Irish and world music

Irish and world music

Hi all.

Does anyone have any ideas on why Irish music completely avoids some of the scales used in other musical traditions - for example "phrygian" scales with flat seconds etc..?

A couple of observations come to mind in this connection:

It seems that pretty much all the scales used in Irish music are used in Indian music, including the use of varying versions when ascending vs descending. Without wanting to offend anyone, I might say that the scales of Irish music form a kind of "subset" of the raga system of Indian classical music.

I’ve heard some amazing music by a group called "The lost music of Celtarabia." Anyone else heard this and have any comments?

Thoughts/reflections appreciated.

Best wishes,

Robin.

Re: Irish and world music

There are many languages that have roots in Sanskrit. Why wouldn’t Irish music have echoes of Indian music? Scientists are saying that there was more travel in the ancient world than historians once thought. There is nothing new under the sun, only variations on old themes…

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Music develops within the vacuum of its host culture. Follow the journey of the peoples whom have settled the Island of Ireland and you’ll see the influences - they then have merged into a unique sound and music all it’s own.

Until the next change that is….

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The vacuum of culture…..?????

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Even in ancient times, Al, Ryanair charged for luggage, so the Indians who came to Ireland for holidays couldn’t afford to bring all of their modes.

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They had to go by a different mode of transportation, eh?

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Take a look at one of the simplest ITM instruments…the whistle. The Indian culture has the same 6 hole whistle; however, it is not typically made from tin…more like bamboo.

This instrument subtlety inhibits metamorphosis…rather, in its genius or unknowing command, requires a deeper comprehension into the original concept (developed such a long time ago)…we are seeking the source of it all…

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"This instrument subtlety inhibits metamorphosis…rather, in its genius or unknowing command, requires a deeper comprehension into the original concept."
Critically analyse and discuss. 6000 words.Use appropriate referencing. Due before end of semester.

Yes, it’s all about Indo European stuff isn’t it.

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Judging by my own very limited encounters with cheap Indian bamboo whistles, I wonder if the earliest music played on such things *developed* to accommodate the fact of their fairly generally being out of tune, with themselves (however ‘in tune’ was envisaged) and with each other or other instruments.

This isn’t a wind-up - it does occur to me that this is a possibility.

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What is ‘world music’ and why isn’t Ireland included in it?

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Re: Irish and world music

it is a possibility, nicholas. the wind-up Indian bamboo whistles are more expensive though, but are good.

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Reminds me of that gig in the Blues brothers Film . When asked what sort of music they liked the singer was advised "we like both kinds of music ,Country and Western ."

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Possibly because Ireland is out of this world, gam!

Re: Irish and world music

"Does anyone have any ideas on why Irish music completely avoids some of the scales used in other musical traditions - for example "phrygian" scales with flat seconds etc..?"

I doubt anyone can give specific reasons why this should be the case; it’s just the way things have happened. But from a musical perspective, any musical style or genre is defined by the scales, the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures it utilises, the moods it creates etc. So, on the flipside, there must be a whole range of features that a particular type of music *avoids*, in order to make it what it is.

If we were to put this question into the context of one musical genre - say, for argument’s sake, Irish traditional music - we might ask, "Why don’t you get reels in 6/8?", or "Why doesn’t Rolling in the Ryegrass have any F-naturals in it?". Of course, put like that, it sounds ridiculous. But the point is, things evolve over time to become what they are, through all kinds of influences, great and small.

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Well, if music is a language, and Celtic is an Indo-European language, then why wouldn’t the music also be?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo-Europeans

Then you got Danu:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danu_(Asura)

…and Danu:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danu_(Irish_goddess)

…and then Danu goes to India: (😉)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slMup28bKRQ


There’s been much made of linguistic connections, but I haven’t seen much musical analysis. Love to see some.

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You have to add the closed parenthesis for the Wiki links. Don’t know it strips them out like that.

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ok, here’s the deal…the Irish modes and the Indain ragas have nothing in common. Any similarity there is, is coincidence and is rooted in the natural overtone series of a vibrating system.

The modes used in Irish music came from the Greeks via Holy Mother Church in the middle ages. These scales are derived from the first six natural overtones, and their inversions.

