A major with an accidental" view of Atholl Hioghlanders - if you can make things simpler by saying A Mixolydian why not call it that?
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Jack Campin

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #47 on: December 31, 2015, 07:50:40 PM »

Quote
when you encounter a Macedonian tune whose key signature consists of a B flat and  C sharp you don't tie your brain in a knot by trying to decide what key it's in. (it turns out to be a sort of A minor-ish scale, but certainly none of the classical modes)

With a lot of instruments, it does make sense to work out the key, because there is a good chance that you will only get seven pitches in the tune (all white notes except for the B and F) and it saves mental effort if you know what's coming.  In Turkish theory it would be hijaz if the tonal centre is A, buselik if it's D.  Balkan tunes are often diatonic - but diatonic relative to different pitch sets than the white notes on the piano.  Thinking of the F# and Bb as "accidentals" puts you in an unhelpfully terrified mindset where you're imagining that almost anything might happen; if you know the scale/mode you're playing in, you are less likely to make mistakes and much better equipped to conceal them.

Textbooks on oud playing introduce each mode with a pattern of fingerboard positions you might need when playing in it.  If you can play in a scale like hijaz on a melodeon, you'll have something similar in your head representing which buttons and directions you'll need, and if you're improvising you'll know you can use the same ones if you modulate to buselik a fourth up.  (There is a tune everybody knows which does exactly that).
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Chris Ryall

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #48 on: December 31, 2015, 09:17:28 PM »

Quote
when you encounter a Macedonian tune whose key signature consists of a B flat and  C sharp you don't tie your brain in a knot by trying to decide what key it's in. (it turns out to be a sort of A minor-ish scale, but certainly none of the classical modes)

Not hard though (OK I'm a geek). That's a 1½ tone interval, and apart from some weird double harmonic arab stuff it only happens in harmonic minor (eg most of "classical" minor stuff ;)), or of course its modes.

The interval is between scale notes 6 and the raised 7, so that's D harmonic minor.

7 modes available, and you imply A is the tonic of the tune,  so that's (google…) phrygian major. Putting the tune commonly in Balkans by dead reckoning. Where did you say it came from? ;)

Had the tonic been G (dorian #4, aka "Romanian scale) it'd be a certainty. So theory has its uses! Trick is not to think "major" or minor. There are 3 of the former and 4-5 of the latter in common use (think "jump at the Sun, or Sansonnet). Our choice of minor in particular is rooted on our own culture. But if you travel … loads more.

But in practice they are nearly all simple modes of simple major, or simple harmonic minor.

[ed] whoops, we do seem to be some way from Athol!  ::)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2015, 09:21:51 PM by Chris Ryall »
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Jack Campin

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #49 on: December 31, 2015, 10:53:48 PM »

Quote
whoops, we do seem to be some way from Athol!

I dunno, doesn't everybody know this one?

Code: [Select]
X:1
T:The Athol Janissaries
M:6/8
L:1/8
K:APhr % kurdi
e3  ecA|ecA Bcd|e3  ecA|Bcd cBA|
e3  ecA|ecA Bcd|eae fed|cdB A3:|
K:ADor % huseyni
Ace Ace|Adf Adf|Ace Ace|Bcd cBA|
Ace Ace|Adf Adf|eae fed|cdB A3:|
K:ADor ^d % nikriz
a2e edc|a2e edc|a2e edc|Bcd cBA|
a2e edc|a2e edc|eae fed|cdB A3:|
K:APhr ^C % hijaz
cAc cAc|dBd dBd|cAc cAc|BGB BGB|
cAc cAc|dBd dBd|eae fed|cdB A3:|

(The nikriz bit works particularly well).
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brianread

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #50 on: January 02, 2016, 10:25:05 AM »

wow guys, this is deep stuff, but I think I've learn't a little bit more about the subject (even if it is that the only rule is that there are no rules - at least ones that everyone agrees on!).

What comes out of this at least for me, is that I really must get down in the New Year to getting AH in A (or whatever you want to call it) fluent on a D/G.

And (here comes another spanner) what is it with "king of the fairies" and the c/c#? 
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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #51 on: January 02, 2016, 01:08:03 PM »

Quote
when you encounter a Macedonian tune whose key signature consists of a B flat and  C sharp you don't tie your brain in a knot by trying to decide what key it's in.
With a lot of instruments, it does make sense to work out the key

Not hard though (OK I'm a geek). That's a 1½ tone interval, and apart from some weird double harmonic arab stuff it only happens in harmonic minor (eg most of "classical" minor stuff ;)), or of course its modes.

Well yes, of course you can and should work out the key, and pedantically you attempt to do that  by considering all the modes that fit the key signature and deciding which of those modes fits the tune best.
I was simply challenging Graham' assertion at the top of the thread that, in essence "two sharps means D". That's a convenient short cut that gives the correct result of that process for major-key British tunes, but you get into trouble if you see it as a canonical rule whose exceptions must then be awkwardly explained away.

Or to put it another way:
  • Two sharps means D for a major key tune, by far the commonest mode.
  • Two sharps doesn't mean D for all six other modes, which we don't encounter nearly so often, but are perfectly valid
  • Widening the scope a little, two sharps doesn't necessarily mean F♯ and C♯; other combinations are legitimate for Eastern scales.
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TomBom

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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #52 on: January 02, 2016, 01:24:32 PM »

And (here comes another spanner) what is it with "king of the fairies" and the c/c#? 
For the key changes from E minor to E dorian,
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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #53 on: January 02, 2016, 01:59:10 PM »

If the original is in Amix, which, to my simple mind, is effectively in D (...)

Thanks for the positive contributions, spanners excepted!

You've convinced me that I don't really need to know the theory stuff, interesting as it is  ;D   (doubt if I'll live long enough to understand it all 8))

I have all I need to know for now ... if it's in Amx then the chances are I can play it on the D row (probably on a lot of other rows too but that's academic and beyond me present needs) with or without the basses as available.
That's quite useful for transferring tunes that I play on me pipes (GHB & SSP using the same fingering* on each chanter... and moved up one, on me NSP) to the box and vice versa.

*No, I didn't mean the box fingering ;)  (just trying to avoid sparking another debate ;D)



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Re: Atholl Highlanders ~ Theory stuff
« Reply #54 on: January 02, 2016, 03:24:37 PM »

Whilst I fully appreciate that delving into the bowels of musical theory is a hobby in itself for some I have become ever more grateful; whilst avidly trying to follow this fascinating thread in the hope of a dawning of the light so to speak; that I  belong to the 'if it sounds right it is right' school!

Ah well - each to his/her own I suppose.

george ;)
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