origins of rolls

origins of rolls

Idle curiosity: Does anybody know how did the ornament known as a roll come to be invented? I have heard that fiddlers started playing double stops to imitate the sound of drones on bagpipes, so I wonder if rolls might be an imitation of the unavoidable burbles that come out of uillean pipes. (Certainly no offense intended, pipers—those little burbles are part of the instrument’s charm.)

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Well, those "little burbles" on pipes are rolls. Cutting and tapping are the only ways a uilleann piper can articulate distinct notes of the same pitch. Rolls are just an extension of that—to fill the space of a quarter or dotted quarter note (and add rhythmic interest).

Other instruments simply followed suit.

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"In his Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (Berlin, 1753), C.P.E. Bach spends twelve pages discussing the turn, and gives seventy examples not included in those twelve pages. Suffice it to say, this is a ‘free’ ornament; the shape of the note sequence is followed, but all else is up to the performer and the occasion."

Perhaps the Irish picked it up from classical music because they liked the sound of it. Or it could have been invented independently. I suspect the former.

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Thanks, whoosis. I just recently downloaded Audacity, so I slow the tempo down enough for my slow ears catch these things. (And I did try a search for something like "roll origin" in discussions, but didn’t get a hit on that perfectly matched thread for some reason. At least, not near the top of the list.)

Slightly off topic: has anybody else heard Alasdair Fraser imitate the pipes on the fiddle? Uncanny.

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Stewart - I think you’re way off the mark. It definitely didn’t come FROM classical music, though there might have been some transference the other way round.

Breandan Breatnach used to insist that ALL ornamentation in ITM was an attempt by other instrumentlists to imitate the one true Irish instrument - the pipes. I think he was right. eg I’m a fiddler. So what do I do when I want to ornament a note that would naturally be on an open A or D string? I do a cran, that’s what. And you will find that a lot of decent fiddlers have their very own form of cran, which is a pipe ornament.

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"Perhaps the Irish picked it up from classical music because they liked the sound of it. Or it could have been invented independently. I suspect the former."


"It definitely didn’t come FROM classical music, though there might have been some transference the other way round."


It could have been a bit of each. As Will (whoosis) says, for the piper, the roll came about as a way of separating notes of the same pitch. It is quite likely that some of the first people to attempt to play piping tunes on the fiddle were already schooled, to a greater or lesser degree, in some other style of playing - probably what we now call ‘classical’. They would have had in their musical vocabulary a range of ornaments, such as acciacatura, mordant and turn, which correspond roughly to the cut, casadh and roll, in Irish trad terminology. Through prolonged listening to and playing with the pipes, the fiddler/violinist would have gradually adjusted the execution of their ornaments to match or mimic those of the piper.

Going back to Will’s theory on the origin of the piper’s roll - for pipers to develop a way of separating identical notes, they must have specifically wanted to separate notes of the same pitch. If, prior to the ‘discovery’ of cuts and rolls, they had no means of separating notes of the same pitch, then what made them think of doing so? Where they trying to imitate something else? Or did somebody just do it by accident one day and like the sound of it?

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….And, as for traditional music influencing classical music, it’s inevitable. All music comes from somewhere. All music is influenced by whatever music came before it (Until the 20th Century, when some composers started trying to consciously eliminate everything that had come before - but even then, they had to compose around a past-shaped void).

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It comes from the pipes. Any genre of folk music where the pipes are predominating you’ll find similar influences in the other instruments.

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I think it’s a little parochial to think that the only influences on ITM have ever been ITM, and that within ITM the only driving force for ornamentation is the pipes. So many influences manifestly came from elsewhere. Fiddles and the various methods of playing them weren’t invented by the Irish, nor were flutes, and the world’s awash with cultures that have taken to sticking pipes into bladders and then squeezing the damn things. Nor did the Irish invent Polkas or Mazurkas or even jigs and reels. Rolls and cuts (or turns and grace notes, or bindiis and buggerlugs or whatever you want to call them) are found in one form or another in the music of a wide variety of cultures and played on a wide range of instruments (quite apart from their clearly documented ancient use in the various eclectic styles that evolved into what we now somewhat dubiously call ‘classical’ music).

