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Quebecois Music

Andre Brunet Fiddle Workshop, March 2017!

(This post is a little overdue, as all of this went down a couple of weekends ago, and I didn’t really have the chance to sit down and write this out in full until now! Plus, there was a session to go to as well as questionable mammogram results that, thank all the universe’s powers, turned out to not be a problem after all. So let’s return to this post in progress and get this written up, shall we?)

Y’all may remember that last year in February, I had the distinct pleasure of getting to attend a workshop in Qualicum Beach, at which André Brunet spent a glorious weekend teaching a bunch of us how to play several tunes. Well, we all had such fun doing that last year that our hosts, the Beatons–not to mention André himself–decided we had to do it again.

And when I learned from Joyce Beaton that this was happening, I leapt RIGHT ALL OVER THAT. Because last year’s workshop was a huge influence on my decision to start taking official fiddle lessons! Plus it’s just such great glorious fun to hang out with a house full of musicians for a weekend, learning things and jamming.

Better yet: this year I brought Dara. 😀 Not to mention a whole pile of instruments.

All! The! Instruments!

All! The! Instruments!

(For those keeping score, the instruments in this picture are the General, my guitar; my as of yet unnamed fiddle; Silver, my flute with keys; my carbon fiber and blackwood whistles; and my quartet of carbon fiber flutes, the little D, the G, the A, and the big D.)

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Quebecois Music

Andre Brunet Fiddle Workshop, February 2016!

This past weekend I had the very great pleasure of being able to attend a small fiddle workshop featuring André Brunet of De Temps Antan! The workshop was held on Qualicum Beach, at the home of the same wonderful couple who hosted the house concert I attended in August 2014. And I was overjoyed to be invited to come back up to Qualicum for this–because as I’d written in that post, for the chance to learn from André, I’d do that long drive again in a heartbeat.

You will notice that this was a fiddle workshop, and that I am still not a fiddle player. But I am a flute player, and moreover, just hanging out in a fiddle workshop was valuable to me as an exercise in hearing assorted tunes broken down into smaller phrases. Even after a few years of trying, I still struggle to keep up in a full session environment. So it’s hugely helpful to hear someone break a tune down into bits that I can then try to reproduce by ear. It works in my brain the same way that trying to read French does. I.e., it lets me better understand the overall structure and feel of a tune. So I will be leaping all over any tunes workshops I can get.

And you guys, this past weekend? Amazing.

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My next Quebec tunes challenge

I have identified the next Quebec tunes set I wish to learn: the recording “Gigue à trois”, which appears on the Le Vent du Nord album Les amants du Saint-Laurent!

The first tune in this set is locatable in sheet music form right over here. However, checking it out, I note a problem in that very last measure: i.e., it’s going down to low B and G, and those are notes below the bottom end of my range on ANY of my flutes, really. My silver goes down to middle C. My piccolo goes down to D just above middle C.

(And I can’t really play the piece on any of my keyless flutes either–the first tune I linked to is in G, but the other two are in F and A minor, and you know what I’m not doing on a D or A flute? Playing stuff in F and A minor. I DO still suck at half-holing!)

So in order to play that tune I’m going to have to do one of two things: either a) I will need to kick the whole thing up an octave, or b) doink around with that measure and play notes instead that’ll work okay as chords with that B and G. Option B is more likely, and this is why!

The latter two tunes of that set, according to my initial explorations (aided by an Extremely Awesome Person Who Shall Remain Nameless, but Merci Beaucoup, Awesome Person!), have a part that goes up to the C that’s two octaves over middle C.

And that is a problem. Because if I try to kick the piece up an octave, that means I’d need to play the C that’s THREE octaves over middle C, and that is not happening on my piccolo. It’s barely going to happen on my flute. Hell, I don’t even remember successfully hitting that note on my piccolo in school, although I got up there a few times on the flute.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about re: middle C and octaves and such–an octave is scale in music, basically. Think of the “Do, a deer, a female deer” song in The Sound of Music. Go all the way through do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do, and that’s an octave.

Middle C is the C that’s right smack in the middle of a piano. It’s kind of the landmark note around which most standard musical notation is centered. Wikipedia has a good description of it over here, including some midi files of what various octaves of C sound like.

If you look at their “Designation by octave” chart, middle C is C4. That’s the low C I can hit on my flute. The lowest C I can hit on my piccolo, on the other hand, is C5. I can do C6 easily enough too. C7 is the problem.

And here’s the really fun part. A piccolo is pitched an octave above a flute–meaning that if I use the same fingering to produce a note on both my instruments, the flute will have the low “do” note, and the piccolo will have the high one. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, piccolo music is actually written an octave down, on purpose. So a piccolo C5 looks like a flute C5, when written out in music. But the piccolo C5 is going to SOUND like a C6.

