Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

This topic sort of came up in another thread, in a discussion of differing versions of The Atholl Highlanders.

It has personal meaning and application to me, as I’ve spent over 30 years with one foot in the Highland piping scene and one foot in the ITM session scene.

I’ll state what I gather to be the attitude of what constitutes the "right" version of a tune in each genre:

-In the ITM session world the "right" version of a tune is the session version. This is a living thing and can vary from session to session and even within the same session can evolve over time. The way a tune might appear written in a book somewhere, or the way a tune might appear on an album somewhere, is irrelevant. This is the very core of the music being "traditional".
The intersect between the world of written music and ITM is random, irrelevant, and suspect, as few ITM players learn music from the page and even when they do they change the tune so learned to match the way it’s played at session. The written version is in no way an authority. Most written collections have been notated by people who don’t understand the music anyway.

-In the GHB (Great Highland Bagpipe) world the publishing of tunes has been going on for centuries, and tune-collections written by the top performers themselves has been the norm.

The tunes appearing in these printed collections are of two types:
1) traditional tunes, In this case the printed collection only puts forward the version which is played by a leading player, which is no more "correct" than the version played by any other good player.
It’s these tunes which vary so much in the GHB world.
Where you mostly hear this traditional repertoire is in the Strathspey and the Reel of the MSRs (March, Strathspey, and Reel) played in solo and Pipe Band competition.
Every player, every band, will play these tunes a bit differently but there usually is a version which is the most commonly heard.
Many of these tunes appear in mid-19th-century collections as two-part tunes, expand to four-part tunes by around 1900, and today might be played as six-part or even eight-part tunes. (In competiton tunes are usually only played once through, so an MSR is one march once through, one strathspey once through, one reel once through. So the only way to present the music in a larger format is for the tunes themselves to get longer. )

2) newly composed tunes. It’s very common for leading peformers, in the 19th century, 20th, and today, to publish collections of their own compositions.
GS MacLennan at the start of the 20th century, and Donald MacLeod in the mid-20th century, were staggeringly prolific composers and hundreds of their tunes are still widely played today. Since they published their compositions within their own lifetimes, their own published versions of their tunes are rightly considered the "correct" versions.

People outwith the GHB world may not realise the quantity of newly-composed tunes. In the "Medley" or "Selection" portion of the Pipe Band competition, some bands play an entirely new medley, made up of new tunes composed expressly for it, each competition season (each year).
These tunes are composed, played for a year, then tossed.
The idea is for the judges to be hit with new music each season.
These tunes are often published by the composers and several new books of these tunes come out every year.
There are many thousands of these tunes.

Now the "problem" arises when a GHB tune, from a known composer, and published by the composer, is taken into the ITM session world.
It then is unhinged from its written origin and becomes a living thing and immediately begins the process of mutation through being poorly learnt, poorly heard, or simply changed due to whim.
An example is the tune The Clumsy Lover. It was written by the Canadian piper and Pipe Major (pipe band leader) Neil Dickie around 1980.
He published it in his own Neil Dickie Collection.
His pipe band (Edmonton) peformed the tune in competition when the tune was brand new. I heard Edmonton play the tune its debut season.
So, there should be little mystery as to how The Clumsy Lover should be played.
But only a couple years later I began hearing a horribly mutated version being played at ITM sessions. Half of the parts were left out, the remaining parts were scrambled around in a different order, the parts themselves were a mess with fragments of one part appearing in a different part etc etc etc. How could a tune get so scrambled up in a couple years?

When I heard this at a session (this was in the early 80’s) I said "this tune was just written a couple years ago by Neil Dickie in Edmonton. I heard his band play it. I have his sheetmusic for it. It goes like THIS" and I played the "real" tune.
This, as you might expect, had zero impact on the session people, who of course considered the session version the "right" version.

