Otherworldly tunes

Otherworldly tunes

Here’s an extract from a television interview last night in Australia. Jon Muir does solo walking trips across the Australian deserts, Antarctic treks, and other seriously dangerous stuff, which seem to nearly kill him each time. Obviously very tough, but a gentle bloke as well. He’s reading from his diary entry as requested by the interviewer. See what he says about the music where there are no players. This is fairly commonly known about in parts of Australia. Does it have any parallel in Ireland? I’m sure there’d be stories no one is prepared to talk about. I wonder what tunes you’d hear.

Jon Muir: …this is from um the walk I’ve just completed. OK, “It happened again last night. An abrupt awakening when I knew instantly what had jolted me from sleep. This time there was no inclination to try and find out where it was coming from because I believed there was no physical explanation for the sound I was hearing. So instead, I listened and absorbed it. Just as I had heard before well on the traverse of Australia, voices chanting, stamping feet, clapping sticks. The unmistakeable sound of a corroboree. Everyday I see evidence of their occupation of the land and feel their presence. Having experienced this before it no longer seems strange to hear their celebration. It’s comforting. I looked up at the stars and gently fall into my usual solid, deep sleep.”

Andrew Denton: And was that a dream, a hallucination? Do you know what that was?

Jon Muir: Um I think, I think I was hearing voices from the past. And I’ve heard that before and not actually really spoke to too many people about it. But on the drive home something very interesting happened, and that was, we stopped in at a mate of mine who lives out there in the outback, Aboriginal bloke, and he had a mate of his over who does a lot of cattle work and spends a lot of time out in the middle of nowhere. And he said to me, we were having a bit of a yarn about this walk I’d just done and he said “Does the desert ever speak to you?” And I said “Yeah, it does.” And he said “Have you heard the corroborees?” And I said, “Yes. Twice.” And he said “I heard one once with two mates and he heard exactly that same thing.” I got out of my sleeping, I thought I’ve got to go and check this out and I got out of my sleeping bag and followed this sound and there was just nothing out there.

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Fascinating, makes sense to me…spirits, souls, whatever you want to call them…"essences"..they don’t just disappear overnight. A blind friend of mine (rest in peace) used to hear a tin whistle player in his house sometimes when he was practicing his accordion! Be interested to hear any other takes on this…

Lizzy

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There will be stories a plenty, Lizzy. It’s a matter of whether people are prepared to say, is all, especially in a forum. We’ll see.

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Have you heard of trowie tunes, i.e. tunes learned from the trows, the "little people" of Shetland, sometimes by fiddlers who were taken to play at trowie weddings, but more often eavesdropped by fiddlers wandering about the countryside after dark? Mark Laurenson, one of our teachers at the Fiddle Frenzy last summer, remarked at one point that he knew plenty of trowie tune stories, but only one (Wynadepla) that did not involve consumption of heroic amounts of drink.

Hearing stories like that is fun, but my skepticism gets in the way of believing them. Although there is something odd about them trowie tunes …

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Recently I was awakened during the night by strange musical noises. It frightened me a little. Then I listened and realized maybe my man was in his office downloading music or something. So I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Later I woke up and heard it again. Wow, he must be having one of those nights when he can’t sleep. The music was strange and otherworldly, and repetitive. I stretched out my arm. What? He’s not in the other room, he’s right here next to me! Now I was seriously freaked out.

So now, in the middle of the night, my imagination started taking over. Maybe there were thieves outside with a transistor radio stealing the expensive lumber we just bought. I tried to listen harder and could swear I could hear footsteps on our deck. I tried to wake the man, but I must have fallen back asleep and had that sleep paralysis. I realized that it must just be a dream.

In the morning I mentioned all this to him and he laughed. His computer had been taken over by a virus and was popping up ads all night long.

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I can assure you, reedy, if you met a man like Jon Muir (look at the surname man) you will know you are speaking with a no nonsense person to say the least. It took a lot of courage (which he no doubt has) to say on national television what he said. It seems to me that every country has these reports and they almost invariably revolve around music - Scotland, Ireland, England, in fact every country, it seems. I have too often overlooked the mystery of my own country.

