APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 3)

Rule 3 – Cadences are optional

Rule 4 – Crahinins are flexible

There are some interesting elements to this song* score that I want to highlight.

First, as I mentioned in Part 1, the cadences in the Hannay-MacAuslan score are streaming cadences, not held-E cadences.

Next, notice the rhythm of  hihararas and hiharins:

Now, there’s nothing intrinsically superior about this rhythmic sequence.  In fact, it could well be argued that, with respect to this song*, Angus MacKay’s style (when played Adagio) of the crahinins are perfectly musical.  But, I want to respect the score in order to (a) expose others to the fact that crahinins were played in a different (and, indeed, in a variety) of styles, and (b) to see if there is something about the rhythm that I can, as a performer, take advantage of: for example, the parallelism of rhythms throughout the song structure.

Now, there is no question that crahinin rhythms were quite flexible.  We do not play them flexibly today: we play them as echo beats, and in a very standard, even strict rhythmic fashion.  As written, however, we know that not all dot-cuts are created equal, and that gives us some room as to how play them. And I will explore them accordingly.

In the meanwhile, the purpose of APC Approach (I) rules thus far is to help us eliminate both the blinders of modern “tradition” and the accretion of modern performance and view these primary source scores in their own (and to us, fresh) light.

If I were to add another rule at this point, it would be:

Rule 5 – Sing the urlar

I cannot tell you the number of times I have asked students and competitors to sing the core pibroch melody they are performing, and they can’t.  They can’t, because they attempt to mimic what they play and how they play it, which means they effectively do not understand the core song* structure upon which all the embellishments and flourishes are built.  They simply have no idea.

You must understand the core melodic structure before you can interpret a pibroch, before you understand how to interpretively perform all the cadences and crahinins and other embellishments you encounter in the primary sources.  Why? Because the elements are meant to supplement and enhance the melody.  They are not the melody, but tools by which to highlight it.

We too often focus on these ancillary movements, on the minutiae of the scores, to the detriment of understanding  the bigger melodic picture.

Here’s how I would sing this urlar. I”m translating it into Campbell Canntaireachd, though there are some elements for whose canntaireachd vocables I’ve chosen may not be accurate, if I were honest.  But, I’ll give it a try, and see what happens:

More to follow…

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One Reply to “APC Approach 1: PS 171 – End of the Great Bridge (Part 3)”

  1. David

    I thought your singing of this ground was as good as it gets in an otherwise difficult tune. Tempo and rhythm ideal too. Well done!

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