Major Malley’s Reel, aka Major Molle’s, is a Scottish tune by Andrew Gow first published in 1809 shortly after Gow’s death. Molle was an officer in the British army. The tune has since traveled to Canada and England, and we know it was still in use in the 1800s in England, as Thomas Hardy referenced the tune in his 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd.
Variations covered in class include adding turns to notes that are part of descending scales, and rhythmic variations in the B section.
Here is an example of how you might apply these ideas:
The ideas used here are the same or similar to those used in Rattle in Cash. This is mostly because the tunes were chosen for their similar melodic shapes, so that they would be good companions – note the removed notes in bar 13 to mirror the same rhythmic feature in Rattle the Cash.
A ‘fidget’ is a note added in between repeated notes, either a step above/below the repeated notes, or a third above/below (a ‘skip’). The scale is a connecting note added in between notes that are a skip (or a third) apart. I’ve written an example below to demonstrate how these might be applied to this tune, averaging one variation per two bar phrase, but try out these ideas in other places to find what works for you.
We looked at three main ideas for varying Rattle the Cash, which are all applicable to other jigs. Firstly, looking for ‘skips’, aka intervals of a third – you can add the note in the middle to make a scale, smoothing out the melody. Or, vice versa, take the middle note out of a scale to make the tune more bouncy. Secondly, look for ‘fidgets’, aka auxiliary notes – take out the middle note for make the tune bouncier or add a fidget note in between two repeated notes to make the tune smoother. Lastly, we tried adding a ‘cut’ ornament in between repeated notes. This works best when you keep the repeated notes in the same bow/breath/bellow direction.
Here is an annotated copy of the tune, to demonstrate how these can be applied. I’d recommend trying one idea per two bar phrase, so that the tune doesn’t become too busy.
Here is our last tune of the term, Les Poules huppées which translates as the Crested Hens. It was written in 1983 by French hurdy gurdy player Gilles Chabenat but it has found its way into various traditions. I suggest that it follows Munster Cloak in a set – while Munster Cloak is a mazurka, Crested Hens is a bouree in 3 however I think they go well together, and especially in this order as the complexity of the rhythms builds through the whole set, giving it a sense of direction.
Here is a video of the tune played slowly and then a little faster:
Here are the basic dots, with PDF available to download. I’ve written out the tune in full rather than adding repeat marks, as this makes it easier to demonstrate different options in the development stage!
We discussed various ideas for varying the tune, including subdividing the longer notes, adding fidgets and using a pedal note. Here is an example of how some of these ideas might fit in this tune – please note this is not a definitive version or official alternative, but just something to give you some ideas!
We looked at several ideas for varying the tune, using specific musical landmarks:
Repeated notes – here we tried two different ways of varying the tune. The first option was to combine or tie repeated notes together to create a longer note. This is demonstrated in bar six of the example. The second idea was to insert a ‘fidget’ in between repeated notes, this being a note that it a step higher or lower than the repeated notes. The technical term for these is ‘auxiliary notes’ but I prefer the term fidget as it indicates a reluctance to sit still on one note for too long! These are demonstrated in bar one of the example.
Descending scales – these are often a good place to put a turn, or alternatively a triplet, as these emphasise the smoothness of the melody.
Scales in general – here we added some pedal notes, as demonstrated in bar 12. This is where a note is repeated or held, while the harmony in other parts changes. In this tune, you can try holding or repeating an A in the section from bar 10 to bar 13.
Skips, or thirds – wherever you have an interval of a third (e.g. D to F#), you might consider adding a passing note in between (e.g. to make D E F#). An example can be seen in bar 2.
The idea in general is to experiment with these ideas, and to find the combinations that you like and that work for you on your specific instrument. I’d suggest focusing on one idea at a time and getting comfortable with that before trying the next, and ultimately limiting yourself to a couple of variations per phrase – sometimes less is more! Exploring and experimenting with the tune in this way also helps to internalise and memorise it.
In addition to the rhythmic variations we covered last week, there are some nice melodic variations available in this tune. Our first idea was to substitute existing melodic shapes for others in the tune, for example in bars 2, 4 and 8. The second involved substituting a figure that often comes up in 3/2 hornpipes. Have an experiment, try these and the rhythmic variations and find what works for you!
On Monday we explored the idea of substituting melodic figures for others that appear elsewhere in the tune. Sounds a bit complicated, right?
By melodic figure, I mean a short pattern of notes that makes one particular tune to sound like that particular tune. For instance, in The Big Ship there is a melodic figure at the end of the first bar that we ended up calling a ‘tick’ (because if you were to connect the dots, you would create a tick shape):
This shape also features in its inverted or upside down form, for instance at the beginning of bar 4. We can drop this figure into other places in the tune, as shown below. As you can see, I’ve used both a ‘tick’ (red) and an ‘inverted tick’ (blue) and I’ve just put a couple in in each section, so that it doesn’t get too repetitive.
These substitutions work well because they are similar to the basic version of the tune, follow the same direction as the basic tune and don’t change the harmony, as the extra notes come on the quaver off beats. They will also fit if some people use them and others don’t, allowing substitutors and non-substitutors to play together!
We can also apply this substitution to Reel de Gaspe – since this figures comes at the beginning of bar 4, it won’t sound out of place. Here, the ticks and inverted ticks can be used effectively in the B section.
Some tunes have more opportunities for substitutions than others, but you might want to try this one out on The Buffoon in particular – there are many other instances of this figure popping up in tunes we have learned, with some having more space to experiment than others (if you want a heads up, you could try using it in bars 13-14 of Mount Hills, in bars 10 and 14 of Lollipop Man to name but a couple!).