A Mixolydian "Yankee Doodle"

Flint Hill
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
14 years ago
62 posts
It's funny, setting the speed aside, the Mixolydian version sounds pretty musical to me.Bronson was suggesting this as a general experiment in mode shifts, and I don't mean it to apply principally to dulcimers and the sixth-fret issue, though of course that issue arises incidentally.Bronson would have agreed with you that for the modern ear, substituting a flatted 7th "just doesn't work", but he suggests that this wasn't always the case.In the same chapter (of The Ballad as Song) he looks at six versions of "Henry Martin". I'll simplify it to five versions to shorten the explanation:Ionian (natural 7th)Ionian/Mixolydian hexatonic (missing 7th)Mixolydian (flatted 7th)Dorian (flatted 3rd)Dorian/Aeolian hexatonic (missing 6th)All were collected between 1904 and 1908. Four are from England and one from Minnesota.Bronson makes the case that this pattern of variation is pretty common. One point he makes is that when you see a tune with Ionian and Dorian versions, you very often find Io/Mixo and Mixolydian versions as well. It's as though the tune changed one step at time by dropping, adding, sharpening, or flatting a single tone. Tunes are seldom seen to make a two-or-three step jump without leaving intermediate forms behind.Another point he makes is that these changes may have sounded more musically acceptable than they do today. (Much as we would regard a V-I and a V7-I cadence as being somewhat interchangeable. Though they are different, one is not perceived as more or less musical than the other.)So that, I believe, was why Bronson suggested the exercise. The Ballad as Song a great book, BTW, though it's tough slogging in spots.Out of print, unfortunately, but there's always interlibrary loan.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
14 years ago
2,103 posts
If the purpose is to play an Ionian tune in Mixolydian tuning on a dulcimer without a 6+ fret, I think the experiment has shown that substituting a flatted note just doesn't work...
Flint Hill
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
14 years ago
62 posts
Thanks, Ken.I had no idea whether people would hear this as a sour or wrong note or whether people's ears would accept it as a reasonable variant.It might have been better to try it with a tune that is less familiar.
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
14 years ago
2,103 posts
Both versions are 'way too fast, IMHO, so the mood is "rushed". The Mixo version just sounds like someone keeps playing the wrong note making the tune sound flat. I get no real sense of a Celtic or primitive or backwoods feel from either version.
folkfan
@folkfan
14 years ago
357 posts
The simple flatting of a note wouldn't to me give a tune a Scottish flavor, but rather changing the rhythm of the notes to create the Scots snap or Scotch catch as it is sometimes call. A short note followed by a longer held note or the other way around, long followed by short. Scotland the Brave has examples of that particular Scottish musical beat.And when I think of the tunes that have a more primitive or backwoods feel, I think of those ballads which the mountain people sang in the minor modes, while the same tune might have been in the major mode when it first traveled over. Several of my English folk song books will have a tune like Barbara Allen in the major while in the mountain tradition Barbary Ellen is in the minor. Flint Hill said:
Keigh, that seems like an entirely reasonable response.

The Mix version sounded musical to me. To my ear, the flatted seventh gave it a Scotch or Irish sound, and made it sound more backwoods and ancient.
Flint Hill
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
14 years ago
62 posts
Keigh, that seems like an entirely reasonable response.The Mix version sounded musical to me. To my ear, the flatted seventh gave it a Scotch or Irish sound, and made it sound more backwoods and ancient.
folkfan
@folkfan
14 years ago
357 posts
All I can say is that other than having to rush my singing, I can sing Yankee Doodle to the first version, and can't manage to do it to the second. The first version sounds happy and gay and the second simply sounds misplayed. But they both sound too fast to my ear.This is the speed and sound of Yankee Doodle I'm used to, so I guess that's what my ear expects to hear. http://back.numachi.com:8000/dtrad/midi/YANKDOOD.midi
Flint Hill
Flint Hill
@flint-hill
14 years ago
62 posts

Bertrand Bronson said in 1950:

"Let anyone try the experiment of singing "Yankee Doodle" with a flatted seventh wherever the leading note occurs and he will know what a folk-singer with an instinctive leading to the Mixolydian might do to antiquate a modern major tune."

(By "folk-singer" he means "traditional singer".)

At the end of the post, you'll find files for the familiar major-key (Ionian) version and for the Mixolydian version.

Both are in the key of G, and the two versions are identical except that the seventh is F# in the Ionian version and F in the Mixolydian version

I'd love to know what you think of the Mixolydian version in comparison to the familiar Ionian rendering. For example: What moods do the two versions convey?

updated by @flint-hill: 06/11/15 07:25:14AM