So that is why you can match up the relative handful of scales we use with some of the ones the Indian folks developed on their own, independantly from us in the west…they have their root in the natural world that all people inhabit. That’s the connection. We are all here on this Good Earth

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Well, I’d love to see some a little more in depth than that, but thanks Nate. 😉

Still, Rome via Greece, via…what? Ancient Grecian music popping out of Zeus’ head spontaneously, like he bore Aphrodite?

For the curious, more is needed aside from just a shared human heritage, but I don’t think there’s anything concrete we can look at.

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no, I mean, I thought we all knew that the greek modes were propagated by the Church in the middle ages. That’s why they are sometimes called "Church modes"

Here’s something for you….

if you tune octaves from a low C up to a high C, then tune the 5ths around the circle of 5ths until you get back to C, the C you tuned by octaves will not be the same as the C you tuned from 5ths.

Its called the Pythagorian Comma

the Greeks knew about it 3000 years ago and it is why we have so many systems of temperment through tthe centuries until the Piano Forte became the dominant western instrument

it didn’t come from Zeus, there’s actually been alot written by the folks through the centuries as it came from them to us

but St Paul went to Greece and so there you go, I guess

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Nate you’re right, that should be in here somewhere for those that don’t know, that’s the genealogy of the modes and normally goes without saying. Just musing about what else beyond that.

The connections between Greece and India are well documented. I’ve always found Greco Buddhism interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism

Just dorking around here. Intellectual gas.

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The raga system in its present form, with every scale you could possibly construct out of the 22 srutis given a name and a time of day, is relatively recent, only completed late in the 18th century. So there wasn’t any way it could be ancestral to systems with fewer modes, like Irish music. We have some idea what scales were used in Irish music by the late Middle Ages, and for other kinds of Western music a lot earlier. Indian music was already using scales that the West wasn’t, and vice versa.


"The modes used in Irish music came from the Greeks via Holy Mother Church in the middle ages."

They came from European folk music, which chant also came to draw on late in the Middle Ages. Some important features, like gapped scales, occur in folk music all over Europe and far as central Asia, but do *not* occur in chant except in these very late pieces. There was very little influence of chant on folk music, anywhere. We have records of mediaeval theorists saying they *couldn’t* explain folk music, and ancient Greek theorists just quietly ignoring scales that didn’t fit their model.


"Its called the Pythagorian Comma
the Greeks knew about it 3000 years ago"

Evidence? I do not believe this. Ancient Greek theory had no form of the circle of fifths, and there’s no Greek source of music theory that old. The fact that it’s called "Pythagorean" doesn’t mean Pythagoras had anything to do with it.

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Robin, sometimes I think of Irish dance tunes as a ménage à trois between melody, rhythm, & articulation. With a bit of loyalty, to these basic elements, you can make some beautiful music. I suppose one could see this as avoiding other possibilities. Or it could be making the most of something simple. Having said that the tunes are forever flirting ~ here & there. For instance, if you try to consider the scale or mode of a tune some become moving targets. The tune may suggest a certain chord & that is what the backer plays .. only to find out that he or she is sometimes using a few 2 note chords (or diads) … or now & then a single note, sometimes a drone. So you go looking for an appropriate scale & it leads you back to the tune; to the melody.
You hear so much about particular modes, in traditional music, because a number of tunes seem very comfortable in a given mode (or two). But that doesn’t explain the entire range of the tunes. Some tunes seem to dance around the modes & are quite flirtatious. You mentioned the flattened 2nd. I have something to say about that {F♯ Phyrgian &/or Locrian} , but I want to play some tunes 1st. So I might mention it later.

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Re: Irish and world music

well, I guess I took my old physics professor at his word, Jack

a short trip to Wiki (which is hardly irrefutable or autoritative) credits Chinese mathmaticians in 122bc, but that does not account for the large number of tuning and temperment systems in the west, which are necessary because of this perculiarity of the harmonic series.