Tommy Reck, the famous Irish uilleann piper, reputedly very regularly played in the dead of night out somewhere a tune for the sidhe. He believed it. I would like to know really, what tunes he chose to play for them. As you say, there would be "something odd" about them tunes… wouldn’t you say.

So, man, what are the trowie tunes names?

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Here is a link to a site with some of them:

http://www.purr.demon.co.uk/jack/Music/ShetlandFairyTunes.abc

(I am even worse at pasting links then I am at playing the fiddle or writing out abcs, so that might not work, even if the info is good)

The "Ferrie Reel" is another one, and I heard someone say on Shetland Radio the other day that "Spencie’s" (Miss Spence’s Reel) is another one, although there are other stories about that one.

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Now, skhikes, you are entertaining, but:
you live in Santa Barbara, so how close are you (geographically and spiritually, and maybe musically) to the indigenous trad of your country. You play ITM, but are you attuned to the music of the land of your birth, from where ever that may come.

And don’t be grapplin with yer man like that, he’ll be getting odd ideas.

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reedy, that’s great. So, what is your impression of those tunes? What is the odd thing about them you say.
Good man for posting that, it is something that, as you can see, there is a great divide about. Some are very fearful about even the discussion.

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Cape Breton fiddler John Macdougall has composed well over 2500 tunes, has said that he believes they have been channelled from the spirits of past fiddlers, and that he is only a conduit. Past discussions here have spoken to similar thinking.

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‘Tommy Reck, the famous Irish uilleann piper, reputedly very regularly played in the dead of night out somewhere a tune for the sidhe. He believed it. I would like to know really, what tunes he chose to play for them. ’

Nice story but I don’t really think Tommie was that sort of man. If he played in the dead on night it was because his wife hated the pipes and he’d get in trouble if she heard them.

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Well, to paraphrase a famous judge, I may not know much about music, but I know what sounds odd to me. No, really, aside from being able to say, for example, that, contrary to the transcription of Wynadepla at that site that I sent you to, which shows it as having 32 bars, it really only has 31, and whoever transcribed it there tacked on an extra bar at the end for reasons best known to themselves, or that Aith Rant, in spite of the fact that there is really very little going on in it, is a jumping little tune, I would be hard pressed to pick out and specify what I find odd about them. They just seem to stand out in the crowd. Give ‘em a try and see what you think.

And the stories are cool, too, but you may have to go to Shetland for them.

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He could be right. In an infinitely expanding universe allowing for infinite possibilities, it would be pretty naive to dismiss ANYthing, especially given our paltry little human frames of reference.

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You love the Shetlands understandably, reedy, you’re always thinking of them, but you’re not there man, unless things have changed. Thank you for your insights, you are very subtle, and observant, if I can say.

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Ah, kil fhear bui, you’re a cynic if ever I heard one. Did you know Tommie Reck then actually? Ye have not chosen to speak to the Otherworld post I do see. That’s a disappointment to us, from someone who lives in the area. Please tell us.

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Drone, actually the universe might actually slow down and peter out in the end who knows, don’t you think? Our paltry little human frames of reference might only mask something greater, something only music makes available to us. Look at Jon Muir’s experience, he is a skeptic extraordinare, he would no doubt have said, but not now apparently. How do you account for that? Folklore in Ireland, ancient stories handed down, say the same thing. I have heard it said myself.

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I receive tunes from the otherworld in abc notation via my dental fillings and they appear in the condensation of my breath on the bathroom mirror.

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tunes from the otherworld seem to be learned by ear, Laitch, not even in musical notation, let alone abc. Give us a break man. You sound USA even without looking at your bio.
Cheers, mate. Look again at Jon Muir’s experience - can you do that? Do you have the room to do it? Geographical not just intellectual room? What do you really think? You don’t have to be cynical, just because that’s what you’re told you have to be.
Tell us what you really think.

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Jumper, and? Tell us more.
Nice picture, what about the beliefs?

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Duijera Dubh
I really think I’d have room for your comments in my woodstove if I printed them out but I’m committed to conservation.🙂

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Twice now in my life I have had tunes come to me "whole cloth"; every note nailed down the first time I played it, making me think I better keep playing until I had it memorized well enough to stop and write it down. I don’t know where they came from, whether some cranny in my brain, or somewhere outside, but I think it’s somewhere outside. Both of them were too structured for me to dismiss them as being just good improvisation.

