The Northern Fiddler

Re: The Northern Fiddler

Wow, they scanned the whole book. Borrowed that when I was first getting into ITM, and found a copy about 10 years ago for something reasonable. It’s a terrific tome, great pictures and stories; some of the transcriptions are quite up to snuff, for instance a double jig with a 9/8 bar at one point or “Unknown” as a title for the relatively commonplace tune Langstern Pony, to list two faults which were pointed out in a review in Breandan Breathnach’s journal Ceol; but nevertheless it’s a fascinating read.

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It feels like Christmas between this and the video that Jerone posted earlier. So much great free entertainment!

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A fabulous find - although I can’t really read the music very well, the text, photographs and drawings are very evocative a part of Ireland I love (well, I love all of it, but I know these parts particularly well).

I am sure that one of my favourite Mazurkas, the Donegal (John Doherty’s) features somewhere in this…

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I was always hoping to run across a dog-eared copy in a thrift store, but wasn’t that lucky. Been on my to-read list for a while.
Thanks for posting this, paddy joyce.

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I bought the book not long after it came out. I had to use a couple of heavy-duty clothes pegs to stop it from falling off the music stand!

Excellent book.

@Paddy Joyce - thanks for posting.

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I’ll add my thanks as well! The interviews are wonderful, so evocative of a past way of life.

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Phenomenal.

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Lot’s of “colour” in those transcriptions. I wonder how much was down to the player rather than the scribe or the circumstances of the transcription? The version of Langstrom’s pony alluded to earlier appears a mash up between a straight jig version and a slip jig. As a slip is not the way I’ve ever heard or been tempted to play it but something I’ll be trying out as soon as I can fire up the pipes without setting the neighbours on a war footing. Plenty of stuff there to explore, thanks for the link pj.

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I assume that Allen Feldman and/or Eamonn O’Doherty recorded these tunes to transcribe them. Does anyone know what became of the recordings?

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Thank goodness for that! The Other Person In The House has a copy that’s so well worn (disintegrating!) we don’t want to use it anymore and secondhand copies are over £100. Why hasn’t something this useful and important been re-published?

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Thank you Paddy Joyce!
Great!
I was hiking through Donegal City back in the 80’s, and needed a new hat, so I wandered into a department store right on the square full of tweeds and books, and not too “tourist”ey. (Found one in a shade of cranberry tweed that went with nothing else I wore. )

In the store the wise lady there, seeing the fiddle case on my back, chatted with me awhile, then steered me towards this book. I figured, “In Donegal, grab the book about Donegal!”, especially when the lady opened a copy and pointed out that author Feldman had been through and was kind enough to autograph it. It was a good investment, partly by giving me more of the music and its Northern history, and started me looking for a lot I might have otherwise missed. The tunes themselves were icing on the cake. Wonderful stuff but, back then, those tunes were not that common where I played back in the States.

It still sits comfortably on my bookshelf.
Problem is, it is a paperback, so I have made an effort not to wear it out.
This online is a godsend.

Thanks again.

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Thanks Paddy,

There are two other documents which may be of interest:

Notes on the Northern Fiddler - copious note from Mick Brown and others compiled by Larry Sanger. “These notes are intended to supply names, correct perceived errors, and give other information about tune transcriptions in “The Northern Fiddler”.
http://www.nigelgatherer.com/books/nf/reels.html

and,

Music of the Border: The Northern Fiddler Project, Media Provenance and the Nationalization of Irish Music
Allen Feldman
Radharc
Vol. 3 (2002), pp. 97-122
Published by: Glucksman Ireland House, New York University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25114416
Page Count: 26

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Many of the Feldman/O’Doherty field recordings of John were issued on the Topic label as “Bundle and Go.”

I used one of the bookseller search engines like addall.com to find my copy - these trawl through all the online sellers like Albiris at once to find you the best deal. Think I paid something like $25 total.

A lot of older musicians would throw in an extra bar or note for whatever reason. Some of you may know a jig, Tom Busby’s, Tom was particularly prone to this, for example he’d play the Cameronian Reel GFEF GABc dcdB | ABAF DFAF | etc. Tom by his own admission learned stuff via transcriptions so maybe those were faulty? Oh well, so long as no one attempts to dance to it. I have all the commercial John Doherty recordings and also a ton of extra stuff courtesy Comhaltas and can’t recall him doing much of this kind of extemporization though.

