King of the a Fairies

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    Need help with timing. Harbisons writes this note: ‘this set is in hornpipe time where the dotted quaver – semi quaver groupings should be interpreted as if in triplet groupings with crochet -quaver.’

    Not sure if that means if I’m playing triplet eighth notes with the right hand and dotted eighth with the left are the last triplet and eight note played simultaneously? They both make up one beat and technically the last triplet should be played first, but I think her note means interpret to play at the same time?


    I’ve come to the conclusion she was referring to phrasing and emphasis and not adjusting the timing of the triplet and dotted eighth. It adds some interesting syncopation.


    So, hornpipes are a type of dance where the main step is a kind of “step hop, step hop” figure with alternate feet, so a very bouncy dance with a lot of “up” and not very much “along”.
    Folk music being a largely oral tradition, there is no standard way of writing a hornpipe down rhythm-wise but the most common that I’ve seen is by writing down straight quavers that are then played syncopated (implicitly), very similar to “swing” in jazz. However, some people prefer to write the quavers down as dotted quaver/semiquaver pairs to emphasize the uneveness of the pairs (like in your music).
    Mathematically, the true ratio of the quaver pairs is not 1:1 or 3:1 but somewhere in between like 2:1, as suggested by a triplet of “crotchet quaver”, rather than just two quavers (1:1) or a dotted quaver and semiquaver (3:1), and this is what the note explains. E.g. For King of the Faires (a very popular hornpipe in these parts) the rhythm or the first full bar of tune should approximately be |dum dum dum-dee dum-dee| rather than |dum dum da da da da| or |dum dum dooooooo bedooooo be|.But the best way to gauge the rhythm and speed of a hornpipe is to listen to some hornpipes and try dancing along yourself with the step-hop motion.

    As for the left hand, since this was written by Harbisons herself, I have no idea what goes on there, but in the spirit of the dance if should match up rhythm-wise with the tune as much as possible.

    Hope that helps, sorry if it doesn’t make sense I’ll try and clarify, but it’s a lot easier to show than explain…
    (Also sorry if that came across as patronizing, I didn’t mean to be but I don’t know how much you know about trad. folk dance and I wanted to explain it properly just in case you didn’t)

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