What complicates matters in this instance is that the original tune The Clumsy Lover had a ton of parts, eight as I recall (I haven’t played the tune in ages), but shortly after it was composed and performed by Edmonton, a shortened arrangement (four part or six part, I don’t remember) was recordeded by a leading band at the time, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the first pipe band outwith Scotland to win the World Pipe Band Championship.
It was this version, and not the original Neil Dickie published/Edmonton Pipe Band version, which ended up being learnt by a lot of GHB players. The tune became so overplayed in the GHB world that after a few years nobody wanted to hear it.

So, the tune mutated in the GHB world also. However the 78th Fraser version actually flowed better, made more musical sense perhaps, than the overly long original, which is why it became sort of the standard in the GHB world.
The ITM session version just sounded like a mess to anybody familiar with either GHB version.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Who really cares? - maybe the person who claims to have wriiten a tune. But after that, if you want a living folk tradition as opposed to one fossilised in written versions, that’s the way it goes.

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Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Nonsense:

1. ‘a ‘session’ version is the right version’ . The most satisfying version is the right version.

2. ‘Most written collections have been written by people who don’t understand the music anyway’ . People like O’Neill, Breathnach, Jackie Small, Terry Moylan, Leo Rowsome?

Posted .

… a horribly mutated version being played at ITM sessions.

Perhaps that was the ur-version of the tune and the "new" tune by Dickie was the mutated version? Such things happen.

"…the session people… of course considered [their] session version the "right" version."

Well, would you have expected them all to learn "your" version of the tune and instantly grasp what you consider the correct version? Jesus, man- it’s just a tune and not a gospel.

"The ITM session version just sounded like a mess to anybody familiar with either GHB version." Well, the ITM session players heard you play the "better" version and apparently they didn’t think it was so hot. I suppose you could say that hearing the tune isn’t the same as being familiar with it. But offhand I’d say it isn’t obvious that your version is better.

I’m not flaming you here. But are you in a twist about ITM session players disrespecting GHB players?

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Tunes are like any other living organism - they evolve to suit their environment. The ITM version of the tune may have sounded ‘a mess’ to you, but it was almost certainly played that way because it was better suited to the instruments/abilities/taste of the musicians.

Sticking strictly to what was written might win competitions, but it ain’t music-making.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

With regards to the ‘Clumsy lover’, I learned that after hearing Sean Og Potts play it in 1983. it wasn’t a mess, in fact it was pretty straight forward and simple. It was also not fit for anything else than being played tongue-in-cheek. A Mickey Mouse tune. And thank god I have never heard it played at any session I was at.

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Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

A big part of the reason GHB tunes are written with definitive versions is that if two or more pipers are playing together then they must play exactly the same version, right down to the gracenotes or it really is a mess. Just the nature of the instrument.

Everyone has a different viewpoint as to what makes a good tune. Calling a tune Mickey Mouse is just nonsense. The tune has been ruined for me by the gross vulgar bendy notes many GHB plays use.

As far as written versions go my personal opinion is that it’s good to have a decent record of the original as some good points can be lost through Chinese whispers but at the same time a lot can be lost by sticking to the original. Almost all pipers here in Scotland who play with other musicians experiment with tunes and rearrange them to suit themselves or situations. I think it’s better to say there is an original version. Saying ‘right version’ has little to do with trad in my book

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

There isn’t one.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

‘Calling a tune Mickey Mouse is just nonsense.’

No it isn’t. Some tunes are based on a gimmick rather than something musical.

The only reason anyone I ever knew had to play the Clumsy Lover was the p*ss taking with the syncopations in the second part.

Posted .

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Yes it is. You don’t know what the tune was based on.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Kilfarboy, the 5 part vsn of the Clumsy Lover is anything but a micky mouse tune! it has been sadly butchered into a 3 part mess.IMO, perhaps you might like to check it out? or is it the 5 part tune you have? The same goes of course in the other direction. We find great ITM tunes turned into GHB tunes but mangled almost beyond recognition. So it cuts both ways!

Richard Im interested out of curiosity in the Original CL, where might I find it published or online?

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

At the time (the mid 80s) the tune as it was doing the rounds among (uilleann) pipers was a simple two part affair.

Posted .

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

OK I looked it up:

https://thesession.org/tunes/16

where it is described as ‘a pretty silly sounding reel’ (Mickey mouse anyone?).

