Jack Oughton - Breizh - Breton Music.pptPresentation Transcript
BREIZH – Breton Folk Music By Jack Oughton
There is a long running debate into what constitutes folk music
Diehard folkies are known to defend their elitist convictions with the same ferociousness as Black Metal fans
For the purpose of this talk I will define folk to include music where the author is known, though written in the ‘old style’ and including use of new instruments.
Main alternative to classical music in years past, for the common man, classical was elite music and was therefore more well documented, with stricter rules and form.
Folk music however was passed by word of mouth and song tradition over the years
There were no strict rules to adhere to, more musical habits which developed into regional sounds
This organic way of spreading means that folk music is recognisable as a style, yet varies subtly or drastically depending on how far you travel from where you first listen to it.
Music is tied to culture
Very old music is therefore a link with the past beyond living memory
Britanny is much like Cornwall or Wales in the UK. A region where the native Celtic culture was not fully absorbed
Folk songs are songs of life written by people living normal ones. Songs of hardship and happy days.
There is a large scene in France, obviously centred in Britanny. Its not particularly popular outside France and used to be hard to come by until the internet came along
Fans of other forms of native Celtic music often enjoy Breton folk music as there are some similarities in instrumentation, song structure, melody and harmony
Would be heard wherever you could find people gathering, played in bars, sung at family get togethers, social functions, etc.
Much of this began in the middle ages
As a form of music traditionally played by amateur musicians, Breton folk is a theoretically simple form of music.
Melodic and Harmonic form: Chord progressions and melodies are usually simple and strongly tonic. Little deviation from minor and major scales; as these are best used to clearly express happy and sad moods..
Rhythmic Form: 4/4, little deviation from standard meters though the occasional ¾ waltz influence from further east in Europe is noticed.
Technique : Though the use of melody and harmony are simple the music can be quite technically demanding to play as some reels and songs are very fast
Flutes and whistles
Telen [Celtic Harp]
Violon [either a fiddle or a violin]
Since the 1960s folk roots revival and thank largely to the works of Alan Stivell, legendary instrumentalist, folk has been updated and a lot of acts now combine older instrumentation with more ‘modern’ sounds.
Electric Guitars and basses
Accordions [not strictly electric]
Some electronic additions in later albums such as synths; pads, basses and textures.
The chants de marins [mariner’s chant] are shanties (sailor songs), ballads about shipwrecks, sailing and loss of life, accompanied by instruments like the fiddle and accordion. Britanny is close to the sea and many Breton people where and are sailors and fishermen.
Kan ha diskan ( call and response singing ) is probably the most common type of Breton vocal music, often found in other genres of traditional music, such as African and blues.
A Kantik ("canticle") is a type of religious hymn that is vocal but includes accompaniment from a variety of instruments, commonly including the harp, pipes and organ.
This is a Kan ha diskan
The Breton folk equivalent of club music
Basically a drinking song!
This is a chant de marin
Modern update to an old song
Quite popular song; on the Black Hawk Down soundtrack.
This is a kantik
Although the lyrics are about a magpie a lot of reference is made to priests and a church
Notice how they sing in limited polyphony but with a reel’s structure
It’s like Breton tinged plainsong
Gortozet 'm eus, gortozet pell I was waiting, waiting for a long time skeud teñval tourioù gell In the dark shadow of grey towers
E skeud teñval an tourioù glav In the dark shadow of rain towers C'hwi am gwelo ' c'hortoz atav You will see me waiting forever
Un deiz a vo ' teuio en dro One day it will come back Dreist ar morioù, dreist ar maezioù Over the seas, over the lands
Dreist ar maezioù, dreist ar morioù Over the lands, over the seas D'am laerezh war an treujoù To steal me on the trunks
' Teuio en dro karget a fru It will come back full of spray E skeud te4val an tourioù du In the dark shadow of the black towers
' Teuio en dro an avel c'hlas Will come back the blue wind Da analañ va c'halon c'hloaz't To breathe my wounded heart Kaset e vin diouzh e anal I will be pulled away by its blow Pell gant ar red en ur vro all Far away by its stream to another land Kaset e vin diouzh e alan I will be pulled away by its breath Pell gant ar red, hervez 'deus c'hoant Far away by its stream, wherever it wants Hervez 'deus c'hoant pell eus ar bed Wherever it wants, far away from this world Etre ar mor hag ar stered Between the sea and the stars
Breizh was almost extinct until1960s folk revival
Simple and straightforward music, there’s not much in the way of dressing up performances with theatrics, or much ‘showbiz’.
But in some cases traditional Breton dress will be worn in performance.
Performers were originally older but younger people are involved now.
Some Old World Imagery used in the artwork such as Breton patterns. Not always the case.
This man is not a rockstar.
Traditional Celtic Imagery
Non Traditional – Psychedelic Influences?
I emphasize with a native European culture fighting through music to preserve itself in increasingly homogenous and globalizing time.
The passion behind the music is beautiful, folk music is written by and often performed by people [folks] not professional musicians and I can emphasize as they are really just singing about life.
Alan Stivell’s use of arpeggiation on harp, the way to take a standard chord and rearrange the notes to create something completely different and flowing.
I love the connection with the past it embodies.
The Breton people where a seafaring race and many settled in Quebec, Canada. Cajun music is strongly influenced by those who settled there.
Similarities to Irish, Welsh, Galician and Cornish music; similar islands of Celtic culture.
Influence on ‘New Wave’ of Celtic culture: b*llocks. Some dilution and commercialisation of Celtic culture, including music and imagery.
Celtic has become a buzzword and a cultural alternative for people looking to find their roots
Much the same as African Americans who have never been back to their home continent.
‘ New folk’ not to be confused with neofolk , an offspring of martial industrial music.
It has had an influence on Breton musicians working in other styles.
The commercial arm of the Celtic movement.
It could also be argued that the folk tradition has returned in the modern resurgence of acoustic singer songwriters
Who often use the same level of instrumentation
Some of them even sing older songs
Many folkies would say this isn’t ‘real’ folk though.
BRAN BARR - Sidh
Notice unusual combination traditional instrumentation
Works well harmonically due to both forms of music being central to tonic
Combines furious brutality of extreme rock music with same frantic pace of a Breton reel.
Exposing a new audience to traditional sounds?
How well did the contrast sound to you?
Combines harmonic complexity of jazz with a Breton reel’s melody
More predominantly jazz but Breton influence is obvious