Monday, 6 February 2017

Le Roy: Fantasie, des Grues


This fantasy is the first in Adrian le Roy's volume of Renaissance guitar music: Quart livre de tablature, 1553. Transcribing it for ukulele appealed to me for two reasons. First, I managed to play much of it (admittedly badly) directly off the facsimile, though I do have trouble with the B♭ chord in bar 16 [see footnote]. Second, I checked the definition of 'grues' in a modern French dictionary: it currently means either 'cranes' or 'ladies of the night'. Either way, it gives one an image to ponder whilst playing the music.
Facsimile: First 5 lines of the tablature by Le Roy: Fantasie, des Grues
Facsimile: First 5 lines of the tablature by Le Roy: Fantasie, des Grues

    My music dictionary tells me that, in the 16th century, 'fantasia' applied to compositions of very contrapuntal nature: the combination of two or more parts or voices to form a harmonic whole. It evolved into the fugue. The form was freer than a dance or song, and for purists an instrumental fantasia had to be extemporised and not written down.

   The present piece consists of overlapping lines, punctuated or accompanied by chords. As usual, my problem has been to determine which note falls into which category, because the tablature shows only when to pluck the note, but not how long it is to be. The convention I have used is to have the stems of bass and harmonising notes pointing down, the stems of the top line pointing up, and where other lines overlap to direct the stems in the least confusing direction. It's easier to see the structure in the notation than in the tabs. Apologies if I have transgressed any norms of music setting, but I'm learning this as I go along.

   At first sight this looks undemanding, but I found maintaining the line(s) and keeping the long notes ringing a bit of a challenge. Part of the trouble is that with a percussive instrument like the uke, the notes don't last all that long. The Renaissance guitar was double strung, and I wonder if it had more sustain than the uke. If you can, try changing the MIDI instrument to 'recorder' or 'string ensemble' to hear the lines more clearly.

The arrangement is available to download in pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI formats. Have fun!

Footnote added later. I was having trouble fingering the notes around the Bflat chord (I have converging middle and ring fingers) so I have simplified bars 14 – 18 (see below). You'd hardly hear the difference. The brilliant Luteval has loaded here on YouTube his performance of this piece (with variations) on Renaissance guitar, in which he plays this section with misleading ease whilst holding a 3rd barré, so it is possible! Many thanks to 'Ukatee" for the link.

music Les Grues bars 14 - 18

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I hope you enjoy these arrangements. I would welcome your views, and comments on possible errors or improvements.