Yes, Early Music from Scotland...I would have killed to hear this concert with Musica Antiqua. John Purser is a great man. From the ISU website:
"John Purser's accomplishments are impressive. His bio reads, John Purser, Scottish musicologist, composer, conductor, playwright, producer, broadcaster and Scotland's foremost music historian. He sounds like an all around Renaissance man. I met with him and I believe he is."
Dr. Purser has been very generous in assisting my harp teacher in her researches on early harps in Scotland.
(PLEASE NOTE: All of what follows should be taken as IMHO. I am not out to prove anything earthshaking or out hurt anyone's feelings, and if I do offend, plase forgive me.)
As to dulcimers...whenever the subject of the dulcimer's early origins comes up, I am forced to ask first "How are we defining the Dulcimer?" and second "how can we be certain about the origins of anything in a largely oral culture?" Modern musicologists and organologists seem at odds here; some considering psalteries and dulcimers in effect the same instrument, while others do not, citing the difference in how the instrument is played, plucking versus using hammers, qualifies them as two different instruments.
(For an extensive look at various dulcimer definitions, see "How others have defined dulcimers" in David Kettlewell's thesis, for which we should profusely thank him!)
Personally, I find the whole definition debate somewhat silly from a practical musical level. Does my dulcimer magically become a psaltery when I pluck it??? Are those dulcimer players who only use plucking technique wrong to call their instrument a "dulcimer"? Are they taxed differently??? ;D
Playing techniques, like instrument names were not standardized in earlier times, and I am unconvinced that some medieval depictions of the plucked "psaltery" may well be hammering "dulcimers". In most cases you can easily play either instrument using both techniques.
Moreover, in most books, when referring to the psaltery, writers tend to further gloss the instrument for the reader saying its "much like the dulcimer"!
In John Purser's magnificent book " Scotland's Music", in a section on the history of traditional Scottish song, he speaks of the songs about Thomas of Ercildoune (1219-1299), a.k.a Thomas the Rhymer or True Tammas. He cites one of Thomas's poems, in which refers to instruments of his day and mentions the "sawtrye". (Dr. Purser then goes on to explain that the psaltery was "rather like the dulcimer..")
Without getting into the debate as to "what was the Tiompan" in this thread, I believe it is safe to state that if we can confirm a medieval date for the use of the psaltery in Scotland, we are forced to consider it possible that those instruments could have hammered also. Another way of looking at it; if one has the technology to make a plucked psaltery, you have the all the technology to make a hammered dulcimer. (Or you already have, if you think of them as slightly different versions of the same animal.)
Dulcimers are not alone it suffering an historical indentity crisis; the lute, the harp and the clavichord, a name a few, have had all had more aliases than infamous sea-pirates, much to the confusion of later researches!!!
On his website the canny dulcimer scholar David Kettlewell unearthed this early reference "The earliest use of what might be dulcimer name in Scotland is a poetic mention of 'dulsacordis', 1543" and also: "Welsh and Scottish poetry refer to dwsmer (51) and dulsacordis (1543)(52), the only occasion either word is used".
This seem to be the earliest confirmation in writing of the term dulcimer in Scotland. However, given the lively cultural interaction of the Scottish royal court with both England and the contient, it seems likely that the hammer dulcimer was known to the Scots before this.
To conclude: the dulcimer is very old. It has been used in Scotland for quite a long time!
My computer crashed a couple of months ago and I almost lost all the photographs. ( I know, I should have backed it up). Now it's back up and running, I'll put more photo's on my web page when I get time.
Hello there ! anybody still alive and kickin' on this site ? I'm looking for recordings of scottish hammer dulcimer : anyone knows where I can find recordings of : Jimmy Cooper William McNally Jimmy Greenhorn (he used to accompany Daniel Wyper... must be 1920 or 30...) Alec Bisset and Bob Smith I'm ready to trade copies against good hackbrett recordings... I have a Ceilidh Band, and would like to hear scots style... thanks in advance
thanks Ptarm ! Happy to read you again ! I heard the files on Jack's site, but they're samples... and I'm really looking for copies of old recordings, complete, a bit like John Rea's, to have a full idea of the style... do you have Jack Bethel's email adress, by any chance ? (seems our smileys aren't work. very well..) thanks a lot ps : we're making a demo tape of our band Filidh Ruadh...
Post by jenny4dulc on Sept 10, 2008 20:38:10 GMT 1
Hello again Nikita. I have an LP of Bob Smith's Ideal Band if you'd be interested in that. I also have a couple of new copies of the re-issued Jimmy Cooper collection on CD - he's the best Scots player in my book. Jenny.
Hi Jenny ! I would love a copy of Bob Smith, if you can get me one...even on cassette ! and I'm trying to get a copy of Jim Cooper's recordings through Forest Tracks Records... but I'm waiting for their answer, seems they don't do credit cards, so I have to find a way of paying from switzerland (we don't do cheques around here...). Maybe if they don't answer, you could get me a copy ? From the samples I heard, Jim Cooper is certainly one of the best... Am really lookoing forward to listen to the whole cd...
Hi Nikita, Jenny is right about Jimmy Cooper. As well as being a great player, his repertoire is typical of what most Scots dulcimer players of his generation played. I'm no expert but I think it's also typical of what accordionists were playing at that time too. I've got somewhere else to store sound files now and over the next few weeks I hope to replace the short clips with full tracks, I'll post here to let you know.