Diddly De-composing?

Diddly De-composing?

Something that kept cropping up on the recent Music & Politics thread was the question of how people composed their own tunes & as we haven’t covered this subject for a couple of years, I thought It might be time to bring it up again.

I’m sure most folks here have had a go at composing their own tunes over the years. So, when you compose a tune do you have a name first & then decide to compose a tune which seems to suit the title?
So for example, an odd name means you look for a quirky tune, while a pretty little name gets a soppy tune, a big macho name needs a sturdy, robust big bruiser of a tune etc etc.

Or does the whole process happen in reverse i.e. do you come up with a tune first & then look around for a name that seems to suit the flavour of your tune?

If the latter, do you actually look for a name that seems to suit the tune itself, or do you just try to think of a catchy name that might just stand a chance of being remembered, given that so many of us so easily forget names?

While we’re at it, when you set out to compose, do you make a point of composing a Reel, or do you go for a Jig, or a Hornpipe, or do you just let the mood decide what sort of rhythm comes out from your fingers?

On the other hand, I’ve heard it said in sessions …… that’s a great phrase - that needs a tune!
Has that ever happened to you & if so, have you ever done anything about it?

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I nearly always write the tune then try and name it,
or not! I have a few floating around that have been neglected the poor things.
When I do name them it’s usually just something I’ve been thinking of at the time, not specific to how the tune sounds. Or I give them to people as pressies. (and name the tune after them)

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I’ve tended to associate tunes I’m composing fairly quickly with a subject (most often, to date, a place), and gone on to make the tune, as it were, a miniature sound-track to an internalised picture of the subject. Obviously I wouldn’t expect another player to know about the subject, unless he/she was in on it too. But yes, so far I’ve needed or at any rate used a subject as a catalyst to composition.

Otherwise, it’s form (I’ve not yet gone maverick) combined with originality. Any number of times I’ve found myself re-composing a standard tune. But occasionally I think of a "riff" of maybe two or three bars that don’t come from any tune I know, and try to follow it through.

I don’t know how many tunes can be made out of, say, thirteen notes in a diatonic scale (D to top b). It must be colossal, but also mathematically finite. I think of the number as that of seats in a huge auditorium, the best ones however now being taken. Still, new tunes get through.

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I’ve tried a few compositions, mostly jigs but wasn’t happy with them. I marvel at some of Charlie Lennon’s compositions e.g. Kilty Town. Where do they get their originality ?

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I don’t, they compose me…

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Maybe that’s the problem ~ I have to stop letting them take control… :-/

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"I don’t, they compose me…"

Ceolachan - you are what you eat.

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Decomposing??:-)

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’ you are what you eat’ - that’s classic, coming from "Spoon" :-)

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Aye domnull, perhaps it’ll be classed as a new form of - Spoon-erism! ;-)

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How about taking this thread a stage further & posting links to our own compositions? Here are four sets of my own feeble efforts:
http://www.myspace.com/causewaytraditions

Incidentally, I didn’t compose eight tunes & then try to stick them together, but rather, with each of these sets, I composed the first tune & then played around with a suitable change & the second tunes all came from that process. Sound familiar to anyone?

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Ahhh! Now I see, this is about self-promotion… 8-)

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I sort of do both, although the names I come up with never find their way to tunes I compose =\

… And the tunes I do come up with never end up being named. If they do, mighty un-original =\ The best tunes are definitely the ones that seem to compose themselves when you’re intending to compose a tune. When I do intend to compose, the final product isn’t exactly the best, although there have been some exceptions.

"So and so’s reel"

"So and so’s jig"

… LAME!

Here are some of mine:

E Mixolydian Reel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMV2zCO7dCg


D Reel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi4M17yvpj4


D mix-ish Reel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TOXMk-EKpM


—-

Suggestions for names perhaps?

Cheers,
Armand

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’ you are what you eat’ - that’s classic, coming from "Spoon"

Domnull - I think you might just have uncovered the mystery as to how I became ‘spoon’. I must have swallowed a spoon at some point. Of course, I have no recollection of it - a spoon has no consciousness.

