The Four Tempos

SS001, SS002, SS003, SS004

These four motifs were found written in ink on the back page of a copy of Hymns Ancient & Modern (Revisited). They are referred to elsewhere as "Tempos", and were written to be played before and after any performance of a Seaton Snook smallpipe piece, depending on the time of year.   


In this case, therefore, "Tempo" refers to a period of time, rather than the term for the speed of a piece of music.  The fact they are written in the back of a hymn book suggests a link with Ecclesiastes 3:1 - "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:" (KJV), written in the Latin vulgate as "Omnia tempus habeat, et suis spatiis transenat universa sub caelo".

These four pieces stand apart from the other smallpipe pieces for several reasons:

  1. They are notably short;

  2. They are to be played in free time, having no bar lines, time signatures, or suggestions of associated dances;

  3. While they all finish on a non-Tonic [purple circles] (the Supertonic in all cases), and both Lenten and Harvest contain the Snookish major 7th interval [orange boxes], they also contain the top G - the Tempos are the only pieces to contain this note.

  4. All four pieces open with the same E to g' (Submediant to Tonic, or La to Doh) [red boxes]

Lenten (SS001)

A lilting tune, perhaps alluding to the Earth waking up after the cold Winter.  

Three phrases.  The first two - both being E to top g', have a fanfare effect, and although in free time they do have the appearance of elongated Scotch Snaps. The third phrase starts on the dominant, walking up to the leading note before descending a Snookish major 7th in a definite Scotch Snap.  The phrase ends with a fall to the Supertonic (A or Re). 

Sumer (SS002)

The most apparently lively of the Tempos, reflecting the gaiety of Summer.  


Three phrases, though in this case not separated by breath marks, and in a more regular rhythm.  All three phrases begin with a brisk, repeated E to top g' fanfare, with the first two only the third ends with a fall to the Supertonic (A or Re). 

Harvest (SS003)

Three iterations, as in Sumer, with the slower tempo of Lenten, but without the breath marks to break up the phrases, evoking the hard work of the harvest season in preparation for Winter.

Three or possibly four phrases.  The first (or all) three begin with E to top g' fanfares, and as in Lenten they also have the appearance of elongated Scotch Snaps. After each fanfare comes a descending Scotch Snap: the first two from leading note to dominant (F# to D, or Ti to So); the third with the Snookish major 7th.  The final note is the Supertonic (A or Re).  There is debate amongst analysts whether this note can be counted as part of the third phrase, or whether it forms a fourth phrase by itself.  

Winter (SS004)

The slowest, most sparse of the four Tempos.  


Three phrases.  Again, the E to top g' fanfare take up the first two.  Breath marks indicate the player is to take longer playing this particular Tempo.  The third phrase, consists of just two semitones, rising from the mediant (B or Mi) to the final Subdominant (C or Fah). 

Performance Practice

As stated above, these pieces were to be played immediately before and after any given piece in the Seaton Snook Smallpipes collection, depending on the time of year.  

Certain pieces, such as DorotheaStintingHay from Crosby's, and Timon's Getting Married!, are marked with references to the Tempos, indicating that these pieces should only be played in the appropriate season (Autumn, Summer, Spring and Summer respectively).