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Encyclopedia > Jigs

This article is about the folk dance jig, for other meanings, see Jig (disambiguation).


The jig (sometimes seen in its French language or Italian language forms gigue or giga) is a folk dance type as well as the accompanying dance tune type, popular in Ireland and Scotland, and particularly associated with the former. It is a popular tune-type within the Irish dance music tradition, second only to the reel. It is transcribed in a time which is a multiple of three, 12/8 time for a 'single jig' or 'slide', 6/8 time for a 'double jig', and 9/8 time for a 'slip jig'.


The most common structure is two 8-bar parts, each of which is repeated (AABB). There are a number of tunes with three or more parts, and some in which the length of one or more parts varies from 8 bars. As with most other types of dance tunes in Irish music, at a session or a dance it is common for two or more jigs to be strung together, flowing on without interruption.


While it is often stated that the jig is of Irish origin, it is more than likely that this dance-type originated in the Germanic countries. A closer look at the etymology of this word reveals that Gig (g[i^]g) in its several variant forms describes a certain type of (repetitive) motion. Examples such as Icelandic "geiga" (which means to "rove at random" or "take a sudden unexpected direction"), the High German "Geigen" (a "back and forth motion") to the Low German dialects such as that spoken in the Swiss Canton of Bern (where "gyg-ampfe" means to "rock back and forth") are closely akin or identical to the German word "Geige" (violin), Icelandic "gigja" (Fiddle), and Swiss German "Gyge" or "Giga" (meaning fiddle or violin). Thus it is not unreasonable to assume that the dance form itself derived from a type of lively music style which was played almost exclusively on the fiddle or violin. (although the Fiddle had been around since the Middle Ages, the words "fiddle" and "Geige" were interchangeable and virtually synonomous until the middle of the 16th century, which is when the violin - which had evolved from the "Fiedel" - was firmly established and "standardized" by the great instrument makers from northern Italy and southern Germany such as Amati and others).


It seems that as the instrument itself (Gyge or Geige; Violin) spread first from Italy to France and from there to the rest of Europe later in the 17th century, the dance form (Giga, Gigue, Gig, Jig) accompanied it contemporaneosly (the "Great Vowel Shift" didn't occur in all parts of Europe at the same time and never did manage to penetrate certain parts of Switzerland, thus it is probable that the pronunciation "Gyge" or "Giga" is identitcal to both the dance form AND the instrument as it was developed around the early 16th century).


In fact, the fiddle (or violin) was once so identified with this particular dance/music form that "Gig" or "Jig" was another name for a fiddle (now obsolete). The style of this vivacious dance (a lively, rapid, 'jumping' motion - see J.S. Bach's "Giga" for Solo Violin from the Partita No.2) has also given rise to many applications of "jig" and its derivative "jigger" to mechanical and other devices, such as a special machine used for separating metal ores, or a tackle used by fishermen, etc.


Samples

  • Download recording of "Macleod's Reel" from the Library of Congress' California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collection; performed by Aaron Morgan on July 17, 1939 in Columbia, California (although this is called a reel (dance) it is in fact a jig)

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Jig Boring/Gun Drilling (283 words)
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