The second part as I always had it is the same as the last in that version, although we had it in D to suit the pipes. My opinion stands.

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Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

That’s absolutely fair enough kilfarboy. Your opinion stands as your opinion same as anybody else’s.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Still not ‘right’ that last part has lost a lot in translation. and has loads of alternative ways of messing with it. Best be IMO is to hear a good fiddler or GHB play it for its best effect. I think its a cracking tune.
X: 1
T: Clumsy Lover, The
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K:Dmaj
|:FddF ddFd|GddG ddGd|FddF ddFd|EdFd GdAd|
FddF ddFd|GddG ddGd|FAAF GECE|EDDE D4| Fd(3d/d/d/) Fd(3d/d/d/)|Gd(3d/d/d) Gd(3d/d/d) |Fd(3d/d/d/) (3d/d/d/)Fd |EdFd GdAd|(3d/d/d/)Fd Fd(3d/d/d/) |(3d/d/d/) (3d/d/d/) (3d/d/d/) (3d/d/d/)||FAAF GECE|EDDE D4 |

This is how I play the last part ..kind of.(in A)

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

But on the uilleann pipes wouldnt it be in G?
X: 1
T: Clumsy Lover, The
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K:Gmaj
|:BggB ggBg|cggc ggcg|BggB ggBg|AgBg cgdg|
BggB ggBg|cggc ggcg|BddB cAFA|AGGA G4| Bg(3g/g/g/) Bg(3g/g/g/)|cg(3g/g/g) cg(3g/g/g) |Bg(3g/g/g/) (3g/g/g/)Bg |AgBg cgdg|(3g/g/g/)Bg Bg(3g/g/g/) |(3g/g/g/) (3g/g/g/) (3g/g/g/) (3g/g/g/)||BddB cAFA|AGGA G4 |

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

LOL, looking at the gimmicky gibberish clearly laid out in the abcs above, I know I’d be sitting in with kilfarboy’s session, where they play *music*….

Posted .

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

You saying they don’t play *music* in a session where that tune is played?

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Ionannas, the pipes would play it in D and what you wrote doesn’t add to the point at all, further messing would only increase the gimmick value of what is already there.

Bogman, there’s hardly denying that there is a considerable body of tunes that, among musicians, are considered ‘Mickey Mouse’ tunes, bad/poorly constructed tunes, bad taste tunes and silly tunes and what have you.

Posted .

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Och you’re right enough kilfarboy, it’s just that what is considered bad of gimmicky varies from person to person. It’s interesting though that that tune seems pretty popular when you read the comments. I’m not keen on it myself but if someone played it at a session it wouldn’t bother me.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Cripes, you’re getting fairly dogmatic in your old age, Kilfarboy!!! I’m fairly sure I saw a thread on Chiff&Fipple recently where you demolished (bludgeoned) an opinion by Terry McGee.
Way I look at .. takes all sorts to make up the world and every individual has some worth in their opinions, even if only to themselves.

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Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

I wouldn’t bother me much either, fact is I have never come across it in sessions.

There was one instance during the Willie Clancy week, maybe ten years ago. We were in the backroom of Hillery’s (obviously before the renovations) ‘we’ was a group of pipers that included Pat Mitchell, Leo Rickard, Mick O’Brien, Wilbert Garvin, Ken McLeod, Geoff Wooff, myself and a few others. Anyhow, in the bar there was your typical high powered Willie session going on, populated mostly by healthy looking women with teeth just a bit more white than average, loads of sun-tan, big hair and flowery summery short skirts. it had a very Californian air about it anyway. By the time they played ‘music for a found harmonium’ for the fifth time Pat Mitchell wanted to go in and give them his opinion (and no better man for it).

Some things are best enjoyed in moderation.

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Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

‘I saw a thread on Chiff&Fipple recently where you demolished (bludgeoned) an opinion by Terry McGee’

I didn’t bludgeon an opinion by Terry McGee. Terry was musing about a ‘gentler’ way of flute playing for which there is no historical evidence. it was not an opinion, it was musing, wishful thinking maybe. All I did was supply a number of clips that went contrary to his idea that strong flute playing is a recent idea.

