Kennet's Dream

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KENNET'S DREAM. Scottish, Air (3/4 time). AEac# tuning (fiddle). AABB. The melody appears in James Oswald's (1710-1796) Caledonian Pocket Companion (vol. 10, 1760, p. 20), printed as a slow air with variations (including a jig-time setting). Oswald was a composer and publisher of music, and a dancing master, much influenced by Continental music. A variant of the air is called "Old Head of Denis (The)," printed in O'Neill's Music of Ireland (1903). In fact, variants are numerous and many. "Kennet's Dream" has been identified by Cazden, Haufrecht & Studer (Folk Songs of the Catskills, 1982) as an ancestral tune to a number of folk-song airs in Britain and Ireland, and in North America, calling it "among the most widespread in the Anglo-American tradition." . In the authors' entry on the song "Rock Island Line" they discuss the numerous variants that include Thomas Moore's "The Meeting of the Waters", Child's "Lord Randall" (12), and even the cowboy song "Dreary Black Hills." They write (p. 350):

But probably the most productive source of later tune, using the typical Come-All-Ye or a-b-b-a phrase sequence of [Rock Island Line], is "The Green Bushes," or better, one of the two well-known tunes bearing that name. That setting probably gives adequate justification for the common designation of the tune, first by its publisher George Henry Davidson and later by Frank Kidson and Alfred Moffat, as "an old Irish folk song."

Yet the tune had appeared earlier in Scotland. Volume Ten of James Oswoald's Caledonian Pocket Companion, published during the 1750's, contains a closely matching instrumental tune with the title "Kennet's Dream." It shows an a-a'-b-a' phrase sequence more appropriate to a dance tune, and its melodic contour lies partly concealed beneath a scordatura, or variant tuning, for the violin. In an earlier volume, Oswald had presented another form of the tune strain as "[Johnny] Armstrong's Farewell" Johnny Armstrong. While the repeated a phrase of that form is unmistakable, the tune is later extended and elaborated through instrumental flourishes beyond a recognizable definition of its b phrase. Along with a related, simpler, and perhaps earlier version of it entitled "Johnny Armstrang's Dance" (Stenhouse), this is the source or the tunes contributed by Robert Burns to the Scots Musical Museum for Child 169, "Johnnie Armstrong" and for the ditty "Todlin Hame."

See also Lude's Lament.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 29.

Recorded sources:




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