April 17, 2010

Early Music Cage Fight: Sephardic v Celtic! FIGHT!!!

A friend of mine here in Northshield, Mistress Eliane Halevy, wrote an absolutely gorgeous song based on a Sephardic tune.  It's called "Three Words" (link leads to a YouTube link of her performing it).  Normally, she gets a drummer in the audience (or the entire audience) to accompany her with a simple beat, and sings it otherwise unaccompanied.  In my arrangement, I'm drumming on the sound box of my harp with my right hand and playing the strings with my left hand.  It's taking some getting used to (not a drummer!), but I looooooove iiiiiiiit!  Specifically, I'm completely carried away with texture and gorgeous, unusual scale the melody's written in (and, of course, being carried away by Eliane's words was what got me started on this project in the first place).

SO!  I was having a great time drumming along with myself.  "Hm," I thought.  "Drums are cool.  We have a bodhran here.  Hm."  Although bodhrans are a common sight at SCA events, I've suspected for a while that they might be just another "neo-Celtic" thing that people figure must be ancient for no better reason than "it's Irish, isn't it?  And the druids were ancient, so there ya go!"  Couldn't find much that traced it back any further than its being popularized in the '60s.  Yeah.

Then I found this really cool article on the etymology of the word "bodhran" that's made me think, "Alright, we'll never know details for sure, but there was definitely some bodhran-drum-thing in period, and....HOLY CRAP THE HISTORY OF CELTIC MUSIC IS TOTALLY COOL!!!"

So.  Who will be the next to wrest Isolde's attentions away from the troubadours?  The ancient Sephardic Jews or the ancient Celtic probably-not-druids?  FIGHT!!!


  1. I vote for Celtic! There are a few interesting Irish pieces recorded because of the fascination for Irish music in Queen Elizabeth's court. An example of this is Tá Mé i Mo Shuí, which was mentioned to be played, and was particularly liked because its supernatural overtones...

  2. Ooooooooooh, good stuff! I have new musicey stuff to look for. Just in time for finals! :-D