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Performance

Johny Cock Thy Beaver

Playford's 1684 setting of this well-known lowland tune ['A Scottish tune to a ground' is Playford's note] was one of the tues I played recently at the LBPS evening at the Glasgow Piping Live! Festival. This is one of thoe tunes that the more I play it, the more complex the  interpretation of its simple notation becomes.

 

I've restricted myself to the first two of Playford's variations, they being essentially the verse and chorus of the song. Maybe when I feel that I have got a strong hold on these two I'll incorporate some more of the variations, but by then I'll probably be inventing my own. The point here is to get inside the drive of the music, since it is really unlike anything that Scottish pipers play today.

When I first started playing this piece I adopted my usual 'French 3-time Bourree' approach, something that I've discussed on other posts here; along with this comes the cabrette-style footwork. However, the more I've played this, [and thanks to a timely enquiry from Dick Hensold] I've begun to see this as belonging to a class of tunes that in the 16th century were referred to as hornpipes - indeed such tunes are the earliest notated hornpipes. Here's my earlier interpretation of two of these hornpipes:

You can see the French influence again in these tunes. I'm not sure yet how the provisional identification of Playford's tunne as a hornpipe will affect the way I play it. I am hoping to embark soon on a project to reconstruct some of these dances using contemporary sources - hopefully this will encourage a new interpretation of the music to emerge.

Meanwhile, here's a very different interpretation of a similar hornpipe, this time from the Ballet Lute Book [c.1600?]

The Playford tune, originally published in his 'Division Violin', was printed in the LBPS publication 'Out of the Flames'. The two 16th century hornpipes and the Ballet Horne pipe are in my 'Three Extraordinary Collection': you'll also find them in my essay on the triple-time hornpipe on this site [pages 5 * 8: click here]. There was a youtube video of the Morlaye Hornpipe d'Angleterr' on guitar available but I can't find it today.

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