minstrel: Music and tones

ConstanceFairfax at cs.com ConstanceFairfax at cs.com
Sat Mar 17 08:05:40 PST 2001

>  I've heard it asserted that Ionian mode music (the "modern" major scale)
>  probably existed in Wales "since before recorded history" -- songs cited
>  as proof are Londonderry Air and Men of Harlech. Does anyone have any
>  information on this (for or against)?

The Londonderry Air/Danny Boy tune was, to my knowledge, first shared between 
the Irish and the Scots in about mid 18th century.  The Scots at that point 
suggested changing some of the metrical "oddities" of the "irish tune" so 
it'd be easier to sing.  I didn't know that it'd been attributed to the 

I do remember hearing that a prehistoric flute was found (I want to say 
somewhere in the British Isles) which played in Dorian.  I can certainly say 
that there are plenty of period examples of music in period in Great Britain 
which are in the major mode.

I guess it depends on what "prehistoric Wales" means...*I* would not presume 
that "modern" folk songs would be evidence for modes in use a thousand years 
ago, let alone two thousand years ago.

Constance Fairfax

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