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A Conspiracy of Ravens

A Conspiracy of Ravens

Compositeur: MUIR Samantha

DZ 3520

Intermédiaire

ISBN: 978-2-89795-437-6

Ukulélé

12 p.

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Description

About the Pieces

The collective noun for a group of ravens is a conspiracy of ravens. It seemed fitting that this collection of six short pieces about ravens should, therefore, be called A Conspiracy of Ravens. Ravens are intelligent, mischievous and mysterious birds which feature in mythology and folklore. Many cultures regard them as omens of ill fortune. But in Welsh mythology the raven is associated with Bran the Blessed and seen as a protective spirit. According to tradition Bran’s head was buried under the White Hill of London to act as a talisman against invasion. The Tower of London was later built upon the White Hill. To this day at least six ravens are kept as protectors of the Crown and the Tower.

 

The musical inspiration for this collection was the English folk ballad The Three Ravens originally published in 1611 in the collection Melismata compiled by Thomas Ravenscroft. In the lyrics of the song the three ravens are discussing what they should have for breakfast. One suggests they could feast on a newly slain knight. But the knight is guarded by his hawks and his hounds. Eventually the knight’s mistress comes in the form of a ‘fallow doe.’ She kisses the knight’s wounds and buries him near a lake before dying, perhaps of sorrow. There is no further mention of the hungry ravens. The song ends wishing every gentleman such loyal hounds, hawks and mistresses. 

 

I used the original melody as the basis for my pieces. I find the song quite eerie and sinister and it certainly suited my lockdown mood. Part i of White Raven, Blue Raven and Black Raven are arrangements of the original melody in campanella style. Part ii of each raven is an original composition based on the theme. 

 

White Raven is in the key of E minor. According to Greek mythology the god Apollo sent a white raven to spy on his lover Coronis. On learning that Coronis had been unfaithful, Apollo, in his fury, scorched the raven’s feathers black. In this setting the raven is seen as a symbol of bad luck. Part ii is in free time, reflecting the raven’s reluctance to tell Apollo of Coronis’ infidelity. The notes should be free and spacious. 

 

Blue Raven is in D minor. Seeing ravens in flight I often think they have a blue shimmer. The blue raven is secretive and mysterious. When agitated her flight is powerful and undulating but often broken by sudden twists and turns. 

 

Black Raven is in C minor. For this pair the E string should be tuned down a semitone to E- to enable the 4th, 3rd and 2nd open strings to sound as a C minor chord. The black raven is a mournful bird. She sees the wrongs of the human world, often before they are committed. When black raven tries to warn humans she is labelled a symbol of ill omen. Misunderstood and outcast her flight is heavy but rhythmical. 

 

About the Tuning

I composed these pieces on a 5 string tenor ukulele. The fourth course comprises both low G and high g strings. Both strings are struck and sounded as one. The pieces could, however, be played on either a high g or low G ukulele. For this reason the staff notation is, at times, ambiguous and the player should refer to the tab. I also like to tune my ukulele down a half step to G-, B, E- & A-. If using this tuning remember to tune the 2nd string down a further semitone for Black Raven. 

 

I have included some dynamics but where the dynamic is implicit in the music I have left it to the player’s discretion. The pieces can be played individually, in pairs, or as a set. 

S. Muir, June 2020

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