Peacock's Variations

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Peacock's Variations

Postby Francis Wood » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:24 pm

The variations found in what is known as 'Peacock's Collection' form one of the most challenging parts of the NSP repertoire. They are difficult to perform adequately, requiring every resource of intelligent articulation to make the repetition and development they contain musical and interesting. Troublesome to play but extremely rewarding when things goes well.

Some questions: What is the probable context of these particular variations; is any one of them known outside the Peacock collection or do they all seem entirely of his own composition? If as has been said, Peacock probably played them through and Wright, the publisher, notated them, are they likely to have been improvised and rehearsed for that occasion or did Peacock reproduce something that he commonly played? Improvisation nowadays seems pretty much a lost art outside the jazz field though it may well exist in musical areas where I just don't go. But it was very much of the musician's art in earlier days. The art of variation exists also, of course, in the ear of the intelligent listener.

At present those pieces are regarded in a fairly scholarly and literal way, in a manner that would not have been originally intended; the content, order and number of those variations may have been a highly variable thing, depending on the mood of the player and whoever may have been listening.

Perhaps there are some clues elsewhere in what is known about fiddle variations of the time. But the best evidence probably lies in the music itself. Would anyone who has really explored this repertoire like to respond to this ill-phrased enquiry?

Francis
Last edited by Francis Wood on Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby adrian » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:15 pm

If Wright jotted the notes down, then Peacock must have played the sequences over and over; I would have thought these variations were learnt and deeply engrained, whoever played them. All the non-slow tunes with variations, have the same set runs but in different places within each tune. A very common run is low g a b g, starting on any note or, high e f# g d.
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby John Gibbons » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:36 pm

A lifetime before Peacock, some of the Dixon tunes - 'Cut and Dry Dolly the New Way', and 'My Love comes Passing by Me' are clear precursors of the same tunes which appear in a more ornate form in Peacock 70 years later. In the other direction, Dixon's 'Adam a Bell' is a precursor of 'My Hinny sits ower late up', but altogether a more elaborate piece of music.

At about the same time as Peacock, Riddell's collection, from round Moffat, includes some NSP tunes, but for BP or fiddle; Cut and Dry is there again, though in a different variant, and 'I saw my Love' as 'The Drunken Wives of Carlisle' is almost identical - but with top a's, so not a keyless NSP setting. Instead of Jockey staying Lang at the Fair, it is Willie who does this - the strains are in a different order. 'All the Night I lay with Jockey' is called, I think 'Lassie come milk on my Cowhill', but is basically the same thing.

So from this, it is pretty clear that some of the tunes were common currency across 70 years and 70 miles - they are definitely not Peacock's compositions. I imagine if Matt joins this discussion, there will be a bit more data to add - perhaps some from Rook or from Reavely??? His article on Cut and Dry in various different versions is an eye-opener for anyone who believes Peacock's Favorite Collection is the Urtext and thus sacrosanct.

I think what Wright was trying to print, was as detailed as possible a sample of Peacock's repertoire as he could transcribe. But it is necessarily a snapshot. Dixon did something similar for BP and NSP in the 1730s. Riddell wanted a wide-angle view of the music played around Moffat; not just a single instrument, style or performer. But there was clearly a common tradition across the region. Some motifs, like the GABG Adrian comments on, are common to all these sources and many tunes. Part of the dialect, rather than an individual's repertoire.

John
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby Richard Heard » Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:35 pm

Hi All,
Re. Francis' question: do you think it significant that Peacock's page title states "Northumberland Small Pipes, Violin or Flute"? (The words "Northumberland Small Pipes" are in the largest and most ornate font by far.)
Might this suggest a repertoire that was, or was intended to be, played on various common melody instruments? Alternatively, could it just be Wright's way of trying to make the book appealing to as many potential customers as possible?
Richard
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby Julia Say » Fri Nov 18, 2011 6:01 pm

We infer that Peacock himself also played the fiddle / violin from some of the tunes in the Bewick MSS attributed to him (Peacock's Hornpipe / Rant). I suspect that you are right about Wright (sorry - couldn't resist) trying to maximise his circulation.
The more I've looked at it, the more I'm inclined to question Wright's competence, actually. Can't remember ATM what specifically triggered this line of thought (wrong set of brain cells in just now) but I do wonder about some of it.

As to Francis' original post, it would seem to contain several useful thread subjects, none of which I have time to expand on adequately right now.

Julia
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby Francis Wood » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:01 pm

My enquiry was not about the authorship of tunes but about the variations upon those tunes, and specifically whether any of the variations in that collection are known in whole or part beyond that collection, i.e do they seem to be Peacocks own?