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De-composing is what composers do when they die :-) I’ve only composed one tune, just five minutes before having to record it. It just popped into my head and I wrote it down quick before I forgot it. I named it after the guy whose album it was going on. It went down pretty well. Since then I have not had to compose any more tunes because there are thousands of perfectly good ones out there already.

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Lovely stuff there Armand.

Names:
1 - "Big Foot"
2 - "Eureka Erika"
3 - "Red Eyed in Rhodey"

…. or maybe not! :-P

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"Ahhh! Now I see, this is about self-promotion… 8-)" Och come on now Ceol, your not usually so shy & bashful!

Show us what you’ve got ;-)

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God save us all, Armand is awake, like the behemouth rising from the boiling seminal seas of ITM we will all be swept away… Run for the high ground… ;-)

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Damn Ptarm, it is enough that I play through just about every new tune here, at least once, now I have to give yours a try too? That somehow just doesn’t seem right… Gutting mackerel is an easier task to face… Hell, handling well cured lobster bait is easier…

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One only, just one, and the latest, but Maryland Highlander is responsible for this possession ~ it grabbed ahold of me and shook me and made my wife go cross-eyed. All she could say was the same as MH ~ "Interesting", so, don’t blame the bearer. These things are beyond my control:

https://thesession.org/tunes/6926

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Hmmmm Ceol, I think Maryland hit the nail on the head when she said it had a melancholy feel to it!

So did the tune come first or the name?

I suspect tune composers keep a drawer full of catchy sounding names & then browse through their list, each time they hatch (cluck) a new tune!

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Because it was spurred on by MH, who I’ve always been convinced was a bloke, and the tune that did it was ‘his’ "The Fiddler’s Chair", I took one step sideways and liking the multiple possibilities of the title, called it "The Fiddlers Settle"… Mostly, titles come with the tune, or close to it. I find myself thinking about something and lilting or playing a tune that I later realize isn’t something I know. I then try to catch the critter and attach it in some way to the thoughts that accompanied it, or the mood. Most of them get away, but I don’t mind the pleasure of a moment, or the emotions. When dealing with bad news or when caring for folks that haven’t much time left, the music comes non-stop, in between regular things. A friend who was suffering cancer and eventually died was in my thoughts a lot during that time and out of that a lot of music kept me company and helped ~ and I caugt a few and my dear friend’s name became associated with them ~ "Dancing Nancy" / "Dancing Antsy" was one. Yeah, I also like word play, even in its simplest forms… Emotion seems to be a good part of what takes hold of me and finds form in melody…

Damn that Armand though. Three in a row is OTT. I can’t beleive I did that again, three Armand’s in a row?! My ears are ringing, and they were doing that already, tinitis on one side, now at least it is in stereo…

20,000,000 recordings??? ~ Lad you need to go for a walk out in the rain without a coat, hat or umbrella, maybe in your barefeet?

You need a wider diet, too many reels will a dull boy make…

I wouldn’t worry about titles, your dedications to friends are sweet ~ "Erika’s Birthday Reel", that’s cool. But you’ll only be able to use it once and hopefully your friend will have many more birthdays to come… The first one made me think of Mackerel… 8-) The second, well, there’s Erika again, hmmmm. Are you two in a relationship or something? Or is it just aspirational inspiration?

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nah Ptarmy, you won one All Ireland already you want another ?

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Nah Strath, I only came 2nd - let’s face it, if the ball goes past the post, it doesn’t matter how close it was, it still doesn’t count as a goal! :-(

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Noooo, we are not together, silly =P This happened last time when I showed ya’ll my pics of my trip to Ireland and everyone thought I was going out with the girl in the pictures =\

Yes, I know.. Reels and Jigs. More like reels for the vids, I don’t know, I think it’s the effects of the fiddlers at Berklee. Old Time, Bluegrass… They’re all reels!!!! Well, I did record a video of polkas and a slip jig =P I’m workin’ on it, I’m workin’ on it!!

Cheers,
Armand

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Getting back to the original question, if I may be so boring, tunes can be called anything you like. I would suspect the majority of tunes are written with nothing in mind but music. titles are simply given because they are easier to remember than reference numbers (I could never quite remember what lemma 3.2.7 was when I did my mathematics degree).
That said, sometimes tunes are composed with specific people or events or images in mind but I wouldn’t call it programme music, or whatever the term is.

