Non-lexical vocables in Scottish traditional music
Chambers, Christine Knox
In this thesis I examine the non-lexical vocables, or syllables without semantic content which appear as a feature of virtually every genre of Scottish traditional music. The term 'nonsense syllables' is avoided because the vocables in question often convey as specific a musical meaning as words do semantic meaning.The Introduction demonstrates that such non-lexical vocables are not a musical phenomenon unique to Scotland, and introduces the various categories of the genre. The two main types are 'Improvisatory', or vocables improvised by the performer; and 'Jelled', that is vocables composed as the chorus of a song and repeated by rote by the performer. In the former category, the main division is between vocables associated with the bagpipes (canntaireachd) and all other types of vocables (diddling). In the latter category the division is between vocables appearing in Scots and Gaelic song.Chapters I and II define and describe these various categories (six in all) and discuss the varying uses to which they are put in differing contexts. The uses referred to are: pedagogic, mnemonic, as general musical communication, as a performance medium, for dancing, by children (musical experimentation), with children (musical enculturation), and in vocable refrains-in song. Chapter II concludes with a discussion of the variable status of vocabelising (i. e. the practice of singing in vocables), which status is linked to the use most prevalent in the contexts in which an informant hears vocabelising.Chapters III and IV are a phonetic and musical analysis of, respectively, 'Improvisatory' and 'felled' vocables. The first section in Chapter III introduces several phonological concepts basic to an understanding of the analysis. Points covered in the remainder of the chapters are: categorical and individual sound inventories (i. e. which singers use what sounds to make up vocables? ), syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships within the vocable (i. e. how are the sounds combined into vocables? ), syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships among the vocables (i. e. how are the vocables combined into phrases? ) as well as, in Chapter IV, a discussion of rhyme schemes, patterns of phrases, synchronic and diachronic variants, and the relationship of text and melody to vocable refrains.Chapter V is a discussion of the functions of vocabelising, beginning with a discussion of the interdependent nature of musical functions, the essentially expressive/communicative nature of music, and the inseparability of musical meaning and cultural context. The functions of vocabelising are discussed in relation to context, with separate sections on the functions vocabelising serves pipers and on the integrative effect of vocabelising. Chapter VI contains a summary and conclusions, including a discussion of the tangible differences between a vocable and an instrumental/vocal rendition of a piece of traditional music.This thesis was conceived and written by myself, with assistance as acknowledged in the text.