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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:59 am 
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O'Neill, Edward Cronin and James O'Neill had only a very minimal understanding of the notion of "key." O'Neill writes that he had to partially destroy two editions of " dance music" because James O'Neill and/or Edward Cronin had written the key signature incorrectly--accroding to his daughter, who played piano. He wrote to Henry Mercer: “neither of them were infallible when it came to keys.”

When his daughter plays some of the tunes on piano “we discovered that all tunes ending in “A” do not require three sharps.” He says that he entrusted Cronin with the job because Sgt. O’Neill was a modern Ulster player. But “I was humiliated by the result of Cronin’s ignorance of keys and having no other alternative destroyed the whole edition except one copy which was turned over to [James] O’Neill for correction. But “the new edition my daughter and I found had no less than 39 wrong key signatures. When confronted with the rendering of these disputed tunes on the piano O’Neill, amiable yet unyielding, reluctantly admitted that 28 tunes [were] incorrectly marked–and away went another edition to the chopping machine…."my loss…amounted to $1100…I was obliged to making corrections with pen and ink on every copy of the so called correct edition." [Note: $1100 was a year's salary for a police patrolman in 1902]

I'm still not sure what to think of this. I suspect this is why he stopped collaborating with James O'Neill, who was donating his labor and was probably attacked for his pains. I'm sure James was extremely irritated that Francis' daughter was being held up as an authority on music that he, James, had played at a high level his entire life. But the problem here I suspect is the poor fit between ITM and the notion of "Key."


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 7:23 am 
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Now, we need to keep in mind that shifting it from Gm to Am (assuming Equal Temperament) is only a matter of transposition, so if you played it on a C whistle or a flat set in C you'd be back in the same pitch as they were. But would that get around your dissatisfaction


I was playing it on C instruments, but it isn't so straightforward is it? It's just not quite the same and that's perhaps the point: many musicians have over time chosen to play tunes in different keys, mostly fiddleplayers but concertina players as well, to bring out a mood in a tune playing in D or G simply wouldn't. And I would not consider it wise to assume Equal Temperament in this music at any time.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 5:17 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
When his daughter plays some of the tunes on piano “we discovered that all tunes ending in “A” do not require three sharps.”


Now, that's a telling quote, isn't it. We're talking "modes" here, aren't we, not "keys", but none of them would have had that education. If I remember correctly, A major has 3 sharps, A mixolydian has 2, A dorian has 1 and A aeolian has none.

Miles Krassen mentions that the majority of "A tunes" in O'Neills had only one sharp (and so what we would call A minor, but really mean is A dorian.)

I wonder how they went about transcribing an A dorian tune if the key signature was given as three sharps? Correct the key signature with rather a lot of accidentals? Or just ignore the problem?


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 5:42 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
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Now, we need to keep in mind that shifting it from Gm to Am (assuming Equal Temperament) is only a matter of transposition, so if you played it on a C whistle or a flat set in C you'd be back in the same pitch as they were. But would that get around your dissatisfaction


I was playing it on C instruments, but it isn't so straightforward is it? It's just not quite the same and that's perhaps the point: many musicians have over time chosen to play tunes in different keys, mostly fiddleplayers but concertina players as well, to bring out a mood in a tune playing in D or G simply wouldn't. And I would not consider it wise to assume Equal Temperament in this music at any time.


Leaving out pipers for the moment, do we have any evidence at all for anything other than Equal Temperament or it's nearest equivalent? (Pipers are of course going to be attracted to the tuning that best works with the drones.) Anyone found an accordion or concertina tuned to anything other? The errors in 19th century flute tuning are not systematic, so that gives no support for a temperament being in play. Fretted instruments are ET, fiddles can be played in temperaments but the open strings are tuned very close to ET. Pianos could be tuned to other temperaments (as harpsichords were and often are) but by the 19th century, ET ruled.

Which is not to say we mightn't benefit from exploring the notion of an Irish Music Temperament, which is the subject of my box player's current experiment. But, we have to recognise that temperaments only work in a narrow range of related keys; that temperaments and chromaticism are natural enemies. Hence the focus on D and G (and the modes that exploit the same notes).

Heh heh, Andro, you could beat us to the punch here. Quicker to retune your harpsichord to Just Intonation on D, then tweak it as needed to minimise problems in G, and report back, than for my man Mark to tune three sets of reeds and mount them in his box....


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 7:05 pm 
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Richard Henebry was always trying to argue that there was an Irish scale which was not the same as the western scale--multiple notes were slightly out of tune, because of the pipes. Interestingly, it's the same argument Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) made in Blues People to explain the origins of "blue notes:" Africans had a slightly different scale.


There was a thread here not long ago about whistles not ever being in tune and I was thinking I kind of like that they aren't in tune with themselves: it's part of the sound. It adds an interesting quality of "not quite there" that I like as long as it's not too jarring


Last edited by PB+J on Mon Aug 19, 2019 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 7:11 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
PB+J wrote:
When his daughter plays some of the tunes on piano “we discovered that all tunes ending in “A” do not require three sharps.”