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Thanks Kevin. I have ‘Bundle and Go’ but was unaware of its origins.

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A second LP of recordings related to ‘The Northern Fiddler’ was compiled by Feldman for the Topic label. This featured James Byrne, Simon Doherty, Con Cassidy and Danny O’Donnell. Unfortunately, it was never released for reasons which I won’t go into, and probably never will be.

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“Bundle and Go” can be listened to on Spotify

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Well, this explains the sudden jump in traffic on my site. ;^)

Pete

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Scutcher, that is sad news. If you wanted to go into more detail in a private message I would be all ears.

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Sorry, Cheeky Elf,

I’m not prepared to break confidences.

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Ha, funny how much it has traveled. I’m the original scanner; I can tell because of the folds on the cover; originally scanned for a friend in 2004 and put on Mediafire, it seems he shared it to…
Funny too the fact I bought it in 1994 in a classical music store - there were 2 copies! - along with the Gow Collection…

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Hi Fernandito,

Thanks for the scan. I’m not sure where I found the PDF, but it was years ago. I figured I’d put it out there (and take it down if someone complained).

Apparently, this book has been so popular that the bandwidth limit on my site was just exceeded (thanks in large part to someone in Auckland, NZ who downloaded the book over 1600 times!). My hosting company has shutdown access to the site for now. It might be up to one week before the site allows access again.

Pete

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Can someone else re-up this as Ops bandwidth has blown out and Im intereted in what the fuss is about :D

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^thanks! 🙂

Oh ye I just after realised what book this is! What a treat for me being a donegal book! 🙂 .

I recall jim talking aobut it and I lookd online and it was like 80 quid at the time. 🙂

This will make some nice bedtime reading.

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I’ve just increased my bandwidth allotment. It will take a bit of time before the change takes effect though.

Pete

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You’re welcome, braccio. It was a bugger to scan, but I’m glad people found it useful. Ten years ago was impossible to find, so I suposse the publisher didn’t mind ;) However, the copy around is 33 mb, smaller than my scan that I still keep: around 240 mb :P
BTW, it costed when I bought it around 2000 of the old spanish pesetas (Nowadays, 15 - 20 euro)

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Thanks to Fernandito and braccio for their generosity.

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Thank you to those who have scanned, shared and re-shared this wonderful resource. TBH, I may be one of the parties who stretched the bandwidth by downloading this more than once, but I will put that down to browser idiosyncrasies. Mea maxima culpa.

Tom

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Got the bandwidth limit taken care of. Download at will.

I ran the 240 Mb copy that I downloaded through an interpolation routine in Adobe Acrobat to reduce the file size. I thought that 33 Mb would be easier for folks to download.

Pete

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Many, many thanks are due to Fernandito and Braccio for making this amazing book available to those who didn’t manage to snap up a copy when it was still to be found.

This is a remarkable book and, for all the criticism it got from opponents of its scholarly ethnomusicological and anthropological approach, there is still nothing to equal it as a study of Donegal fiddle music and the culture of Donegal music. And I can’t think of any similarly impressive work relating to any other regional Irish musical tradition. It’s well known that Brendan Breathnach did not admire Donegal fiddle music, and he slated the book.

Kevin Rietmann says: “A lot of older musicians would throw in an extra bar or note for whatever reason.”

It’s said a lot that Donegal fiddlers did this frequently, but there seems only to be one instance of it in this book, i.e. John Doherty adding an extra beat in one bar of the jig The King of the Pipers (so replacing a 6/8 bar with one in 9/8), (as you can hear on the John Doherty Celebrated Recordings record) I don’t think this was ever very common thing in Donegal and all the fiddlers I’ve ever heard doing it got it from John Doherty. This wee quirk may come from the east Donegal Inishowen style which was influenced by European tunes where time-signatures can change between different parts of the tune. The Donegal accordionist Martin Tourish knows a lot about this and has studied these rarities in detail (and plays lots of them too.)