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I wrote my first jig because I saw a sign in North Dakota that read "Feathers, Fins & Fir". I thought that would make a great name for a jig, so I composed one on the whistle. I found out later that it was a Taxidermy place…… oh well.

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dc |:
B>cB BAG | Bcd g2 d | efg dBG | A3 d2 c |
B>cB BAG | Bcd g2 d | e/f/ge f<af |[1 g3 d2 c :|[2 g3 g2 a ||
|: bgb agf | gfe d2 B | c>de dBG |
[1 A3 g2 a | bg/a/b agf | gdg dcB | cec d<gf | g3 g2 a :|
[2 A3 d2 c | B>cB BAG | Bcd g2 d | e/f/ge gaf | gdB G ||

Well, only one glass of dry muscat and this thread and I found myself being squeezed by this. I suspect it is under the influence, but not alcohol… It seems familiar, so I’ll have to see if it is just another case of my wiring misfiring… :-/

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* ~ when you compose a tune do you have a name first & then decide to compose a tune which seems to suit the title?
~ Nope, not in this case anyway…

* ~ does the whole process happen in reverse i.e. do you come up with a tune first & then look around for a name that seems to suit the flavour of your tune?
~ ‘Flavour’, I like that. I was actually doing several things at once, not necessarily well, watching something on grumpy art, listening to my wife who was occupying this seat at the time searching for cheap flights to anywhere for Easter, wondering what I was going to fix for dinner tomorrow, and noodling on an instrument…

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I’m relatively new to the composing thing, but recently, the tunes have been popping out left and right. Generally my tunes start as a noodling phrase that I think is cool. If it’s cool enough, I’ll remember it for a while, and then at some point, the rest of the tune flows out - usually in one sitting.

My tunes so far have all been composed before being named with the exception of one, which popped out when I was drunk after a great session one night, and so it was named for the place the session happened.

Pete

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Pete, sounds like you’ve got Mozart syndrome. He said of himself, "Music flows out of me—I compose melodies as a sow piddles."
;-)

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Tunes typically come to me from specific (and mundane) inspiration—banging the frog of my bow on the couch at a session one night, for example, and getting a perfect Peoples scratch triplet out of it. Or playing mazurkas and thinking, "gee, why aren’t there more mazurkas in A?" Or hearing of a friend’s tune called the Freudian Slip Jig and suddenly finding a fresh three-part (id, ego, and super ego :o) ) tune coming out under my fingers.

So sometimes a turn of words sparks it, but more often it feels like a Buckminster Fuller approach—instead of asking "what tune do I want to compose?" it’s more of a "what tune does the tradition need?"

"Need" in the sense of a gap or empty slot in the taxonomy of tunes. And of course, most of those slots are small and few and far between. And even after 30 years of playing this music, humility in the face of so many brilliant tunes has to be my starting point. Wanting to pen original tunes in this tradition is like being a eunuch in a harem….

For some reason, most of my tunes come out first on mandolin, even though it’s the instrument I play least. But I tend to think like a fiddler when playing mandolin, so the tunes usually sit well on fiddle and end up fun to bow. I like tunes that are physically fun to play.

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LOL, I wouldn’t say they’re flowing out quite that ummm… prolifically in my case… yet…

I do know a couple of great tune composer. One of them has been known to compose tunes while standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for the bus, or doing laundry. At least when I compose tunes, I always have an instrument in my hands.

Pete

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Ahh, cheshire puddy tat, didn’t recognize you there… you’re one of the great tune composers I know, of course, but I didn’t notice you until your grin faded in…

Pete

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Awww….(blush, blush)
Nice of you to say, but in contrast to Mozart, I compose melodies as a hibernating bear…well, let’s just say it’s a long "incubation" period between a bear’s last autumn meal and its frist pinch of spring. :-D

Posted .

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er, "first"

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cuh-puh-tuh-cuh-puh-tuh-cuh-puh-tuh-cuh-puh-tuh-cuh-puh-tuh ~

I must be in a jiggy mood this evening… I really don’t think I have much say in the act. I’m more along the lines of the Rev’s friend, they mostly just happen. While the name, or the full name, comes after the fact, the tunes don’t seem out of context, there is something about them and that usually leads to some kind of verbal identitifier.