Now, that's a telling quote, isn't it. We're talking "modes" here, aren't we, not "keys", but none of them would have had that education. If I remember correctly, A major has 3 sharps, A mixolydian has 2, A dorian has 1 and A aeolian has none.

Miles Krassen mentions that the majority of "A tunes" in O'Neills had only one sharp (and so what we would call A minor, but really mean is A dorian.)

I wonder how they went about transcribing an A dorian tune if the key signature was given as three sharps? Correct the key signature with rather a lot of accidentals? Or just ignore the problem?


Yes it's a telling quote indeed: "key" isn't necessary or even very helpful it seems to me with ITM, and then it collides with the world of the parlor piano, and O'Neill has a bout of anxiety about being incorrect in terms of "art music" or western classical music. I don't think they had a good solution to the problem except to say that these are just 'settings" and the actual tune lives in variation. It's one of the fascinating ways O'Neill's project kind of undermines the thing it wants to save


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:39 pm 
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You have to give them points for trying though, eh? It was a job for ethnomusicologists, but they hadn't been invented by then.

If you were part of the tradition, of course, you didn't need to know about modes and key signatures and writing in dots and so forth. You just pick up and play the tune the way you heard it, job done. It's only when you want to communicate the stuff to people outside the tradition you strike these issues.

I remember a talk on the modes given at Scoil Éigse in Listowel August 1974 by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, armed only with a tin whistle. He drew our attention to tunes in all the usual modes, plus one or two others. It was a bit of an eye-opener.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:39 am 
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Terry McGee wrote:
You have to give them points for trying though, eh? It was a job for ethnomusicologists, but they hadn't been invented by then.

If you were part of the tradition, of course, you didn't need to know about modes and key signatures and writing in dots and so forth. You just pick up and play the tune the way you heard it, job done. It's only when you want to communicate the stuff to people outside the tradition you strike these issues.


Exactly right!


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:14 am 
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Leaving out pipers for the moment, do we have any evidence at all for anything other than Equal Temperament or it's nearest equivalent? (Pipers are of course going to be attracted to the tuning that best works with the drones.) Anyone found an accordion or concertina tuned to anything other? The errors in 19th century flute tuning are not systematic, so that gives no support for a temperament being in play. Fretted instruments are ET, fiddles can be played in temperaments but the open strings are tuned very close to ET. Pianos could be tuned to other temperaments (as harpsichords were and often are) but by the 19th century, ET ruled.


19th century concertinas in their original tuning are almost always in some meantone temperament. Jeffries definitely, Wheatstone could vary as ordered by the customer.

Whistleplayers do favour the 'in between' notes and quite deliberately so and fiddlers like Rochford, Canny, Crehan, Casey, Denis Murphy and all those all had deliberate intonation that was not on an equal tempered scale.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:02 am 
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I'm not sure that the expression mean-tone is being correctly applied there. I am aware for example that there are some concertinas referred to as mean-tone that actually have a sort of enharmonic tuning, though only on some notes, which is surely a bit weird? So, for example, they might have had two separate buttons for Eb and D#, and for G# and Ab. With differences as bold as about 40 cents.

But why stop there? What about all the other enharmonic pairs, such as C#/Db, F#/Gb etc?

You can take this to any extreme. Vincentino built an archicembalo back in 1555 with 36 keys per octave. You can hear (and see) a reconstruction here. The modulations are breathtaking in their boldness!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpVaAqh3nLA

And while we've probably all played with old (and some young!) players with "interesting" intonations, I think I would want to see the results of some pretty scholarly work on these alleged intentional tunings before I would accept them as proven.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:11 am 
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I'm not sure that the expression mean-tone is being correctly applied there.


Well terry, it's the term used widely by people by people who tune concertinas. And by people who discuss these things, and that includes yourself, if the quote below is anything to go by.

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A friend is porting Flutini, the real time tuning analyser, to iPod. I recounted that I'd found it useful for checking concertina tuning, and that some concertina players have gone for quarter comma meantone rather than equal temperament, so that if he were intending to offer some temperaments, that would be a potentially useful one.


meantone tunings as they come up on concertina.net

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:38 am 
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Very much reported speech, not lived experience, Mr Gumby. And confirmed by a quick scan of your list of meantone tuning references on concertina.net. There's not much definite, but lots of mights, seems-to's, possibles, etc.

Now, keep in mind I'm not opposed to the notion of temperaments. Quite the contrary, box-player Mark and I have been working on the notion of him retuning a box to optimise the scales of D and G. I imagine that the people talking about meantone are prompted by the same potential promise - a sound sweeter than the calculated compromise that is ET.

I'm not sure that pre-classical meantone would be the best approach to the question. It still assumes that one is interested in a fairly wide range of keys, which is probably more than we are. But there's more work to be done this end before we rule it out.

Now here's an article title enough to strike fear into the hearts of those who would dare to meddle in the darker parts of the space-time continuum that contain temperament theory:

"Tuning Pietro Aaron's Restrictive Regular non-circulating one-fourth syntonic comma meantone keyboard temperament of 1532 in the theoretically correct manner."

A racy read by any account.....


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