Sad song part deux

Those of you who've had quite enough shape-note music from me lately ought not to click on this one.

Just so everyone will know, I'd like that performed at my funeral.  So if I die, get right to work learning all four parts.

Here's one much more cheerful:


Grim said...

One question I would like you to answer: why do they call it "shape-note"? I am particularly interested in just what the analogy to "shaping" is, or perhaps what makes this more an act of shaping than any other sort of singing.

Texan99 said...

The music is written on a normal clef, but the notes aren't all written as circles. Instead, the system uses four different note shapes to help denote the tone. So you can read it like normal European notation, but the shapes also give a clue for singers who can't read it.

It's a little confusing in the four-shape version I'm most familiar with: Instead of do, re, mi . . ., the scale is fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa. You're just supposed to know that the "fa" shape (triangle) could mean the the key note or the fourth note, that the sol (round) note is the second or fifth note, and that the la (square) note is the third or sixth note. Only mi (diamond), the seventh note, is unique. The shapes change according to the key the song is in, just as do, re, mi would. Julie Andrews would sing: "Fa, a deer, a female deer; sol, a drop of golden sun; la, a name I call myself; fa, a long, long way to run . . . ."

You often hear the singers begin by singing the "notes," after which they'll sing the "poetry." When they sing the notes, each section is pronouncing a different syllable, and it's a cacophony of "fas," "sols," and "las."

Other traditions use seven distinct shapes, which is an exact cognate of do, re, mi, though with different names.