Soul music

15 April 2011 § 9 Comments

Hardy Perennials

Left pop-eyed by an hour’s hauling
Through worthy, densely-noted classics
We put the hallowed names aside,
Relaxed our reverential frowns
And turned to those prolific geniuses
Trad. Arr. and Anon.
‘The Soldier’s Joy’ and ‘Six-Hand Reel’
Sparked new quickness in my fingers;
Reinvigorated lungs
To send the trills and grace-notes swirling
Round the room like silver swifts;
Warmed me through like strong mulled cider.
Not holy writ with Koechel numbers,
Catechism in compound time,
But tunes that sprang from workfolk; fiddlers
Hardy and his fathers knew. The music
Of the Christmas party, country wedding, village dance
Dick Dewy and the Mellstock choir
Played beneath that greenwood tree.
A heritage all-but forgotten
In this downbeat, download age,
But mine to claim, preserve and play,
With or without the printed page.

Inspired by this week’s Community Orchestra rehearsal. Like most people who play orchestral instruments, I revere Beethoven, Bach and the other Great Masters; however, I generally prefer to listen to their better-known music, and certainly don’t have the technical skill or theoretical knowledge to play it properly myself. So it was a huge relief at the end of the rehearsal to be handed a set of fiddle tunes collected by Thomas Hardy. Like his father, grandfather and various uncles, Hardy was an excellent musician and played the violin in his local church band, or choir – the inspiration for  the Mellstock players in Under The Greenwood Tree.

Having spent most of my childhood in Dorset, I have a great love of the old folk tunes, which are our true musical heritage. If the classical canon is music’s great literature, folk tunes are its oral tradition; the tales handed down through generations that tell us something of ourselves. And while a Colossus like Beethoven can wring my heart, these humbler melodies speak to my soul in a language I truly understand.

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§ 9 Responses to Soul music

  • Brendan says:

    Folk-music is folk-soul, the everyday threnody of birds ‘n’ farmers whistlin’ while they work. To eternity, the Grecian urns; to us, the field-song and Jethro Tull playing folk-flute on “Thick as A Brick” – Brendan

  • gonecycling says:

    Amen. Ian Anderson is a bit of a hero of mine; we flute-players aren’t exactly over-represented in rock music, and he’s a great ad for us. And while I like a good Grecian urn as much as the next man, I don’t have one in my house, whereas I do have quite a lot of Tull.

  • belfastdavid says:

    As someone who’s Irish Heritage includes an appreciation of the handed-down folk music, the handed-down poetry and the handed-down, almost forgotten, art of story telling this resonated with me Nick.

    I do regard myself as a story teller rather than a poet and I love the evenings when we can get together and tell our stories, whether as poems or songs.

    I guess a log fire and an old-fashioned pub might be part of that as well 🙂

  • gonecycling says:

    Ah, now you’re talking; I’d very happily spend an evening in the pub listening your tales, my friend. I must say I rather envy your Irish lineage and all the legacy of song and story-telling that goes with it; the English have been extremely careless of their history and heritage, to the point where our traditional songs are now almost completely lost, at least in mainstream consciousness. I wasn’t brought up to it, either, but count myself very lucky to have discovered and fallen in love with traditional music (including Irish) in my late teens. My wife, on the other hand, is a proper Celt like you: her maternal line goes all the way back to the clan chieftains and the Lords of the Isles; I think there’s even an ancestral burial-ground somewhere on the Isle of Skye!

  • slpmartin says:

    Some music just captures the human spirit better than the classics which always seems more toward representing something more divine in nature.

    • gonecycling says:

      I remember reading that Bach specifically set out to write the music of the heavenly realm itself – the ‘music of the spheres’. I love JSB, and I think he came pretty close, actually! Mostly, though, I like music that has a melody you can whistle and (if you’re so inclined, which I’m not) you can dance to. So as well as the Hardy tunes I’ve written about here, I love the Renaissance dances written by Susato, Playford and others. The one I really can’t abide, however, is Strauss: the ‘Blue Danube’ is an exquisite torment.

  • Ina says:

    I had to read a few times to understand and I think I do now. You painted a nice picture of what music means to you. Do you know the group Flairck? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QaKkUIAfR4&feature=related Good flute music.

    Do you write music yourself?

    • Ina says:

      (Flairck is not just flute music, of course. Please check the other songs on the You tube sidebar 🙂 )

    • gonecycling says:

      I think writing music is the highest form of art; it’s something I wish with all my heart I could do, but I don’t have that kind of mind. Thank you so much for the link to Flairck – they’re brilliant. What a great flute player!

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