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MohicanLand Musical Musings: The Music of The Last of the Mohicans


Like Dougie MacLean, Phil Cunningham is a Scottish composer and musician who has enjoyed a very successful career since the early '70s. Born in Edinburgh in 1960, he played with his first band, the Silly Wizards, from 1976 until 1983 (including the short period when Dougie MacLean played with the Wizards). He began a solo career after 1983, and also filled in as a session musician for a variety of people, including Bonnie Raitt. He performed on and produced two solo albums, Airs & Graces (1984) and The Palomino Waltz (1989). According to the liner notes to Airs and Graces, Phil plays a wide variety of instruments, indicating his versatility as a musician: "accordion, whistles, Phophet 5 synthesizer, Roland Vocorder and string machine, Hypertranspoflunge[1], eight-stringed cittern[2], acoustic guitar."

The first of his solo albums, Airs & Graces, includes "The House in Rose Valley", that wonderful piece we hear in the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans during the lacrosse game. Unfortunately, this piece did not make it onto the published movie soundtrack. A pity it did not, because the music fits in so nicely. It is interesting that "The House in Rose Valley" existed so many years before it was used in the movie soundtrack. Information for future investigation is HOW it got into the soundtrack (for example, who found it?).

Airs & Graces and thoroughly enjoyable. To learn more about Cunningham and his work, visit Phil Cunningham's web site. Also visit fans' sites at http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/5279/Cunningham.html and http://www.herschelfreemanagency.com/PA.html.

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Footnotes:
1 Something apparently unique to Phil Cunningham.
2 A cittern is a strummed instrument of great antiquity, popular before and during the time of Shakespeare and until the end of the 16th century. It is strung with wire, and appears from the front like lute but is flat in the back like a guitar (the lute being rounded in the back of the body of the instrument). According to the Oxford Companion to Music (Oxford University Press: 1938 and 1995), "In Shakespeare's time it was exceedingly popular with all classes and was to be found in barbers' shops for the use of waiting customers...; but it must not be deduced from this latter circumstance that it was capable of only simple music, for much serious and complex music was produced for it at this time." In the latter quarter of the 20th century ancient instruments such as the cittern have benefited from an ever-growing interest in "early music", the music of the 11th - 17th centuries.

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