Dust To Dust


Jon calls this one “Probably the only song in the revival repertoire written in the Locrian mode. Amazingly it doesn’t sound that strange and lyrically it’s a tour de force by Kirkpatrick senior.”

John Kirkpatrick that is, who has recorded his own version, as has Martin Carthy and you can read more about those at Mainly Norfolk. I don’t have an awful lot more to add and am not scholarly enough to comment on the Locrian mode or scale, although you may like to look at this and this. I’m sure it will make more sense to the singers amongst you, but it gives a slightly odd feel to the tune, which seems to suit the matter-of-factness of it all. For some reason I’m getting a ‘musical’ film feeling from it with visions of a sinister Dick Van Dyke flickering in my mind. I’m not sure why… It may just be the peculiar sort of day I’m having.



33 Responses to “Dust To Dust”

  1. Sarah says:

    With 10 days left to go in April I thought I’d tell you that my favourite April song ever is April Queen from Songs from the Floodplain. Is that one allowed?

  2. Shelley says:

    Wow, that really gave me the tingles.

  3. StephenH says:

    Very nicely done, Jon. I’ve always thought that John Kirkpatrick was a little underrated as a songwriter. Perhaps overshadowed by his instrumental prowess. Odd mode or not, this song seems to encourage singing along quite readily – or is that just me?

  4. Jerry Simon says:

    I was told this just a week ago: the only revival song written in the Locrian mode, and I guess that’s so. It reminds me of a song I can’t really recall cos it must have been forty plus years since I heard it: all I can remember is “*something something* fool or witty” – does this ring a bell with anyone? I thin it might have been one of those songs where a young lass bewails being tied to an old man currently undergoing some faloorum issues. SOMETHING about that other song is similar to this (brilliant) one I’ve beeen meaning to sing since summer 1971 I think it was. Right. This weekend, Sheffield Folk Sessions Festival: gonna give it a try. (Every song I’m thinking of but not doing yet – Jon does it here before I stand up and open me gob!

  5. Jan says:

    Fantastic, Jon and John!

    Jerry, you might be thinking of Maid in a Garret – ‘come rich man, come poor man, come fool or come witty, come any man at all, won’t you marry me for pity, Oh dear me, how can it be, that I’ll die an old maid in a garret’

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Interesting more than enjoyable from my point of view, but well-sung, Jon.

    The song has a performance air about it as in a musical, Dickensian film like ‘Oliver’ or somethiing Brechtian like ‘Mutter Courage’ so I can see where you are coming from Skyman!

    Thanks for the Locrian links, though I didn’t really understand them. Is it just a mode of making major sound eerily minor? It seems to suit a recitation.

  7. Phil says:

    Jane – major and minor are modes themselves, although I forget their names…

    (pauses to consult documentation)

    …ah, that’s it. Ionian (major) and Aeolian (minor).

    The thing is, the seven notes in the scale – do re mi fa so la ti do – aren’t equally spaced; they’re all a full tone apart except mi-fa and ti-do, which are a semitone apart. So when you sing the scale, without realising it you’re actually singing
    +1 (re)
    +1 (mi)
    +1/2 (fa)
    +1 (so)
    +1 (la)
    +1 (ti)
    +1/2 (do)

    In other words, the scale goes TTSTTTS (T = full tone, S = semitone).

    What the different modes do is shift the starting note around. A minor (Aeolian) scale goes TSTTSTT (and sounds sad!); a Mixolydian scale, which is probably the most common alternative mode in folk music, goes TTSTTST (and sounds sort of wistful). And the Locrian goes STTSTTT (and sounds downright weird).

    One way to get a feel for modes is to sit down at a piano and play eight ascending white notes in a row. If you start from C you’ll get the standard (major) scale; if you start from A you’ll get a minor scale; you get Mixolydian starting from G and Locrian starting from B.

  8. Jane Ramsden says:

    BRILLIANTLY explained, Phil! I understood that! Only I can’t play the piano… Would a descant recorder do? HAHAHAHAHA!

    Oh, I get it! I don’t need to know how to play the piano… just where the scale starts from with C… now I just need a piano… excellent!

  9. Cherry says:

    I loved this, and the discussion on different modes was most revealing, off to work out which my favourite favourite songs are in now.

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Very suitable song for Ted today… just spent Friday at the funeral of my oldest aunt! She was 85 and went in her sleep when just on the cusp of being unable to continue living independently. So the assembled, extended family was able to celebrate life more than mourn passing. Still not mad keen on the song though! But it still has curiosity value and Phil’s notes still an explanatory gem!

  11. Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Phil…TTSSSSKK, TTTTTTSSSSSSSK………Blimey Phil….
    I thought Locrian was something to do with the scales on Whales,
    Ionian (major) and Aeolian (minor) were pupils at a posh Greek boarding school and Mixolydian was a rabbit disease. Now I am confused.
    I thought John Kirkpatrick’s poem on the frailty of life was excellent
    but as for the tune..Nil point……
    and ref Admin Simon’s comment…………am I the only one that thinks that Dick van Dyke did a good rendition of a cockney accent!

  12. Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Jane…85 was a good innings..so much nicer to be joyful rather than mournful………..we must be due a joyful song on AFSAD soon!

  13. Diana says:

    Not to my taste this one. Still waiting for another cheeful song. I know there are lots out there somewhere.

    @Jane I think you already know what my thought were about your aunt, but I am glad that it went as well as it did. A life to celebrate.

    Muzza Dick Van Dyke’s accent was atrocious, it really was. Spent a little while as a ohild living in London and never heard anything like his attempt.

  14. Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Diana……did you think his accent was,perhaps,

  15. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: You mean Supercallafragalisticexpialliatrocious? And yes, it was!

  16. Diana says:

    Good one Jane, It was blooming awful – I don’t know how he could take the money!

    Yes Muzza you hit the nail on the head with that word, both of you punned it though it as it does end in docious. One of the longest words apart from smiles eh Muzza?

  17. Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Jane/Diana……………I was born in London and “Bombed out” by Mr.Hitler…accent sounded fine to me…Marwy Poppins.
    @JANE….yes……I had shortened Supercal..etc a bit hadn’t I..but you got the gist

  18. Peter Walsh says:

    I think the sadness of this one is nicely conveyed by Jon’s delivery. Towards the end, the lyrics borrow from of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3:-

    1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

    2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

    Pete Seeger used even more from this chapter in Turn Turn Turn.

  19. Peter Walsh says:

    Sorry about the stray ‘of’ just before the word Ecclesiastes in my last post! At least I got the spelling of Ecclesiastes correct – I think!

  20. Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @PeterW……..good try but in Yorkshire it would be………..
    Supercallafragalistic Ecclesiastes piallidocious

  21. Peter Walsh says:

    I don’t know how you summon these things up so early in the morning Muzza!

  22. Jane Ramsden says:

    Hahahahahahaha! Sharp as a tack, ye are, Muzza!

    @ Pierre: Your response is so inviting of so many comments about cockades that I am not even going to go there! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  23. Muzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    Talk about coincidences guvnor……I’m off to Petworth Hous Sussex today……and it’s full of Van Dykes…………seems old Dick had a lousy cockney accent ..but Boy…could he paint.

  24. Diana says:

    You are right on both counts there Muzza.

  25. Old Muzza (N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    I have had a cough and a cold without letup since 19 dec 2015…….but count your blessings guys and gals because as soon as the old voice recovers(Perhaps before) I’m gonna give that old Youtube a plethora of cockney songs that will make you weep!….you will then appreciate how good Dick’s efforts were!

  26. Linda says:

    A very “honest” song and nicely sung…

  27. Old Muzza (N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    I had an attack of the ‘Dianas’ there….it should read 19Dec 2014 (who cares I hear the cry!)……
    Hey this type of song is a bit near the knuckle when you get to my age…it’s ok for you young things….your turn will come…….
    I’m quickly jumping to 22nd’s song….I need cheering up.
    Hey …all that ‘Time to live and time to die stuff’……so that’s where Bob Dylan gets his inspiration!

  28. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Well I did threaten a couple of comments above……..
    here’s yours truly’s attempt at a cockney accent that makes Good ol Dick van Dyke sound like a real ‘Bow Bells’ boy!

  29. Dear ol Muzza(N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Cor blimey boys and gals…you are so kind….not a comment when I posted that vid last year….voice and accent have got even worse with the passing of yet another year!

  30. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    The world has gone mad and the weather is a scorcher….and we find comfort in folksongs!

  31. Ramses says:

    No one will find me here

  32. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ha Ramses….the old pyramid not good enough for you eh……
    well…I’m so lost…even God can’t find me!
    and the final insult….Facebook thought my account has been hacked and locked it!

  33. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Just for the record…TV programme currently showing on UK tv…called ‘Beyond Paradise’.. Friday BBC1 8pm.title music is by BELLOWHEAD!

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