Awareness of Peacock et al.

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Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Richard Evans » Tue Jun 12, 2012 8:17 pm

I did a day's teaching at the Whitley Bay course last year. I was asked to send a tune list. I really dislike doing this since as a school teacher I was used to modifying my approach based on the class in front of me, on the hoof.
So, for some of the groups, I said I'd do a session based on Peacock, selecting the tunes to suit the mood/skills of the group and also talking about the significance of the book and the historical context, etc.

This seemed to go down very well but I was quite (no, VERY) surprised to discover that most of the group knew little or nothing on the subject. I've spent so long around this stuff that it seems fundamental.

So:
1. Does it matter? I think it does and I know other readers of this forum do as well .
2. What's to be done? .
3. Why do piping days almost invariably emphasise learning new tunes or playing techniques? Is that really the only thing people are interested in? NB That's NOT some kind of attack on organisers of events!!

Cheers
Richard
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:40 pm

As one of the lucky attendees at Richard's inspiring Peacock session in Whitley Bay, I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of these tunes. Afterwards, I got Richard to make me a keyless chanter, which sent me off into a thrilling exploration of Peacock, which makes me regret that I didn't (or couldn't ) get into this when I first started playing. As a largely self taught piper who has always struggled with " the dots" the Peacock facsimile book was an intimidating manuscript that seemed unapproachable. Coupled with lengthy variations, these were difficult to get into, and, if like me, you didn't know the tune in advance from recordings, then they could appear as impenetrable as free jazz. I only returned to Peacock because I was bored with playing the usual tunes and felt I'd developed enough as a player to want something more demanding, and resolved to try some variations. After several weeks struggling to get through Jacky Layton, and sometimes managing to play it with only a few mistakes, a light came on, the tune started to make sense and suddenly I understood why these tunes were so good. They are hard work, but the rewards have been extremely satisfying, and have contributed to a marked improvement in my playing, which carries over into the non- peacock repertoire. I also found that I had to concentrate much more on the dreaded " detached fingering", as some of the tunes just sound so much better played in that manner, and this may well be a deterrent to many players who commonly play in a legato rather than staccato style. As a convert I now meet other pipers, for whom Peacock/variations are something to avoid as the general opinion is that they are complicated finger twisters with no recognisable tune, but the more they are exposed to them , the more likely that the light will come on for some of them. Perhaps if Chris and Adrian recorded the whole of Peacock, we could all hear how great these tunes can be, both to listen to and to play!!
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Matt Seattle » Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:31 am

A subject close to my heart, likewise the comments expressed.

Responding to Richard -
"1. Does it matter? I think it does and I know other readers of this forum do as well ."
Richard has answered his own question:
"I've spent so long around this stuff that it seems fundamental."

It is fundamental. The musical foundation. With no musical foundation, piping may serve a need for socialising, but not for musicking.

Responding to Wallie -
"a light came on"
I had the same experience - and with the same tune. This strikes me as remarkable.
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby edric » Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:45 am

I was certainly aware of the Peacock stuff from an early stage in playing - Francis suggested that I should take a look, but it's only now a couple of years later that I feel like I'm making some sort of sense of the variation sets. I still tend to eschew those parts that are pretty much a "wall of notes", as I find it tough to play them well enough to keep a sense of the underlying melody.

I try and get together with other pipers whenever I can to try and ensure that my playing is heading roughly in a reasonable direction. In my experience, the only tunes in Peacock that are played with any degree of regularity are those short tunes that also appear in the NPS tunebooks. So, if your motivation is to learn tunes to play along in sessions, then the Peacock variations do not offer much return on the large investment. I think this is something of a shame - for quite a few of the tunes, playing only the first 1 or 2 parts can be pretty feasible - and this can be a gateway to learning to deal with the variations.
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Julia Say » Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:58 pm

And a third vote for Jacky Layton being the switch on point. Near 15 years and I still can't make it sound how it does in my head. I think we all have to find the "lightswitch" tune - then the whole canon starts to seem worthwhile. It could be a different tune for everyone.

I also agree they require a different set of brain cells - considerable exploration before the penny drops.

Tom Clough told Tom Breckons they were a musical experience to be savoured and enjoyed (or words to that effect), not just competition show-off pieces.

I'm glad others are finding their favourites, too.

Julia
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Richard Evans » Wed Jun 13, 2012 2:58 pm

Matt Seattle wrote:A subject close to my heart, likewise the comments expressed.

It is fundamental. The musical foundation. With no musical foundation, piping may serve a need for socialising, but not for musicking.



OK, we all (readers of this forum) agree, but what, if anything, could be done to raise general awareness a bit? I should say that I can't stand musical evangelism, I just think many players would enjoy this music if they were introduced to it in easy stages.
There's also the question of promoting trad. playing style- this would be a spin-off of greater awareness of the music.

Cheers
Richard
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Wallie Ogilvie » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:37 pm

Raise awareness? Tricky.

When I started I found Richard Butlers cassette of the 1st Tunebook invaluable as it allowed me to hear the tune, which was essential for me as I was trying to learn to read music at the same time. If my eyes couldn't follow the dots, at least my ears could follow the tune and translate that to the chanter. Even now I struggle with tunes I haven't heard before, so, making the tunes accessible by having a Peacock equivalent of the Tunebook cassette would help, maybe online and linked to the NPS site. We can trawl recordings, YouTube and Soundcloud to find the commonly played tunes ( Chris Ormstons Soundcloud page has been an invaluable teaching resource for me trying to learn some of Cloughs variations), but there remains lots of unheard tunes in Peacock that I've never heard recorded by anyone, and hearing a good tune is always going to have more impact than seeing good dots!
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Julia Say » Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:59 pm

Wallie:

Why not post a list of the ones you haven't heard? Maybe some of the experts and others could then post recordings of their versions. I've certainly heard most of them played at various times and by various folk, and as you say, hearing them gives a fair better handle than working purely from dots.

Even if the resulting material contains elements of "What on earth did s/he do that for?" it would be useful to help develop your own versions.

Just a thought

Julia
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Bill Wakefield » Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:19 am

After the typeset version came out the resistance I had to digging in was owing to idiomatic perplexity I put down to the tunes' originating in a different milieu -- specifically as regards their meter and/or the Northumbrian chanter's major 7th. I dabbled without either relish or understanding until Whitley Bay last year when, inspired by Messrs. Evans' and Ormston's discussions of it, I decided to knuckle down and try to crack it... A handful of tunes was sufficient critical mass to hook me and I've now got over half the book off by heart -- having promised myself a visit to Northumberland once I get the whole thing down -- what better incentive! But actually love playing from it now. Suttors of Selkirk's a beautiful thing; and I think the variations not only inculcate control, they also demand thought as to tasteful musical expression. Like Wallie, I believe my playing has improved significantly all round as a result of focusing on it the last several months.

As to raising awareness of it, assuming tutors agree, they simply need to require it of students same way other musicians have to learn a canonical body of their instrument-specific literature, not unlike the way painters or illustrators have to learn rudiments of perspective &c &c: Don't presume to think yourself a piper until you can demonstrate a bit of Peacock's. That ought to inspire beginners.
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Re: Awareness of Peacock et al.

Postby Bill Wakefield » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:32 pm

PS: What about instituting All-Peacock sessions? Or An annual or semi-annual Peacock Read-Through, say at the equinoxes or something... Sign me up! (and fly me over...)
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