minstrel: ap Huw translations

Patricia Yarrow yarrowp at mscd.edu
Fri Aug 25 10:07:56 PDT 2000

Solomon wrote:

<<I was looking at the website (A quick doff o' the hat to Master Gregory)
and would love to attempt some of these pieces but I don't know how to
read the old style of music writing. >>

The tablature is alphabetic.  Double letters and symbols like apostrophes and 
dots indicate the register of the note.  The symbol that looks like a gamma 
is a C.  Thus, CC indicate the lowest C on the harp.  (The pieces in the ap 
Huw manuscript are said to be playable on  a harp of 24 strings.)  The 
symbols over the upper notes indicate whether there is melodic movement 
during that chord.  The line divides bass hand (right during this period) 
from treble (left).

So, if you go to page 15 of the facsimile, the first chord shows a g. with an 
acute accent over it plus an f  with a line over it in the treble.  This 
would probably indicate an F rising to a G.  In the bass, we have a c ' over 
a cc, so this represents the lowest C and the one an octave above it.  This 
is followed by a g with a plus sign over it and an f with a line over it in 
the treble, but now a g' in the bass.  We have now established the 
cyweirdant, or key chord.  In the fourth chord block, you'll note a shift to 
the contrast chord, or tyniad, which is in second inversion:  low d and the b 
above it in the bass, with the same f rising to g in the treble.  (Please 
pardon if I've got the spelling wrong, as I don't have my sources to hand.)

You'll also note something that looks like binary notation at the top of the 
piece.  For this piece, it's 11001011.  This is the mesur; it indicates the 
chordal structure.  You could think of it as related to the tonal concepts of 
tonic and dominant, with the ones represent the tonic chord, and the 0s the 
contrasting chord, often having a dominant feel.

The Amazon.com page for the CD Leucum mentioned has a wav file of what I 
believe is this piece.  identified as Gosteg of Master David.  In the 
manuscript it's Gosteg Dafydd Athro.  My tentative interpretation is in midi 
form at my web page:  http://clem.mscd.edu/~yarrowp/

If anyone is deeply interested in this topic, drop me a line privately 
(preferably in a couple of weeks so that I'm past the beginning of the 


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