Clearly, this phenomenon has been known in the west for more than 2000 years, and I will submit to you as evidence that very myraid of tuning systems used before the advent of equal temperment

the greeks were also able to fairly accurately guage the circumference of the planet by simply obeserving the shadow of a stick in the ground, so they were pretty resourceful as a people, although perhaps not the best money managers.

but Pythogorean Comma aside, the modes got their start in greece. Consider the Mixolydian mode. Lydia is a city state in the old republic, so I’ll hang my hat on that and call it evidence

and this does not discount folk music practices. Its just that when you are singing modal cadences every Sunday for 1,000 years, stuff rubs off, so it would not be surprising at all to find modal cadences in folk music of Christian societies

but my main point is that there was that any similarities between Irish and Indian music are sheer coincidence, and were developed independently of each other, but both have their roots in the same vibrating systems of the physical world we find ourselves in

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How much is known about the music played by the actual Celts? For all their distant Indian connections, they didn’t leave much for us to go on, except for bronze vuvuzelas. The ancient bone whistles and flutes, do these come from the Celts? I’m partial to the argument that many of the ‘components’ of Irish music came with the refugees from the various parts of the Roman world.

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The bagpipe — along with a lot of other nifty stuff and great notions — is supposed to have arrived in Northern Europe with Crusaders returning from the Middle East. That was some time around a thousand years ago. There had to have been plenty of outside influences before or since.

Re: Irish and world music

[circle of fifths]
"a short trip to Wiki (which is hardly irrefutable or autoritative) credits Chinese mathmaticians in 122bc, but that does not account for the large number of tuning and temperment systems in the west, which are necessary because of this perculiarity of the harmonic series."

Tuning systems have nothing to do with closing the circle of fifths. The issue doesn’t arise in non-equally-tempered systems (which account for nearly all real music). In practice, musical cultures in Europe either went for Pythagorean like mediaeval harpists (which makes any interval but octaves, fourths and fifths sound dissonant) or for variants of just or mean intonation, which gives nicer results but forces you into microtonality and limits on what keys you can play in.

Nobody is going to take an Irish reel in G, play it through 12 transpositions through the circle of fifths and then worry about whether they’re still in G.

"Its just that when you are singing modal cadences every Sunday for 1,000 years, stuff rubs off, so it would not be surprising at all to find modal cadences in folk music of Christian societies"

So everybody within earshot of a bell tower sings in anharmonic bell pitches, do they?

The congregation in Catholic Europe DIDN’T sing. And it seems pretty obvious that chant had next to no influence, since folk music everywhere in Europe has a far wider variety of modes than chant does. (There are no pentatonic chant melodies, nor any in modes like the Istrian scale).

"How much is known about the music played by the actual Celts?"

Nothing. There is no specific common feature in the music of the peoples descended from them, let alone any tunes in common.

If the people who played the bronze vuvuzelas were in fact Celtic, what they played on them can’t have had anything in common with any known European folk music. The instruments can’t do it.

"but my main point is that there was that any similarities between Irish and Indian music are sheer coincidence, and were developed independently of each other, but both have their roots in the same vibrating systems of the physical world we find ourselves in"

The variety of pitch systems used by musical cultures all over the world shows that physics dictates absolutely nothing, beyond the requirement to only make sounds in a range you can hear. There are cultures than only use semitone intervals, cultures that don’t use the octave, cultures that use 5- and 7-tone equitonic tunings with nothing like a fifth, cultures that have ensembles where three different tuning systems are going on at once. Many of these systems were arrived at over a long time with a great deal of effort - they are no sort of sloppy accident.

Re: Irish and world music

Very interesting. Who’s got more?

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Well, I did mention my pet theory of how the Bronze Age Celts used the upright piano as a weapon of war. Still looking for evidence to support my conclusion…

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If you roll enough of them down a hill at an opposing army, or perhaps at the walls of a fortified village, I imagine you can do some damage.

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The fusion of all world music into one should probably come up with a unified theory which joins Indian ragas & the following;
"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy,
which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."
William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939
http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Getting_the_hard_dark_tone.htm

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Of course! Why else did the old timers situate their fortified villages on high ground? It was to stimy piano attack. By this means, supporting evidence can be extrapolated, sort of.

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I think an upright piano is just a chariot filled with strings and hammers anyway, so there you go.

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Sorry, Random. You were saying?

