pennsicdance: Music from the pennsic Pile

Monica Cellio cellio at
Thu Mar 30 18:03:28 PST 2000

This is mostly off the top of my head.

>   With the given that being virtuosic is, alas, intrinsically part of the
>   basse dance music genre (as extant Spagnas seem to indicate), would
>   an easy-to-read-and-play Spagna, in a period style in all other ways 
>   (which is admittedly not much, since we just sacrificed the most
>   characteristic aspect of the basse dance "sound"), be (a) a tolerable
>   compromise (b) an unspeakable abomination?

Maybe first we need to figure out what makes music hard.  The major
factors seem to be (1) many short notes, (2) many different notes (even
if stepwise), (3) hard notes (this is instrument-dependent), and
(4) jumps (even in slower sequences).

If it turns out that the problem is primarily playing a *variety*
of notes (lots of finger-changes, in other words), maybe we can get
some of the feel of what these should sound like by using more repeated
notes.  Maybe tonguing is easier than moving fingers.  (I'm not a
recorder player, so I'm the wrong one to ask here.)  In other words, use
the rhythm more and the melodic aspects less.  Yes, it won't be what they
did (for the most part), and it would get boring if carried to excess, but
maybe we can trade some harder bits, sandwiched in between easier
stretches, between two upper lines and hack it that way.

I don't know if this would produce satisfactory results, or if we'd
all look at it (or hear it) and say "ewww, yick, pass the boom-box".
I throw it out as a question.

If we've got virtuosos on the bandstand, then we can chuck this in favor
of doing the real thing.  If we've got people who understand improvisation
on the bandstand, we can work with that.  (There are certainly several
such people among the Pennsic population; whether and when they show
up on the bandstand I don't know.)

> Further, all of the energy of the music is in the virtuosity; an
> easy-to-read Spagna would likely turn into a waltz played at a
> dirge-like tempo.  

Can a good percussionist augment an otherwise-rhythmically-deficient
arrangement?  Or does that make matters worse rather than better?


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