Nobody seemed interested enough to engage in that thread, not in the sense that their side of the story went beyond the ‘maybe there was’. There have been loads of different styles of fluteplaying but all of them were based in full use of the flute’s strength.

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Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Now here is a tune thats gimmicky, the found harmonium, cant stand that tune, strange how some people like it… no accounting for taste eh? I think the Clumsy lover is a great tune, Moving cloud too.
Kilfarboy, how do you get a low C then without a foot joint? I’m presuming you dont have one ?🙂
Would it not be possible to play it in G?

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

I’m also in agreement with kifarboy - it is a MM tune. To the GHBers out there, it doesn’t matter what reputaion or provenance the tune has for your tradition to us. The fact is, it has become a tune in the repertoire of Irish players (2 parts, usually in A in my experience) and squarely occupies a place as a Mickey Mouse tune. I confess I played it in many a rowdy session in my (relatively) immature youth. And thankfully haven’t heard it in a long time.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Exactly, as a badly formed 2 part tune , it is a micky mouse tune! your agreeing with him , not contradicting him. ! As a slowly developing 5 part tune you get the full effect of the variations so that the 5th part with its repeating high A creates a ‘climax’. As a 2 part tune I agree it is a MM tune. because its been gutted, its like a sandwich with no bread, sure the ham and cheese is nice, but on its own? Thats Richards point is it not?

The Right Stuff

A tune (version) which you play & enjoy with your mates is the right version.
Anything else is conversation … or ~
"Oh! Look at the time. I have to be going"

Seriously though, Richard, I really do have to go to work now.
I enjoyed your previous YouTube post & look forward to reading this post.
Cheers!
& thanks again

Posted by .

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

What a shame kilfarboy - I was just beginning to think what you were saying might be fair enough and then Chrishty agreed with you!

Oh well! 🙂

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Turn it round for a minute, If I took a 5 part Irish tune, removed three parts, then complained it was a MM tune, would you take me seriously? or tell me to go away and learn, or listen to, the proper tune before I criticise it!

There are no Mickey Mouse tunes….

Olivier, the French fiddler who I haven’t seen in too many years, would have said, "There are no Mickey Mouse tunes. There are only Mickey Mouse musicians." These aren’t some of them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GQQ1lTGE8o&feature=related


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUpilC3-ouI


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKfnfcgH3L4&feature=related (Men in Funny Hats?)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGo6MpHFFTU&NR=1


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTE4Xim-HmM&feature=related


And finally, the Mouse himself, in company with rodent fragments:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if9YpFUy4Oc&feature=related

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

I would first say whatever version you like personally is "right".
However, if you have stranges tastes, you may have a bit of a hard time getting people a session to play it with you. This is why there are "generally accepted" versions of tunes that get played at sessions. For instance I absolutely LOVE John Carty’s version of "The Silver Spear" that he plays on "Last Night’s Fun". But everybody else plays the "standard" version of that tune & I’ve had no luck as a recruiter for "The John Carty Way"! There are also "bad" versions of tunes, though. The best example I’ve seen is the James Kelly tune "Touching Cloth".
The first time I heard it was on a Dervish CD, being played in the key of D Major. It seemed a fine tune to my ears, but since they credited the composition to Mr. Kelly in the liner notes, my curiosity was piqued. Wow, was I in for a shock! First off, James plays it in the much rarer (but MUCH more interesting)
key of E Major, and IT SONDED NOTHING LIKE WHAT DERVISH WERE PLAYING!!!! Those fools actually WRECKED a perfectly good tune. That’s the best example I have, anyway- I have a feeling this thread may go on forever, but I’m going to bow out now. Good Night, and Good Luck!

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Obviously it is not PRS gumshoes we really have to fear.

It is claymore-wielding ex-squaddies whose sacred pipe tunes have been reduced to rubble by feckless carousing sessioners.

All the more reason for learning to read and write music, so that the original can be stored and need never be lost! It can be brought out again whenever the dust settles for whoever wants it.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Who are you referring to?

