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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:34 am 
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Old time music, at least as played today, is an amalgamation of the earlier Appalachian ballad, slow Aire and dance tune tradition with a later influx of Irish and even New England contra dance tunes added/adapted to it. I see "old time" music as a modernish, 20th century, movement based on the older traditions. There is nothing wrong with it it all and I even play the music for barn dances sometimes, but I am still strongly interested in what was going on instrument and musically back in the 1700s and early 1800s that in some cases still existed in the early 20th century in very isolated areas. Guitar, for example, was not a part of the older tradition but rather came into the scene in the 20th century. Banjo came in a bit earlier but was obviously not part of the earlier tradition.

That's where I am coming from.

Eric


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:13 pm 
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Steampacket wrote:
Isn't it so though that when Appalachia was settled it was by Scottish-Irish protestants and Anglo Irish protestants from Ulster, Englishmen, and perhaps some German immigrants?

The only source I have for this is the massive tome "Albion's Seed," which argues that there were four fairly distinct waves of English-speaking immigration to the colonies, one of which ended up in Appalachia and came from "the borders of North Britain and northern Ireland."

The time period of this wave of immigration is quoted as being about a half century from 1717 to 1775. How many of those English, Ulster-Scots, and Irish from the "borderlands" in the mid-1700's would have been playing flutes in the 1700's before they left for the New World? The immigrants weren't from the upper classes where flutes might have been played in parlors, and I don't remember reading anything about flutes being popular "folk" instruments in Britain or Ireland, that far back.

mendipman wrote:
Eric, what are you referring to when you differentiate 'original Appalachian tradition' from the more-or-less linear development of a music culture that declined and then underwent mid-20th century folk-revival as 'old-time'?

Are you referring to the ballad tradition that arrived and persisted in the mountains with immigrants from the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe? Isn't that just one of the musical influences that still persist in old-time? Other than that and the African-American forms that it combined with what is a distinctly separate 'original Appalachian tradition'? I can think of nothing that is not in some direct way derivative of one or other of those two cultural source-lines. Unless of course you are referring to the true geographic original: native American music?

One distinction we could make, is between the sacred and the profane elements of "Appalachian music." People up in the hills would go to Church and sing hymns, sometimes in the "shape note" tradition. Gospel songs are still part of the Bluegrass repertoire.

Meanwhile on Saturday nights you might have a fiddler playing for a liquored-up barn dance, the profane side of Appalachian music. That tension between sacred music and music just for "fun" is a strong element of Appalachian culture. Since modern OldTime jams are mostly instrumental, we're not hearing all the spirituals and Gospel songs from that side of Appalachian music. I think I've heard an instrumental version of Wayfaring Stranger in a local OT jam, but that's about it.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:33 pm 
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JS wrote:
Could it be that the fiddle seemed more appropriate for dance music, as the fife was more effective for military purposes? For one thing, the fiddle can play drones and double stops, which adds to the possibilities for a solo player whose job is to keep the dancers moving.

I have to say that the céilí crowd I played for never indicated any strong preferences when it came to what set the beat, so long as they had one; but from a player's standpoint I agree that a solo fiddle stands up better in performance than solo flute. There's just something more complete and self-sufficient about solo fiddle, much as it galls me to concede it. I've found myself on more than one occasion having to play a céilí entirely solo, and I've played solo many times for step dancers, and sure, it did the job and the dancers were kind enough to offer their appreciation, but I'm pretty sure I'd have felt far less naked and on the spot if I had been a fiddler.

A solo flute playing an air in the night is something else entirely.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:37 pm 
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Here's a pretty good article in the Appalachian music tradition that matches research I have done in the past: https://nativeground.com/appalachian-tr ... -mcclatchy

Eric


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:11 pm 
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"Traditional Appalachian music is mostly based upon anglo_celtic folk ballads and instrumental dance tunes. The former were almost always sung unaccompanied, and usually by women, fulfilling roles as keepers of the families’ cultural heritages and rising above dreary monotonous work through fantasies of escape and revenge. These ballads were from the British tradition of the single personal narrative, but the list was selective; most of the one hundred or so variations of the three hundred classic ballads found in American tradition are to do with sexual struggles from the female standpoint, as Barbary Allen, Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender, and Pretty Polly. One is less likely to find Scottish ballads of rape and dominance, or those with men as heroes. A large percentage, perhaps almost half, of the American variations tend to be about pregnant women murdered by their boyfriends."


