From the quote in p28 of the 1840 Introduction, it is not exactly clear whether Bunting
regarded malairt phonc (exchange of notes) as occurring in the second part of a port
or in the first part. Tunes from the Gaelic harp repertoire may display 'note swapping'
at the beginning of both sections.
Bunting's explanation on p28 of 'the right hand playing the treble and the left the bass'
is likely to be inaccurate if it refers to the instrumental ranges of treble and bass. The
available evidence does not weigh towards the use of the left hand below the sisters
on the Gaelic harp. The inversion of the position of the hands does not seem to be a
feature of Bunting's initial notations of the Féachain Gléis but, through the transferral
of notes between staves, there is evidence of the exchange of treble melody from left
to right hand. This may be the correct, and wider, application of the term 'malairt
phonc' (exchange of notes). It would match Bunting's alternative descriptions on p27,
'malairt phonch ... the right hand taking the place of the left' and on p35 'malairt ...
change of the hand'.
This does not necessarily involve the inversion of hand position as in Bunting's
arrangement of Súsaí ní Cheallaigh, item 34 of the 1840 volume, though such an
interpretation would permit it.
In chapter 12 of part 3 of Emanuel/Sgáthán an Chrábhaidh (Immanuel/mirror of piety),
a 1616 translation made by the notable Roscommon cleric Flaithrí Ó Maolchonaire
(Florence Conry) of the popular Catalan treatise Spill de la Vida Religiosa (1515) by
Fra Miqeul Comalada, the word 'pong' is apparently used to represent the musical
'part', as in the phrase 'four part harmony'. This is pertinent to discussion of the
precise meaning of the harping term 'malairt phonc' as it could perhaps mean
'exchange of 'parts'. This could refer either to the hands inverting the hand positions
so that they literally swap treble and bass parts or to the hands swapping the parts
round so that the treble notes move to the bass range and the bass notes move to the
The most common kind of interaction of notes, parts and hands in the Bunting
manuscripts is when the right hand plays some of the lower melody notes either at
pitch or an octave below. This technique is certainly an exchange of notes between
hands and thus, it can be easily argued, an exchange of parts.