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Help with translating ap Huw

Posted: 06 Jan 2009, 23:59
by mwyalchen
I'm working on the ap Huw manuscript of old Welsh harp music, and currently trying to translate the instructions to some of the pieces, which are in 16th/17th century Welsh.

At the end of one of the pieces is rubric which I read as:
mi brikiais yn gynta mak mwn hir/ a mak mwn byr/ a mak y delgi / a ffedair kaingk arhigain ymhob un o honynt // ag wedi hyni y pedwar mesur arhugain ar un gaingk ond nwydiu / r / mesur fal i gwelwch
or in a version by a modern Welsh speaker,
Mi bricais yn gyntaf Mac mwn hir, a Mac mwn byr, a Mac y delgi, a phedair cainc yr hugain ymhob un ohonynt, ac wedi hynny, y pedwar mesur ar hugain ar un gainc, ond newidio'r mesur fel y gwelwch
(mak mwn hir, mak mwn byr, and mak y delgi are three of the "twentyfour measures", which are the "chord sequences" on which the music is built.)

My best version so far is
I wrote first mak mwn hir, then mak mwn byr, then mak y delgi, then the twentyfour measures each one of them, and after this "the twentyfour measures, with the same cainc", but ?newer? measures ?can be seen?"
Am I close? (I'm doing this through dictionary work, and while I'm learning a lot about the Welsh language, I certainly don't speak Welsh!)

And, does anyone have any better suggestions?

Re: Help with translating ap Huw

Posted: 07 Jan 2009, 02:09
by Aethnen
Hello Mwyalchen:

You've not done too badly, considering you don't speak Welsh ... and Middle Welsh can be awkward to say the least. :) So congratulations!

I've only just looked at this very briefly, but here's my guess-timate at the English translation.

"I pricked/plucked firstly ___ ____ long, and ___ ____ short, and ___ ____ ____*, and twenty-four strains** in every one of them, and after that, the twenty-four measures on the same/single strain, but changing the measure as you see/as you can see."

*delgi is very odd ... so is the "mak" and the "mwn" ... of course Mac is a thing of Gaelic language "son of" .... in Welsh, the c --> p, so .. Map or more commonly "ap". So is it possible that this mak is related to "ap"? Also, is there any connection between delgi and telyn/harp?

**cainc can also mean a node, and i'm not quite sure it's equal to a measure ... but I find the interchange here a bit confusing.

Anyway, hope that is of some assistance. You had it all anyway. I just fine-tuned and confirmed ;) Da iawn i chi!

Bendith cynnes,

Re: Help with translating ap Huw

Posted: 07 Jan 2009, 12:57
by mwyalchen
Thanks very much for your help. Your suggestion for ond nwydiu / r / mesur fal i gwelwch makes perfect sense of the context, and resolves the difficulty I was having. Would you mind if I asked you about some of the others as I find them? - I've done the worst, but there are still a few odd bits unresolved.

"cainc" in ap Huw is a section of a musical piece, and only equates to a measure in a very few pieces; this is one of them. But you're quite right; I've carelessly misread mesur for kaingk on the first occurence.

"Pricking" is standard 16th/17th century English for "writing music".

As I mentioned, mak mwn hir, mak mwn byr, and mak y delgi are the names of three of the twentyfour measures of cerdd dant ; all twentyfour titles are archaic. Sally Harper has published an article in Cambrian Medieval Studies looking at this; I can scan relevant parts for you if you're interested. She thinks many of the names derive from old Irish and Norse; certainly there are Middle Welsh texts suggesting an Irish origin for some of the Welsh harping traditions.

Like you she relates the mak/mac to the Gaelic. She suggests mak y mwn as from Irish Mumhain, genitive of Mumha for "Munster", thus "son of Munster", and for Mak y delgi "son of Dalkey" from Irish Deilge; or alternatively, mac in delgai, "son of the peg/spike/point/tip". But it's not like anyone actually knows!

Thanks again for your help.

Re: Help with translating ap Huw

Posted: 07 Jan 2009, 23:26
by Aethnen
Ahhhh that is very enlightening, in regards to the Mak business. You've certainly struck my interest. I only looked at this thread after a friend pointed it out to me, especially because I so enjoyed an interpretation of the ap Huw manuscript by Paul Dooley who did a whole album on it. Have you ever heard of him? Probably!

