Fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas discuss Scottish folk music with “Making Tunes!” students.
Fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas discuss Scottish folk music with “Making Tunes!” students.
Beverly Schaefer

The kind of music that the duo Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas play — contemporary Scottish folk music — is not the type that one can learn merely by playing notes on a page. Musicians learn by ear, directly from each other — watching and listening to see and hear how someone is playing a tune. “You can’t just buy a book and read the notes and actually get at what the music is about,” said Dan Trueman, an associate professor of music at Princeton who spent last year collaborating with fiddlers in Ireland. 

So when Trueman designed a new course, “Making Tunes!,” in which 20 students this fall are learning to play traditional music associated with different regions of the world, he knew he would need the artists who specialize in those tunes to teach his students. Explained Trueman: “You are trying to get what somebody else is doing while also trying to make the music your own.”

Trueman, who plays Norwegian folk music on Hardanger fiddle, organized a concert series featuring the artists invited to his class. Fraser, a renowned Scottish ­fiddler, and cellist Haas taught Trueman’s students Sept. 22 and later that evening performed in Taplin Auditorium. Among the visiting musicians scheduled to perform this fall are fidd­ler Bruce Molsky and the Irish duo Coaimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Brendan Begley. Natalie Haas’ sister, fiddler Brittany Haas ’09, is scheduled to perform with her band, Crooked Still, Nov. 17 and with Trueman Dec. 8.