Which means that that C7 I’m trying to hit on my piccolo is actually a C8. I get woozy just THINKING about trying to hit that note. ;D

(The reason piccolo music is written an octave down on purpose is because if you’re writing notes that go too high to fit on the staff, you have to use extra lines called ledger lines to notate them. And there are only so many ledger lines you can comfortably use in a given piece of sheet music before you pretty much have to ctrl-alt-fuckit, write everything an octave down, and mark it 8va, which translates to ‘kick this up an octave because SERIOUSLY, I’m not sticking 15 extra lines over the staff, are you NUTS?’)

In any event, this is going to be quite, quite fun and I look forward to playing with this piece more. BUT FIRST, I gotta finish pulling Vengeance of the Hunter out of my head, and then work on Bone Walker soundtrack stuff! More bulletins as events warrant!

Music, Site Updates

Quebec tunes sheet music

I had a couple different people hitting my site today looking for sheet music to La Bottine Souriante tunes–specifically, “Hommage à Philippe Brunea” and “Valse d’hiver”.

Since I am not actually a sheet music site, I direct interested parties to these links:

Failing either of those, may be able to help you. I’ve periodically found Quebec tunes there, though I use it as a tertiary resource.

You may or may not be able to find tunes composed by specific Quebec artists. I’ve found things composed by André Brunet (who in fact has a few of his tunes available in PDF form here, along with tunes by a couple of other people), and a couple of things composed by Olivier Demers (“Gigue à trois”, which is on the Montreal session tunebook site) and the guys in Genticorum (again on the Montreal site, but a couple on as well–notably for them I’ve found “Violon guérisseur” and “Valse de poeles”, the first on the Montreal session site and the second on

I will also note that the lovely people at the core of the session I go to, La Famille Leger, have a collection of accordion-friendly tunes right over here. I note also that I am NOT an accordion player, but as I am a flautist, stuff that’s easily playable in D is very friendly to my flutes.

Happy tunes hunting, my fellow instrumentalists!


Some tunes practice tonight

Rossignolet is rapidly becoming my practice flute of choice–at least, as long as I’m not trying to play along with any recording that isn’t actually in A. If I pretend I’m playing a D flute and ignore how I’m actually a fourth up, this flute’s responsiveness is wonderful for just trying to get fingering patterns down into my muscle memory.

Plus, I just love the way Rossignolet sounds. I posted these to Facebook but for giggles and grins and posterity, here are sound samples of me playing Swallowtail Jig on my three primary flutes of the moment, including the new one!

Anna Plays Swallowtail Jig on New Flute (Rossignolet in A)

Anna Plays Swallowtail Jig on Norouet (Big Flute in D)

Anna Plays Swallowtail Jig on Shine (Piccolo in D)

Tonight, I went through all seven of the Quebec tunes I know so far and then through most of the non-Quebec ones, including Swallowtail. I didn’t hit Si Bheag Si Mhor or Da Slockit Light, but only because my embouchure started getting a bit wibbly and I wanted to work on Pigeon on the Gate, which I need for the Bone Walker soundtrack.

Fun observation of the evening #1: on Rossignolet, trying the embouchure exercise described in Grey Larsen’s Irish Flute and Whistle book, I was able to get three octaves of A as well as the intermediate E between the second and third A’s. That’s hard, people. And leaves me a bit swimmy-headed in a way I rather clearly remember from when I was first learning how to play piccolo!

Fun observation of the evening #2: TunePal can play tunes for you if you bring up the sheet music for one in it. You tap the play button and it’ll start playing through the tune on the screen in MIDI piano, and you can adjust the tempo too. So I fired up Pigeon on the Gate and went through it slowly several times, trying to follow the sheet music. Then I did it a few times more with my eyes closed, to see if I had it in muscle memory yet and if I could play along by ear. Then, I shut up TunePal entirely and tried to play it through slowly by myself.

This actually appeared to work. I cannot play this tune at speed yet but it may actually be getting into my fingers. Even though it’ll take me a bit to polish it up, just because those jumps in the first couple of measures from B down to E then up to D and down to E again are a bit of a bitch on the flute.


Newfoundland tunes hunt for the weekend

Lest y’all think I am neglecting the Newfoundland side of my musical fandom, let me assure you all that this is NOT the case. I have been playing the ever-lovin’ daylights out of the awesome live “Little Beggarman” track on the GBS XX box set, in no small part because it ends with two jigs that exemplify how Bob Hallett dances around the edge of setting his own fiddle on fire every time you turn him loose on tunes. (There were REASONS my original jamming group used to say that we could never play all the same notes Bob did. Because if anybody but Bob did it, we’d be opening portals to hell and there’d be fire and mayhem and monsters. And even worse, badly played notes.)

