3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

Like I said in a previous thread, new to Irish trad music, enjoying listening to the tunes and reading about the history.

I’ve got 3 questions about words and phrases I keep hearing, would be interesting to know what they mean.

1) What’s the ‘pure drop’?
2) What are the ‘humours’? Lots of tunes called the humours of this and that. What’s it mean?
3) Not sure how to spell this one, what’s the ‘nyar’?? I found an interview with Kevin Burke somewhere and he was talking about when he first started playing. Apparently he showed promise early and he says ‘people said I had the "nyar".’ I suppose it means something like the ‘feel’ or an inherent sense of the pulse or something?


Re: 3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

What’s the ‘pure drop’?

You’ll probably get lots of answers to this, but it’s a simple colloquialism, meaning just that : pure drop. Synonyms : hardcore, fundamentalist, etc.

‘The music’ in its purest traditional form (best if it’s solo), one example of which would be a tune played on a wooden flute. The same tune that had been played by the fathers, forefathers, etc. It tends to be an ‘in’ thing, meaning only those who are truly immersed in ‘the tradition’ are able to define it, and whose opinions of what is good/bad are the only ones that count, and have any value. Contrast that concept with what is being played today, and how it is being played, on what instruments and by whom.

Pass on ‘humours’ for now - they caused enough trouble in medieval medicine 🙂 …

‘Nyar’ - or ‘nyahh’ - music full of power, punch, feel, pulse, drive, or otherwise sounding otherwise highly spirited. These are the only criteria. Often at the expense of musicality, tone and intonation, which are deemed to be of much lesser importance (although it’s fine for these elements to be present too).

Re: 3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

Ahh ok. That’s interesting. So I guess the ‘nyahh’ is when I’m missing notes left right and centre but the beat is still there in my bow hand and one way or the other it all comes together at the end of the bar.

It’s surprising actually that when it gets out of control like that, that’s also the times that the little unexpected triplets and slurs and things turn up without me really intending it but it gets the thing back in time with my right foot.

And then I think ahh, that was decent, probably couldn’t do it again though because not quite sure what I did.

Re: 3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

Some say ‘the pure drop’ is the first dram of poitin from the vat…or ‘the best’!

Re: 3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

"Humors" has interesting etymological roots related to ancient medicine, but we can leave that aside. Instead, try this: imagine being in a room full of people who all like each other and are happy to be there. That is to say, everyone is in good humor. If you were to write a tune in which you tried to convey how it felt to be in that room, you would call it "The Humors of That Room". Get it?

Re: 3 questions about Irish words/phrases.

‘Humours’ relates to the essence of a [Place (usually)].

‘Pure drop’ is about the unadulterated form. Of course, all Irish music is somewhat adulterated, but if you can find something close to authentic, traditional Irish, you might call that ‘pure drop’.

‘Nyah’ is a bit more complicated, and much discussed. It similar to ‘lift’ or ‘rhythm’ but is not exactly either one. You might be able to get a bit of the idea from this: