Consolation New

May 17, 2014 by

The song Consolation New appears on page 143 of The Shenandoah Harmony.  Although it was first published in Harrisburg, Pa. in 1813, the tune is probably far older.  Ananias Davisson rearranged the tune in 1822 and included it in A Supplement to the Kentucky Harmony, ed.2.  We added an alto part in 2012. Here’s a video from a singing in Hadley, Massachusetts.  Our friend Becky Wright is leading the group, which is arranged in a “hollow square” formation. Becky chose a fairly slow tempo for the song.  Here’s a faster recording with a small group, from December 2013 in Easton, Pa....

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Barring It All, Part 1

Feb 18, 2014 by

Thanks to some perceptive comments on fasola-songwriters and elsewhere, I’m going to revisit my previous post on rhythm and meter.  Two comments that intrigued me were Leah Velleman’s idea that there might be a generative theory of rhythm that applies to shape-note hymnody and Tarik Wareh’s observation that rhythm and the placement of bar lines are not independent phenomena.  Another suggestion, emailed by a friend, was to look at higher-level accents. I hope you’re not sick of LOUISIANA (SH 207), because I’d like to start there again.  I had classified settings of the text as “even” if their accented syllables were evenly spaced.  However, as Leah and others pointed out, I allowed some fudging at the end of lines, so my “even” rhythms weren’t strictly even.  Here’s a rhythmic setting of “Come, little children”...

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Meter, Rhythm, and the Most Awkward Farewell...

Feb 7, 2014 by

Here’s a sequel to my previous post on tune families.  After reading Charles Seeger’s article ”Versions and variants of the tunes of ‘Barbara Allen,'” I was intrigued by the idea of adding rhythm to my analysis of tune families.  In this post, I’m going to explore the contribution of rhythm to a tune’s identity.  Since settings of the same tune family can vary in four dimensions—pitch, time, text, and harmony—I’d like to incorporate rhythm into the study of tune families and also consider the existence of “rhythm families.” First of all, let’s distinguish between meter and rhythm.  Meter, in this context, is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the poetry.  It is unaffected by how the text is set to music.  Rhythm, on the other hand, is the pattern of musical note durations...

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Thoughts on Tune Families

Jan 21, 2014 by

In many early American churches—and some churches today—congregational singing consisted of either a preacher lining out a melody, with the congregation responding, or a cappella singing using words-only hymnals.  In either case, most folks learned the melody by ear.  Over generations and in the absence of notated music, each local church community would develop its own version of a hymn tune.  These versions form a tune family—that is, a collection of tunes that are regional or denominational variants of the same melody.  Unless we know the original melody, however, it is not always clear which tunes belong in the same family.  Another wrinkle in the story is that melodies can vary through oral transmission and also by the conscious act of an arranger or editor.  In the American folk hymn tradition, the tune and the text are rarely...

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