« ForrigeFortsæt »
Another piece included in the manuscript is Caniad Pibau Morvydd, “ The Song of Morvydd's Pipes,” the composition already alluded to, as having been performed on the harp by a bard at the Eisteddvod presided over by King Cadwaladr in the seventh century; and it happens to be in one of the above keys; Caniad Pibau Morvydd sydd ar y Bragod dannau, “ The Song of Morvydd's Pipes is in the minor or mixed key.” It is hoped, therefore, that the insertion of the above historical note may be considered a conclusive reply to such a mis-statement.
The twenty-four measures, which consisted of a given number of repetitions of the chords of the tonic and dominant, according to the length of each measure-do not appear in the music of Wales after the date to which the manuscript refers (A.D. 1040), a circumstance which may be considered most fortunate; for, although most ingeniously contrived and well adapted to the purpose for which they were intended at that early period, viz., for the guidance of performers on the harp and crwth — the latter being used as an accompaniment to the harp — had such rules remained in force, they would have had the effect of rendering our national music intensely monotonous and uninteresting, and would have thoroughly destroyed all freedom of imagination in musical composition; whereas, the national music of Wales is remarkable for its beauty of melody, richness of harmony, and variety of construction. It is also exceedingly diatonic, which evidently arose from the difficulty of modulating upon the ancient harp, which had but one row of strings ; although it is said that the perforiner had a method of producing an occasional accidental, by pressing the string with the thumb and first finger.
Davydd ab Gwilym, who flourished about the fourteenth century, alludes, with much enthusiasm, in one of his poems, to the harp strung with glossy black hair; supposed to
have been the instrument upon which the undergraduates were obliged to study until they took a degree. He also mentions an Irish harp which had found its way into Wales in his time; and he speaks disparagingly of it, on account of the ugliness of its shape and the harshness of its tone-being strung with wire and played upon, to quote his own words, “ with a horny nail of unpleasant form”. The Irish harper allowed his nails to grow long, and cut them to a point, like the quills of a spinnet. Therefore, the severest punishment that could be inflicted upon him, was to cut his nails short, as it took a considerable time for them to grow long enough to admit of his playing again.
Between this time and the sixteenth century a great improvement took place, in the invention of a harp with two rows of strings, consisting of the diatonic scale on the right side from the upper part down to the centre of the instrument, with another row of accidentals on the opposite side, to be played, whenever required, by putting the finger through ; and the diatonic scale continued on the left side, from the centre to the lower part of the instrument, with the accidentals on the other row on the opposite side.
This arrangement shows that the harp was held on the right shoulder, and played upon with the right hand in the treble and with the left hand in the bass.
Vincentio Galilei, in his Dissertation on Ancient and Modern Music, published at Florence in 1581, states that the double harp was common in Italy in his day; and that it was derived from Ireland.
It is very difficult to conceive how the Irish could possibly have ever possessed such an instrument, inasmuch as it has left no trace whatever upon their music, the peculiarity of the scale of which consists in leaving out all accidentals and notes which indicate the least modulation from key to
key, but which notes would have been available upon the instrument alluded to.
A circumstance which has recently come under my notice, goes far to show that it might have originated in Wales. A bronze bas-relief by Donatello, forms part of the high altar in the Church of St. Antonio, in Padua. The date is about 1450. One of the figures is that of an angel playing the harp, and the shape of the instrument is precisely that of the Welsh triple harp. I accidentally discovered a plaister cast of the original bronze at the Kensington Museum, where it may be seen.
In any case, whether the double harp originated in Ireland or in Wales, the invention of the Welsh triple harp, with three rows of strings, naturally followed ; for, as music advanced, the inconvenience of being circumscribed within the limited compass of only half the diatonic scale on either side of the instrument would soon be felt; therefore, it was extended on each side to the full extent of the instrument, with a centre row of accidentals, accessible from either side.
It is worthy of remark that the Welsh triple harp is the only instrument of the kind that has ever been known with the strings on the right side of the comb; thereby necessitating its being tuned with the tuning-hammer in the left hand, which is exceedingly awkward to anyone who is not lefthanded. This circumstance may also explain why it is held on the left shoulder, and played upon with the left hand in the treble and the right hand in the bass, so as to have a full view of the strings; otherwise the comb would inconveniently intercept the view, as is the case when Welsh harpers in the present day attempt to play upon the modern English pedal harp,-holding it on the left instead of the right shoulder, with the strings on the left side of the comb.
The science of music having so rapidly advanced within the last century, rendered it absolutely necessary that still further improvements should be made in the harp, that it might keep pace with other instruments. The difficulty of playing upon the inner row of strings of the triple harp in rapid passages, and the impossibility of playing in any other key than the one in which the instrument was tuned, gave rise to the invention of the pedal harp, which is an immense improvement, in a musical sense, upon any former invention; as it admits of the most rapid modulation into every key, and enables the performer to execute passages and combinations that would not have been dreamt of previously. In the double-action harp, perfected by Erard, each note has its flat, natural, and sharp, which is not the case with any other stringed instrument; and this enables the modern harpist to produce those beautiful enharmonic effects which are peculiar to the instrument. Another remarkable advantage has been attained by this invention--the reduction in the number of strings to one row; which enables the performer not only to keep the instrument in better tune, but to use a thicker string, and thus attain a quality of tone, which, for mellowness and richness, may be advantageously compared with that of any other instrument in existence.
To return to the Welsh triple harp. The increased resources attained by the invention of that instrument, as being so far in advance of any other instrument of its kind, up to that period, gave a powerful impetus to the progress of music in the Principality; and may go far to account for the superior beauty, in an artistic point of view, of the national music of Wales over that of any other country. This fact is admitted by the most eminent writers on music; and, lest I should be considered too partial, as a Welshnian, with regard to the music of my native country, I venture to quote Dr. Crotch, a distinguished composer and learned historian, and, for some time, Professor of music in the University of Oxford, and Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. In the first volume of his Specimens of Various Styles of Music, referred to in his course of lectures, he writes as follows:
British and Welsh music may be considered as one, since the original British music was, with the inhabitants, driven into Wales. It must be owned, that the regular measure and diatonic scale of the Welsh music is more congenial to the English taste in general, and appears at first more natural to experienced musicians than those of the Irish and Scotch. Welsh music not only solicits an accompaniment; but, being chiefly composed for the harp, is usually found with one; and, indeed, in harp tunes, there are often solo passages for the bass as well as for the treble. It often resembles the scientific music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and there is, I believe, no probability that this degree of refinement was an introduction of later times.”
Further on, he continues :
“ The military music of the Welsh seems superior to that of any other nation. In the German marches, the models of the English, most of the passages are noisy, interspersed with others that are trifling, and even vulgar. In those of France also there is much noise, together with chromatic and other scientific passages. The Scotch Highland marches, called Ports, are wild warbles, which might (and, indeed, upon many occasions did, in a remarkable degree) inspire courage, but which could not answer the purpose of regulating the steps. But in the Welsh marches, The March of the Men of Harlech', ' The March of the Men of Glamorgan', and also a tune called . Come to Battle', there is not too much noise, nor is there vulgarity nor yet misplaced science. They have a sufficiency of rhythm without its injuring the dignified character of the whole, which, to use the words of the poet, is