Faetrad is the study and performance of aspects of music of mystical beings as related in folklore world-wide. The broad categories of this, with some overlap, include:
Worldwide, 85% of cultures studied have indicated some degree of traditional folk-belief in "little people" or what falls under the broader definitions of "faerie" in English. The purpose of the Faetrad Project is to document and compare examples of the musical aspects of this folklore.
Although many cultures have terms to describe these phenomena within their own traditional music (e.g. Gaelic Orain Sidhe, Maori Waiata Patupaiarehe,) we have lacked, in English, a term to describe this across cultures. Furthermore, using periphrasis in search engines does not yield much information: When searching using "Traditional Faerie Music," regardless of the spelling chosen for "faerie", the search results usually return pop-tunes, video game music, and classical music based on literary sources.
In order for academics, musicians and individuals fascinated by faerie music across cultures to better find information, I propose the use of the single-word designation of Faetrad. I have derived this from "Fae," meaning "otherworldly" and "trad," a term used in Ireland and elsewhere to designate the living repertoire of traditional music.
Historically, the broadest categories in the study of music have been the religious and the secular, with often very distinct differences between the two in their structure, technique, and transmission. As faerie-lore co-exists with official religious belief, and often outdates it, we need the study of Faetrad as a classification of music to get a fuller picture of the traditional music of a culture.
Information about older cultures is often preserved in Faetrad as examples of tribes and cultures (albeit, with mystical attributes) that preceded the culture whose musical repertoire preserves it. For example, both Trow music of the Shetland Isles and songs attributed the Daoine Síth in Scotland can give us clues about the culture of the Picts, who preceded the Gaels, and later united with them to form the nation of Scotland. In stories about "Winyadepla," a well-known tune in the Shetland fiddle repertoire, the designations of the small, hairy night dwelling beings, from whom the tune was learned, include "trows," "fairies," or "Picts" depending on the story-teller.
Those desiring an encompassing and global approach to ethnomusicology must pose the fundamental question: "What are the boundaries of human music-making?" We can better understand the extent of human music when we study Faetrad- music which is, according to folklore, not human in the strictest sense.
In the past several decades preceding this writing, science has quantified what musicians have known for ages: Music changes consciousness and perception. Furthermore, period performance practices demonstrate how details such as tuning methods, instrument construction, language, and architecture all effect how this music influences consciousness far beyond the effect that the same notes set outside of this context might have. For instance, the "Mozart Effect"- the tendency of listening to certain music has on increasing specific cognitive functions, is most often cited with the use of baroque pieces (from several generations before Mozart.) The effect of Pachelbel or Handel played on a period harpsichord using quarter-mean tone tunings and baroque techniques of trills and improvisation can have a more profound impact than the same piece as written played on a modern instrument, lacking such context, may have. Many pieces of Faetrad are believed to have profound impact on consciousness. Huldreslåtten of Norway, often played on the Hardinger fiddle and other instruments that take advantage of rich overtones and tunings using "blue" notes, can put a listener in a state to be more receptive to perceiving huldre themselves.
The effects of a given music are not entirely dependent on the listener's cultural relationship to it. People of many religions and backgrounds experience healing and ecstasy through hearing Gregorian plainchant, and as such it is used by Music Therapists and Practicioners in The Music for Healing and Transition programs. Faetrad represents a largely untapped repertoire of music that performers and listeners alike can use to expand consciousness and modes of healing. As in the examples above of Early Music, these pieces can be most effective when the context of the music is studied and applied accordingly, though the listeners who benefit may themselves not be aware.
For the large number of people worldwide who love faerie-lore, Faetrad- hearing, playing, dancing- is the most direct means to experience connection to the Otherworld apart from direct mystic experiences. Incorporating Faetrad into storytelling and celebrations enriches the experience by demonstrating the multicultural and emotionally complex nature of faerie-lore which most pop, classical, and new age music based on literary portrayals of faeries can not.