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Maybe he should try medicating on Risperidone or Olanzapine.
Naw just joking. It does sound wierd.
Kane and Christian’s band is called Hungry Grass - places in fields and grassland in Ireland. So called as famine victims are buried there or died there. When you walk over these places you have a tremendous sense of pangs of hunger…apparently….never experienced it myself, though.

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"Jumper, and? Tell us more."

Not me. It’s Tommy Reck and kilfarboy.

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What a great and fun thread! Thanks Duijera Dubh!

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And pay attention Duijera Dubh. You’ve been shown your story is wrong. That’s all.

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‘It’s Tommy Reck and kilfarboy.’

An eighteen years younger version of the latter anyway.

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Stories like these are not just confined to traditional music - take, for example, Coleridge’s "Kublai Kahn,"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kubla_Khan,
or Guiseppe Tartini’s violin sonata "The devil’s trill"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil’s_Trill_Sonata. Mozart’s music is said to have appeared in his mind fully formed, and all he had to do was jot it down. And of course there’s my classmate, who told me in awe of a ‘wonderful’ story about a beserk man-eating coffee machine that came to him in his dream… 😉

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Oliver Sacks’s latest book, Musicophilia, talks about this kind of experience - it’s not uncommon. Some people have it as they are becoming hard of hearing, some people have it if they’re in a "solitude" place for a long time (on the ocean on a sailboat for months), some just have it (see John Holt’s It’s Never Too Late for a description that sounds similar to me), some have most of the time, some only once or twice in a lifetime. The book was, as Sacks’s are, really interesting.

cj

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Years ago, I was excavating a basement in the middle of the woods for some new building. I looked over to my right and there was some kind of a hairy animal, large and bulky, turned away from me. I picked up a stick which I threw at it. To my great surprise, it turned around and looked at me. It had a human face covered with braided hair and human hands. He calmly reached down and picked up the stick. Putting it to his brown leathery lips, he began playing the most peculiar sounds with it, as if it were a mystic flute. I was spell-bound. I couldn’t move. Although it seemed like I was standing there for a few minutes, returning from the forest, I found that, in fact, I was bound for two days!

Since than, very odd tunes just come to me. When I play them, everyone just stops to hear, as if they can’t resist. Dogs stop barking and birds stop singing. One time a wilted houseplant that my wife was planning to throw out was green and alive after I played one of the tunes for her. Sometimes all who hear the music can smell an odor like freshly plowed fields.

The home in the woods was never completed and I return to that now fading scar among the trees, usually once a month, and leave pouches of pipe tobacco to show my gratitude. I have never seen him/it again, but as I leave the spot in the woods and only after there is a distance between us, I faintly hear the music through the trees.

Others who have come to the spot have heard the music as well.

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You’re not Manley Wade Wellman incognito, are you, feardearg ?

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I’m surprised there’s been no mention of any "Fairy" tunes in this discussion. Some of them have a mystical quality.

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In the mid 70s I was climbing Mt. Shasta with some friends. It’s not a very difficult climb and can be done from the base of the glacier in one day, but my friends, who had climbed it before, were carrying the water and they got way ahead of me. At one point a cloud settled on the mountain where I happened to be and it created a total whiteout. I was feeling a bit disoriented and dizzy, so I sat down. After a couple of minutes I could hear a choir singing from what sounded to be somewhere in the mountain. It was very beautiful — and oddly enough — believable.

After I listened for a while a couple of lovely young women approached me and asked if I was ok. I asked them if they could hear the choir, and they asked me if I’ve been drinking any water. I explained how my friends who had the water were way ahead of me, and they gave me a bottle and said I should drink as much as I can even if I’m not thirsty. Since I’m well conditioned to do whatever lovely women tell me to do — I drank as much as I could.

Later, after catching up with my friends we reckoned the dehydration caused the hallucination of the choir singing in the mountain. But later when we were in town I mentioned it to someone and they got excited and said, "Wow! You mean you actually heard that choir?" Evidentially I wasn’t the only one that had that experience – it was legendary. It turns out there are even people that believe space aliens are living in the mountain, but I wasn’t quite ready to put on any tinfoil hat.