The listing of alternative instrumentation (violin or flute) is modest compared with those seen on many other 18th or early 19th century listings which might run to 5 or so possibilities. The convention seemed to state the principal intention followed by others sometimes in increasing degrees of unlikelihood. The intention is not only to increase sales but to add range and prestige.

Quite right to question Wright's competence! It's a sloppy effort and very cheaply produced. Whether the evident errors originated with him or whoever was engaged to produce the music plates which have been stamped, sometimes quite carelessly (unlike the elegant engraved frontispiece and chanters illustration), the quality of the work introduces several ambiguities.

Francis
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby John Gibbons » Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:24 pm

It is pretty clear that the long variation set form, the motifs that the variations are built from, and the tunes, were all common currency on both sides and at both ends of the Border for a century and more. Fiddle variation sets were fashionable for a while, but flourished for a far shorter period - roughly the first half of the 18th century. Double tonic variation sets 'belong' with drones, and pipes are the form's natural home.

But look at the 'long variation set' section of David Johnson's History of fiddle music in 18th century Scotland, and the musical language will be very familiar to anyone who likes the Peacock tunes.

Some of the John Smith fiddle MS tunes that Stokoe transcribed (they are on FARNE) are in a very similar style to Peacock and Dixon - some are clearly BP tunes, and others are definitely fiddle tunes - 'I cannot get time to play with my hinny' has a range from D to b; unplayable on NSP in 1750 odd. But it is compressible -with a bit of work - to a nice single octave set - one that Peacock missed! Or leave it alone and play it in D on a keyed set.

John
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby adrian » Fri Nov 18, 2011 11:35 pm

Is the playing of variations a particularity of Northern Britain? I have all the manuscripts from http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/manuscripts.htm. from memory, I can't find any tunes with variations and of course, I have some from Ireland and at the most, 2 to 6 variations with o'Neill's on few tunes.
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby John Gibbons » Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:21 pm

Many of Marsden's Lancashire hornpipes are long variation sets;
Ols Si.r Symon The King has a variation set that Purcell had a hand in.
I think the form was fashionable from around the late 17th c in Southern England,
but persisted in the North and Scotland for a hundred years and more.
Ireland is intermediate - some of the O'Farrell tunes are shortish variation sets.
But there are only a dozen or so 'big' Irish tunes (4 strains and more) commonly played.
And some of those are Scots by ancestry, eg Lucy Campbell, and I think Colonel Frazer.

John
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Re: Peacock's Variations

Postby adrian » Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:06 am

Looking at Johnny of the Greeny Cheshire Way tunebook, at the mo. Marsden's hp is there but it is not like Peacocock's tunes/variations except for a few, Slap and Kiss and the Butterfly, being almost like Peacock's/Nothumbrian.
Found a tune which I know, from the abc file:

X:40
T:THE BUTTERFLY, a North country tune
B:John of the Greeny Cheshire Way
N:© John Offord, Reproduced with permission
M:3/2
L:1/8
K:G
P:1
G2| B d3 g2 BcdB g2 | d2 B2 G2 BcdB g2 | BcdB g2 g4 A2 |\
BcdB d2 BcdB g2 | d2 B2 G2 e3 c e2 | d2 B2 d2 f4 A2 ||
P:2
B2 e2 ef g3 f e2| d2 B2 G2 B2 d2 ef| g3 f e2 f4 A2 |\
B2 d2 ef g3 f e2| d2 BcdB e2 cdec | d2 BcdB f4 A2 ||
P:3
BcdB d2 BcdB g2 | d2 B2 G2 BcdB d2 | BcdB g2 f4 A2 |\
BcdB d2 BcdB g2 | d3 B d2 e3 c e2 | d3 B d2 f4 A2 ||
P: 4
G2 g2 B2 g3 B g2 | c2 g2 c2 G2 g2 B2| g3 B g2 A2 f2 A2 |\
G2 g2 B2 g3 B g2 | B2 g2 B2 A2 f2 A2| g3 B g2 f4 A2 ||
P:5
d4 _eded cB g2 | d2 B2 G2 d4 _ed| _edcB g2 f4 A2 |\
d4 _eded cB g2 | d2 B2 d2 =e2 c2 e2|d2 B2 d2 f4 A2 ||
P:6
B2 d2 g2 g2 efge | g2 G2 g2 B3 d g2 | g2 efge f4 A2 |\
B2 d2 g2 g2 efge | d2 BcdB e2 cdec | d2 BcdB f4 A2 |]
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