|Place, Culture||Nature of Music||Participants||Perceived Time||Mortal Time||Outcome|
|India and Himalayas||Dances and music performed by the court of the nara king, Kubera.||Various mortal travelers whom Kubera would invite to his court.||unknown||1 year||The visitor comes out of his trance after the "divine year" and realizes the passage of time. As he leaves, Kubera says dryly "Yes, this music is a very captivating thing," and lets him go on his way.|
|Mi'kmaq- New England and Eastern Canada||Flute played by a migamawesu, an American fairy sometimes human-sized.||Man who hears the flute.||a night||1 year||No ill effects reported.|
|Gambia||Riti (one string african fiddle)||Serif Camara, at age 15 entranced by the djinni to make music for them.||unknown||1 year||Serif's father finds him after a year, in a tree playing a golden fiddle. After chasing the djinni away, the fiddle crumbles. Serif continues to return to the forest, learning djinn music. They take his eyesight as payment. Serif's son Juldeh Camara is now an international performer.|
|Wales||Harps, feels like music one has danced to many times before.||Rhys, who hearing the music wanders from his friend Llewelyn to dance to it.||5 minutes||1 year||Llewelyn, accused of murdering Rhys, returns to the site and pulls him out. Rhys cannot be convinced of the passage of time, takes to bed and pines away, wanting to dance again.|
|Llorfa, Wales||Flute, dancing, singing||Dafydd William Dafydd, playing flute while tending his cattle is surrounded by dancing and singing fairies, who give him cake||hours||3 weeks||Dafydd returns home to an irate wife, who has been leading search parties for him in the intervening time, and has assumed he must be dead.|
|Pwllheli, Wales||Fairy Dancing||Like the Rhys and Llewelyn story one of two friends who joins the dance||minutes||1 year||When his friend recovers him, he has danced till he is "reduced to a skeleton," unaware of the passage of time.|
|Carmarthenshire, Wales||Dancing||A farmer who went missing one morning..||unknown||>12 months||A man passing by sees him dancing and speaks to him, breaking the spell. The farmer exclaims "Where are my horses?" steps out of the circle and smoulders to dust.|
|Lairg, Sutherlandshire, Scotland||Fairy piping and dancing||A man on the way to his child's christening hears the sound and enters the fairy cave out of curiosity||< a night||1 year||A friend, accused of his murder, pulls him out. The man wants to continue dancing and is not convinced of the passage of time until he returns home to find his child a year older.|
|Strathspey, Scotland||Fiddles||Two fiddlers, invited to play for a banquet by invitation of an old man in what they think is a house.||a night||100 years||Upon leaving, they emerge from a hill and the town nearby has changed extensively (in some versions, there are now automobiles.) They go to a church to pray and crumble to dust when the service begins.|
|Isle of Skye, Scotland||Fairy dance||A herd-boy falls asleep at the side of a knoll and awakens to fairy feasting and dancing.||< a day||3 weeks||Returns home to his own wake, but is never again the same after having heard the fairy music|
|Shetland Islands||Box fiddle||Sigurð, the Fiddler o' Gord, invited to play by mysterious stranger on the way home from a wedding.||a night||generations||He returns home to find his farmstead changed and with a new family. As he realizes what happened he goes outside, plays the tune "The Trowie Spring" on his fiddle which is learned by one of the children present, then falls and crumbles to dust.|
|Isle of Rügen, Baltic Sea (Germany)||Troll dancing||A girl who, passing by and hearing the music, is invited in by the trolls.||hours||years||She returns to a now unfamiliar town to learn that her family has long since passed. She "lost her reason" and never recovers her sanity.|
Ralls-MacLeod, Karen. 2000. Music and the Celtic otherworld: from Ireland to Iona. Edinburgh: Polygon at Edinburgh.
Ralls-MacLeod compares, in this expansion of her dissertation, accounts from Old Irish sources of mundane, sacred, and liminal (i.e., sidhe) music, musicians and instruments.
Devil's tune. 1998. Minneapolis, MN: NorthSide.
A wonderful compilation of Faetrad melodies from Norwegian sources:Troll tunes, huldreslåtten and fanitullen.
Lysaght, Patricia. 1997. The banshee: the Irish death-messenger. Boulder, Colo: Roberts Rinehart Publishers.
Compares the circumstances and outcomes of different historical accounts of Banshee encounters. Includes an appendix of notations of Banshee wails.
Mac Aoidh, Caoimhín. 1994. Between the jigs and the reels. Leitrim, Ireland: Drumlin Publications.
You will have to go to other sources for scores of the pieces Mac Aoidh discusses, but the background stories he provides for the Donegal fiddle tradition is priceless. Includes a chapter focusing on stories of tunes from mystic sources.
Anderson, Tom, and Tom Georgeson. 1985. Da mirrie dancers: a book of Shetland fiddle tunes. [S.l.]: Shetland Folk Society. 1970. Lerwick [Scotland]: Shetland Times.
One of the first publications marking the Shetland fiddle revival lead by the late Tom Anderson, this and other publications edited by Anderson are a good source of "Trowie Tøns".
University of Edinburgh. 1971. Tocher; tales, songs, tradition. [Edinburgh]: School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University.
One of the best sources for Faetrad tunes and songs from both mainland Scotland and the Shetland Isles.
Gurvin, Olav. 1958. Norsk folkemusikk. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
This six volume set contains the transcriptions of many pieces of the Hardanger Fiddle repertoire of Norway.
MacColl, Ewan, and Francis James Child. 1961. The English and Scottish popular ballads. New York: Folkways Records.
Child, Francis James. 1965. The English and Scottish popular ballads. New York: Dover Publications.
The standard by which English-language ballad collections are measured, F.J. Child assigns the first tune types to ballads of encounters with Otherworld beings.