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Back in June there was a sitar player (an English guy) in a session I was at. He explained that the sitar worked in an Irish session because "All music comes from the same place — the heart." I’m a bit too cynical for that explanation, but the sitar sounded a lot better than a lot of sh*te guitarists I’ve heard over the years. It didn’t not work. More importantly, those things are really cool. It was in fact so cool that he could have been playing absolutely anything and it would have been fine by me.

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Once they invented airplanes, villages could no longer be defended from pianos. Overheard airplanes could just drop them. A single piano could do far more damage then since it would come crashing into its target with much more force than a piano just rolling down a hill.

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We were visited by a sitar player once. He even played on a rug on the floor. The music may have come full circle that night; but none of us could hear our sitar player. Glad to hear your experience was better than ours.

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Bronze Age fixed-wing aircraft? Bronze piston engine too, I’m guessing. Pretty tough to come to that conclusion. The Mormons might have something from their field work….

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"The upright piano chariot was first introduced to ancient warfare by the Indo-European King Brennus Rangarajan III…"

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Nice video Random, I’ll save that for later.

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The whole Wright Brothers thing is a myth. Aircraft were actually invented in the Bronze Age but the instructions were engraved on pots, which were forgotten during the Iron Age. Then they were rediscovered in the Middle Ages and put into a code, which consisted of patterns of religious figures placed in those giant medieval cathedrals. Then people were told those statues were just narratives of biblical stories. And everyone believed it.

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Jack, I don’t mean to be contrary, but what you posted just goes against everything I learned in musicology at a university

that you claim physics has no bearing on tuning systems is also just not right. Physics is all you got. Its vibrating systems, that’s what it is

I can understand if you don’t want to recognize that the Church actually did influence our culture, especially during the middle ages, but you do understand that Dorian and Mixolydian modes are called "Church Modes" don’t you? you also do realize that they came from Greece, right?

this is just basic music history here, you can find this in chapter one of practically any book on music theory you open up, really. It isn’t even a matter for debate. This is what it is plain and simple.

dorian, Ionian, Aeolean, and Mixolydian are all Greek modes and are called "church modes" because they were used in the Church

what’s to disagree about there?

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SS: So that means that the joke about the results of tossing a piano down a mine shaft **could** have been enjoyed by Bronze Age folk?

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The Dorian and Mixolydian modes didn’t come from Greece. They are found all over the world. Dorian is probably the commonest heptatonic mode found anywhere - it’s "huseyni" in Arabic and Turkish, and has been used in Middle Eastern music since before there was any such thing as Christian chant.

The *names* came from Greece, but that’s all. What the Greeks called "Dorian mode" was not what the Church called by that name - the mediaeval chant scholars misinterpreted Boethius so all their mode names were wrong.

Ionian and Aeolian modes were not used by the Church (Aeolian maybe because it was thought to be unsingable by ordinary monks, Ionian maybe because it was thought too frivolous and secular). Their use in the Western modal system only goes back to the Renaissance. The Church (for a few centuries) used a system of nine modes, I-VIII + "modus peregrinus". Look at the modes tutorial on my website for a description. (I also list some better references than whatever you’ve been using).

"Physics is all you got. Its vibrating systems, that’s what it is"

So what? That doesn’t determine anything at all about the *kind* of music you end up with. Sound in Aboriginal Australia has the same physics as it does in a French monastery or Chinese palace.


This is some ancient-musicology speculation that goes in more interesting directions:

http://music000001.blogspot.com/

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"A single piano could do far more damage then since it would come crashing into its target with much more force than a piano just rolling down a hill". I think you are confusing defence and attack, A good log roll down a decent slope would be more effective than dropping the things.

I’m also following the real discussion with interest. Are we going to have a mention of "modus lascivus" ?

