Flowers of the Forest - a Traditional Scottish Folk melody

This is the earliest recorded version of the Scottish Folk Melody known as "Flowers of the Forest". It was included as "Flowres of the Forrest" in a collection called the Skene Manuscripts, produced for of by John Skene (around approx. 1615-1625). The relevant extract from the manuscript is shown below, which uses a form of tablature notation for an instrument called the Mandore, which is a type of Lute. The manuscript is a little messy but the spaces between, above and below the 4 lines represent the 5 strings alternately tuned in 5ths and 4ths (e.g. A-D-A-D-A) with "a" representing an open string, "b" at fret one or a semitone higher, "c" at fret two or a tone higher, etc. You can play the music as it stands on a guitar or keyboard instrument, or the melody line (i.e. the top note) can be played on many other instruments. Note that the melody is almost entirely in the pentatonic scale, with the exception of the 2 C-naturals in bar 5. The composer Michael Nyman went back to this original version of the melody and adapted it for the track "Dreams of a Journey" in his film score for The Piano. (You can listen to the track in this youtube video.) Our own video below shows the melody being played on a recorder in the key of G. You can download the sheet music, midi and mp3 files using the links on the left-hand menu, and other folk music can be found on our page about Folk Songs.

The melody was adapted almost out of all recognition for the later Folk Song "Flowers of the Forest" (see Piano Solo version) which is frequently played as a Lament on the bagpipes (see Arrangement version).

Flowers of the Forest - from the original Skene Manuscript



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