Musica Scotica 2015

Fiddle music was considered by a few speakers at this year’s excellent Musica Scotica conference held at the Glasgow Museum of Religious Life and Art. There was also talk, over coffee, of the exciting project getting underway today: Nathaniel Gow’s Dance Band. This, as I understand it is an ensemble of crack fiddlers who will use baroque violins to explore hand-picked pieces from the eighteenth century fiddle collections to see what happens. This is the kind of practical research that I love hearing about and can’t wait to enjoy the results of their efforts. I have suggested that the rehearsals should be recorded fly-on-the-wall style and the files archived for future academic use. Its probably too late now, but it would also be valuable to interview the performers (separately and/or together) on their expectations of the project before, or at an early stage, in the project with a view to a further survey after the experiment has matured.

Many traditional music revivals have been strongly focused on placing renewed attention on the older “period” versions of the instruments involved. The clarsach world has, since the early 1980s been greatly concerned with the old ways of the wire strung harp and in piping we have seen the revival of the bellows-blown pipes and reconstructions of early sets of Highland pipes. Both of these movements have led to a greater appreciation of the early repertory, styles and creative potential of the instruments.

Perhaps because of its dominance in Western music and its centrality in Scotland’s music  there has been relatively little such attention paid to the violin. At last there is some movement.

As I mentioned in a very early posting here ( See foot of page), I have been dabbling a little with an old eighteenth-century Scottish fiddle strung with gut and played with a baroque bow.

To me, it is potential for producing low-key, intimate,music that is proving to be the greatest revelation. As a folk fiddler without any formal strings training (classical or traditional) I find it an absolute pleasure, and something of a relief to escape from the demands of the dance and folk band and the expectations of up-front technical accomplishment associated with the violin, and play within the ‘restrictions’ of the old instrument. That said, I can’t wait to hear the Gow Band’s handling of the more up-tempo material.

The following rather rough and ready home recordings are some of my first explorations:

Whistle o’er the lave o’t : attr. J. Bruce

Huntly Lodge : Nathaniel Gow

Lady Charlotte Campbell : Nathaniel Gow

A Port : Straloch Ms