Musical Instruments

Turns and rolls — Part 2

The first part of this series presented a few 17th-century instruction books for the flageolet and recorder. It illustrated continuity in ornamentation practice as the first of them ceded its position in urban amateur music making to the second. The present post moves that discussion into the 18th century and brings reed instruments into it. An instruction book for the Baroque oboe — “hautboy” — comparable to those for the flageolet and recorder was published in London in 1695, titled The Sprightly Companion.

The tunes can be played comfortably on all the explicitly named instruments. (Unqualified reference to a “flute” at that date meant a Baroque recorder, in this case one in C.) Ornamentation is clarified with tablature as in the books examined last time. The Ɔ sign that indicates both a “beat” and a “shake” in them, is used in this one exclusively for a shake executed downward from the note to which it is applied. Here is the first line of the explanatory table with a concluding remark in this post’s banner image.

The absence of a corresponding ornament played from above is surprising. Earlier and later instructions for beginners on other wind instruments include both devices, normally labeling one a shake and the other a beat. Proficient players went beyond them with more intricate ornaments, often written as combinations of the two basic devices. This includes the turn that is a focus of this series alongside its Irish counterpart, the roll.

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Musical Instruments

Fifes and pastoral pipes in 1862

An earlier post examined evidence of the fife and flageolet interchangeably occupying the same niche in the accompaniment of dance in late-16th-century France. The fife was otherwise more clearly associated with military music, leading to a question about whether it had a more prominent role in civilian contexts than is generally recognized. Evidence of that being the case toward the end of the 18th century is provided by published compilations of Irish and Scottish dance tunes that explicitly list the fife as one of the instruments to which they are suited.

An etching from the mid-19th century presented below illustrates a fife in a manner that bolsters the notion of it having filled the musical role now commonly played by the tin whistle. (The flute is named as a separate instrument in the referenced compilations.) Of perhaps greater interest, it also depicts bagpipes of a type that is widely believed to have fallen out of use before the artist was even born.

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