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Didn’t Manley Wade Wellman just make things up? What are you saying?

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‘I’m surprised there’s been no mention of any "Fairy" tunes in this discussion. Some of them have a mystical quality.’

Like The Gold Ring and the Fairies’ Hornpipe (see Seamus Ennis’ stories) or Paddy’s rambles through the Park ?

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… or, following on from Kilfarboy, perhaps the first ‘fairy tune’ to be notated, Carolan’s ‘Sheebeg and Sheemore’?

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You’ve got to feel sorry for that bloke in "Touching the Void" who kept hearing Boney M singing "Brown Girl in the Ring" while on a lonely Andean mountainside



Is du been awar o ony trows daday?

Been awar o ony trows?

Dir da wildest pest dit dus herd ur seen

An dey gluff dee we dir blood red een

An da warst een o dem a

Is da peerie heathen wi just da wan claa

He’ll cloore dee an devour dee claes an a’

Is du been awar o’ ony trows?

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Some of the townland names in Ireland seem to reflect this too(Mullaghnasidhe, Cnoc na Ceol). Seems to me there must be a fairly strong local consensus at those places for a very long time to have the places actually named those ways.

The choir story is great. I’ve heard others like that.

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In my opinion, the fairy myths have a strong basis in the culture surrounding the harvesting and ingestion of the Liberty Cap mushroom (Psilocybe Semilenceata). Many cultures have their own particular hallucinogens of choice, but in Ireland and Scotland, the strongest and most common of these is the little tit-shaped mushroom which can produce any number of interesting hallucinations, including fairies, leprechauns, luathradauns, omadauns (sorry) etc. Interestingly enough, psilocybe can also trigger recall of seemingly long-forgotten tunes from deep within the recesses of the human memory. I don’t have personal experience of this, of course, it was, erm, a friend of mine. His name’s Dave.

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And also….
Only this evening, my SO was playing Packie Byrne and Bonnie Shaljeans’ "The Half Door" LP, which includes Packie’s long account of "The Ghost’s Welcome". This ends up with the man looking up and saying "I believe that’s daylight.", and the other man looks round and says"Yes." and when he looks back the first feller’s disappeared……

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I worked in Belfast with a Senior Electrical Engineer, a very level headed, highly experienced and logical bloke. He told me that when he was a junior engineer - which I suppose would be the late fifties or early sixties - he worked on a new power station that was built on a greenfield site (one where nothing had been built before) that contained a fairy ring (a peculiarity of the grass that forms a ring shaped mark, for those who don’t know).

The new station never worked, despite the best efforts of a highly skilled team. Eventually they hired a guy who’s job was to appease the fairies - I’m not sure what his title would be. This guy apparently came in in full regalia, opened each of the MCCs (motor control centres - panels full of complicated electrical circuits) and spoke quietly into them along the lines of "come on boys, I know you’re upset, but we need to get this place working so the people can have light for their homes". Once he’d done that they closed all the panel doors, flicked the main switch and the whole station burst into life.

The bloke who told me this was in no way a b*llsh*tter, and not given to practical jokes. He basically admitted that while he still couldn’t firmly say he believed in the little folk he was forced to suspend his disbelief in no uncertain terms. He’d seen what the guy did and he’d seen the results. And he’d been part of the team trying to trace a non-existant fault for months.

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> you live in Santa Barbara, so how close are you (geographically and spiritually, and maybe musically) to the indigenous trad of your country. You play ITM, but are you attuned to the music of the land of your birth, from where ever that may come.

The land of my birth is Santa Barbara. I’ve been to a few powows but I can’t say I felt like I was hearing my musical heritage. I do sense the ley lines and the incredible spiritual power of certain places in our wilderness areas. I have seen incredible pictographs at those locations. I can sit there all day and feel like I’m in the most wonderous place on the planet. But alas they are silent places.