This 'broad brush' sketch of the basis of 'original Appalachian' music simply describes in very basic terms transition directly from the British context. That is exactly the 'derivation' and one of the two main sources I referred to previously. We know that many elements of these ballads assimilated local influence and took on a distinctly American form. I can give one example of the modal Cuckoo Bird which was documented as a mainstay of the Appalachian repertoire long before the folk revival (the wonderful version by Clarence 'Tom' Ashley is a classic example), despite physical segregation it was also found in African-American musicians repertoire and is still common in OT sessions today. There are earlier variations of this ballad form, also modal, from many villages where I live around Mendip and elsewhere in Somerset. The English form and the later American form are clearly related but also markedly different - more so rhythmically than lyrically. The study of the adaption from English to American forms is fascinating in itself. But that development into local variations is part of the linear development that I also referred to. Given that wealth of evidence of continuity it isn't informative (or accurate) to take a historic snapshot independent of that process of change and 'section it off' as a separate 'original' genre distinct from modern OT. To extend the reference to Henry Ford included in that article that's like claiming a Model-T is a separate concept to a Nissan Micra when it's clearly not; though different in appearance it's just occupying an earlier place on what is a traceable linear and branched scheme.

More interestingly the reference to reels in the mountains in the eighteenth century brings us closer to the OP's question. Reels and hornpipes were/are also a staple of the English vernacular and for sure, here in Somerset, would often have been played (by us ordinary working people, not 'posh' folks as the two classes seldom mixed socially) on flute as well as fiddle, viol, serpent, flageolet, and clarionet. It's not difficult to find contemporary imagery that illustrates this link.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:06 pm 
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mendipman wrote:
Apologies for the multiple duplicate posts above - no idea how that happened and I don't appear to have a delete option. All I can do is edit them down.

You lose the delete option once someone has posted after yours, or after 72 hours, whichever comes first. It's covered in #16 of the CCCP, which is at the top of every page. Recommended reading.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:25 pm 
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It turns out there's quite a long thread (and quite mixed, in terms of quality of info) on this question over on the Fiddler's Hangout forum. A cassette of fiddle and fife duets by Bruce Greene and Bob Butler (FIddle and Fife: together again after a hundred years) gets mentioned there and in a briefer thread on thesession.org. Anyone ever heard this or happen to have a list of the tunes played or know of a digital version?

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:47 pm 
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You might be able to get a copy of the cassette here:

https://www.worldcat.org/title/fiddle-a ... c/24607491

The link also shows a list of titles of the tunes played. I don't see any digital versions of the recording so far.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 3:55 pm 
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Thank you, Nano.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 12:31 pm 
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Terrific topic. Thanks, OP, for posting.

Re: flute as a girly instrument
I think about that a lot. Most of the old recordings I have are of male flute players. When did the switch happen?
My crackpot theory of why it was mostly played by men began evolving after a conversation with Kevin Henry. He said something to the effect of "You need all of your teeth! You can't play without your teeth."

Messy biology fact: back in the day, women tended to have lots of children. Childbearing demands a significant amount of calcium from the mother; teeth often suffer as a result. I don't believe prenatal supplements were a thing then. You can play the fiddle or concertina while lacking a tooth or two, but it ain't happening with the flute.

Better nutrition/access to dental care: flute opportunity abounds for all.

So I will take my flute to the Appalachian old time session today and smile a toothy grin as I call a tune.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:18 pm 
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Batlady wrote:
Terrific topic. Thanks, OP, for posting.

Re: flute as a girly instrument
I think about that a lot. Most of the old recordings I have are of male flute players. When did the switch happen?
My crackpot theory of why it was mostly played by men began evolving after a conversation with Kevin Henry. He said something to the effect of "You need all of your teeth! You can't play without your teeth."

Messy biology fact: back in the day, women tended to have lots of children. Childbearing demands a significant amount of calcium from the mother; teeth often suffer as a result. I don't believe prenatal supplements were a thing then. You can play the fiddle or concertina while lacking a tooth or two, but it ain't happening with the flute.

Better nutrition/access to dental care: flute opportunity abounds for all.

So I will take my flute to the Appalachian old time session today and smile a toothy grin as I call a tune.


That's a very interesting and not implausible theory!


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 4:37 pm 
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I don't think you really need all your teeth to play, FWIW. Just the lower front teeth,
and perhaps only a couple in the center. This is largely beside the point of the calcium/teeth argument. Just saying


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