minstrel: celtic music

iain maciain iaingael at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 11 15:59:15 PST 2000

i'm coming to the conclusion that some of my posts
aren't making the list.

so here's a partial repeat of scottish manuscript
sources. i can't give a more complete one right now as
i use library computers and i have to lug the books
here--or go do photocopies--which i did on three
lists--i thought, but maybe not.

anyway. you can get a transcription of parts of the
rowanallan and stralloch manuscripts the easiest.  e
mail cindy at cs.dartmouth.edu. she has them available
for a reasonable price and her husband has transcribed
the whole manuscripts for lute, there's a link to get
to his page. this is the only complete manuscript
transcription i've heard of, but there were others of
parts. the music has been recorded by ron macfarlane
and paul oddette, as was as jacob lundberg. it was
recorded so much because it is so different from most
lute music. a lot of it was harp music that was
transposed for lute by court muscians. 

then the skene has been published by william dauney,
title:ancient melodies of scotland, in 1868--with a
great deal of discussion about the date , nature and
meaning of the contents. general opinion accepts that
the tunes were collected circa 1630--with some in a
second hand having been later. likely the second hand
is skene's son. skene is unique and invaluable to
rediscovering the roots of celtic music in that he
traveled the countryside collecting folk tunes. they
were bagpipe, fiddle and harp tunes. he played mandora
so he transcribed them for mandora in tablature.there
are also a number of songs, both folk and court .again
ron macfarlane has recorded this material.

there is also a fairly exaustive book scotland's
music.mainstream publishing edinburg 1992. the first
several chapters give almost all the sites for almost
every celtic manuscript in the footnotes and an
ethnomusicological discussion of the music and culture
that is far beyond the type of research done by most
early music writers. there's also music of scotland,
from musica britannica,vol.xv.stainer and bell

i don't have a site for the robert ap huw manuscript
since my copy went up in a fire--sigh,along with
several instruments and all my garb but there are now
at least three transcriptions out--some very

if you are a gluton for gaelic there is also the book
of the dean of lismore, 1838, published by the
bannatyne society. that includes almost all the
surviving ancient gaelic songs and poems, without
tunes--as far as i know. (there is a theory out there
that the tunes were hidden in parts of the text but i
don't understand how it is possible as i've read the
thing. i think the theory was from the victorian era
when hardly any early music people could read gaelic
so you could tell them it meant anything you wanted,as
macphearson was wont to do).

ther are many somgs with traditional tunes that go to
pre 1800, that's pretty good i think as the words are
pre 1551. if you read gaelic you will see immediately
the dean did not use modern notation, but a form of
phoenetic writing--this was common with some at the
time--and in fact my grandfather wrote gaelic the
exact same way--phoenetic english, as there were no
gaelic schools. the poetry is fabulous and wierd, and
includes english translations--which are a little too
literal and not as poetic as i would like, but there's
the challenge to rewrite them as poems in the blass na

grove's also has some good tunes in the footnotes.
there are afew other sources, such as the celtic churh
rite, that has recently been discovered in the
worchester manuscript. that is pre synod of whidbey
church music--pre600!

so no more excuses class! yes virgina there is period
celtic music. mostly scottish. oh yeah there is also
the breton stuff. musique folklorique de basse
breteigne, is mostly pre 1600 and well known in the
french speaking world--the noted are french but the
music is in MUSIC. they have more old songs as well,
at least compared with the cornish and welsh. so that
ought to do it--i am thinking of doing and article on
this--ib fact i did one in my local sca magazine to
resounding silence --any suggestions who would
actually want this kind of stuff.
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