Breakdown (The)

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X:1 T:Break Down M:C| L:1/8 R:Hornpipe S:Kerr - Merry Melodies, vol. 4, No. 268 (c. 1880's) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:A (3efg | a2A2 AcBA | E2A2 AcBA |1 F2B2 BcBA | GABc defg :| |2 GABc defg | aece A2 ||:(3BAG | A2a2A3B | B2b2B3A | |1 GABc defg | aefd cABG :|2 GABc defg | a2 ({b}ag) a2 ||



BREAKDOWN, THE. AKA - "The Break Down." English, Scottish; Hornpipe and Reel. A Major (Kennedy, Raven): AA'BB' (Kerr). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody is widespread throughout England, from Cornwall to Northumberland, and it is a favorite in the Scottish country dance repertory. The first strain is a variant of "Mason's Apron (The)" and is shared with Norfolk musician Walter Bulwer's Shipdham Hornpipe <div class="mw-ext-score" data-midi="/w/images/lilypond/e/k/ek7j8p5cy83e0gehe2lyvo7ujivvvnq/ek7j8p5c.midi"><img src="/w/images/lilypond/e/k/ek7j8p5cy83e0gehe2lyvo7ujivvvnq/ek7j8p5c.png" width="632" height="52" alt=" X:1 M:C| L:1/8 K:G f|g2 G2 GAGE|D2G2 GAGF|E2A2 ABAG|FGAB cdef| "/></div>

Hans Nathan (Dan Emmett and Negro Minstrelsy, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1962, p. 93) mentions a 'Breakdown Hornpipe' as an old blackface minstrel dance or series of dance steps, although there may be no connection to this particular tune. American versions with the same first strain can be found under title "Wake Up Susan (1)" and others.

In Amercian usage, where 'breakdown' equates with a fast duple-time tune such as a reel, the terms origins are nebulous. The standard explanation is that it refers to a dance of African-American origin that was accompanied by a fast duple-time tune. Speculation is that it was danced by slaves in imitation of European dancing to reels, however, there is no recorded information verifying this. There is a small manual by E. James entitled Jig, Clog & Breakdown dancing made easy [1] published in 1873 by the Jig & Clog Dancers of America with a section called "Plantation Breakdown." On inspection, however, the instructions were "gleaned from a little work, devoted to Song and Dance Business, etc., published by Wm. F. Bacon, of Boston Mass."


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Kennedy (Fiddlers Tune Book, vol. 1), 1951; No. 23; p. 12. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 4), c. 1880's; No. 268, p. 29. Raven (English Country Dance Tunes), 1984; p. 176. Seattle (Morpeth Rant).

Recorded sources : - Beautiful Jo BEJOCD-36, Dave Shepherd & Becky Price - "Ashburnham." Parlophone PMD 1012 RPM 33, Jimmy Shand - "Scottish Country Dances in Strict Tempo No. 1" (1950).




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