Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Hi,
I wonder if someone has ever before applied tools for gene sequence analysis on Irish trad tunes. E.g. to create a phylogenetic tree or something similar.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

I think they all branch off from Drowsie Maggie.

But on the serious side, I can definitely hear where tunes have influenced others. I guess you would have to find some of the oldest pieces of music first. But there is only so much we can do with tunes.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

I seem to remember someone (Martin Hayes?) a few years ago saying that there are only 7 basic tunes (reels, jigs) in Irish traditional music from which all else are descended. I’m not sure I’ve got that right so perhaps someone with a better recollection could confirm or otherwise?

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

(1) Take a random tune and feed it into tunepal. (2) Notate the suggestion list. (3) Take the tune with the highest percentage which is not the actual tune itself and again feed it into tunepal (if you have already played the tune during the process take the next one). (4) Repeat (2) - (4) again and again.
The tune that appeared most often in the list is the ancestor of all tunes or something.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Interesting idea. I suppose you could apply the same trait changes to get an A1 descendant and all that, if a change happens because an instrument can’t make a note, or a singer hasn’t got the range and it gets retained in subsequent playing of the tune. I’d like to see this.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

The discovery of DNA and the advent of genetic research has meant that the relationships between different organisms can be studied beyond their outward physical characteristics. So far, with tunes, however, all we have to go on is *how they go*. So, if two tunes sound alike, we might as well say they are ‘related’ - what other criteria are there? Whether they came about by divergent evolution resulting from generations of interpretations and misrememberings or one was ‘composed’ by someone who unconsciously (or consciously) plagiarised the other - or it is pure co-incidence - can usually only be conjecture.

Titles are not much to go on, since, as we well know, they float around freely from tune to tune, the ‘wrong’ title often becoming attached to any number of similar (or dissimilar) tunes.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

"I seem to remember someone (Martin Hayes?) a few years ago saying that there are only 7 basic tunes (reels, jigs) in Irish traditional music from which all else are descended. I’m not sure I’ve got that right so perhaps someone with a better recollection could confirm or otherwise?"

Don’t worry - I doubt Martin Hayes was sure he got it right. "There are only 7 basic tunes " sounds like a bit too much of a categorical statement - but the exact number isn’t really important, anyway. The point is that a handful of basic melodic themes could have branched out into thousands of different tunes. What *is* important, I think, is to bear in mind that those 7 (or however many) basic tunes need not necessarily have been jigs or reels. They could have been marches, song airs, harp airs or even some old dance form that is no longer played - and the same melodic material could have been used as the basis for any of them. The same is no less true in more recent times, where hornpipes have become reels, reels have become jigs, jigs have become slip jigs etc. - and anything and everything has been turned into slides and polkas.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Of course you can’t apply the rigour of genetic ancestry and trait mutation, but it would be fun to see what is related to what. I noticed when I was a kid, that my dad played a Scottish tune (no idea of the name) which had the same basic structure as a song I was singing in primary school (Donkey Riding).

7 basic tunes, 2 Morris dances (stick and hanky), 7 basic story plots and infinite ways of combining them to make life interesting.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Hmmm …? 7 basic tunes? sounds like my trade (I am /was a chef in a previous life) where I learned there are 7 basic sauces. On a good day I can remember 5, but all the thousands of sauces stem from from those basics, Bechamel, Estouffade, Curry, Tomato, Supreme, Hollandaise and Veloute. Learn the basics, make them all. Just like tunes then! ( Aye right! Maybe the slicing, dicing and chopping compares to rolls, slurs, triplets and crans?Answers on a postcard please!)

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Is it possible with a simple counter-clockwise chronological sequence?

Such as tunes composed by known composers of the last 2 or so decades who have provable recordings, to tunes composed by known musicians from the 20th century who may not have proof of recording, to tunes only rumored to be composed by a certain composer from an earlier time, to tunes with only stories from a known time period but by a "mystery" composer, to tunes known to come from a certain region at a certain time but with no composer, to tunes so ancient nothing is known about them other than their melodic structure?

Who knows, maybe even recordings from 20th century musicians could give us an idea of "melodic and rhythmic" evolution.
Maybe that way we can get an idea of how modern tunes sounds compared to older tunes sounds, and if their melodic structure(from contour to rhythm) have any correlation what so ever with their time period. Maybe then we could begin unlocking the mystery of the oldest tunes known to us.

But it would take a lot of work by a lot of people if we wanted something reliable. It would be very nice to see this develop for sure!

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

"a Scottish tune (no idea of the name) which had the same basic structure as a song I was singing in primary school (Donkey Riding)."

