the names given to Irish traditional tunes

the names given to Irish traditional tunes

does anyone have any view on the foolish names given to traditional Irish tunes’ especially jigs and reels.?
I am surprised that this debate never came up before.
some names that come to mind are up to your knees in sand’ cleaning out the henhouse’ I buried my wife and I danced on top of her’ and the pensioner that kissed his granny.
let me add’ I am not having a go at the tunes.
I am just asking in total honesty.
can anyone shed any light on it.?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Isn’t it simply the Irish sense of humour?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Some things — like cleaning out the henhouse — were once everyday occurrences, not foolish at all. What may seem strange to our modern ears were quite sensible at the time of writing. Add a pinch of humour as Jim says, and a bit of innuendo, a modicum of heresy, stir, and apply liberally.

Posted by .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Even ‘I Buried my Wife and Danced on Top of Her’ could have a good reason for the title - in years gone by they would stick together, no matter what (even if they hated each other), and parting would bring on the curse of the community and possibly eternal damnation, in some minds.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Are you sure this topic has never come before? Maybe I’m just having another groundhog day.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Just speculation, but anyone else think the rather unusual titles may have also been a way to remember the opening melodic/rhythmic phrase of a tune or perhaps a repetitious phrase in the tune?

For example:
"I buried my wife and da-anced on top of her, danced on top of her, danced on top of her."

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Sometimes the fool is where you expect it least

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I’ve heard it suggested that, in the original Gaelic, the names did indeed suggest the beginnings of the tunes, but all has been lost with the anglicisation.
The Irish Washerwoman used to be known by a friend as "ParaDiMethylAminoBenzaldehyde" because you can sing the A part to it.
Go on, try !

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

And "The Floating Crowbar" (one of my favorites)?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

The names are very interesting. In their original languages, they probably did carry that melodic meaning as well. Maybe like a chorus in a rock song or something, perhaps?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I was playing with the piano player from one of Finbar Dywer’s albums. She said when Finbar was asked about his title for "The Floating Crowbar." His only answer was ,"well if a Pitchfork can Ramble."

Posted by .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Good old Finbar. How can ya not like the man?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

dont really see whats so foolish about the names you mentioned. ‘I buried my wife and danced on top of her grave’ is a reference to the old style irish funeral whereby when someone within a close knit community passed on they would have a set dance on their grave as a send-off.

Posted .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

"Behind The Haystack" refers to the innocent practice of checking your haystack from all viewing angles to make sure everything is in order.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

"Behind The Haystack" refers to the innocent practice of checking your haystack from all viewing angles to make sure everything is in order.

Oh, right. Sure.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

hi there.
I’m back again.
thanks for all the replies.
can I just recap on the tune name’ I buried my wife and I danced on top of her.
it is a rather strange name to give a tune.
let’s face it’ if someone buried their wife’ the last thing they would want to do is have a dance.
hear are some more strange names of tunes.
it is just out of pure curiousity.
upstairs in a tent’ when your sick’ is it tay you want? the woman with the hairy knees’ the cat rambled to the child’s saucepan’ the cat that ate the candle’ and the pope’s toe.
I’d like to hear more views on this topic.
keeping with this topic’ did anyone notice that polkas and slides rarely had names.
they were usually called after the people who played them a lot.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

"Oh, right. Sure."

You mean to say you’ve never done this joe?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

>"Behind The Haystack" refers to the innocent practice of checking your haystack from all viewing angles to make sure everything is in order.
Nope. It’s the place where you find lost needles. That’s why there are so many sharps in that tune.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

michael dineen: "I buried my wife and I danced on top of her. it is a rather strange name to give a tune. let’s face it’ if someone buried their wife’ the last thing they would want to do is have a dance."

That depends. Maybe he didn’t get on with his wife and therefore was pleased when she passed away. Maybe he had some fancy woman waiting in the wings and the passing of his wife would enable him to marry that woman …

"upstairs in a tent’ "

When you were a child, did you not sleep upstairs? Did you ever pretend to be camping by making a tent from the bedclothes? Admittedly, more difficult for a child to do these days now that duvets have taken over from sheets and blankets … 🙁

I’ll leave you to work out possible explanations for the other tune titles that you mentioned …. 🙂

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

@ Tom @ Danny Mackay

Nah - you’re both wrong. "Behind the Haystack" refers to the place where Little Boy Blue skived off for a crafty snooze instead of looking after the sheep and cows that had been intrusted to his charge … 😉

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Anything vaguely rhythmic or repetitive, such as walking, trotting, rambling, tripping, dancing, etc. would be suggestive to anyone in a tune-writing frame of mind, regardless of the animal involved. Ducks, geese, horses, cats, chickens, mice, goats, crows, all fit the bill (no pun intended), and would have been intimately involved in the daily lives of the musicians. Likewise anything vaguely musical, like chickens, streams, geese, larks, cats, mice, blackbirds; and anything wind-blown such as corn, trees, reeds, etc. And activities such as digging, weaving, spinning, tossing hay, reaping, all contribute. Unusual or amusing occurrences such as cats eating candles (they were made of fat, so why not), meeting the pope, getting married or buried, falling ill, mouse invasions, emigrations, famines, travelling and such all warrant celebrating with a tune, or serve as an aide memoire to anyone learning a new tune.
And, of course, there’s love, grass and hay.

Posted by .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

… and speed-bags.