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>In my opinion, the fairy myths have a strong basis in the culture surrounding the harvesting and ingestion of the Liberty Cap mushroom (Psilocybe Semilenceata)…<

Seems to me that the people who generally seem to have stories of the sidhe and the music (after a bit of prompting), are the ones that you’d be fairly sure they actually don’t use liberty caps, etc. People who use liberty caps don’t seem to tell those stories maybe because the answer to them is too predictable - "you’re hallicinating obviously" - and that might well be right.

Seems to be more people of apparently (reasonably) sober minds who have the stories, than people walking around eating liberty caps and telling the same stories. Probably was always the case.

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uhh, "Dave’s not here!"

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Yep, I’d say Dave was hallucinating too.

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I’m not saying that fairy stories are prompted by the personally-experienced hallucinations of those who tell them. What I guess is that the ancient cultural practice of magic mushroom ingestion is the historical basis of such stories. By now, or certainly in my parents time, those stories were so firmly embedded in the culture of the Irish country people that they had little more than a historical link to their source - ie. hallucinogenic experiences in the long-distant past. The drugs of choice in the Irish countryside have been alcohol and tobacco for a long time now. Anyway, a story is always true, so long as it is true to itself. Anyone who has the gift for the stories could tell you that. And by the way, what exactly do you mean ‘people of apparently…sober minds’? What exactly does talking about six-inch underworld-dwelling, child-stealing, gold-hoarding, all-purpose scapegoats have to do with sobriety?

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RR, know what you’re saying about your theory about the source. My point is, people still report *today* about what they have seen and heard…eg Jon Muir to name one in the very first post above; and people in Ireland *today*, and other countries.
I have heard stories from genuinely shaken people about what they have seen and heard re the sidhe - not just what they might have read in an historical account or in a mythological book.

Sure liberty caps, fly agaric, etc, do reportedly create hallucinatory effects (maybe the nature of those depend on your own holistic frame of reference, don’t know personally), but I don’t think it is fair to presume that when one hears a report of someone’s experience of "the sidhe" that it is attributable to liberty caps, etc. *And I know you’re not saying that*. What I am trying to point up though, is that if it is not fair to do that, as I would guess you would agree, then why would it be fair to attribute *all* historical references to it, just because the people reporting it are not here any more.
Some of them might be, some of them might not.

"Sober" in the broad sense of the word e.g. any one or more of these:
.quiet or sedate in demeanor, as persons.
.marked by seriousness, gravity, solemnity, etc., as of demeanor, speech, etc.: a sober occasion.
.subdued in tone, as color; not gay or showy, as clothes.
.free from excess, extravagance, or exaggeration: sober facts.
.showing self-control: sober restraint.
.sane or rational: a sober solution to the problem

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Ok. But, cultural phenomena, once established, become part of the general psyche. It is not necessary for one to experience hallucinations of a particular type or form to be influenced by others’ previous experiences of a similar nature. It is notable that many hallucinogenic drug users experience visualizations of alien spacecraft, and alien beings. My guess is that these psychological phenomena are the result of general cultural trends, rather than direct evidence of the existence of alien life-forms. Likewise, it is no coincidence that visions of Mary are largely confined to those Catholic cultures in which Mary plays a predominant role. I believe fairy stories have entered, or were at least once part of, the general psyche of Irish and Scottish culture in the countryside, hence their recurrence as themes within stories and related personal experiences. ‘There are stranger things in this world than in all your philosophies’ and, I believe, they exist predominantly within the mysteries of the human imagination.

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I think what is required here is the acceptance of the existence of more than one reality. Everyone’s reality is gained through what they culturally believe. Is it simply "the mysteries of the human imagination"? Or is it something more? Do we in fact retain a little of that connection, handed down from generation to generation, to some original ancestors that some of us like to logically dispell? Dismissing "otherworldly tunes" as sourcing somehow from hallucinogenic drug use doesn’t hold water for me, where ever on the globe. Why look for logical answers when in reality there may be none?

When I go out into the desert, or even around town, you can feel the 40,000 or more years of Aboriginal presence in this country. Every rock, tree, animal and waterhole has a place in the horizon of things, as compelling of quiet reverence as any cathedral.

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Whose logic is it anyway?

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The cicaders have started to come out - now the evenings will be full of otherworldly drone.