Opposition to the book from people like Brendan Breathnach meant that Eamon O’Doherty rejected the publisher’s plan to publish a second expanded edition of The Northern Fiddler, which is a tragedy.
Another cultural tragedy is the suppression of the first of the two records planned to accompany the book.
Topic Records 12TS 397 “Various – Pass the Time: An Anthology of Donegal Fiddling” (1979 never issued)
featuring Francie Byrne, Simon Doherty, Con Cassidy and Danny O’Donnell (I didn’t know James Byrne was also supposed to be on it, but I know they recorded him even though he doesn’t feature in the book.)
Danny O’Donnell was supposed to have stopped the record’s release because he was recorded unaccompanied and didn’t want it released that way, but I stand to be corrected on this. Even if this record stays suppressed I hear that the folks at Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí may release some of these recordings as as parts of different CDs of these fiddlers in coming years.
Thankfully the next record was released: Topic Records 12TS 398 “John Doherty – Bundle and Go” (1980)

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Charles,

Apart from the fact that ‘The Northern Fiddler’ also covers Tyrone, your suggestion that there is nothing equal to it in terms of the Donegal tradition completely ignores Caoimhín MacAoidh’s excellent ‘Between the Jigs and the Reels’.

The ‘Pass the Time’ album was not ‘suppressed’, but didn’t see the light of day because of difficulties regarding the copyright of the recordings relating to at least three of the fiddlers involved. I think you’re confusing Danny O’Donnell’s withdrawal from ‘The Brass Fiddle’ project with this particular album.

Said difficulties related to the amount that the fiddlers had been paid and the rather slapdash agreements that they’d signed.

I reckon C na bhF will still have to negotiate that minefield and also seek permission from Topic to use any tracks from the Feldman recordings.

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Thanks for the info. You’re right (an I was quite wrong) it was The Brass Fiddle I was thinking of. Good to know the reason the record never saw the light of day. Caoimhín MacAoidh’s book ‘Between the Jigs and the Reels’ is indeed excellent. But for one thing it contains no music, and as a consequence lacks the kind of comprehensiveness of The Northern Fiddler, and is of much less use to those who aren’t already schooled in the distinct features for different fiddle styles in Donegal (though it’s very interesting to those who are.) On the division of different regional styles within Donegal too, I don’t think either book gives a discription that satisfys many Donegal players (though that may be imposible). You’re right I didn’t mention Tyrone, it forms a very small part of the book but is very illuminating about a fiddle tradition I didn’t know anything at all about before reading the book over twenty years ago. It’s a pity Caoimhín MacAoidh’s book is also out of print. And I heard that Caoimhín MacAoidh has a recent book of Highlands, any idea where it might be found?

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Oh yes, google! When I looked for Caoimhín MacAoidh’ collection of highlands before I couldn’t find it, but here it is: http://ceoteo.net/publications.html
Looks awesome.

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Its absolute rubbish to assert that Danny O’Donnell did not pull out of the second Topic Record “Pass the Time ( a homage to Henry Glassie’s book Passing the Time in Ballymenone). Danny insisted on recording his tunes in Dublin with a a piano backing. There was no budget for that and the recording budget was not under my control. The money promised by Topic to the musicians for which I was but the messenger (some of whom were paid despite the lack of publication) was acceptable to all of them at that time who agreed to appear on the lp. The contracts they signed were standard boilerplate recording contracts of Topic who was and is a trusted entity in the British folk scene. There was nothing exploitative about any of the arrangements. Why I went to Topic a British company? Claddagh, Mulligan and Gael-lin were not interested in the collection. Pass(ing) the Time was meant to feature both Donegal and Tyrone fiddlers. Once Danny pulled out Topic was reluctant to go ahead for they were more interested in the Donegal tradition than Tyrone, though Tyrone fiddlers like Peter Turbit and Sean McKeown were as original as any in Donegal. Topic also felt that some of the field recordings were not technically up to standard due to unavoidable ambient noise on them. Till this day that have the masters they made.

