The Dreary Plains Of Toil strathspey

By Will Harmon

The Dreary Plains Of Toil has been added to 39 tunebooks.

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Four settings

X: 1
T: The Dreary Plains Of Toil
R: strathspey
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gdor
GF|:D<GG>A B>GB<d|c>BA>G F>GA<F|D<GG>A B>GB<d|
g>fd<f f<gba|g>ag>f d>ef<d|c>BA>G F>GA<F|
D<GG>A B>GB<d|1 c>AF<A G2 GF:|2 c>AF<A G2 A<c||
|:d<GG>F D<GG>F|D<GF<A B>GB<d|c>AG>F D<FF>G|
A>FA>B c>AB<c|d<GG>F D<GG>F|D<GF<A B>GB<c|
d<g f/g/a g>fdB|1 c>AF<A G2 A<c:|2 c>AF<A G4||
# Added .
X: 2
T: The Dreary Plains Of Toil
R: strathspey
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Emin
ED"^em"|:B,/E3/2E3/2F/ G3/2E/G/B3/2|"D"A3/2G/F3/2E/ D3/2E/F/D3/2|"^em"B,/E3/2E3/2F/ G3/2E/G/B3/2|
e3/2d/B/d3/2"G"d/e3/2gf|"^em"e3/2f/e3/2d/ B3/2c/d/B3/2|"D"A3/2G/F3/2E/ D3/2E/F/D3/2|
"^em"B,/E3/2E3/2F/ G3/2E/G/B3/2|1 "D"A3/2F/D/F3/2"^em"E2ED:|2 "D"A3/2F/D/F3/2"^em"E2F/A3/2||
|:B/E3/2E3/2D/ B,/E3/2E3/2D/|B,/E3/2D/F3/2 G3/2E/G/B3/2|"D"A3/2F/E3/2D/ B,/D3/2D3/2E/|
F3/2D/F3/2G/ A3/2F/G/A3/2|"^em"B/E3/2E3/2D/ B,/E3/2E3/2D/|B,/E3/2D/F3/2 G3/2E/G/A3/2|
B/e3/2d/e/f e3/2d/BG|1 "D"A3/2F/D/F3/2"^em"E2F/A3/2:|2 "D"A3/2F/D/F3/2"^em"E2||
# Added by fiel .
X: 3
T: The Dreary Plains Of Toil
R: strathspey
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Gdor
AG"^em"|:E/A3/2A3/2B/ c3/2A/c/e3/2|"G"d3/2c/B3/2A/ G3/2A/B/G3/2|"^em"E/A3/2A3/2B/ c3/2A/c/e3/2|
a3/2g/e/g3/2"C" g/a3/2c’b|"^em"a3/2b/a3/2g/ e3/2f/g/e3/2|"G"d3/2c/B3/2A/ G3/2A/B/G3/2|
"^em"E/A3/2A3/2B/ c3/2A/c/e3/2|1 "G"d3/2B/G/B3/2"^em"A2AG:|2 "G"d3/2B/G/B3/2"^em"A2B/d3/2||
|:e/A3/2A3/2G/ E/A3/2A3/2G/|E/A3/2G/B3/2 c3/2A/c/e3/2|"G"d3/2B/A3/2G/ E/G3/2G3/2A/|
B3/2G/B3/2c/ d3/2B/c/d3/2|"^em"e/A3/2A3/2G/ E/A3/2A3/2G/|E/A3/2G/B3/2 c3/2A/c/d3/2|
e/a3/2g/a/b a3/2g/ec|1 "G"d3/2B/G/B3/2"^em"A2B/d3/2:|2 "G"d3/2B/G/B3/2"^em"A2||
X: 4
T: The Dreary Plains Of Toil
R: strathspey
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Ador
AG|E<A A>B c>A c<e|d>c B>A G>A B<G|E<A A>B c>A c<e|a>g e<g a>b c'b|
a>b a>g e>f g<e|d>c B>A G>A B<G|E<A A>B c>A c<e|d>B G<B A2 B<d||
e<A A>G E<A A>G|E<A G<B c>A c<e|d>B A>G E<G G>A|B>G B>c d>B c<d|
e<A A>G E<A A>G|E<A G<B c>A c<d|e<a ga/b/ a>g ec|d>B G<B A2 AG||

Twenty-six comments

The Dreary Plains of Toil

I’m still hoping that the tune titles I proposed in the “learning styles” discussion will inspire the composers among us. The above title just begged for a morose little strathspey, so here we go. Play it not too fast, and (if you play like I do) overwrought with more despair (at being unable to correctly do the “Scottish Snap”) than the tune (and listener) can bear.

Posted .

Okay, so I don’t know anything about Scottish music (well, that’s not quite right, I DO know what a strathspey is). What’s a Scottish Snap, Will?



Must be the source of inspiration for these tunes, but I’ve goffed again, in the first measure of Part B. Should be |dF DF|

Zina–the snap is that wrist flick the Scot’s use to dislocate dancer’s hips when playing strathspeys…to get the peculiar rhythm spot on. It’s what gives you the snap from a 16th note to an eighth in the usual strathspey timing.

Jeremy, I promise not to type in anymore tunes until my fingers heal….apologies for the corrections.

Posted .

Will, I LOVE this tune! Nice work. A perfect little angry strathspey. A work of art. I was playing it last night and it sounds great, especially when I get frustrated.

Thanks, Kerri, high praise indeed coming from a clearly talented composer yourself. The “keepers” always seem to almost write themselves, as this one did.

