Yesterday I drove out from Oxford to the Uffington white horse. On the way I stopped at the Blowing Stone, and blew it. Continue reading The Blowing Stone
On Saturday I was driving south towards Dublin when we spotted the road sign turning to Monasterboice. I zoomed off the motorway and we stopped to look at the amazing high crosses there. I was especially pleased to get a good stereo pair of the carvings on the Cross of Muiredeach.
I have never done this, or seen it done, or even heard it done. But here is a video on Youtube showing the ringers at Blackburn firing! Thanks to the Ringing World letters page for this link! Continue reading Firing the bells
As part of a big push to re-do my stringing paper at earlygaelicharp.info, I was searching for the reference to the tiompán with strings of “ór dearg” (red gold), which Ann Heymann refers to in her article Strings of Gold.
I was pleased when I finally tracked it down, to find that the person holding the instrument is Aonghus, son of Boann and the Dagda, who lived in Newgrange, at Brú na Bóinne. This is the same Aonghus an Bhroga referred to in the praise poem to Aonghas Òig, Rì Innse Gall, which I was working on last year.
Today was the (delayed) St Andrews day graduations in the University of St Andrews. The university requested half an hour of bellringing before and after all three ceremonies plus the chapel service – a total of seven 30 minute sessions! Continue reading Graduation ringing
I have not been playing the harp because I have been working on the virtual ANS instead. For my very first experiment (which I put here the other day) I did everything on-screen , sampling the sound of the harp and distorting it rather crudely into a drone and some chime-like sounds.
But one of the things that attracted me to this instrument in the first place was the idea of tactile, hands-on shaping of the sonorities. Continue reading why
I got hold of a recording of Tautirut (“eskimo violin”) playing. Not the recording from the 1950s I was after, but a 50 second track recorded in the early 1970s in Ungava Bay in the far north of Quebec. The player is an Inuit musician, Sarah Airo, and she also plays a bit on Jew’s harp, a fragment of a tune that reminds me very much of a Norwegian hardanger fiddle tune I have heard.
But it was the bowed strings I was really wanting to hear. Sarah’s instrument has a startlingly hoarse low-pitched sound. It sounds to me like she has three strings tuned c#, a, c#’. She is play a very formulaic melody, mostly alternating rythmically between c#’
and f#’. She is using some fast finger ornaments and some fast bowing ornaments to lift the repetitive two-note melodic figure. In the second section she also seems to be playing a passing note (c natural or I suppose b#’ it should be. I fancy she might be fingering this note on the second string but it is hard to say.
Sarah does not really bow the strings together as a continuous drone, but she is definitely using the lower strings as strong steady drone notes. I have a feeling that some of the Karelian jouhikko players use this alternation between the fragments of melody and the drone, as an alternative to the more common technique of playing the melody continuously with the drone(s) also sounding continuously. Sarah’s drones are interesting being a sixth apart; my ear is hearing the high melodic f# as a kind of modal centre, giving the melody a minor sonority.
The recording is track 21b on the 1986 LP, Inuit Games and Songs, UNESCO Collection / GREM LP G1036
Now I am even more interested to get the 1950s recording for comparison!