Posted by .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Haha— Tøm, I have to confess I am SO innocent and naive that I took your comment at face value, and only now got the entendre. Seriously. I was thinking that Behind the Haystack refers to a tryst where a couple might meet to woo and maybe—just maybe—exchange a kiss. I am such a dope.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Upstairs in the Tent is surely one from the Milligna family repertoire, where Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister have just put the tiger out for the night, when they hear a footfall from upstairs in the tent, as if a one-legged man has just taken off his boot and dropped it on the floor. A short while later they hear a second boot; "Aha ! Another one-legged man !" !

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

"….have just put the tiger out for the night….." After all, when you’re walking alone at night and see two big yellow eyes looking at you, it might not be a tiger, it might be two one-eyed tigers!
(Old Hindu proverb, allegedly….)

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

"Ducks, geese, horses, cats, chickens, mice, goats, crows…would have been intimately involved in the daily lives of the musicians"

My eyes have been opened…

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

At least with Irish music there’s some creativity going on.

For Scottish tunes you have two scenarios:

1) Choose a number, X, between 10 and 100.
2) Decide if you want to be welcomed, or wished a farewell.
3) Select a location from a map of Scotland.

Then construct a title thus: "The [X]ths [welcome/farewell] to [location]"

Alternatively,

1) Pick a name, preferably Angus or Jim.
2) Add a prefix "P/M".

Giving: "P/M [name]"

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Doesn’t even have to be in Scotland. Could be Gibraltar or somewhere.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

As an alternative, Napoleon Bonaparte can be involved. Obviously a popular guy.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

One of the best named tunes I found while looking through a book of scottish tunes many years ago was ‘This is nae me ain oose’ which i do believe means, this is not my own house. It still make me smirk even now

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I sometimes think of tune names as like polaroids—snaps of events maybe someone wants/wanted to not forget. Like there’s a story behind each one, which is probably true.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I write a lot of tunes…often I just run out of names…and I look around the room and name it something I see…or if I’m out and about I’ll call it something I remember or see there.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

celticagent, if you write your own tunes, there’s no shortage of names … "R. McGeddon’s Final Reel" for starters 🙂

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

…or the Star of Herman Munster …

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I was debating recently about Irish traditional tunes having foolish names.
well’ here a few more to get the brain working.
I wish I never saw you’ The moving pint’ give us a drink of water’ roaring Mary’ Walter Sammon’s grandmother’ The cow on the bonnet’ The duke of Leinster’s wife’ Paddy Murphy’s wife’ and go to the devil and shake yourself.
you must admit’ that those names sound totally foolish.
does anyone have any more views on the subject.?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Who’s the fool ?

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I’m having an apostrophe attack. Aah. Nurse.

Posted by .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Rats. It started of going to be something longer.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

But - who is the fool ?

😛

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

Sean Brady said, "One of the best named tunes I found while looking through a book of scottish tunes many years ago was ‘This is nae me ain oose’ which i do believe means, this is not my own house. It still make me smirk even now."

"My ain house" refers to Scotland. The tune is a lament for the loss of Scottish independence. (After the 1745 rebellion, if memory serves. (Just to be clear, that’s not because I am that old….))

Posted by .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

‘fool·ish (flsh)
adj.
1. Lacking or exhibiting a lack of good sense or judgment; silly: foolish remarks.’


*rolling eyes*

What exactly do think a tune name should be Michael seeing as you are a music historian? Does it really matter? Some tune names actually mean something, i.e. The Duke of Leinster’s Wife refers to another tune The Ladies’ Pantalettes (though this tune is very slightly different but is essentially the same tune) which is commonly played after The Duke of Leinster, so humourously it has been anointed The Duke of Leinster’s Wife. Surely there is plenty of interesting research you could conduct on these tune name meanings rather then discussing how foolish you may think they are.

Posted .

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

"Who’s the more foolish: the fool or the fool who follows him?"
# Posted by Obi-Wan Kenobi a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I understand Michael’s sentiments, but I don’t see anything foolish about the tune names. Mildly humorous, maybe. Look at some of the names that are give to racehorses.

Anyway, I favour a little creativity, like ‘Professor Bonzer Wallaby-Harness’s Farewell to Castlemaine’, or ‘The Royal Semibald’, ‘Bonnie Light Horsemanure’, R. McGeddon’s Final Reel, etc ….

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

hi fiddleruairi
thanks for your comments.
what I really meant’ but didn’t bother to say’ was the names might sound foolish.
if I were to research more into them’ it would still be hard’ as instrumental music has no story.
because I played and researched music’ I decided to find out about the names.
I also asked that question’ to find out if the Irish are still interested in the history of the tunes.
yes’ I will admit’ it probably does not matter in a big way’ but it was not a topic I had heard debated before.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

The Rampaging Apostrophes is a great tune. I’ve play’ed it often’ in Eb’dorian ,sometime’s in B’Mix’o’Lydian

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

did anyone notice that polkas and slides rarely had names.?
those tunes were usually named after the musicians who played them.
some examples are Julia Clifford’s polka’ Padraig O’ Keefe’s slide’ or Johnny O’ Leary’s polka.
in fact’ those tunes were only to be found and heard in places like Kerry’ Cork’ Limerick’ and Tipperary’ but especially in Cork and Kerry.
because of this happening’ it seems as if those counties have a special musical tradition of their own.
in recent years musicians from other counties have played such tunes.
maybe it is a nice acknowledgement’ and a way of respecting the people from rural Ireland.?
names have also been given to some of them’ which are not as weird as the names of reel’s jig’s and hornpipe’s.

Re: the names given to Irish traditional tunes

I’m rather curious how some songs come to their names: Many of them seem to be inspired by yearning or hope (e.g "My Love is in America") and some of them (like Maids on the Green) almost seem whistfully sad in their character.

Posted by .