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BOOK REVIEW

Diatonic Liaisons / Liaisons Diatonique - Alexandra Browne

ISBN1-87227-29-2 Dragonfly Music

Scottish Accordion Master - Sandy Brechin
ISBD 1-871931-87-8 Taigh na Teud Music Publishers, Skye, Scotland

This is an earnest attempt to transfer the music of several English and French melodeon players from live or recorded sources to the musical dots. It's set out in both languages with a high proportion of French tunes. What's here is all original composition, painstakingly annotated by the author, using her own system to transfer the nuances of each musician's efforts onto manuscript. The whole production is geared to the sight reader with a rather classical approach. Such advice as 'the detail need not be followed strictly' is excellent but the word 'need' is a bit of a giveaway! Ms Browne does later recognise the individual approach to some extent, and surely this is the essence of traditional music of any kind, within an accepted framework?

Anyway, if you're a G/C or G/D sight reader looking for new tunes maybe to confound the massed melodeons to be heard at modern folk festivals, this could be for you, if you can afford it! Whether 'traditional' musicians ever learn anything useful from print is a moot point, but Ms Browne has made a valiant attempt, via her complex and clever musical notation, to bridge the vast gap between 'ear' players and sight readers, and is to be complimented for that.

Scotland has a relatively classical approach to traditional music, and the norm, when the music is written down, is still for standard musical notation. Scots traditional musicians are used to this, and hence there are myriad books of Scottish music, although I'm sure there are few as zany as this one! There are 65 new tunes here, all by the author, whose foreword quotation "try not to play all the tunes as they're written on the paper" is music to my ears. No classical approach here then! No 'Bonnie Dundee', 'Corn Riggs' or suchlike old stagers; instead we have 'The Custard Pie Gang' and 'Lipstick on my Whistle'.

Sandy Brechin's quirky notes to all the tunes leave no doubt that he doesn't take himself too seriously' always a welcome quality in a 'traditional' musician. Only ten of these tunes are in the 'Scottish' key of A, but even if they are a wee bit complex for the English melodeon, if you're a Scots fiddler or accordion player, and looking for new material, you could do worse than dip into this!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.