As for double stopping being an imitation of the pipes, it doesn’t matter where you find the fiddle played, from Southern India to Turkey to Prague to Milltown, everyone double stops. If it’s possible to tease a chord out of an instrument, a competent musician is just going to do it. Just because something sounds vaguely pipe-like doesn’t say anything about origins, whatever Breandan Breatnach thought. I think his views often said more about his laudable patriotism than anything else.

Having got that off my chest, just because it’s a long bow to draw to say that all good things come out of the bag of a set of pipes doesn’t mean that people didn’t favour ornaments because they sounded pipelike, or tried (and still try) to emulate the quacking beauty of the pipes.

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good post that

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So for all the fiddle players out there- how do you do a D crann??

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a three finger flick, like you would drum on a table. Just lightly brush your fingers over the string without masking contact with the fingerboard. Timing is everthing, of course

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making, not masking (typing with boxing gloves as usual)

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Ger the Rigger wrote: "I think it’s a little parochial to think that the only influences on ITM have ever been ITM, and that within ITM the only driving force for ornamentation is the pipes."

Who said that? Others and myself suggested that the pipes influenced the ornamentations on other instruments, but I can’t find where anyone suggested, "the ONLY influences on ITM have ever been ITM," or "the ONLY driving force for ornamentation is the pipes."

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I suspect these ornaments may have originated on keyboard music - spinets, clavichords and the like where the string only sounded for a very short time and needed lengthening a bit with trills and mordents and things.

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Noel Hill told me he gets his ideas from listening to the pipes. I seem to remember him telling me that Paddy Murphy did the same. I don’t know much about English traditional music, but I’m wondering what their decorations are like and how they differ from the Irish. I’m not sure, but I don’t think their traditional music has as strong an association with pipe music. The Northumberland music uses pipes, and I wonder if it’s reflected in the decorations of the music from that region. Any experts around to answer this question?

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A thousand pardons for pressing what I thought were only phantom buttons.

Obviously I took the words: "It comes from the pipes" far too literally.

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PB - thank you for putting what I wanted to say so clearly. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that ITM wasn’t influenced by anything else - far from it. After all, where do we think jigs came from? AAGH! Strike that! Whole new (or at least recycled) can of worms … what was the original question again?

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Ger… it might be a good idea to first ask us to clarify what we meant before making assumptions. I think if we were face to face in a room talking about this it would come more naturally. In the message board environment it’s easier and more convenient to assume than it is to ask. I think we’re all guilty of that from time to time.

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It’s fun and interesting to think about the ways that musical influences *might* have been passed around, but no amount of discussion or research is going to settle the questions because most of it happened too long ago to recover any convincing evidence. It’s always been a stew with flavors mingling and changing each other.

When I look around, I see "classical" influencing folk and vice versa, pop influencing classical and vice versa, fiddle influencing guitar, guitar influencing banjo, and on and on and vice versa … Same as it ever was, same as it …

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I don’t think Ger has anything to apologise about. "It comes from the pipes. Any genre of folk music where the pipes are predominating you’ll find similar influences in the other instruments." said PB. And Ger quite correctly pointed out that in fact they all come from each other. the PB said "Ger… it might be a good idea to first ask us to clarify what we meant before making assumptions." which to me comes across as rather unpleasantly arrogant.

The pipes were probably never predominant at least in numbers in ITM. They are expensive for a start, beyond the means of the vast bulk of musicians- a professional’s or well- off amateur’s instrument. Of course they attract the bulk of attention, just as the harp did before them. They are spectacular. But cheaper more accessible instruments would have made up the numerical bulk of the music, and rolls and crans come as naturally to whistles and flutes as to pipes.

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Let us not forget the Irish form of the "Big Pipe" played throughout Europe. Though it became extinct around 1750 we still have some of it’s music in the tradition and it’s playing style probably had some effect on what’s come down to us.

PP

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Actually for a lot of people rolls and cuts aren’t natural at all. Then again, this probably because of publicly enforced recorder-playing in schools, where tonguing is the "correct" way to articulate. I have no idea what comes naturally to somebody who has never been exposed to music before.

On pipes one doesn;t have the option of tonguing. Not true of other winds.

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Since people have been playing some variety of flute, whistle and bagpipe-ish instruments since prehistoric times, and since a roll is such an obvious and interesting sounding ornament, I am going out on a limb here to suggest that the origin of rolls predates both what we know as "Irish" and "classical" music. Folks had a lot of time to experiment with music back in those caves and huts!

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LastToFinish, I have no quarrel here with you or anyone else. Why you feel the need to become antagonistic is anyone’s guess. All I was asking was that people might consider requesting clarification about what people say in here instead of immediately assuming things that weren’t necessarily being said. I noticed in your analysis of the exchange between Ger and myself you conveniently leave out the word "only.” This is selective editing to misrepresent what I say so you can insult me. I have no idea why you would want to pursue this, but it does come across as unpleasantly pompous.

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Phantom old chum, I can see that you’re taking this all very personally. For my part, I have to say that you did make the following very unequivocal comment, which I don’t think invited any clarification at all:

"It comes from the pipes. Any genre of folk music where the pipes are predominating you’ll find similar influences in the other instruments."

You didn’t say "it comes from sources that include the pipes" or "one of the things it plainly comes from is the pipes"; you simply, bluntly, baldly said: "it comes from the pipes." I think a bit of self-responsibility is in order here: rather than expecting the on-line world to seek clarification of every post before we respond to you, you might exercise a bit more thought in actually writing what you mean, particularly when you obviously have some sensitivity to being misinterpreted.

All that aside however, it’s very clear by now that you really didn’t mean that the pipes were the only influence on ornamentation in ITM.

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Ger… when I said, "It comes from the pipes" I wasn’t implying that the pipes are the "only" source, as you incorrectly assumed. If I were asked for clarification I would have explained that the evidence suggests the pipes were likely to be a primary influence for many of the decorations associated with ITM. What’s more, if I was asked specifically whether or not I believed the pipes were the “only” influence, then I would have had the opportunity to speak for myself rather than find my words misconstrued. Don’t you think asking for clarification might have led to a more interesting and engaging discussion rather than the supercilious posturing that we’ve witnessed on this thread?

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Oh, for pity’s sake. Grow up.

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PB - just thought you might like to know … I’m with you on this one. In my book, you’ve been clear, concise and reasonable in this thread (not to say, IMHO, pretty much right) - I just don’t get some of the other posts …

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Thanks, Ben, I appreciate that. I’m really only interested in discussing the issues raised and sharing ideas about something I’m very fond of. I’m always mystified at the way some people find it necessary to degenerate the discussion into demonstrating how their views are so advanced compared to the rest of us. It’s a direct contradiction to what the spirit of this music conveys.

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You’re welcome. And I agree … again!

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Phantom Button, perhaps you’d be good enough to post on this forum the email you’ve just sent to me. Personally, I have no objections to you spraying me with splenic invective in public if you have the courage to do so.

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Ger wrote: "Oh, for pity’s sake. Grow up."

This is a personal insult and is inappropriate for a public forum. For that reason I chose to respond via email and would suggest you do the same if you have anything further to add. My reason for choosing email instead of this forum has nothing to do with a lack of courage, but has everything to do with a strong sense of common decency.

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Now now Ger.
Calm down.

Jack often says what he feels and often does so clearly and politely, which Im sure translates in his session manner… Even if a little sensitive at times (the whole noodling thread comes to mind : 0 )

I think your original post was perhaps a little negative (whereas Stewarts was….well, that was special) and as you said from the beginning you had something to get off your chest. Maybe it suggests a little naivety on your behalf ? coming online to a discussion board to vent your frustrations angrily, and then become personal and uppity……
Where does your esteemed view of Breatnach come from? I’d be interested to read.