Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An old, old story

This song predates the American Revolution. Music historian Tim Eriksen set it to guitar (the original would have been accompanied by lute) but sings it in much the original style. "I Wish The Wars Were All Over".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin


  1. There's always been wars on this planet, and our economy is based on such. I've decided to just not give a crap as long as their not fighting around me.

    Besides, it helps keep the worlds populations down on a maxed out planet.

  2. Dude. Look at how far he has to capo that guitar to get to the right tuning!

  3. BadTux, I can't speak to the capo issue, but I know three centuries of lute music (16th, 17th, 18th centuries), and that ain't lute music.

    A century before the American Revolution, in Europe and England, music was in the early Baroque period. That's about the time Bach, Handel and all those guys were born. Early baroque period harpsichord music is full of the "broken style" (arpeggiated accompaniment) intermixed with some counterpoint. Where did that come from? From French lute music over the century prior to that. By the American Revolution, the lute had undergone a complete revision both of construction and playing technique, i.e., Baroque lute != Renaissance lute. But throughout, lute music was always far more elaborate, involuted and contrapuntal than music for other plucked string instruments (including early guitar).

    If I had to guess, I'd guess the piece Eriksen played would go well on a cittern. In Elizabethan England, barber shops hung citterns on the wall for people to amuse themselves with while they waited to get their hair or their guts cut. Citterns are wire-strung and not technically demanding; pieces with a drone like this one work just fine on them.

  4. A slight correction: by the American Revolution, the lute was mostly dodo-dead except in isolated pockets of antiquarian fervor. But it was still a big deal from, say, 1700 to 1750.

  5. Supposedly this was written during the 7 years war of 1754 and 1763, perhaps it was for a cittern as you state. It certainly wasn't for a guitar -- not if it requires a guitar to be capoed in that weird fashion, which would have been somewhat difficult in those days before spring-loaded capos (where the closest equivalent was a rope or string tied tightly around the neck at the point where you wished to change your key to). Regarding exact identity of the not-a-guitar instrument that it was originally written for, I bow to your superior knowledge :).

  6. I did spend a lot of years studying this crap! :)

    As to tightness of capo-equivalents, I assume that period guitars were gut-strung. I spent some years playing viols (bowed instruments from which guitars are supposed to have originated, though I have my doubts) and it's remarkable how much less pressure it takes to stop a gut string on a tied-gut fret than doing the same on a modern guitar, even a nylon-strung one. A loop of rope, or better yet, of an old broken bass-most string, would probably do the trick.

  7. Ah, but that's not how he has this guitar capo'ed. Look again. He has the high strings capo'ed, but the lower string (his 'drone' string) is open. You simply can't do that with a rope/string capo, only with a spring-type capo.

  8. You're right, of course.

    What you can do, with old-style gut frets (frets, not capos) is tie them on a slant w.r.t. the fingerboard. This has the effect of shortening some strings more than others when stopped on the same fret. This has two uses: you can tune in a sort of half-assed "temperament" (i.e., make things better in some keys and worse in others), or you can just correct for an old set of strings that have gone out-of-round so that mass is not distributed uniformly along the string. Gut strings get funky with time.

    But of course that has nothing to do with capos. As you say, you can't capo some strings but not others with something tied on.

  9. Oops. Dinnertime for me, and Stella's cooking, so I'm off. Later...


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