That would be The Hieland Laddie, eiluned.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

A Hollywood composer once told me ‘there is only one tune."

A guy teaching a music theory class said "here’s music theory" and he wrote a big inverted V on the chalkboard.

Yes it’s much like genetics and linguistics where a thing is replicated over and over through generations of people, slightly imperfectly, so that changes happen. You would get similar situations like a thing spreading over a wide area quickly, and therefore being widely distributed with little variation, but when a thing stays in the same place for a long time a large number of variants evolve (the age-area hypothesis).

What I’ve noticed many times, particularly with reels in A minor, is that there’s more variation in the first part than in the second. It’s as if there’s a hundred A minor reels with more or less the same second part. Supposedly in the old days the first part was called the "tune" and the second part the "turn" which makes sense given the situation.

I’ve seen the evolution/mutation of tunes happen before my very eyes. It’s quite amazing how fast it can happen. The most astounding example was a tune called The Clumsy Lover. It was written in the 1980s by Canadian Highland piper Neil Dickie as part of his pipe band’s competition set one year. (In the pipe band worlds tunes are often throwaway things, and a Pipe Major might compose a number of new tunes for his band for a competition season, these being discarded as soon as the season is over.)

I heard Dickie’s band play Clumsy Lover its debut year. It was published in his own book (titled "First Book, A Collection of Bagpipe Music for All Stages") in 1983.

Within a year another quite famous pipe band recorded Clumsy Lover on its album. It distilled the original’s six parts down to four. I felt that this was an improvement (tightened up) and that’s the version I’ve always played.

It was only a year or so after the tune was written that it started appearing in Irish sessions around here. However the tune was severely mutated, with some parts missing, new parts appearing, and the order of the parts scrambled around. At one session I said "it doesn’t go like that" and somebody says "who are you to know how it goes" and I said "it was written last year by a Canadian guy and he published it in his book. I heard him play it himself."

They looked at me like I was crazy. They probably imagined it was a traditional tune? In any case it highlights the nature of the Irish session repertoire: however you first hear a tune played is "the real tune" and the way the composer wrote it has no significance.

A couple years later a pipe band in Scotland was playing a dumbed-down version of Clumsy Lover which they called "Pastiche". Why that title? Did they think it was a pastiche of different tunes? Had they never heard of Neil Dickie? What they played was entirely derived from the Clumsy Lover, just simplified.

So if Clumsy Lover can mutate into near-unrecognizability in a year, what has happened over the last few hundred years?

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Here’s the original 6 part tune, starting at 3:35.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-srP1J_-tk

It’s a medley of four Neil Dickie compositions.
Within a year or so the 78th Frasers Pipe Band was playing a four-part version, leaving out parts 3 and 4, but keeping the remaining parts in order 1, 2, 5, 6.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

And here it is in Ireland (love the dog trying to join the session)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhUtTl3ri8s


Just two parts, 1 and 6. The first part has been smoothed out and simplified, the 2nd ending now played every time through. Good banjo and concertina duet there, but that version leaves much to be desired.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

Similarities among tunes seems to be natural — since the spectrum of musical ideas is fairly continuous and there is a limited set of ideas that are inherently appealing. Perhaps it is much like the notion that there really are only seven basic story plots of interest (e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Basic_Plots).

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

I looked over all the versions here of Clumsy Lover.

The 4th version is the only one that’s mostly correct. The only issue is one of notation, the syncopation in bars 2 and 6 of the Part 5 being wrongly notated.

The other versions include parts which don’t appear in the original tune- parts so mutated as to not be recognizable. And there’s a consistent problem with the first part, that is, using bar 6 in place of bar 2.

"the notion that there really are only seven basic story plots of interest"

That shows up with movies- there are only a few different movie plotlines, made over and over.

They satisfy some need amongst us, evidently.

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

This sounds to me like those scholars who try to figure out which parts of the Bible were written when, and by who, and which documents influenced the writing of the others. They do this by looking at things like grammatical quirks, writing style, and other clues. And they think that there is a mysterious, lost gospel, called "Q," which most of the other gospels are based upon. So perhaps there is a mysterious tune lurking in the deep mists of time, perhaps played on a simple system flute made out of a cave bear’s thigh bone, that all other tunes are descended from! The mind boggles…

Re: Tune evolution, Phylogenetic tree of Irish trad

A very complex and interesting area.

Music is an infinitely-variable art form. The beginning is lost in the mists of time, and as it evolves it is constantly expanding in variety. I expect that it will continue to do so until we eventually are wiped out by a direct hit by a large piece of space rock.

Before then, I am sure there are a couple of PhDs that can be completed in trying to untangle the untangleable…

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