Monday, January 21, 2013

Connection Between Folk Tunes and Folk Tales

I've mentioned on this site before about how I hadn't listened to much Irish or oldtime before I started trying to play it.  My obsession with instrumental trad and fiddle tunes began only (simultaneously) with my getting a tenor banjo.  In a search for satisfying forms of music to play on the 4-string banjo, I was led to traditional music of Ireland and Appalachia, where I could make a tune complete by simply plucking the basic single-note melody without the need for complex harmony and structure.
Icelandic folktale
This discovery of an earlier form of music, before the days of radio, TV and recorded audio, has now found a literal/literate parallel in folktales of Celtic, Scandinavian and other origin....legends and stories of elves, trolls, giants, ghosts, witches and elemental beings from the other world that stretch the imagination and were born out of a similar need for self-made entertainment.

The malleable, un-complex, and easily digestible format of a traditional tale allows each storyteller to make it his or her own, adding or subtracting as each retelling is remembered a little differently, the same way that a fiddle player might bring to life his own version of a fiddle tune he's heard others around him play.  I had never played any music or instruments prior to learning instrumental folk tunes.  However, I have been reading and writing most of my life, so incorporating variations, embellishments and ornamentation with the written word seems natural. Soon, I will begin sharing some folktales here.

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