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Music, Emotion and Identity in Ulster Marching Bands

Flutes, Drums and Loyal Sons

Gordon Ramsey

Ulster’s marching bands form perhaps the most vibrant participatory folk music tradition in contemporary Europe, and are one of the most significant and visible elements of working-class loyalist culture in the divided society of Northern Ireland. Their significance springs largely from the central place they have assumed in the lives of their members.
This book presents an ethnography of three County Antrim flute bands from the very different genres of ‘part-music’, ‘melody’ and ‘blood and thunder’. The author explores the emotional rewards of communal music-making and the way that identities are formed through the acquisition of tastes, competences and skills within specific communal contexts, paying particular attention to the impact of class position. These issues are examined in the context of the competitions, concerts and street parades that are central to the social lives of thousands of band members and supporters in Northern Ireland.


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Appendix C - Fife and Flute Pitches, Keys and Fingering - 285


Appendix C Fife and Flute Pitches, Keys and Fingering This is a subject which causes considerable confusion, particularly in rela- tion to marching band f lutes, since the terminology used is a consequence of complex inter-relationships between instrument construction, written notation and fingering patterns which has a practical logic, but is complex to explain discursively. I shall seek to clarify this confusion by relating every instrument to the simplest and commonest woodwind instrument used in traditional music in Ireland, the tin whistle, keyed in D. This instrument conforms to the European standard pitch in which middle-C equals 256MHz and the A above it (A1) equals 440MHz. The lowest note which can be played on the whistle, using three fingers from each hand, is the second D above middle C (D2). The simple-system f lute concert f lute, which was the standard orches- tral instrument prior to the invention of the Boehm-system f lute and is still widely used in traditional music, is also keyed in D, but an octave below the whistle. Thus the lowest note, fingered again with three fingers from each hand, is D1. There is a complicating factor with this f lute, however, since it was originally designed for use by classical musicians in the 19th century, when concert pitch had not been standardised and was somewhat higher than the current ‘A=440Mhz’ (Sadie & Tyrell 2003:800). In order to bring the simple system f lute down to modern concert pitch, so that it will be in...

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