BUT, because I have the wacky mad ambition of seeing if I can maybe learn to play those tunes too (because apparently I just gotta open that hellmouth), I actually asked Mr. Hallett on Twitter which tunes they were to see if I could find ’em! This is what he said:

Right From the Mouth of Bob

Right From the Mouth of Bob

With that to go on, I’ve been prowling around today as well as YouTube, trying to see if I can hunt down the tunes in question. I am learning several vital things as a result!

One, wow, Rufus Guinchard was a splendid fiddle player. Look him up on YouTube. There are several (static) vids of various recordings of his and there is delicious, delicious fiddle goodness to be had there. I will have to see if I can track down these recordings.

Two, the man apparently was a profilic composer of tunes. I’ve found several on that I have promptly added to my tunebook there, and at least a couple of these tunes sound vaguely familiar from various recordings I’ve got of Newfoundland trad groups–less Great Big Sea and more Irish Descendants and Dardanelles.

Three, whoa hey there’s an entire channel of videos of Newfoundland tunes, done by a guy playing them on the flute. Why HELLO THERE Relevance To My Interests!

And, in my pokings around, I have identified two tunes that may be candidates for the first of the two in the recording, since they sound like they’re in the right key (which is to say, A Dorian). If what Bob’s playing is indeed either of these tunes, he’s putting his own style all over them–they don’t match up completely so it’s a bit hard to tell. But the overall up-and-down flow of the melody seems similar, even if the A and B parts sound like they’re flipped around from what has in the transcriptions.

If any other GBS fans out there are also tunes-inclined and can read music, check these out? Sydney Pittman’s Tune and Father’s Jig, either of these sound to anyone like they might be the ones? Sydney Pittman’s sounds slightly like more of a match to me and I have in fact just winged that very question back to Mr. Hallett on Twitter. We shall see what he says!

Still working on tracking down tune #2, too, which sounds like it might kick down into D major, but if it does it’s got a B part that goes minor-y. I need to peer through the rest of the Rufus Guinchard jigs I’m finding on and see if any of those match up.

ETA: Whoa hey, Mr. Hallett just confirmed on Twitter, yes, Sydney Pittman’s is the first of the two tunes! AWRIGHT! Now I just need to find the second one!


So apparently my brain wants to write tunes now!

Those of you who roleplayed with me back in the day on AetherMUSH may remember that Faanshi wrote a song called “Ride Upon the Wyvern” in memory of her lost first love, Lyre Talespinner. Not only did I have lyrics for that, I also had a melody, even though I never actually wrote it down or generated chords for it.

Last night the melody to that song bubbled up from the back of my brain and said to me, “Hi, you’re going to make me be a tune now.”

And I went WAIT WAIT WHUT? And promptly had what I’m thinking is going to be called “Talespinner’s Reel” or perhaps “Le reel du raconteur” pop into my head. It’s in G. It can be played either as a straight-up reel OR as a hornpipe, and as soon as I have the notes down, I am totally transcribing this thing and sharing it with you all.

But that wasn’t even it with the part of my brain that’s suddenly up and decided that learning tunes isn’t sufficient–apparently I’m going to have to write them now! Because my AetherMUSH buds will doubtless also remember another aspect of Faanshi’s roleplay that never made it into Valor of the Healer: i.e., her great big dog Kosha, the hundred-pound guard dog who was fiercely loyal to Faanshi and who had the heart of a puppy. Kosha is still in my brain and he is now totally demanding his own reel. The Big Dog Reel, or perhaps Le reel du grand chien. Because there are call-and-response turlutte bits in this thing, because it’s all about Faanshi trying to teach the dog and he’s having none of this because he TOTALLY wants to play. And there is absolutely a very steady podorythmie component to this, to capture that rhythm of a happy dog trotting along, which I was known to try to put into words when I RPed that dog on the game: dog dog dog doggie dog dog dog!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. Not to be outdone by fictional animals, the real animals in my life, Fred and George, apparently are going to eventually have to get their own entire set. It will be called We Are Such Good Cats. The first tune will be Run Around Go Crazy Time, the second tune will be No YOU’RE a Butthead, and the last one, We Didn’t Do That That Was Other Cats. This set will involve a great deal of interplay between whatever instrument represents George and whatever one represents Fred as they chase each other around the house. There will be slower rhythms for George because he’s bigger, and defter, higher-pitched stuff for Fred. And LOTS of stomping to represent all the things they’re knocking off counters!

So um YEAH. Who turned on this part of my brain? Did I just hit some sort of critical mass what with going to session and trying to learn a bunch of other people’s tunes, so that I want to start writing ones of my own?