Ornamentation In Irish Music Essay Question

 Leaving Cert Music

Ornamentation is the general term for the techniques associated with dressing up tunes. These techniques include the roll, tip, cut, cran and triplet. A player/singer won't play a tune in the same way from verse to verse or from performance to performance. Variation,  either rhythmic, melodic, phrase or harmonic,  is another way of dressing up tunes. How different performers use ornamentation and variation depends on his/her style.
Instrumental ornaments
A cut
is like a grace note, i.e. a quick extra note played above the main note.
A tip is the  opposite of a cut. i.e. the extra grace note is lower.
A roll is a combination of cuts and tips. Rolls can be short or long.
A triplet involves playing 3 notes in the time of 1 beat.
The ornaments above are fairly universal. That is, they are used on all melody instruments. Some ornaments are associated with particular instruments but it is common now for techniques associated with a particular instrument to be played on other instruments. (see "changes" notes)
The Cran is an ornament associated with piping. On a low d, its not possible to play a roll as there is no lower note. Therefore the piper uses several notes above the main note to simulate a roll. a, g, and f# are alternated with the main note d.
Double stopping involves playing 2 notes together, the bottom one usually being an open string and is obviously associated with the fiddle, perhaps in imitation of the drone of the pipes. This technique is often borrowed by accordion and concertina players.
The slide is associated with the fiddle where the player slides between notes, especially on slow airs. Dont mix this up with the slide dance which is in fact a fast single jig.
Variation is a priciple where performers vary tunes every time they play them. Rhythmic variation involves  changing the rhythm. Melodic or intervallic variation involves changing the pitch of a tune.  Phrase varation is where the player changes the phrasing. e.g. breathing in different places or using different bowing. Harmonic variation is where the change (melodic really) actually changes the implied harmony.
Again it is important to stress that its up to the player to uses these techniques as they see fit. A good player will improvise them. A really good player will have an element of composition about them. i.e. there is a sence of direction, a structure to the whole performance.

Irish Music

Listening Question
For the listening question you will be asked questions on three excerpts. You should be familiar with Irish dances, instruments, sean nós singing, categories of Irish songs, features of Irish music, features of the peformance of Irish music and different types of ensembles.

Common mistakes include noting a feature of the music instead of the perfomance (or vice versa), listing features of Irish music or performance in general rather than features of the excerpt played.

How should you study for this question? Doing lots of listening questions is the only way. If you run out of questions you can: start again at the beginning and redo them (you won't remember all the answers), ask your teacher for more or play random recordings of Irish music on youtube or itunes and list all the features you can hear (type of dance/song, instruments/ensemble, features of the music and the performance). There are some good links here.

Written Question
You must write a very short essay and have a choice of four questions. There are roughly twelve topics overall that come up in this section, you should learn five. Note that some topics overlap (e.g. harping tradition and collectors, ornamentation and sean nós singing, fusions and studying a group/composer).

The most common mistake made in this section is misreading the question, or not reading it carefully, and/or not fulfilling all the requirements of the question in the answer. Your response should only be, at the very most, one page long so get to the point! Make two or three points, two substantial points with references and examples, or three less substantial points with references and examples (but maybe not as detailed). If you're asked: Discuss the importance of collectors in Irish Music. Name two collectors and give examples of their contributions. No amount of detailed information on the importance of collectors and the life stories of, say, Edward Bunting and Francis O'Neill will get you any more than 6 marks if you haven't named their publications (give examples of their contributions).

Click here for a list of hints and tips for those doing a Leaving Cert paper.

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