MacColl, Ewan. 1999. Child ballads. Vol. 1, English and Scottish popular ballads. Washington, DC: Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings.
Kennedy, Peter. 2000. Classic ballads of Britain and Ireland. folk songs of England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales. Volume one. Cambridge, MA: Rounder.
Bannerman-Richter, Gabriel. 1987. Mmoetia: the mysterious little people. [Sacramento, Calif.]: G. Bannerman-Richter.
Briggs, Katharine Mary, and Katharine Mary Briggs. 2003. Abbey lubbers, banshees, and boggarts: an illustrated encyclopedia of fairies. London: Routledge.
Briggs, Katharine Mary. 1978. The vanishing people: fairy lore and legends. New York: Pantheon Books.
Briggs, Katharine Mary. 1976. An encyclopedia of fairies: hobgoblins, brownies, bogies, and other supernatural creatures. New York: Pantheon Books.
Briggs, Katharine Mary. 1967. The fairies in English tradition and literature. [Chicago]: University of Chicago Press.
Briggs, Katharine Mary. 2003. The anatomy of Puck: an examination of fairy beliefs among Shakespeare's contemporaries and successors. London: Routledge.
Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling. 2002. Fairy-faith in Celtic countries. Mineola, N.Y: Dover.
Hartland, Edwin Sidney. 2002. The science of fairy tales. Bristol: Thoemmes.
Reed, Jeannie. 1991. Stories of the yunwi tsunsdi': the Cherokee little people. Cullowhee, N.C.: Western Carolina University.
Roth, John E. 1997. American elves: an encyclopedia of little people from the lore of 380 ethnic groups of the Western Hemisphere. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
Sikes, Wirt. 2002. British goblins: Welsh folklore, fairy mythology, legends and traditions. Doylestown, Pa: Wildside Press.
Yeats, W. B. 1994. Irish fairy and folk tales. New York: Modern Library.
The following were difficult to find before the passing of field-recorder Peter Kennedy in 2006. The following are the fairie related tunes listed in the finding aid, with link to some descriptions of recordings on an archived mirror of Kennedy's site. Some are available via Camsco Music. The only place likely to have most available is the British Library, but this possibly constitutes the largest collection of British and Irish FaeTrad field-recordings.
- TROWIE - SPALDING: The Lilt of the Irish p368 - BLARNEY STONE - CAN Y TYLWYTH TEG (Welsh) - KING OF THE FAIRIES - LEPRECHAUN - QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES - SHEEAGHYN TROALTAGH & SHO-HEEN SHO-HO (Isle of Man) - SISTER O SISTER (Fairy Sweetheart's Lament - Scots) - TA ME MO SHUIDHE - TAM LIN - TAMMY DODDLE - WELL OF SPRING WATER - WELSH FAIRY SONG Britain & Ireland<--
Isle of Man: FTX-007
- John THOMAS (Welsh shepherd): FTX-051
- McPEAKES (Belfast): FTX-071
- Mickey DOHERTY(Co Donegal): FTX-073
- Seamus ENNIS (Dublin): FTX-FTX-079
- Neil BOYLE (Donegal): FTX-170
- Barra (Hebrides): 191
- "Talking with gypsies" radio prog introduced by John Seymour: 283
- Seamus ENNIS: FTX-302
- Aran Islands: FTX-421
- Women's Voices in Ulster: FTX-434
- Voices Raised: FTX-435
- Male Dialect speaker from Cornwall: FTX-450
"Being pixie-led" - Davie STEWART: FTX-461
- Annie JOHNSTONE (Barra): FTX-463
- "The Gravel Walks" rec by Kevin Danaher & Seam O Raymond for The Irish Folklore Commission Donegal 1949 Remastered & produced by Harry Bradshaw: COMHAIRLE BHEALOIDEAS EIREANN CBE-002 1990 d/cass CASS-1150 includes written notation of Slip Jig "learnt from the fairies" - Michael DOHERTY (fid)Co Donegal : RPL 16657-8
- Terence McSHANE (fid) story & tunes rec by PK, Loughguile, Co Antrim 1953: 20029
- Pat MULLEN, Aran Islands: RPL LP 27625
- John CALLISTER, rec by Stewart Wavell, Isle of Man Oct 1960: RPL LP 28457
- Maire O SULLIVAN: COLUMBIA SL-204
- Seamus ENNIS Dublin: LEADER LEA-2003
1969 - Dave & Toni ARTHUR: LEADER LEA 2017
"The Witches Rune" -Eddie BUTCHER: LEADER LEA 4055
"Tam Lin" - Paul DAVEY (flute)t Dartington, Devon 4/12/71: CASS 60-0909
"The Fairy Lullaby" - Miss Pender (talk), Sennen, Cornwall: RTR-810/ CASS- 0440