O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 48

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 48
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Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
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94 Irish Minstrels and Musiciansmusicians and choristers to serve in it. A band of these Irish harpers andchoristers came from thence, who imparted their music and rules to all theFranks, which were adopted by the court and the nation. In like manner.Charlemagne, in the eighth century, appointed two IrishmenClement Albaniusand Dunginpreceptors for the two great Universities of Pavia and Paris, whichhe established. Testimony such as the above cannot be regarded lightly inupholding the claim of Irelands renown among the nations over a thousandyears ago.Such was the celebrity of the music of Ireland in the eleventh century thatthe Welsh, according to their own historians, received their improved musicalsystem from the Land of Song.About the year i ioo, Gruffydth ap Conan, King of.North Wales, who beingon the one side an Irishman, by his mother and grandmother, and also born inIreland, brought over with him out of that countrie divers cunning nnsiciansinto Wales, who, the Welsh historian Powell asserts, in his History of Cam-brici, translated by Lloyd, edit. 1584, devised in a manner all the instrumentalmusicke that now is there used, as appeareth as well by the books written of thesame, as also by the names of the tunes and measures used amongst them tothis claie.In this assertion Powell is corroborated by the learned Selden, an Englishjurist, who, in speaking of the Welsh, says: Their musique for the most partcame out of Ireland with Gruffydth ap Conan, prince of North Wales about KingStephens time. Another Welsh writer, Caradoc of Liancarvan, and Wynne,the historian, take the same view.The result of the introduction of the cunning musicians from Ireland wassoon apparent. At a great feast given by Rhys ap Gruffydth, at Cardigan Castle.m 1176. and to which all the bards and poets of Wales were invited, the bards ofNorth Wales, among whom it is natural to suppose were some of their Irishinstructors, proved their superiority and were awarded the prizes.johannes Brompton Abbot of Jereval, in Yorkshire, who wrote early in thelast half of the twelfth century, and before the Norman invasion, states that theIrish had two kinds of harps,--the one bold and rapid, the other soft and sooth-ing; and although the music was headlong and rapid, it was nevertheless sweetand pleasant, the modulations crisp, and the small notes intricate. He furtherstated that the Irish taught in secret, and committed their lessons to memory.No commentator on early Irish music is so universally quoted as GeraldBarrvGiraldus CambrensisBishop of St. Davids, in Wales. He had traveled,as the companion of Henry the Second, all over Europe, and had heard the bestmusic of every country in the most refined society. With Prince John, he visitedIreland in i i86, awl subsequently wrote an account of his observations, entitledTopograplua Hibcrnica,Concerning the development of music among the Irish. lie says : The atten-tion of this people to musical instruments I find worthy of commendation; inwhich their skill is beyond all comparison superior to that of any nation I haveseen; for in these the modulation is not slow and solemn, as in the instrumentsof Britain to which we are accustomed; but the sounds are rapid and precipi-tate. vet at the same time sweet and pleasing. It is wonderful how in such pre-cipitate rapidity of the fingers, the musical proportions are preserved, and bytheir art faultless throughout, in the midst of their complicated modulations, andmost intricate arrangement of notes. 1w a rapidity so sweet, a regularity so irreg-ular, a concord so discordant, the melody is rendered harmonious and perfect.Historical Estimate of Irish Music95\Vhether the chords of the cliatessaron or diapente are struck together, yet theyalways begin in a soft mood, and end in the same : that all may he perfected inthe sweetness of (leliCiouS sounds, they enter on, and again leave their modulations with so much subtilty, and the tingling of the small string sport with somuch freedom tinder the deep notes of the bass, (lelighit with so much delicacy,and soothe so softly that the excellence of their art seems to lie in concealing it.It is to be observed, however, that Scotland and Valesthe latter inorder to disseminate the art: the former in consequence of intercourse andaffinitvstrive with rival skill to emulate Ireland in music. In the opinion ofmany at this day, Scotland has not only equalled, but even far excels her mistressIreland in musical skill ; wherefore they seek there also the fountain as it wereof the art.The peculiarities of Irish music in rhythni and execution must have deeplyimpressed the (listinguished \Velsh prelate, for he admits it was superior to thatof Wales, the latter being of a grave and solemn nature, whereas that of theIrish was soft, lively and melodious, their fingers passing rapidly over the stringsof the harp. preserving a true musical proportion, nor in any part injuring theart among the shakes of the notes, and a multiplicity of intricate musical sounds,such as soft and pleasant notes divided by just proportion into concords and dis-cords, making a complete melody, all of which depended upon the power andvariety of the sounds, and the lengths of the Irish vowels, and to which the Welshlanguage is a stranger.Perhaps the circumstance that the Irish harps were strung with brass wireinstead of thongs and even horse hair, as the custom was in Wales, may accountin a measure for the soft and pleasant notes of the Irish instrument.As Borde, the Welsh poet said in 1542:For my harp is made of good mares skinThe strynges be of horse heare it maketh a good dyn.Speaking of the effects of music, Cambrensis has in the following passagerecorded the extreme love of the Irish for the music of the harp. The sweet-ness of music not only delights with its harmony, it has its advantages also. Itnt a little exhilarates dejected minds, it clears the clouded countenance andremoves superciliousness and austerity. Harnionv is a kind of food to themind. Whatever be our pursuit, music assists application and quickens genius;it gives courage to the brave and assists the devotion of the pious. Hence it isthat the bishops, abbots, and holy men in Ireland, are used to have their harpabout them, and piously amuse themselves with playing it. Music has a powerto alter our very nature, he continues, hence the Irish, the Spanish. and someother nations, amidst their funeral wailings bring forth musical lamentations,either to increase or diminish their grief.Keenly appreciating the music and performance of the Irish harpers, Cam-brensis says that those very strains w-hich afford deep and unspeakable mental(lelight to those who have skillfully penetrated into the mysteries of the art;fatigue rather than gratify the cars of others who seeing, do not perceive, andhearing, do not understand; and by whom the finest music is esteemed no betterthan a confused and disorderly noise, and will be heard with unwillingness anddisgust.The widely divergent emotional attitude of men in modern times no lessthan in the clays of Giraldus Canibrensis remilds us that Voltaire hated music
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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