Thanks, too to Jeremy for correcting the sheet music and midi after my blundering broken fingers smeared the posting.

Posted .

What is the name of this…

…beautiful strathspey?
Can anyone give more information about it?

Posted by .

The Dreary Plains of Toil

Fiel, where on earth did you come across this obscure little tune?!?! Who did you learn it from?

I’m also curious why the first line of your comment has a question mark…is it because you’re not sure that it’s a beautiful tune, or that you’re not sure it’s a strathspey?

I ask only because I happen to really like this tune, and I *think* it’s a strathspey, but I’m biased.

Y’see, I wrote this a while back when a bunch of us here were commiserating over being stuck on musical plateaus. Hence the name.

You can find my posting of the tune here:

And I’m astounded that someone else is playing it! Thank you!

Posted .

Hahaha Will that’s funny! It’s gone in a full circle and come back to you. Interesting that the key’s been changed in the process. I think you’ve misunderstood fiel’s question mark. “…beautiful strathspey” is a continuation of “What is the name of this…”

This is so weird, to hear of people in other parts of the world playing “my” tunes (does anyone ever *own* a tune, even if they wrote it? I like to think that the tunes are just there, and if you play enough, you’ll be fortunate to have some of them come out through you.) Glauber had a guy launch into Bang Your Frog on the Sofa at a session in Chicago, and now Dreary Plains shows up in Denmark! That makes my day!

Posted .

I especially like how these tunes have dispersed, apparently into some small corners of the tradition. It’s a remarkable experiment in how a tune might come to be known as traditional–*of course* in some other key, and likely under some other name (or the time-honored “gan ainm”). It’s a bit like banding a warbler and then getting a call from a distant downwind country….

Posted .

LOL LOL LOL – KERRI! KERRI! Where are you, girl? Look what you did! LOL

I’ll leave this one stand

Normally I delete duplicate tune postings but this is just such a classic example of the way tunes get propagated (and these comments are such a delight to read) that I’m going to leave this one go as a testament to the viral power of a good tune.


LOL, “viral power,” LOL, does that make me the original vector, the Typhoid Mary of this particular “strain”? 😀

Jeremy, I was hoping you’d leave it up, especially since it’s in a different–and no doubt more useful–key than the original. Thanks!

Posted .


Will! You wrote it! Its certainly a very beautiful strathspey!, How can anyone doubt about that.
I found it on a piece of paper I don’t know where I got from. The Foresight maybe?.
I transposed it to e minor because we play it together with The road to Lisdoonvarna and Cooley’s Reel, AND “A house in New Orleans” also in e minor. By the way, do you think it is a peculiar blend? A slide, a reel, a strathspey and a song? Anyway we think it is just as peculiar a blend as we think music (and life) should be to bother to play. Right?
I will of couse refer to you as the composer everytime it’s possible. Could please make some more of this stuff?

Posted by .

*blush, blush*
Thanks Fiel. This was one of those tunes that wrote–or more accurately, *played*–itself. I just happened to be the one it picked to give it first voice.

Your set sounds interesting, though it’s more common to put a strathspey before a reel. Either way, I’m just tickled silly that Dreary Plains of Toil is played in Denmark!

So what is “The Foresight”? A music magazine? Another web site? I’d really like to trace how this tune travelled such a distance.


Posted .

Foresight ;~]

Execute my poor

Posted by .

will, my compliments for this lovely strathspey.

Fiel, yes I see your meaning. “Serendipity” perhaps. The Muse, eh? And your English is lightyears better than my Danish 🙂

G.M.–thanks, that means a lot coming from someone whose original tunes I play.

Posted .

The Dreary Plains Of Toil in A min.

In this way it woks better on the flute.

AG“^em“|:E/A3/2A3/2B/ c3/2A/c/e3/2|
“G”d3/2c/B3/2A/ G3/2A/B/G3/2|“^em“E/A3/2A3/2B/ c3/2A/c/e3/2|
a3/2g/e/g3/2“C“ g/a3/2c’b|“^em“a3/2b/a3/2g/ e3/2f/g/e3/2|
“G”d3/2c/B3/2A/ G3/2A/B/G3/2|“^em“E/A3/2A3/2B/ c3/2A/c/e3/2[1|
|:e/A3/2A3/2G/ E/A3/2A3/2G/|E/A3/2G/B3/2 c3/2A/c/e3/2|
“G”d3/2B/A3/2G/ E/G3/2G3/2A/|
B3/2G/B3/2c/ d3/2B/c/d3/2|“^em“e/A3/2A3/2G/ E/A3/2A3/2G/|
E/A3/2G/B3/2 c3/2A/c/d3/2|e/a3/2g/a/b a3/2g/ec|

“woks” means “works”

Will, more I play this tune ( in A min ) more I like it.
I have to confess I have changed a little the 4th bar.

“The Dreary Plains of Toil” gan Wilhelm das Burgemeester

From G Dorian to A Dorian to ~

Key signature: E Dorian
Submitted on October 8th 2003 by fiel.

~ A duplication that survived for a reason ~ see comments, including the link to the ‘discussion’…

Re: The Dreary Plains Of Toil

The first three bars of this tune are a totall recall (unconscious recollection or total fluke?) of the reel ‘I wish you would mary me now’
(Preston, 1768) which appears in the key of A and E at;
(Check the third submission for the 1768 version)
The E version makes it easier to compare to the duplicate /2042 above…

Re: The Dreary Plains Of Toil

… (a.k.a. Morpeth lasses)