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[It seems that pretty much all the scales used in Irish music are used in Indian music, including the use of varying versions when ascending vs descending. Without wanting to offend anyone, I might say that the scales of Irish music form a kind of "subset" of the raga system of Indian classical music.] the fact that one might worry that this could "offend" someone is testimony to the lingering racism in pockets of irish and irish-american culture. [i said "pockets," not the whole spectrum.] and it is definitely real.

but this poster is correct. this was imprecisely but beautifully documented in "latcho drom" a quasi-staged, quasi-verite "documentary" film about the westward migration of Rom gypsy music from india/pakistan, to turkey, to eastern europe, to western europe. unfortunately, the celtic chapter part of this musical migration was left out of this film…but it’s a great soundtrack album and a great illustration of the westward movement not just of "Rom" modal music, but of the modal strains generally. the spiraling, droning pre-"church" modal scales in itm are straight outta india/pakistan, the middle east, and africa, and are keystones of celtic music. now, itm also has other contributory threads in its heritage, including a conventional major-key strain and a conventional minor-key strain….but its archaic modal "pre-church" heritage is real and news flash, it doesn’t come from western europe. it comes from Mother Africa, Mother India, Mother Desert!!! that heritage shows not only in the modes, but in the single-melody-line emphasis in this music, in which one line is in the foreground, with chordal or backing strains present but de-emphasized, and counterpoint is not really present. counterpoint is a "post-church" thing in western music. the india/pakistan heritage shows as well in the spirals, loops, and drones in celtic music…..it’s often overlooked that the earliest evidence of the celts is in eastern europe, in the danube basin.


[What is ‘world music’ and why isn’t Ireland included in it?] yes, it is the ignorant and provincial reverse-bigotry whereas the definitions "world music," like the words "ethnic" and "ethnicity" have been twisted and moronically re-defined to mean, "non-white." Hence, the appalling situation where celtic music, as rootsy, dance-based, and "ethnic" as african or middle-eastern music, is thrown into the, er, "Folk" bin at the record store, an equally noxious "category" full of white guitar-strummers who look and sound rejects from "A Mighty Wind." truly asinine.

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That’s pretty muddled as a history of Gypsy music.

The main thing to note is that the music played by Gypsy musicians has NOTHING in common with Gypsy folk music. Gypsy musicians (a small minoirty of the Gypsy people) have always played what the peoples around them wanted to hear - so in Hungary they played Hungarian music, usually with more virtuosity than the Hungarians themselves could manage. Gypsy folk music is far less well known in the West - it’s the music of a very poor and marginalized people, and (in Eastern Europe) traditionally used no real instruments at all, the most sophisticated one being a water jug used like an udu for percussion. There may be SOME link between this folk music and whatever the Gypsies sang when they were forced out of India - at least the language is related - but it’s a pretty tenuous one. And the music of such a marginal people had no influence on ANY of the peoples the Gypsies came in touch with - nobody wanted to know.

Some sources on Gypsy folk music:

Balint Sarosi, "Gypsy Music", Corvina Press, Budapest 1978

"Chants Tziganes/Gipsy Songs", Kalyi Jag, Hungaroton LP/Playasound CD, Hungary 1991/France 1993

"Gypsies of Csenyete: living music of a Hungarian village", Fono Records, Budapest 2002

Fono’s shop in Budapest is probably the best place to find more. Kalyi Jag have done other CDs since and are still performing, I think.

There is a week-long summer school on Hungarian Gypsy music somewhere in Hungary or Romania (I can’t find the link right now, it isn’t on the standard lists of Hungarian folk camps). Mouth percussion (Gypsy beatboxing), dance, ballad singing, water-jug playing. I thought about going last year but it worked out too inconvenient to fit in with other musical things I wanted to do in Romania that summer. If anybody’s seriously interested I can dig further (the websites are all in Hungarian).

When you come across romantic stories like the Gypsies being the link between India and the Celtic West: check the dates, ok? When do you think the Gypsies got to Europe?

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"The variety of pitch systems used by musical cultures all over the world shows that physics dictates absolutely nothing, beyond the requirement to only make sounds in a range you can hear. There are cultures than only use semitone intervals, cultures that don’t use the octave, cultures that use 5- and 7-tone equitonic tunings with nothing like a fifth, cultures that have ensembles where three different tuning systems are going on at once. Many of these systems were arrived at over a long time with a great deal of effort - they are no sort of sloppy accident."

Jack is spot on. He’s also right that the modes didn’t derive from church music. He’s also right about use of the modes being common around Europe. And, if you read his paper on modes in Scottish music you’ll see he takes the whole modal issue much further than just the 7 note modes.