One in particular I remember clearly, mentioned earlier, a friend with cancer. I was doing something in the kitchen and I had this friend in my mind, had been there all day and then some. I found myself stepping as I was making bread or some sort of baking, and I remembered helping my friend to dance, and I could imagine I was holding her then and there and I was just humming this tune as I thought about holding them, dancing with them ~ and doing my kitchen thing at the time. I couldn’t shake it and it didn’t just go "Poof! as they often do, for the moment and no more. So, I wrote it down and as I was dancing with my friend, and her name was Nancy and she was of a generally antsy disposition ~ I had a name for it.

In a sense, and I have come to realize my brain works in mysterious ways, I had the visual before I realized I had a tune and that visual was the name really. I tend to see things as pictures more easily than as print, so the actual letters and words and phrases don’t necessarily come quickly, the images and the melodies are never a struggle, except sometimes trying to hold on to them when they occur in difficult situations, meaning not conducive to capturing them in any way… Many a lovely air has followed the rain or wind beyond my grasp… But I like that too, it is like some folks have said, as if there were someone singing them to me and some second hearing picks it up and it possesses me. So, fairy folk maybe? :-/

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che-pu-ta- ;-)

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Yes, close friends stir up tunes in us, don’t they? One of the first tunes that ever came to me arose out of a friend who lost his favorite horse in the Montana wilderness (and my two weeks of following its tracks up and down the continental divide). And when the man who blessed our marriage passed away, a tune was there to mark it. My dad, too.

In contrast to Arman’s comment above, my tunes that go by someone’s name are intensely personal, not toss offs.

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Has anyone ever played that game where you write a sentence on a piece of paper then fold it over and give it to the next person who then writes a sentence and gives it to the next person etc.? I wrote a tune like that with a cupla mates once but we each had a key to write in and we already had a name for the tune. It actually turned out ok!

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I’m not much of a composer. Occasionally, a little phrase pops into my head and stays there and, in favourable circumstances, I’ll pick up and instrument and see if it grows into anything. If it does, I’ll write it down. Usually, it sounds crap and I try very hard to forget it.

Ever since I was about 7 and my sister’s flute teacher (our across-the-road neighbour) gave me some words encoded in musical notation to decipher, I have like the sound of the word CABBAGE. I have always thought, in the hands of a gifted composer, it could be put to very effective use. Having approached numerous great composers with my, and repeatedly being laughed at and forcibly (even though I put up no resistance) removed, I decided to have a go myself. I came up with a nice little jig. Admittedly, the first seven notes were already composed for me. But a remarkable thing about this tune is that the notes continue to be pronounceable for several bars - it spells CABBAGE FACED BAGGAGE. The useful thing about pronounceable tunes like these is that they come with their names ready encoded in them. So this one is called ‘Cabbage Face’.

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"Having approached numerous great composers with my, and repeatedly being…"

should read,

"Having approached numerous great composers with my SUGGESTION, and repeatedly being…"

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Which ‘great composers’???

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You should start a thread ~ writing a tune of words, or just see what folks would do with ‘cabbage’ as a focus… Sauerkraut, thats for me, and chacroute royale… 8-)

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"Which ‘great composers’???"

You know - Brahms, Palestrina, Bowie…

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What, no Irish? What about Shane? ~ Mr. MacGowan?

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If you want it vaguely Irish-Italianate I could try channeling O’Carolan for yuh? :-/

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Just wondering (talking of re-writing history), in changing his name from ‘Jones’ to ‘Bowie’, did David lose his Welsh ancestry and acquire a Scots one?

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"Dididle, Diddly, Dawdly Dai" / "Glasgow Al Coperto" /
"Dickey Glasgow’s Passion for Fashion" ~ ?