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Which version of a tune is the "right" version =

The one the true Composer wrote the Dots to it
If you can find or manuscript,, More Chance in
Scotland than Ireland —- lol

jim,,,,,,

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Like in multiple choice tests, the answer is "D," "All of the above."

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

the ”right version” is either
(1) the composers original (if tracable and provable, as even a spotless pedigree can be brought into question over time)
or (2) presumably the version that is ‘not wrong’ in any way and as this cannot actually exist in any shape or form (outside a personal opionion = preferred version for whatever reason)

the right version is the opposite of the wrong version (which dosn’t exist) so i suggest SWLF Fiddler got it right _

There isn’t one.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

About this thing cutting both ways, yes for sure!

Have you ever heard the GHB version of The Gold Ring?

Just awful.

Only a few of the parts fit onto the GHB scale, and mercifully the Highland pipers only play those… and strangely they keep them in the right order… so I guess they’re doing they best they can with what they have got to work with… but the GHB version is so very pale compared to the way it "really" goes, the ITM session way.

But the GHB players I mention this to don’t "get it". You see, they have the version they play in a book somewhere, and they know no other, so the crappy version in the book is the "real" tune to them.

Amusing that people are saying that Neil Dickie only "claims" to have written The Clumsy Lover. Fact is, this tune is not an ancient traditional tune, and it is not the result of Sponaneous Generation. Believe it or not, living breathing Human Beings do indeed compose tunes, and even more astoundingly they write them down; in a mysterious system of little dots and squiggles that don’t really mean anything.

(just kidding…)

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

"There are no Mickey Mouse tunes, only Mickey Mouse musicians"…

I love it!

I’ve come to be of the opinion that the "correct" version of a tune is one that pays due respect to the way that the musicians you admire play it. It need not be exactly the same, but it MUST give proper value to the way your source played it. Once you’ve done that, whatever else you can add with your own musicianship is up to you…

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

The "right" version is your version..
Mind you, according to some melodion players, any tune not in G or D is the wrong version.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

The right version is the one I wish I knew. The Wright version is your version. The rite version is the version we play every week. The write version is the one in the book.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

so when does the white virgin come into play?

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Not a moment too soon.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Besides this music, I also like to play ragtime piano music and I have composed some original ragtime pieces. I wrote these pieces down and copywrited them so there would be a "standard" version of each and every piece I had composed. Now if someone is willing to take the time and the trouble to learn my original compositions well enough to be able to play them and improvise on them, I would be very flattered.
Yes I know improvisation has no place in Irish or Scottish music but it definitely has a place in ragtime music.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

"Improvisation has no place in Irish or Scottish music"

you haven’t been listening to some of the same people I’ve been hearing, evidently.

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

Richard D. Cook, I thought you were supposed to play the tunes the same way each time through no matter how many times you play them at a session instead of improvising on them the second time through which is typical of ragtime music.
Yes, I guess we are listening to different musicians (using the term rather loosely).

Re: Which version of a tune is the "right" version?

"I thought you were supposed to play the tunes the same way each time through no matter how many times you play them at a session…"

You must be pulling my leg.

No good Irish musician I know would ever play anything the same way twice; it’s a point of honour almost, to be able to never repeat oneself exactly, but mix it up as you go.

If you’re a "classical" sort, good at sightreading, you might want to look through a copy of The Dance Music Of Willie Clancy and read the introductory material. You’ll see that a hallmark of Willie’s playing, indeed the hallmark of all good Irish playing, is the art of variation/improvisation.

And the best Highland pipers do the same. Not of course when playing in a pipe band; there everyone must play exactly the same version of the tune (in any case they only play each tune once through).
But listen to any good Highland piper when NOT playing the rigid competition material: there is improvisation galore.
Highland pipers call this non-competition (freestyle if you please) playing "kitchenpiping" and it’s common to have, in conjunction with Highland Games, a nighttime "kitchenpiping" competiton where the normal competition rules do not apply. It’s there that you’ll hear some of the best music.