Actually come to think of it, "pricking" is a very apt description of the written notation in old musical manuscripts. They can have that look to them, haha! :)

I'm not at all surprised actually with Sally Harper's theory. Also, although Wales most definitely has its own traditions and unique styles, I have noticed in other areas of Welsh studies that there is a great deal of Irish influence, particularly in Dyfed and on the Llyn Peninsula up here in North Wales. Ogham is almost entirely found in South Wales (I don't think there is any in North Wales, or if there is, there's only a couple instances) and I think the local traditions of S. Wales reflect a marriage between Welsh, Irish and Saes/Saxon ... although traditions like wassailing were found in more cultures than just the Germanic peoples.

No idea where Robert ap Huw came from, but if he was harper to James I, no doubt he was top rate and would have known tricks and traditions from many lands, including Ireland.

Yes, if you had the time, I would appreciate any information you were able to share, esp in regards to the name origins.... and I'd be happy to have a look at any of the others.

Many thanks to you too.

Re: Help with translating ap Huw

Posted: 08 Jan 2009, 15:15
by mwyalchen
Yes, I've got the Dooley CD, and it's a pleasant sound; though I have some reservations about his interpretations; plus playing this music on wire harp is a bit speculative. I'm meaning to get across to Bangor when I can, to read Peter Greenhill's thesis and find out just what the poems are which support his view about this; all I can say is that the explicit references to Welsh harps from the 14th century on refer to horsehair harps, while James Talbot (c1790) writes of the "proper Welch Harp" as being a bray harp with gut strings (which may have superceded horsehair by then, or may have been the professional choice earlier; there's disagreement about whether it's possible to make gut strings last using ap Huw's technique - some people say it cuts them up too fast to be practical, others say it's fine if the string tension is low enough. I can't comment as I'm using nylon! - though I do plan to string my bray harp with horsehair in the near future and see what that's like; there are also questions about the pitch level for this music and I hope trying horsehair will help with finding out what works, since we do definitely know that horsehair strings were used for some of this music.)

An alternative if you can get hold of it is Bill Taylor's CD "Two Worlds of the Welsh Harp"; I spoke to him at rthe Early Music Exhibition this autumn and he said he's planning a new CD of ap Huw soon, which will definitely be worth looking out for. And at some point I might start recording my own versions! - but I'm not there yet!

Robert ap Huw appears to have been from Anglesey, if the researchers have found the right guy, and was an interesting character; at one point he was in prison for eloping with the daughter of one of his patrons, though he seems to have escaped before the trial! And the Ap y Gof family, whose names are on many of the pieces, were also from Anglesey. The reference to King James' court is from a Welsh source; apparently he does not appear in the English court records, which is a shame. All the same, he was clearly (in later life!) a respected figure, and there's a poem extant in which the poet asks a patron to give ap Huw a harp of 30 strings. If you want to know more, the best source is Welsh Music History volume three, which is entirely about aspects of the ap Huw manuscript; it's pretty much out of print now (I had one of the last few) but if you're a student and spending time in Caernarfon, you should be able to take a look at it through the university there. And the Centre for Advanced Welsh Music Studies, where Sally Harper works, is in Bangor. I envy you, being so close! You should also be able to find Cambrian Medieval Studies No 42 there if you want the whole of Sally Harper's article, but I'll scan you some bits anyway.

Re: Help with translating ap Huw

Posted: 10 Jan 2009, 01:41
by Aethnen
Wow I should be able to look things up easily in the library. I'll be sure to write the book titles down and see what I can find. I'm a student at Bangor University anyhow, so I have the library card and all that. I don't know if I could ever be of help for you with research or so on, but I am doing Welsh Studies, so I frequent the Welsh library quite a lot, after classes and when needing research myself for essays etc.

He was probably from Anglesey? Splendid! :) His character reminds me of Dafydd ap Gwilym ... and quite a few other "Celtic" particularly Welsh men!

Yes, now that classes have started again after Christmas holidays, I'll be sure to look up Sally's article on the library index, when I am at a more leisurely moment. Thanks!