tune histoy

tune histoy

gday people,
can anyone recomend a good source to find the history for irish and scottish tunes?
theres lots of music arround, itd be great to know where, when and why for some of them.


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Re: tune histoy

Hi Evan
I’m not aware of any in depth study of the history of traditional tunes, but it’s a fascinating topic.
I’ve sussed a few things that can give an idea of how tunes have moved around and changed.
One common thing that

Re: tune histoy

I wonder if anyone has done a masters or doctoral thesis on this topic at an Irish university. I fact I’d be surprised if no-one has. It may be worth contacting the music departments of one or two of the universities to find out what research has been done.

Re: tune histoy

Sorry, Pied Piper, but I don’t hear any connection between the Campbells Are Coming to Miss McLeod’s Reel. Harmonically, they are quite different. The first line of C are C ends on the V chord, and M McL’s ends on the I chord. The second lines reverse the harmony with respect to the first lines, etc.

There are a lot of people coming to this site looking for info. We all need to try to ensure that our input is helpful. Everyone slips occasionally, including me (more than I would like). I hope that you understand the reason for my input on this.


Let me correct myself!!!

I was wrong about the first two lines of Campbells are Coming, and Miss McLeod’s Reel!! My goodness, I wasn’t kidding when I said that I was wrong more often than I would like!!!

The first strong harmonic difference (at least to *my* ear) comes at the end of the first part, when M McL’s ends on the 2nd degree of the scale, presumably a V chord, and C are C ends on the 3rd degree of the scale, presumably a I chord. The same thing occurs at the end of the second part.

The second part of C are C is so different from either part of M McL
that I just can’t make any connection between the two tunes. The phrases have different contours, i.e. one goes up when the other goes down, the phrases end in different places, and there may be a third harmony chord in C are C.

Either these are two separate tunes with little, or no connection, or I need more convincing.


Re: tune histoy


If you’re looking for some historical background on specific tunes, try The Fiddler’s Companion at http://www.ceolas.org/tunes/fc/ When you search for a tune, a bit of history is included with the ABC’s.


Re: tune histoy

The British Isles is a melting pot for many tunes. Take the tune ‘Saddle the Pony’ in English music transcribes to ‘The Bridal’ in Scotland and ‘The Priest’s Leap’ in Ireland.(I believe).
Many of these tunes transfered to the USA, Australia etc.
‘Polly Pretty POlly’ is (I believe) a Blue grass tune which came from Portsmouth England (My home town).
‘The Star of the County Down’ became a music hall tune in Ireland from the English tune ‘Lazarus and Diverus’ which I play,(published in 1869 by Fuller/Maitland in English Country Tunes. Somewhere on the NET someone pointed out that there are at least 157 different versions of this tune now.
Go to a library, search the NET ev, and bit by bit you find strands and threads that interest you and lead you on to a greater knowledge and understanding. It’s your own piece of research and so much better than someone else’s PHD or what ever (personal opinion!). IT becomes yours. Good luck searching ev.

Re: tune histoy

We’ve had this discussion before about Saddle the Pony/The Bridal Jig, and while it’s interesting to look at the "families" of similar tunes (my ear tells me that Saddle the Pony and The Bridal are two related but distinct tunes), I’m not sure what that says about their history. Except, as Susie notes, that tunes get passed around a lot and, within such an aural tradition, they tend to morph into other tunes. But sometimes it’s a bit tricky distinguishing between the same tune with different names (Saddle the Pony/The Priest’s Leap) versus two separate tunes (Saddle the Pony and The Bridal), particularly when tunes shift slightly to fit on different instruments (a whistle or flute setting will likely vary from a fiddle setting, for instance), and are played in different keys, and sometimes even modes (it’s not unusal to take a tune from it’s original major key and slide it into minor or dorian mode—witness the major and dorian versions of Blackhaired Lass or Paddy Fahey’s Jig, for example). To an unsuspecting listener, these can sound like entirely "different" tunes, and in some cases they do evolve into completely different tunes. So it is that there are harmonically incompatible settings of Drowsy Maggie, Morning Dew, Dr. Gilbert’s (aka Dispute at the Crossroads), the Abbey Reel, Bank of Ireland, and so on, and dictinctly different tunes that go by the same names, such as Geese in the Bog, Bag of Spuds, Cat that Ate the Candle, etc.

So it is that many experienced players worry less about the history of the tune than they do the lineage of various settings, as played by particular musicians. This is often as close to a real history as you can get.

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