Daily Archives: December 9, 2009 5:55 pm

Musical surprises #9: Hornpipes are in 3…



For many people, especially dance teachers, ‘hornpipe’ is synonomous with 2/4 time. But there is another hornpipe in 3/2, particularly common in English baroque music, an example being Purcell’s Hole in the Wall (see below). Another example is the Scottish tune ‘Dance to your Daddy‘, the rondeau from Purcell’s Abdelazer that’s used in Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or the hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music. What those last three tunes have in common is that until about a year ago, I had never realised they were in three  – I hadn’t ever considered what their metre was, because in fact, metre in the sense of regular grouping accents doesn’t seem to emerge from those tunes – they just seemed to me  to flow as melodies without sensing that they’re in 3  or 2 – or anything in fact.  I sometimes wonder why I would teach people to try and perceive patterns in music that I don’t perceive myself, even with my musical training. I’m afraid I have no answer to that yet.

The Hole in the Wall

And the water music hornpipe: