Resources for the Bodhrán

Resources for the Bodhrán

Hello all,

I am preparing my final thesis, which will be a composition for five Bodhráns. I say this in all seriousness, so if all the Bodhrán-haters would please just run away screaming instead of answering to this post, that would be nice. In case any troll answers, please (PLEASE!) ignore them and don´t feed them by reacting to them in any way.

That being said, here are my questions:
- Does anyone here know of any composition that features only Bodhráns? By composition I explicitly don´t mean solos, even prepared ones, or Bodhrán-offs, but planned pieces that are at least to some extent written down.
- Is there a notation that combines the drumset-like aspects and the melodic aspects of Bodhrán playing in one writing system, be it in a traditional score, in a text-based or graphic notation system, or a combination of the three?
- What literature, be it instructional, documentary or other, would you recommend?
- Anything else you think I should know?

Any help would be greatly apreciated.

paul

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

I don’t know if he posts on here, but Andy May, who is a bodhran tutor in Edinburgh, did write a composition for 4 bodhrans (or 4 groups of): he had the players in the four corners of the room. From what I remember of it (it was quite a long while back!) there were "call and response" elements to it as well as counter-rhythms involved. (Not to be confused with the other Andy May, Northumbrian piper!)
I can’t remember exactly how it was notated, but maybe like classical music percussion scores?

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Classical percussionist here. If you decide to use traditional percussion notation, you will need to devise some way of notating the pitch changes caused by using the non-beater hand on the inside of the head. The pitches are not specific, so you don’t need a clef. You can still use a five-line staff, just a (neutral) percussion "clef" and go from low to high. You would need an extensive explanation section for specific and pitch notations. There are other non-traditional ways of notating music using graphics or squiggly lines which you could research to devise your own.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Good point David L! (Having been a timpanist in my youth!)

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

I am not an unqualified admirer of the bodhran, nor of modern classical music, and it is likely if you are doing a phd you will probably know this anyway, but the minimalists Phillip Glass and John Adams notated very complex drumming rhythms accurately.

Don’t know why they bothered (I’m joking, I joking, God’s sake!)

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Thanks to both of you!
You, Trish, don´t happen to have any means of contacting the Andy May in question? Google does not reveal much about him, and nothing about this composition or his email.
Maybe I will have to create my own notation, but perhaps someone has already thought one through that I could use. So far I´ve had a look at Matthew Bell´s and Michele Stewart´s systems, which both have their advantages and disadvantages. The search continues.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

If you’re doing a thesis you might want to just check if the plural of Bodhrán is Bodhráns. A quick search turned up Bodhráin as the plural form, perhaps one of the Irish speakers(I’m not one) on this site could fill in the gaps.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

I use Finale to write and compose music. Finale uses Garritan to emulate instruments. It supports maybe a hundred plus instruments at this time but I think it doesn’t support Bodhrán. But unless you need playback from you composition, you can use any percussion style notation. Look up Finale and Garritan to get started. Basically each note on a custom or standard clef represents a percussion instrument, and/or a percussion instrument pitch. You can define it anyway you want. The performers just need to understand your assignments. Garritan does support Tablas, which though very different, have some of the same issues with notation. Perhaps you can learn something useful looking at hoe Tablas are notated.
To sum up, just use standard or your own custom music notation (you don’t need a product). Define each note or line/space to the Bodhrán attribute that you want performed. Standard music notation should be able to handle any rhythmic notation.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Thanks, Tony, for the grammar advice. It might be worth mentioning that I have to write the thesis acompanying the composition in german, and here in germany I have never heard anything else but Bodhráns as the plural form. Though I´ll stick with that for the thesis, I will certainly mention the irish plural form, which according to my sources indeed is Bodhráin.
Steve: I don´t need midi-playback of what I write. The score is primarily meant to clarify how exactly the sounds of the recording (which also is required for this kind of thesis) are produced. All in all there seems to be no way around an extensive key table to clarify the meaning of the signs I use. Perhaps I´ll take a dive into tabla-notation to come up with my own system.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

With all due respect, this seems a rather pointless exercise. After it has been composed, whoever is going to play it?

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Meh, the world of academia is absolutely full of pointless exercises. Maybe at a PhD level (I’m not sure what kind of degree this is for) there is more expectation to produce something that contributes to your field, but I think most bachelors and masters theses are submitted, graded, the student graduates, and the thesis never sees the light of day again.

I submitted a thesis earlier this year and graduated, and I know I never want to see mine again 😀

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

And that’s a rather pointless remark (by E_F, Colman got in first). Whether or not Paul’s composition ever gets played after its first performance doesn’t really matter. The exercise is going to teach him a lot about composition, orchestration (OK well arrangement of parts), and notation, for a start. Knowledge that will be of use to him throughout his musical life, and possibly of interest to others. And those who perform it for that first occasion will learn a lot, too. It’s a form of research - and questioning the value of research because you can’t see an immediate application for it is, well, think about it.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

The full name of the thesis is Künstlerisch-praktische Examensarbeit im Rahmen der Ersten Staatsprüfung für das Lehramt an Gymnasien im Fach Musik. In short: It´s a part of the exams one needs to do in order to become a music teacher at higher public schools in germany. For this I have to record 30 minutes of music and write about 60 pages about it, following the rules of scientific writing. A score is not strictly required, but nevertheless I plan to write the music down in some way or another.

Thank you, Stiamh, I could not have found better words, although as of now I don´t have plans to do a performance. Instead, I will upload the recording(s) to youtube, soundcloud and/or similar sites and will look for a place to make the pdf files of the thesis itself and the score publicly available. First I had the idea to write my thesis about the translation of phraseological units from english to german and spanish. It is indeed hard to find an idea for a thesis someone might actually find any use for, apart from getting the writer closer to a degree of some kind.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Not pointless.
I’d certainly listen to it if it’s any good & you can get it recorded.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

I have messaged Andy to tell him of this discussion, so hope he might get in touch with you, bravesentry.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Paul,
It sounds like a great project to me.
I am sure some of us would be interested in the results if that is posible.

More details on the two methods I mentioned earlier:
- - - European Music Notation
Here is a sight that developed standard music notation for the Bodhrán.
This type of notation is very typical and widely used for many percussion instruments.
It’s a good example of what I was trying to describe above.
You may have to expand the key table to get the nuances you want especially of some of the strokes are pitched.
Bodhran Notation - Gregg Nardozza
http://www.nardozza.com/bodhran/

- - - North Indian Percussion Music Notation
From purely a musical point of view, I think this is the best for musicianship.
But it’s a lot for a one time project, but I think you will find it interesting.
I studied tablas for a while with Ashwin Batish. He used the standard Indian method of teaching percussion.
I recommend it very highly for teaching. And perhaps for notation?
I think it contributes to a much higher level of musical understanding.
You would have to develop a set of "bols" syllables to fit the Bodhrán.
Syllables that would have some intuitive sense for Bodhrán. Like how bluegrass guitar uses "Boom Chuck"
Here is an excerpt to give you an idea:
http://raganet.com/Issues/1/tabla1.html

… … …
To learn tabla well, you have to learn to say it well. Simply stated, learn to vocalize the language of this drum and you’ll be playing it in no time.
By language I mean…. learn all its possible sound combinations called tabla bols. This is very similar to learning the alphabets. Some example of the basic tabla bol set are Ta, Tin, Ti, Ta, Dha, Ra, etc…. and then learn the various combinations (like making various words with these alphabets) for example KaTa, TiTa, DhaGe, NaTi, TiTaKiTa, and so on …… then combine these into sentences as Dha Dha Ti Ta | Dha Dha Tu Na ….. then join these sentences to make paragraphs as

Dha Ti Ta Dha | Ti Ta Dha Ti | Dha Dha Ti Ta | Dha Dha Tu Na
Ta Ti Ta Ta | Ti Ta Ta Ti | Dha Dha Ti Ta | Dha Dha Tu Na
These paragraphs are then combined into stories …… and that’s the Tabla in a nutshell.
… … . .

If you are still interested, read this page for more details:
http://raganet.com/Issues/5/tabla5.html
[[[I think the examples (.ram) will play on MS Windows, but I haven’t found a way to play them on a Mac without signing in to Real Media]]]

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

@Steve: While tabla-notation certainly sounds interesting and worth discussing in the paper, I think for writing the piece I will try and find something more intuitively comprehensible for people who are used to classical notation. Anyway, thank you very much for this quick dive into a kind of music I previously had only marginally got in contact with.

@Trish: Thanks a lot! Perhaps he´s be interested. I´ll PM you my email, so if he doesn´t want to post here, he can still write me.

@Alpinerabbit: Yeah! Encouragement! Not pointless! :D I´ll upload it somewhere and post the link here. Should be in January.

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Hi Paul I recommend you get in touch with a Danish fellah called Svend Kjeldsen, he done a fare bit of college studies on the bodhran and has done numerous projects involving just bodhrans, he teaches at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, he might be able to help you in your searches, he can be contacted on this page http://www.irishworldacademy.ie/kjeldsen-svend/ and you can get him on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/svend.kjeldsen.1?fref=pb&hc_location=friends_tab&pnref=friends.all

Good luck in your endeavours, I’m a bodhran player myself and love playing, I hope this helps you out. I also put together this bunch of video clips I titled the history of the bodhran.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L9ncPGi4qA

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

You might check with Mel Mercier. Mel is a distinguished bodhranist who has composed many musical scores including at least one Tony Award nominated Broadway production. He is an ethnomusicologist with a doctorate from the University of Limerick. Incidentally, his Father Peadar played bones and bodhran ten years with the Chieftains. Good luck!

http://www.irishworldacademy.ie/professor-mel-mercier-chair-of-performing-arts/

Re: Resources for the Bodhrán

Hey everyone,

after having finished the thesis on the 5th of february, the professors took their time for assessment. Two days ago I have received my mark, which is 12 out of 15 possible points. Now that the official assessment is done I can upload the thesis.

Here https://www.dropbox.com/s/2dafpricmhwcs38/Paul%20Wendel%20-%20Komposition%20fur%20Bodhran.pdf?dl=0 you find the text. It is in german for the most part, but some of you might be interested in the score for the piece I ended up calling Goat Notes. The score and the key table for the score are in english. A recording of it can be found here https://theirishdrum.bandcamp.com/releases

Don´t expect too much though. My profs and I agree that the paper has turned out much better than the music. Nevertheless you might enjoy it. Just don´t expect it to be ITM in any way.

Thanks again for the input of all of you!
Paul