Cutting bracken

Cutting bracken

I think this is the name of a tune from the Western Isles but I can’t find it on the Session. Maybe I don’t recall the name correctly? It’s in a minor key and rather good.

Re: Cutting bracken

Although there is no C , I’d say it was in mixolydian mode none the less . I’ve seen it backed as a minor tune but when played in the pipes the C# is a powerful overtone that although not written , is there .

Re: Cutting bracken

Know as Cutting Ferns in Cape Breton, FYI.

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Right.
So there’s no C, an absent C, a missing C and an unwritten C#.
Thanks for the distinction.

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Can we just say it’s in A-ish, and leave it at that?

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utting Bracken

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//So there’s no C, an absent C, a missing C and an unwritten C#.
Thanks for the distinction.//

allan21 - now that’s what I call a dry sense of humour. I laughed a lot at that :)

So … if someone submits a tune abc here, and the notes conflict with the key (a required field), does the ‘engine’ correct it, or just accept it as it is?

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No, it’s bogman who has the dry sense of humour!

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Arid. A new mode.

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As for the name, the most literal translation of the title would be "harvesting the ferns"; both cutting and pulling are possible, or reaping, and although it is not specified what sort of fern it is, it is likely to be bracken.

There are quite a few mixolydian pipe tunes lacking a C of any kind, and some certainly sound minor-ish in quality to me.

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I tend to think this tune is in pure A pentatonic, at least some versions of it. It’s a lovely one, however you slice it.

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Interesting . It depends on what instrument perhaps, when I play it with a triplet run up through the C on mandolin the c nat sounds better and the C sharp wrong, but on the pipe chanter the c nat sounds totally wrong and the C sharp sounds right .
This is how I generally investigate the modality if a tune , by inserting a typical triplet run in a phrase and see how it feels .
So I’m tending towards the pentatonic
Also there is the issue of temperament , on s fretted instrument the major 3 rd is sharp to just intonation ; pure intervals while on the chanter it is a pure major 3 rd so that could explain the discrepancy . And when I play it on fiddle it sounds ok with a C anywhere between the B and D !! :-)

With drones included the major third is the obvious note as it’s the next powerful overtone after Octave , E(5th ) and D(4th) . And on the chanter the C nat is a cross fingered note that is a bit out anyhow! So when it does occur in a tune it’s very noticeable and effective as it clashes with all the overtones.

Funny all these years of playing the tune and I’d not noticed there was no C in the basic melody line

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Thanks Kenny, that’s the one tho’ am used to playing it in D maj, sounds fine on fiddle.

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sorry D minor

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But what were they doing pulling bracken anyhow?! Clearing land ? Or collecting bedding? Terrible stuff to get rid of !if I remember right you have to cut it back at a particular time of the year for three years consecutively to get rid of it .
Collecting bedding most likely IMO

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Nah…
These days - just spray it out!!

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No wonder they’re tired then: "Tha mi Sgith" - so now they’ve made their bed (of bracken) they can lie on it!

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The narrator of the song is a fairy, complaining that his (human) girlfriend has been kept from him, and thus he is in a funk. Yes, I think he’s collecting bracken for his bedding, a lonely task when he has no-one to share it with.

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Tha Mi Sgith, Cutting Bracken, The Weary Maid. The singer could be male or female, I guess, though I’ve usually heard women singing it. Anyhow it makes a nice strathspey. Played at a good clip, it works for C’Breton style step-dance.

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We used to sing Tha Mi Sgith when I was trying to learn Gaelic many moons ago. Yes, and good for step-dancing, another of my long-lapsed talents!

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At least the way it’s usually played on the Highland pipes it’s in the very common scale G A B d e g a, no 3rd or 6th, in other words pentatonic.

It’s played as an air, a march, a strathspey, a reel, a jig, and a hornpipe.

The many tunes in that pentatonic mode tend to have a minor feel to most listeners, and accompanists tend to play a minor chord for the 1 or tonic chord. A Major 1-chord in that tune would sound very strange to me, a Highland piper of 40 years.

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Bracken starch is edible. Perhaps in starvation times they ate the underground stems?

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"Bracken starch is edible. Perhaps in starvation times they ate the underground stems?"

The young unopened fronds are also edible and regarded as a delicacy in some parts - but there is some debate as to whether they are carcinogenic (…there again, there is no debate as to whether smoking tobacco is carcinogenic, yet people still do it - and it doesn’t even taste nice).

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A likely reason to be pulling bracken is for thatch for buildings - bracken was once a common thatching material in the Highlands. Many years ago, as part of a conservation project, I spent the best part of a summer of weekends re-thatching a cottage with bracken and, given the huge quantities of bracken needed and the time required, there is little doubt as to why the person in the song would be tired. The bracken needs to be pulled rather than cut as the fonds are stripped leaving just the stalk with only the black roots (called bun dubh in Gaelic) showing / exposed on the finished thatch (the root being more woody and therefore longer lasting than the stem ). Bracken fronds can be used for bedding cattle - traditionally cattle were kept inside over the winter and would needed fresh bedding daily.

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"These days - just spray it out!!"

Round where I live, local farmers sometimes burn it off to free up grazing land. Just a drop of petrol and a match and the rest takes care of itself…

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Wldn’t wish to taste bracken, but gorse (if you can get past the prickles) is coconutty and pleasant smelling. Lots of that in Orkney and wasn’t it once a flavouring for beer in Scotland? Nice to walk thru crunchy bracken and see if the heather is coming along somewhere near.