The texture of this piece is generally homophonic, with a clear feeling of melody and accompaniment: the solo vocalist holds the melody over instrumental accompaniment. However, there are also moments of heterophony, as in the instrumental between vereses 6 and 7, where uilleann pipes and fiddle simultaneously play different versions of the same melody.
Structure / development of ideas
The skye waulking song is in 2 main sections. The first section focuses on the singer and has a more traditional feel with a quiet and calm atmosphere. The second section is generally louder, and includes a pipe solo and added backing vocals. Unlike traditional Gaelic music, this song contains no chorus, only eight verses. The structure is strophic, this means that the melody is the same for each verse. There is also and intro and outro, and an instrumental between verses 6 and 7.
The key signature is in E minor however this takes a long time to be established fully as this piece has a modal feel. Moreover there are D naturals within the piece. Section 2 is in G major which is the relative major to E minor and the key signature is not fully established until this point.
Although the piece begins with a cluster chord of note 1 to 5 of the scale, the majority of the piece is based on three chords; Em, C and G with the most frequent chord being C, G, Em, D. The infrequent chord changes in the piece mean that when the chord does shift it is very noticable and can signify a change in mood. The harmony is mainly simpe with very few extended or altered chords.
The piece includes a mixture of folk and rock instruments called fusion. The traditional folk instruments used are a fiddle (plays tremelo at the start), uilleann pipes, a whistle, an accordion, bodhran and a bouzouki. The rock instruments include: a guitar, bass guitar, drum kit and a keyboard
There is also a female singer and backing vocals that come in part way through the piece. Most of the instruments play in their middle range and the solos are taken by the vocalist for the majority of the piece with the exception of the instrumental which is taken by the pipes and fiddle.
In the skye waulking song there is a lilting rhythm, along with this there is syncopation, polyrhythms and cross rhythms. This shows that the rhytm is complex. The solo voice however has different rhythms to the rest of the band, which largely play repeated rhythms when there is singing.
The time signature of the piece is ambiguous towards the beginning of the piece and it is unclear whether it is in 6/8 or 12/8. It is eventually established in verse 3 that the metre is 12/8. The beat is strong and constent throughout and as this is a working song the steady beat helps to keep everyone in time when working. The tempo is quite slow, probably best described as andante, but the timings of the solos is much freer.
Melody / pitch
The melody is largely held by the singer and is traditional of a lament. The text setting is mainly syllabic and the melody is based on a pentatonic scale which the instruments improvise around. The melody is minor but there are D naturals meaning the piece has a more modal feel. The song is in Gaelic and the lyrics are very sad, these contribute to the overall sad mood in the piece. The main vocal line is based on a pair of phrases, each followed by a refrain, which consists of vocables. Vocables are sounds which are not actually words but contribute to the mournful feel of the song.
The dynanics in the first section are generally quiet with a relaxed and hushed feel. In the second section the dynamics are mostly louder except for a quieter section when the bass guitar starts to play. At the end, the piece fades out to silence.
British folk music
Folk music was traditionally played by ordinary people and was learnt through oral tradition. This means that people heard and memorised it by ear. There are 4 main types of folk music ballads, short songs, dance music and worksongs. Skye waulking song is a work song and these were used to take workers minds off the labour they were doing.
Folk songs are fairly simple and are based on a pentatonic scale. This is similar to the structure of folk songs which are also simple. Songs are usually strophic ( the tune stays the same for each verse).
Capercaillie is a celtic folk band, it is made up of eight musicians mainly from Scotland and Ireland and was formed in Scotland in 1984. They play traditional folk instruments and modern instruments aswell.
Skye Waulking song is from the album Nàdurra which was released in 2000. The title of the album means naturally and the full title of the piece (Chuir M'athair Mise Dhan Taigh Charraideach) translates as 'My father sent me to a house of sorrow'.