Singing (6)

Play recording: Singing (6)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Singing (6).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781510.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): singing style.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 28/02/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture/demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Mike Seeger.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Ornamentation and ‘Pulse’

A questioner asks about the ‘shading notes’. Joe then talks about ‘pulse’ and ‘saying a song’ – telling a story in the song. Mike Seeger tries to help bring the questioner and Joe together with a few follow-up questions. Finally someone asks Joe to sing an example of an unornamented stanza and then an ornamented one. In response, Joe tries to sing a stanza of ‘The Rocks of Bawn’ without ornamentation, and then with ornamentation, to demonstrate what the addition of ornamentation adds in depth of feeling.

In the first, ‘you’re in a hurry to go somewhere; and in the other one you’re playing the act-you’re working exactly what Sweeney was doing, you’re going through the same thing he was going through before the song was ever made. You have the picture before you of the man going through this agony; and if he stops for one minute, somebody else will get his job. And that’s exactly the picture you must follow when you’re singing an old song, especially if it’s a sad one… You’ve got to have the picture before you, and you’ll do the song properly then.

With regard to ‘pulse’, a questioner observes that in some of Joe’s songs there’s a good deal of variability in tempo. Sometimes he will sing a verse, where there seems to be a pulse; then he’ll come to a section with nonsense syllables, where things will speed up; and then the whole thing will come to a stop1. Joe responds with two things he’s said many times: (1) you should start slowly, build up to a climax, and then go back down again towards the end; and (2) the story about the lilting composition. In other words, he doesn’t answer the question at all.


1. The question of ‘pulse’ is easily confused with ‘beat’, as this question makes clear. What Joe means by ‘pulse’ is probably something like ‘impulse’ or ‘energy’ or ‘forward motion.

This was recorded when Joe Heaney was Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington.