Breakdown de nuit

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X:1 T:Breakdown de nuit N:from the playing of fiddler Joseph Allard (1873-1947, Montreal) M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel D:Victor 263634 (78 RPM), Joseph Allard (1929) D:https://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/m2/f7/12734.mp3 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:F e-|f2{g}fe dB/B/ B2|gagf eccA|Bcde fdcB|ABGB AFFe-| ff{g}fe dB/B/ B2|gagf ecde|fage fdcA|Bd (c/d/c/B/) AF-F:| |:c|AFcF A<cFc|AFc>F A<FGA|BGdG B<dGd|B<Gd>G B<G-G>d| A<Fc<F A<cF>c|A<FcF AFGA|Bcde fdcB|ABG>B A>F- F:|



BREAKDOWN DE NUIT. (Night Breakdown). French-Canadian, Reel (cut time). F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "Breakdown de nuit" was recorded by fiddler Joseph Allard (1873-1947) in Montreal and released by Victor Records in October, 1929. Allard researcher Jean Duval discovered that RCA's recording notes indicated the piece was to be called "Midnight Breakdown" instead of "Night Breakdown," and thinks the name was altered to avoid confusion with Allard's "Reel de minuit/Midnight Reel," which he had recorded earlier that year[1]. Allard's 1929 recording was re-released by Victor on its subsidiary Bluebird label in 1936 with the same time, and that same year Montreal fiddler J.O. LaMadeleine recorded his version of "Breakdown de nuit," substantially the same as Allard's tune. Note the dotted, strathspey-like, rhythm in Allard's second strain which is missing from LaMadeleine's playing.

The word 'breakdown' was originally an American term whose 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 an older country dance tune called "The Break Down" or "Breakdown (The)" that is widespread and has been popular in England and Scotland, although there is no evidence the title referred to anything but the tune (i.e. not referring to a category of tunes). 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."

Allard's use of "breakdown" for a reel may have been picked up during his many years in New England, where he played for dances and in fiddler's contests, or it may be due to the influence of American "old-time" music recordings newly available in Canada. In any case, his 1929 recording may be the first use of the term by a Canadian fiddler.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Jean Duval (La Musique de Joseph Allard 1873-1947), 2018; No. 36, p. 19.

Recorded sources : - Bluebird , Joseph Allard (1936). Starr 16180 (78 RPM), J.O. LaMadeleine (1938). Victor 263634 (78 RPM), Joseph Allard (1929).

See also listing at :
Hear Joseph Allard's 1929 recording at the Virtual Gramophone [2]
Hear J.O. LaMadeleine's 1938 recording at the Virtual Gramophone [3]



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  1. Jean Duval, La Musique de Joseph Allard 1873-1947, 2018, p. 70 [4]