How many tunes are there?
Maybe the question has come up before, but I don’t recall seeing it over the past six years, and a search of the discussions for "how many tunes" didn’t find anything on the subject.
Okay, I know we can’t answer the question. But I am interested in what people might give as a rough estimate. Personally, I think its thousands. That’s pretty rough because it runs from two thousand to nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and there is a significant difference between the two. Then again, I’m not very knowledgeable on the subject so I can’t afford to be much more precise.
By tunes, I mean traditional Irish music tunes (including the ones whose authors we know) that might reasonably be played at a session and recognised by at least one other person besides the person who starts it. Although it might be necessary to tweak that definition a little given the promiscuous transfusions between the Irish, Scottish, Shetland and even Breton and Asturian/Galician traditions, not to mention a few others.
This is not research for an academic paper. I am just killing some time this afternoon because I haven’t got any work on my desk right now and its a thought that occurs to me from time to time, often in conjuction with the fact that six years after starting both the fiddle and traditional Irish music from scratch, I am now approaching around two hundred tunes that I would not hesitate to join in with at a session, although a lot fewer that I would be willing to start myself. Sometimes it seems that some fiendishly clever demon is sitting somewhere churning these things out for the sole purpose of making sure that I will always, no matter how long I live, have a lot more tunes to learn.
So, any ideas?