CHAPTER 3: History to 1800

3.5 The Baroque, Rococo and Classical Periods 1600-1800

3.5.1 The west

1.2. Higher cultures in the 17th & 18th centuries:

3: The Copenhagen ms: "Tablature indrettet til Hakke-Bret"


I am indebted to Karl-Heinz Schickhaus of Munich for the first notice of this MS.


fig. 102: Copenhagen ms, 1753?:
title page
There is very little evidence to suggest that there was ever much dulcimer-playing going on in Denmark; even the beautiful wall-paintings from c. l560 at Rynkeby discussed earlier might have been the work of either a German, or an artist who had worked in Germany and so seen German instruments. All the more surprising, therefore, to discover a substantial MS at the Musikhistoriska Museum in Copenhagen, which, although using what it refers to as the German clavis, is written in Danish and has as many melodies from other countries as it does from Germany. It would have been good to find some old Danish tunes included, but the Sandinavian upper classes did not share the enthusiasm of the French court for local folk traditions, and so the selection of the 43 melodies reflects a very international repertoire.

The tunes are written in a mixture of tablature and staff notation, that is to say, the letters of the notes written on a five-line staff with a G-clef in the position standard nowadays. Following a rather tastefully-embellished title page come two short pages of Observationes - and we note the use of Latinisms with which only an upper class education would produce familiarity; the first concerns the clef and reads:

"Den clavis, som her bliver brugt, kaldes den Tydske og begynder paa den naest sidste Linie ..."

'The clef, which will be used here, is called the German clef, and begins on the last-but-one line ....'

- this to distingush it from the French practice, which was to write the G on the bottom line.

The second page concerns the notation of the rhythm, and reads:

"Mens sielve Noderne her i denne Bog findes antegnet med Bogstaver, sa kand Tacterne ey paa anden maade reguleres i heele eller halve uden ved Signaturer, og det betegnes et Bogstav, som skal veere en heel tact, med et x og . Prikke, en halv Tact marqueres ligeledes med et x dog foruden Prikke, som herefter i Stykkerne kan sees."

'While the notes themselves (i.e. the pitches) in this book are noted by letters, the minim and semibreve beats (Tacterne i heele eller halve) cannot be shown by any means other than by signatures; a letter which is to be played for a whole bar is shown with an 'x' and a fullstop . ; a half-bar is thus shown by an 'x' without the fullstop, as you can see later in the pieces themselves'.

(tr. D.K.)

Although this implies that a dot doubles the value of a note, in the tablatures themselves it is used with the same meaning as in staff notation, that of adding on half-as-much again. It is interesting to note that despite the title ('Tablature adapted to Hakke-Bret') there is actually nothing about the intabulation that indicates any special association with dulcimers.


fig. 103: "The Drömmer",
Copenhagen ms, 1753?
A detailed examination of the tunes is outside the scope of this work, but a few notes are in order. The 'Rakes of London' is very similar to its cousin from Mallow; and it also appears under this title elsewhere.

The tune called The Drömer is particularly interesting, firstly because it is also known in Britain as The Piper o' Dundee (130) or The Drummer (131); 'Drömer' looks almost as if it would be a Danish word meaning 'dreamer', but there's no 'the' in Danish. Many the other titles are written in their native languages - French or German as well as English - so we can suppose this title is English, though respelled as is common in Scandinavia to reflect the original pronunciation according to Scandinavian phonetics. The British version of this tune is sung in Scotland much more than in England, and Kennedy recorded his version in Northumberland; if a Dane were to hear a Scot saying 'The Drummer', with a somewhat closer vowel sound than is normal in English, he might well transcribe it into Danish as 'The Drömer'.

The next point was to try to discover if there were any links between Scotland and Denmark about the time of the MS (1753) or a little earlier, and if the tune is as old in Scotland as it is in Denmark; here David Tulloch, formerly of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, was more than helpful. In Hogg's Jacobite Relics the song version of the tune is traced back to the Jacobite rising in the period surrounding the '45: the men mentioned in the song were all leading figures in the rebellions, and it would be characteristic if the tune had been current before topical words were added - i.e. the tune was certainly current in Britain before the date of the Danish MS. It seems that there was also contact between Scandinavia and Scotland at the time: apart from Scots mercenaries, the first Carnegie went to Scandinavia after Sherrifmuir in 1715 and ended up in Göteborg, where much later, in 1764, he was a wholesale dealer. He employed Thomas Erskine, a distinguished musician and composer of the time, who might well have been instrumental in introducing Scots music to Sweden (132); the only missing link in the chain is the journey from Göteborg to Copenhagen, a journey often enough fared, and not considered particularly long.

The range covered by the tunes is nearly two octaves, c' - b", and between e' and a" is almost completely chromatic; each piece, however, is strongly diatonic, so that an instrument with simple bridges and ditals could play the whole book as easily as one with more complex chromatic bridging.

The pieces are mostly monophonic, but one a two of them use two-note chords here and there, or else a tune is followed in thirds by a second part. An odd notational feature is that 'dis', d , is always used in preference to 'ess', e[b] , even in passages where there already is a 'd', and no 'e'.