The problem with most of these discussions is that they seem to forget that theory is a description of practice and not practice itself. Tuning schemes derive because there needs to be some sort of agreement about them if folks are to play together in anything but heterophony. So, they develop to suit the music of a particular area. And, they describe practice at some point in time. That’s why 18th century harmonic theory falls apart applied to 20th Century Western Art Music. And, incidentally, why 18th Century Harmony is somewhat useless in describing harmonic implications in much traditional music. So, we get into difficulty trying to properly describe music from one area with terms and traditions from another. This is not to say that cross-fertilization does not take place as people move around, but rather that there is scant evidence about exactly what happened in the cross-fertilization; particularly when you talk about things as diverse as Irish Trad and Indian music. One can speculate but that’s about it

Re: Irish and world music - one cross-fertilization

There is one documented and intriguing transfer of music between India and the west. A 19th century Indian poet wrote a series of pieces in praise of various Hindu Gods which he set to music. He used the music he heard regularly, which was the music of the British army bands and other music groups. So, some of these pieces are set to tunes like "Rakes of Mallow" and "Fanny Poer."

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Seems like there’s an easy reconciliation between Jack and Nate here:
All music operates through physical means and therefore you can analyse music from a physical and mathematical perspective. The logics of some temperament and scale systems, such as the ‘church modes,’ are more mathematically oriented than others. The current systems popular in the US/Europe are especially mathematical because art-music (eg, baroque, classical, romantic, etc) composers in Europe sought to create more and more elaborate harmonies over time which required certain temperament and scale systems— systems derived largely from church sources which were derived largely from classical Greek sources.
I recently read a somewhat date book on "Music of the Western Continents" which suggested that polyphonic singing in European arose from church chants. If you read about early Irish harp music, much of the melodies are pentatonic or near-pentatonic. I have no problem accepting the influence of Greek-derived church scales on folk music, personally, the story makes sense to me.

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cboody, do you have a reference for that story about British military music in India? I read the same in a musicology journal a few years ago but forgot to write down the reference. The author named about 20 tunes (mostly Scottish) that had gone into South Indian tradition, with the names interestingly mangled.

Resodan, what reference says early Irish harp music was pentatonic? None of the early pieces I know of are.

Sure, some kinds of *tonality* need temperament. Modality doesn’t. With a single-line tune, you can bend the pitches a long way before you hear it as being in a different mode. "The Mist-Covered Mountains" is still in B minor/aeolian whether you hear it in the scale of the Highland pipes, in just intonation on the fiddle or in equal temperament on a piano accordion.

There are many kinds of polyphonic singing in folk music that use much the same techniques as mediaeval church music. A Georgian table song (from Svanetia, an isolated mountain region in the north of the country):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZFVdQ18ToU


Some of the earliest Western church polyphony, from Leonin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkCayGh1OvU


Some musicologists think the Western style derived from the Georgian folk idiom (there are plausible routes of transmission).

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I wish folks would stop saying the church modes derived from the Greek modes. They did not. Only the names derived from the Greek music discussions and even those, as someone pointed out above, were incorrectly applied. Even the content of the modes was different because of the different tunings the Greeks posited; at least in theory. Someone reminded me of that in another discussion here some time back. I’d forgotten.

Pythagorius was actually in some ways connected with the Pythagorean comma. One needs to remember the place of music as part of the "quadrivium" in early universities. one 5th century philosopher describes it this way:

"The Pythagoreans considered all mathematical science to be divided into four parts: one half they marked off as concerned with quantity, the other half with magnitude; and each of these they posited as twofold. A quantity can be considered in regard to its character by itself or in its relation to another quantity, magnitudes as either stationary or in motion. Arithmetic, then, studies quantities as such, music the relations between quantities, geometry magnitude at rest, spherics [astronomy] magnitude inherently moving"

There’s more to say but maybe not of interest.

@Jack Campin: I’ll dig up the two recordings I have of all 47 (I think) of these pieces and find the reference on them. It’ll take some time tomorrow. I’ll post here when I find it. I’d appreciate it if you could find the musicological reference you mentioned too.