K: G Major (for ‘Glasgow")
|: DG |
B>cB BAG | Bcd g2 d | efg dBG | A3 D2 G |
B>cB BAG | Bcd g2 d | e/f/ge f<af | g3 z :|
|: dg |
bgb agf | gfe d2 B | c>de dBG |
[1 A3 g2 a | bg/a/b agf | gdg dcB | cec d<gf | g3 z :|
[2 A3 d2 c | B>cB BAG | Bcd g2 d | e/f/ge f/g/af | gdB G ||

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Sometimes it is not the composer who comes up with the title, I gave this wonderful tune by Conan McDonnell it’s wonderfully descriptive title!

https://thesession.org/tunes/4254

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Ceolachan - Why did you post it here? It should be in ‘Tunes’. Or wooould it exceed the acceptable own composition:traditional ratio for tune postings? It’s a catch 22 - What’s a composer to do?

I like it. And I like the third title best. The tune even starts with DG. It reminds me of a recital I went to in Berlin, by two Inuit women. Their songs consisted in elaborate ‘counterpoint’ (although there was apparently no concept of exact pitch as we understand it) which embodied completely the essence of the subject of the song. In their case, the subjects were mainly animals - seals, seagulls etc. - in your case it is the ptarmigan.
It’s a verbal infusion.

Actually, the first phrase of DG’s reminds me of a jig I learnt last summer, from its composer, Elsa McTaggart - which, in turn, reminded me of another tune.

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All the great composers are dead. Beethoven is dead,Mozart is dead,O’Carolan is dead and I’m not feeling too good myself.

(A golden oldie from George Burns)

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Although he didn’t mention O’Carolan.

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"Sometimes it is not the composer who comes up with the title"

I came up with a little ditty I quite liked a few years ago and, shamelessly, posted it here in the tunes database. Sometime after that, at a particularly quiet session, I played it to a fellow musician and frequenter of this site. He asked me if it had a name - which it did, and which I told him. Due to my muffled diction, he heard it as something completely different - somewhat amusingly so (although not in the slightest bit unsavoury) - and subsequently posted his version as an alternative title. The folk process in action before our very ears.

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….. & then there was the story of the name of the tune - "Ask My Father"

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But my father knows nothing about Irish music.

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My father, on the contrary, thinks he does… ;-)

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Spoon, I’m giving the tune a rest so that DG has the chance to submit it and name it, hisself if he chooses. But once I’ve got my quota of 5 or more trad, well, I’m seriously considering the third title too, or a variation on the theme? ;-)

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Hmmm, that’s actually kind of scary. It means he decides the main title and can at whim delete any alternate titles he disagrees with? ~ weird… :-O

But he is probably long gone from this thread by now… So I’m probably safe and will easily be able to find and add a few more tunes and meet my quota…

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Other title possibilities ~
"Dick Glasgow, The Antrim Inquisitor"
"Dick Glasgow, The Antrim Enquirer"

Of course, a nickname might be possible too, like Dygla? I’d better stop, something awful just came to mind… :-/

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Ooooo! Composing? Going to a trad session one fine day a tune came to me from the blue. Some said it might have been from the othe place. I started humming it over and over as I drove faster and faster to the bar. I dang near ran the van into the car in front of me, parking it, ran into the bar with my stuff, set up and started banging the tune out before it escaped my little brain. The rest of the gang was good enough to pick up on the tune until we all got it. Later on the complaints started coming in about how obnoxious the tune actually was. It was one of those things you might find in a soap commercial that gets stuck in your head all night. You wake up at 4 in the morning ready to kill the composer. Unfortunately they all knew who that was!
As far as tune names go, I have a growing "pig" list. Pig Ankle Rag, Shove that Pigs foot further in the fire, The Price of my pig, Pig Towne Fling, Wild Hog in the woods. Being a teacher by trade I love thematic units… …

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Ah Ha what’s this you’ve been up to Ceol? Ah wee tuney, just for me? Awwwww, you shouldn’t have! ….. & it even sounds Scottish too. So you want me to post it, eh? …. & name it?

Well how about Ceol’s Quadrille?

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Damn, I’m running out of time… :-(

Dick, it is for you, but I came up with a sideways glance ~

"Glasgow’s Passion for Fashion" ~ so it could be citified…

I really enjoyed your romp jrathbun…great stuff. Did they cut anything off or were they satisfied with merely whipping your bare skin with birch branches?

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That’s that done & dusted now Ceol! As you might expect it sounds rather bonny on ye olde HD.