I was not aware that O’ Donnell, who recorded many tunes for me ,pulled out of the Brass fiddle project, but that was indicative of his diva behavior. If ex post facto several other fiddlers complained about the Topic recording project or about the book itself that can be attributed to the well known cantakerous postures many Donegal fiddlers held at that time when it came to any public presentation of their music and personas and to the lies spread about me that I had made significant money from the entire endeavour and had cheated John Doherty who actually received 600 1980 British pounds for Bundle and Go. During the collecting of the music and the writing of the book I was subsisting on two Northern Ireland Arts Council Grants (shared with Eamonn) that paid for my per diem expenses and travel and nothing more and I had to return to the USA in 1980 broke and heartbroken after 6 wonderful years performing and collecting in Ireland ( I performed in Ireland with Scott Ainslie, Rick and Sandi Epping, and Bert Levy) Eamonn O’Doherty also made no money from the project and like me went into debt and often complained how other people published his photos and drawings from the project without attribution or royalties to him. The rumors I have been subjected to were due to the fact that some Irish nationalists in the trad scene of the time objected to a “Yank” “beating them to it.” It wasn’t as if I had discovered Donegal or Tyrone traditions“ but that after having the experience of watching folks like the late, lamented Blanton Owen recording Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham in the field, I was sensitized to the fact than an entire generation of musicians in Donegal and Tyrone were on the cusp of disappearing without being recorded at all or sufficiently recorded. To this day I regret not having the resources to sit John Doherty down simply to record his stories alone. I was punished for this need to salvage the undervalued musical past and present by nationalist elements of the trad scene. If you think I am exaggerating my second book was an oral history of the “Troubles” in Belfast called “Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland “which included chapters on torture and the Republican Dirt Protests and Hunger Strikes. The reception of Northern Fiddler in Ireland and the greater trad scene proved to be more controversial and politicized than the reception of the Belfast book; I received more flak and begrudgment for the first book on music than the second on civil war.

The rights to the Northern Fiddler book reverted to myself and ultimately to Eamonn O’Doherty’s estate (his widow Barbara) after we both refused to renew our contract with Blackstaff Press. Why did we refuse to renew with Blackstaff. That press did a major disservice to the trad musical community by selling the international rights (including Ireland, Europe and the USA) of the book to Oak Press (Music Sales International) who promptly let it go out of print or rot in its warehouses despite the ongoing demand for it. Blackstaff received a significant subsidy of thousands of pounds to publish the book from the Northern Ireland Arts Council. The subsidized publication was meant to be a public service to the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and Blackstaff wasted no time within a year of its publication to flog it to an impersonal corporation who couldn’t give a damn about its access to the trad community. (Blasckstaff also refused to let me include an annotated index to the transcriptions due to budget concerns) Some of those annotations of John Doherty’s music, with the assistance of Brendan Breathnach, appear on the back cover notes of Bundle and Go.) We did see some royalties in 1983 from that sale but that was poisoned by the disappearance of the book from public circulation in Ireland soon after.
A year after the opening of the Irish Traditional Music Archive Eamonn and I donated the recordings, photographs and drawings to the ITMA with the agreement that there would be total public access to the archive. That has always been our motivating ethos which is why as 50% rights holder of the book’s copyright I do not object to the pdf of the Northern Fiddler under discussion.

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Sorry to hear about all the argy-bargy around the book, which was and is a great piece of work. (I haven’t yet read the whole of this thread, just your (Alan’s) post - must have missed this when it came up three years ago - and have no dog in the fight, so have nothing to say about earlier comments).

Sadly, it seems almost a rule that anyone who does folkloric research and publishes the results to a “mass audience” is accused having enriched themselves by exploiting the poor and naive - while typically, as in your case, they actually gain little if any material profit.

Anyway - belated congratulations on your fine work!

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We’ve got a copy of this PDF available at https://irish.session.nz/tunebooks/The_Northern_Fiddler.pdf

It’s a big favourite of mine.

Today I got this email:

“Dear Sir/ Madam, this book was withdrawn from publication. My uncle and other musicians had to legally object in order to have it banned. The publication objections also apply to pdf and indeed all digital copies. Please amend your online content.
Damien O’Doherty”

I think this is pretty much at odds with what Allen Feldman said about his position on the PDF. I’ve sent Allen a message asking for his thoughts on this. Has anyone else had a message like this?