“Correcting” tunes

“Correcting” tunes

Should O’Niel’s Music of Ireland be suspected of "correcting" tunes? (By "correcting" I mean changing modes of tunes other than Ionian and Aeolian to those two predominate major and minor modes, such as sharping the seventh in Mixolydian to make it like Ionian, or flattening the sixth in Dorian to make it Aeolian.) If it isn’t ,or even if it is, what other sources should be taken as suspect of this practice? (Something tells me theory buffs like myself will be jumping all over this one…)
Tim

Re: “Correcting” tunes

Tim, I’m inclined to agree with you that some of the tunes in O’Neill were "corrected" in the way you describe. Perhaps this was a misguided attempt by the O’Neills to make the music more accessible to the non-Irish people in the Chicago of those far-off days - who knows? What I’ve done once or twice as an experiment is to take a tune from O’Neill and try to play the shape and contour of the tune without paying much attention to the fine detail of the sharps and naturals (not too difficult if I take my glasses off). If I let my gut instinct take over then the tune may fall naturally into the correct mode and then I can see that the printed key signature is incorrect and some notes indicated as sharps shouldn’t be. Perhaps this shows I am indeed absorbing something worthwhile from the sessions I go to!
Trevor

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This might intrest you guys. In 1975, Mr. Miles Krassen penned a ‘corrected’ version of the standard O’Neills Music Of Ireland which is published under Oak Publications (Library of Congress Catalog Number: 75-32889). He also wrote a wonderful five page introduction which takes note of the contributions and the shortcomings of the classically trained violinist, Sgt. James O’Neill who worked as Chief Francis O’Neills transcriber.

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This is interesting with regards to the "What is traditional" thread. Whether we like it or not, Sgt James has contributed a heck of a lot towards the tradition. You can’t "undo" him.

Posted .

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I agree. I think that a lot in O’Neills has been absorbed into the tradition and that’s just fine. People complain about what the guitar has done to trad music. I’m sure people complained about the fiddle, etc. I don’t like to use the dots myself (a rebellion from my scarred days as a classical pianist) but I’m sure that I’ve learned tunes by ear from people who have learned the tunes from the dots. Whatever. The tune is never The Tune anyway. There are and always should be variations and different versions. We can’t expect each other to provide a list of primary sources for each tune. That would just be dumb. And boring.

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It is possibly that the way some of the tunes were played, at the time when O’Neill collected them, was with certain notes ‘half-sharpened’ or ‘half flattened’, so that their mode could be inteerpreted, for example, as either dorian or mixolydian - this can be heard in recordings of some older fiddlers. Perhaps the man who transcribed the tunes (not Spt. Francis O’Neill, but another man, coincidentally named O’Neill), having some level of schooling in classical music theory, erred on the side of those modes which fitted better into the classical system - i.e. major and minor scales.

Musicians and scholars of music, classical and ‘folk’ alike, probably had a very different outlook 100 years ago. ‘Ethnomusicology’ hadn’t been invented yet, and even ‘folk music’ was a relatively new concept.