Electronic instruments: Dagda’s Magic Harp

February 18, 2013 · Posted in Uncategorized 

Background video description below:

This is one of many stories about the mythological king of ancient Ireland, know as “Dagda” (pronounced “dada”). Dagda is said to have possessed, among other wonderful things, a magical harp which he could use to produce supernatural phenomena. This story was first written down by Christian monks around the 12th century AD, but at that time it was already ancient and had been handed down verbally for more than a thousand years.

According to legend, there were two tribes living in Ireland at the time of King Dagda: the Fomorians who were small and dark haired people, and the Celtic “Tuatha De Danaan” who were tall, light skinned and blond and whose leader was King Dagda. It seems they were constantly at war and this particular tale has to do with the time the Fomorians stole Dagda’s magic harp (something which turned out to be a very bad idea).

The instrument I am using to accompany myself in this song is a two part affair of my own devising which I call the “tibicen” (the Latin word for “piper”). It is entirely electronic, and consists of a small keyboard which sits in my lap, and a pedalboard (similar to a church organ) on the floor in floor in front of me. Nothing was added to this performance and there are no overdubs or additions of any kind. This is exactly the way it was performed.

The pedalboard provides the drone, while the keyboard plays melody. The instrument has a huge range, can play in any key, and I have tried to show some of what it can do in this video.

In ancient time, when sagas of this sort were performed, they sometimes went on for hours. I had to cut this down to its bare essentials in order to bring it in under eight minutes. The unedited story contains a lot of interesting details but I didn’t want to bore everyone by going on too long!

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