Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

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790                        CHARACTERISTICS OF ENGLISH NATIONAL AIRS,
are also a few song-tunes which, like " Who liveth so merry in all this land ?" (p. 81) seem to require the bagpipe drone.
According to Bunting, the ancient bagpipe had neither fourth nor seventh in its scale ; and others say that some of the pipes were equally deficient. Never having been fortunate enough to meet with any directions of early date for playing upon these instruments, I can add nothing to what has been written, from my own knowledge ; but the omission of the intervals of the fourth and seventh in some Irish, Scotch, and English North-country tunes, gives a plausibility to the assertion that such imperfect instruments were in use. It would indeed have been far more satisfactory to me if I had seen them, as I am rather incredulous, being unable to account for the omission of the fourth upon any reasonable hypothesis. Collectors of Scottish music have laboured hard to prove, in a practical way, that such imperfect instruments were pre-eminently employed in Scotland, for their great study has been how to alter tunes to its scale, without at all troubling themselves for authorities. Every bagpipe that I can trace had a fourth. The Scotch Highland bagpipe has not only a fourth, but also the two sevenths, major and minor, can be produced upon it. Every scale, under the old system of music, had a fourth.
Much of the omission of the seventh is, without doubt, to be attributed to the old modes which were in use before our present tonality of the minor scale was established. By " seventh," I mean the semitone below the octave; for whether the seventh is major or minor (that is, a semitone or a whole tone below the octave), constitutes the entire difference between our present ascending minor scale and one of the most popular of the ancient modes, called by some the Dorian, and by others the first of the old Church modes. (See p. 12.) I can understand pipes having been made with a minor seventh, but how the fourth and seventh could both be omitted is the mystery. Even now we may occasionally hear English tunes sung on the Dorian scale by untu­tored singers, and I may instance the version of We are poor frozen-out gardeners, at p. 748, and the Christmas Carol, at p. 753. The P sharp in the first bar of the former is not what is termed an " essential" note.
Some persons have called the minor scale " the scale of nature," but they have probably not distinguished sufficiently between the old and new systems. Without doubt, many tunes that were upon old scales have been since altered to minor keys ; nevertheless, the two earliest of which England can boast are both in major. See pages 24 and 27.
I think no point more likely to strike the hearer in the preceding collection than the very limited number of airs of a really melancholy cast. Some few are susceptible of great pathos,—such as, " In sad and ashy weeds," p. 202; " 0 willow, willow," p. 207; " I sowed the seeds of love," p. 522; and " The Northern Lass," p. 560:— and, among the narrative ballads, " The Three Ravens," p. 59 ; " Near Woodstock Town," p. 161; "The Children in the Wood," p. 201; and "Oh ! the Oak and the Ash," p. 457: but, even including these, the total number will scarcely exceed twelve, out of more than four hundred collected. They who had deep sorrows seem rarely to have sung of them, and six, at least, of the twelve melancholy airs were afterwards parodied, or turned into quick tunes.
Some persons have written of the sudden changes from major to minor in the beautiful national music of Ireland, as if these were the outbursts of grief in their gayest moments. I cannot say that I have observed any signs of sorrow in Irishmen







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III