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Appalachian Music Fellowship Program - 2008
 

Eric Strother

Fellowship Activity Report (pdf, 253 KB)
Tune Transcriptions and Audio Files

Eric Strother

 

Eric Strother's (July 2008) work in the Berea Archives centered on transcribing and analyzing tune performances of West Virginia fiddlers Melvin Wine and Ernie Carpenter. His approach was to document not only the tune but the complete performance which will allow future researchers to analyze the constants and variations in each repetition to gain insight into the performer’s characteristic style.

Tune Transcriptions and Audio Files

These transcriptions and commentaries are based on audio and video recordings of Ernie Carpenter and Melvin Wine performing at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music at various times 1987 - 1994. Both fiddlers are accompanied on banjo by Gerald Milnes. Because the transcriptions are intended to capture a particular performance, the keys given for the tunes are the sounding keys and may differ from the keys intended by the performers. See the Fellowship Activity Final Report for biography, playing style descriptions, and additional commentary.

(The audio and pdf links will open separate windows to make possible listening and viewing the transcript at the same time.)

 

Ernie Carpenter

Sourwood Mountain (pdf, 49 KB)

This performance of Sourwood Mountain is in the key of E flat. Structurally, the tune is in the two-section, or binary, form common to many dance tunes, such as reels and breakdowns. Of particular note in this performance is Carpenter’s tendency to extend phrases and sections. The first time through the tune, Carpenter extends the end of the first phrase of the second strain slightly (only really noticeable because it throws Milnes off briefly). The second time through the tune, he plays the first strain three times rather than two. Carpenter ends his performance by playing only the first strain. (10-31-87 / AC-OR-005-373)

Jimmie Johnson (pdf, 50 KB)

Jimmie Johnson is a three-strain tune, with each strain repeating similar melodic material at different pitch levels. Carpenter performs the tune in the key of A flat , but begins the first strain on E flat. The second, or high strain, focuses on the A flat a fourth higher than where the first strain began. The third strain drops two octaves to the A flat below middle C and the fourth strain is a repeat of the second strain played an octave lower than the original. Structurally, his performance can be diagramed as ABCB'. (10-31-87 / AC-OR-005-367)

Shelvin' Rock (pdf, 47 KB)

Carpenter says that this tune originated with his great-great grandfather. However, Shelvin’ Rock is a floating tune title and is used for at least one other tune in Braxton County. This version of Shelvin’ Rock is played in the key of D flat and consists of three strains in an AABC pattern. The strains are asymmetrical, with lengths of 8, 12, and 10 bars respectively. Carpenter’s performance takes some liberties with the third strain. The first, sixth, and eighth statements of the tune repeat the third strain, creating an AABCC pattern, while the final statement of the tune omits that strain and ends after the second strain. (10-31-87 / AC-OR-005-372)

Cripple Creek (pdf, 57 KB)

Cripple Creek is another binary form tune with a low strain and a high strain. Carpenter plays the tune in the key of A flat and omits the second strain for the last statement of the tune. (10-31-87 / AC-OR-005-373)

 

Melvin Wine

Sourwood Mountain (pdf, 40 KB)

Wine’s performance of Sourwood Mountain is in the key of E flat. Structurally, the tune is in the two-section, or binary, form common to many dance tunes, such as reels and breakdowns. Wine begins his performance in an unusual manner by playing the high strain first. His last statement of the tune ends after the first strain, giving the impression that he has reversed the order of the two. This variation is what makes his performance different from Carpenter’s.

Their interpretations of the individual strains are very similar; the only real difference in the two performances is the order in which they play those strains and the resulting effect. Wine begins with the second strain and ends with the first, giving the impression that he has ended at the end of the tune because the listener has been accustomed to hearing the strains in that order. Carpenter begins and ends with the first strain, giving the impression that he has ended in the middle of the tune because the listener has been accustomed to hearing something else following the first strain. Both of these approaches (ending at the end and repeating the first strain before ending) are common in fiddle music. What is less common is reversing the order of the strains. It would be useful to find other recordings of Melvin Wine playing “Sourwood Mountain” to discover if this alteration was a performance decision or if he perhaps learned the tune this way. (10-89 / AC-OR-005-435)

Jimmie Johnson (pdf, 51 KB)

Jimmie Johnson is a three-strain tune with each strain largely repeating similar melodic material at different pitch levels. Wine’s performance is in the key of A flat, but begins with the first strain on E flat and drops down to A flat for the second strain. His third strain is the same as the first, only an octave lower, and the last strain is the high strain, starting on A? a fourth above the E flat of the opening strain. Structurally, his performance can be diagramed ABA'C.

Wine’s performance sounds more varied than Carpenter’s because of the order in which the strains are performed. In the larger scale of the entire performance, Wine’s alternation of the B and C strains between statements of the A strain give it more of a rondo sound and make the tune sound more continuous by blurring the line between each repetition. Carpenter’s performance seems to treat the C strain as an irregular addition to a binary tune, which serves to punctuate each repetition of the tune. (10-89 / AC-OR-005-435)

Hey Aunt Katie There’s a Bug on Me (pdf, 50 KB)

Hey Aunt Katie There’s a Bug on Me is a polka, and as such, has two different key areas. The opening strain is in the key of A flat and the second strain is in D flat. This tune is a good demonstration of Wine’s precision bow work as he tends to re-articulate or arpeggiate what likely were sustained notes in the original tune. Examples of this include the repeated notes in the first strain, which sound like they could be quarter notes but are re-articulated into eighth notes, and the ascending eighth note patterns in the middle of the second strain, which roughly corresponds to the four repeated quarter notes in the first strain. (10-89 / AC-OR-005-420)

Chicken Reel (available soon)

Chicken Reel was published as a novelty tune around 1910. It is unclear whether or not the tune was actually a folk melody before it was published or whether the composer compiled it from separate folk strains. It follows the binary form common to breakdowns and reels. Wine's performance is in A flat and as with the performance of "Sourwood Mountain," he reverses the order of the high and low strains. (10-94 / AC-OR-005-587)

 

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