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Barrluth

from Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland (Dublin 1840), Page 25: Shakes, etc.


Irish barrlúth spoken by Gráinne Yeats
Scottish Gaelic bàrluath spoken by Tony Dilworth

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“A continued shake, by second, first, and third fingers, alternately.”

Simon Chadwick 2008


Barrluth is a trill. The alternating of index and middle finger on the lower note is interesting and allows a more subtle flow of notes than simply alternating two fingers; this principle, of changing fingers, is also found in the Welsh figures in Robert ap Huw's book where a figure like this would be referred to as ‘plethiad’ (plaiting).

The ‘turn’ mentioned in the footnote was the normal way of finishing a trill in Western art music; the note next beneath the lower was sounded once and then the trill finished on the lower. The absence of this in barrluth means that it can be ambiguous, whether the upper or lower of the two notes is the ‘main note’.

Simon Chadwick 2008


Barrluth - Activity of fingers

The Gaelic term, also used in Scottish piping, is a compound of barr, 'top, tip', and lúth, which seems to mean something like 'a movement' or 'variation', when used in a musical context (see discussion in Scottish Gaelic Studies XIX [1999], pp.172-187). We have no way of knowing how, if at all, the Scottish piping bárrlúth (the term is no longer in use) related to Bunting's 'musical example' here; but on p.19 Bunting seems to be telling us that Barluith is the Irish equivalent of the English musical term 'a shake'. The English form offers a mistaken etymology: as Barrluth beal an-airde and Barrluth fosgailte show, Bunting takes barr to mean 'a fingertip' and lúth to mean 'activity'.

Colm Ó Baoill 2002