Monday, December 16, 2013

Blame it on the Weather

Our December Fiddle Club meeting was cancelled at literally the last minute, because of the recent snow and freezing rain. We apologize to anyone inconvenienced by it, but it was necessitated because several of our key personnel (like our esteemed music director!) were unable to get through the traffic snarls to get to the meeting.

The December music will be mailed out as usual, and Elke will include an article with the January newsletter about it, providing the information that would have been given at the workshop had it taken place.

See you in January, and Happy Holidays from the Potomac Valley Scottish Fiddle Club!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Scottish King Arthur?

Patrick Wamsley sends along this item, a hypothesis that posits that the fabled King Arthur may have been an ancient Scottish warlord.

Author Adam Ardrey claims that instead of the romantic English king of legend who lived at Camelot – which is often said to be Tintagel in Cornwall or in Wales – Arthur was actually Arthur Mac Aedan, the sixth-century son of an ancient King of Scotland, whose Camelot was a marsh in Argyll.
Check it out!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ForScore & The Craic - iApp reviews

It's the digital age, and many of us are replacing our trusty music binder with a tablet computer. The advantages are manyfold - one can store vast amounts of music on a single device that's maximally portable, and provides other functionality

I've been using two iApps recently for my music. These are for the iPad, and I don't know if there are Android versions available. 

The first of these is ForScore. This is an app that allows you to download PDF music scores from the web or Dropbox (or upload from your computer via iTunes). The organization is excellent; scores can be grouped into set lists, sorted, and bookmarked. Turning the page is as simple as a quick tap to the right of the screen, or left to go backward. Images can be zoomed using standard gestures, and the app supports both landscape and portrait modes. In addition, there's a metronome function, and the ability to add your own notes to the page.

I'm using for virtually everything these days - as you can see over at the Fiddle Club website's "Community" section, there are a lot of old music scores now scanned and available in PDF format, and they work very well with this app, and it's easy to print to PDF with your own favorite music software, or scan a paper score to this format.

If I have a complaint, it's how some PDF images are rendered by some music programs - leading to an issue where on lower-resolution iPads, it's unclear if a note will be on a line or space until you zoom in. So far I've only run into this issue on shareware music printing software with an iPad 2 (mainly that issued for the City of Alexandria Pipes & Drums), and expect that with a more recent iPad, with a Retina display, the issue would go away. 

The second app I've been using a lot is called The Craic. This app takes advantage of the text-based .abc format to store tunes. Not only can you import your own .abc collections from your hard drive, import .abc tunes from emails and your DropBox, but it also has a search function to scour the web for tunes in this format through various dedicated search engines. This means that you can find multiple versions of many traditional tunes within the app itself, if you need to quickly find something.

In addition, The Craic includes a playback function (using a flute voice), with variable tempo.

The app produces very attractive sheet music on your tablet's screen, but can also send music to printers via AirPrint, or via email. This puts it far ahead of my old favorite .abc program, a PPC Mac routine called Barfly (which, sadly, has not been updated for Intel Macs and the recent OS versions that no longer support CarbonLib, specifically 10.7 and above). 

The Craic is in its earliest forms, and there are some issues with it still. First of all, it does not support all .abc's various extensions yet, like multi-voice - meaning your 4-part scores will not render in the current version. The playback can not use other instruments, and its tempo slider is far too small, meaning it's hard to get the tempo you want. Furthermore, the app does not recognize tempo headers in the tunes themselves; if it did, and used that as the center of the slider's range, one would be able to get more appropriate results out of the playback. Editing tunes is possible in-app, though the interface window is small, and it might be easier to do major editing and composing on a desktop, and then tweak and read with The Craic. Also, The Craic prints chords above the melody line, as Irish players are accustomed to seeing, and not below, which seems more common among Scottish musicians, and there appears to be no option to reverse the display.

I'll be still using Barfly to create my tunes, but the quality of printing in The Craic is so much better that it's likely that I'll be using it to store, display, and print my final scores from now on - at least the ones that use a single voice. I look forward to The Craic's continued development, and the addition of new features.

Next time, I'll talk about some tuner and metronome apps I use.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Three tidbits from Patrick Wamsley

Patrick has been practicing his researching skills, and has sent me several tidbits of interest to Fiddle Club:

First, a link to lyrics and background stories for 150 Scottish Songs - a great resource!

Secondly, some unusual names from the Norse influenced islands north of John o' Groat's: some from Shetland, and some from Orkney.

Thirdly, lyrics to the "Piper o' Dundee", a tune which first appears in Hogg's Jacobite Relics, supposedly related to Aiken Drum:


And finally, an excerpt from an interview with author George R. R. Martin, about the Scottish inspiration for the "Red Wedding", which is being called in some quarters as possibly the most shocking event in television history:

Interviewer: What do you say to readers who are upset about the "Red Wedding" scene?
Martin: It depends on what they say. What can you say to someone who says they’ll never read your book again? People read books for different reasons. I respect that. Some read . . .  that certain kind of fiction where the guy will always get the girl and the good guys win and it reaffirms to you that life is fair. We all want that at times.   There’s a certain vicarious release to that. So I’m not dismissive of people who want that. But that’s not the kind of fiction I write . . . . I think the best fiction captures life in all its light and darkness.
Interviewer:  One of my favorite elements of the scene is you introduce this idea of “salt and bread.” We accept that as readers — Okay, in this fantasy world, people don’t harm each other once they eat a host’s bread and salt in their home. Then you break your own rule . . . .
Martin: It was stolen from history. Hospitality laws were real in Dark Ages society. A host and guest were not allowed to harm each other even  if they were enemies. By violating that law, they “condemn themselves for all time” . . . .
Interviewer: What about the Red Wedding itself? Is that based on history too?
Martin: The Red Wedding is based on real events from Scottish history. One was a case called The Black Dinner. The king of Scotland  was fighting the Black Douglas clan. He reached out to make peace. He offered the young Earl of Douglas safe passage. He came to Edinburgh Castle and had a great feast. Then at the end of the feast, the king's men started pounding on a single drum. They brought out a covered plate and put it in front of the Earl and revealed it was the head of a black boar — the symbol of death . . . . They dragged them out and put them to death in the courtyard.
[In most versions of the Black Dinner story, the symbol of death was the head of a black BULL.  
Edinburgh castle, town, and tower, God grant ye sink for sin
And that even for the Black Dinner, Earl Douglas got therein.]
Martin: The larger instance was the Glencoe Massacre. Clan MacDonald stayed with the Campbell clan and the laws of hospitality supposedly applied. But the Campbells started butchering every MacDonald they could get their hands on. No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse.