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KAREN STEVEN - New Scottish Fiddle Tunes 

KAREN STEVEN - New Scottish Fiddle Tunes 
Private Label ISBN: 9781838534820 

Deeply rooted in the Highland dance tradition, this is a book of 51 original compositions by the Aberdeen-based fiddler, Karen Steven. Karen started out as a dancer at a very young age and there is little in this book that does not reflect long experience with dancing and playing for dancing. In addition to this particular wellspring, Karen has a strong interest in the Cape Breton style of fiddling and has been taught by, and has taught with, Alasdair Fraser.

The tunes are predominantly reels and marches (about three-quarters of the selection) with the most popular keys being G and A, ahead of D and a handful in C or F. As is the tradition, many of the tunes are named for individuals, including the splendidly titled Loud-Trousered Instrumentalist. The book provides a link to a Soundcloud page so that you can hear Karen herself playing these tunes. (She also has a YouTube channel, although only a couple of these compositions feature.)

The liveliness, and type of articulation, of these tunes will be best appreciated by fiddlers accustomed to accompanying dance. Some notes on style are provided; suffice it to say here that there is an emphasis on one note per bow stroke and on the amended approach to syncopation that arises from the Cape Breton influence. Karen generously offers “please contact me” to those wanting to discuss technique and style further.

It is, of course, too early to judge how many of these tunes might seep into the tradition, but I think the book will be a useful resource to fiddlers both for the compositions and the discussions about style that it raises. Finally, I must mention the design and production aspects of the book, which are very well done, for example in respect of extremely clear typesetting. A good job all round.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine