Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

I’ve been getting into Adam Neely’s YT channel lately. He posted a video a couple of years ago discussing the history of the Real Book in jazz and its functions as an equalizer and a gatekeeping test at jam sessions. https://youtu.be/dD0e5e6wI_A This struck chords with me as related to Irish trad.


Discussion topic — has a "Real Book effect" like this made an impact in trad? I’m thinking of influential collections like O’Neill’s, Bulmer & Sharpley, maybe Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Foinn Seisiun, or even the de facto influence of "setting #1 on thesession.org."

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

Clearly some impact, but I suspect the larger impact is from commercial performance and recording - how many of the top hundred tunes on here appeared on Bothy Band or other seminal recordings in the 60s & 70s?

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Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

One would start to see some sort of pattern if one could compare how many learnt their tunes from:
(1) listening to other people in sessions
(2) listening to old albums
(3) learnt tunes from ‘the dots’.

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

I went through the list of tunes we played in sessions recently. Some tunes were indeed published in older collections e.g. O’Neill’s (whatever the edition), some had known composers, and some tunes (according to TuneArch and Irishtune.info ) only mentioned recordings, anecdotes or fairly recent collections (here, I include the CRE series).

My guess is that our own real sources included a combination of living persons, albums, youtube videos, and also written music in staff notation or ABC (from books or web based collections).

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

I don’t think there is an equivalent to the Real Book in trad, because the tunes are approached from different directions.

In Jazz, the standards in "The American Song Book" are a foundation for improvisation. A Jazz musician probably won’t wince if someone calls "Autumn Leaves" when they’ve heard it a thousand times, because the familiar intro and chord changes are a springboard for improvisation. It’s the improv that matters, not the tune as such. A collection of commonly played Jazz standards always serves a purpose.

Trad musicians don’t improvise, except at the micro scale of variations and ornamentation. When you’ve played this music long enough, you might not want to hear Drowsy Maggie or Road to Lisdoonvarna for the thousandth time. I do enjoy the occasional revisiting of common tunes, but most sessions will eventually drift into more varied and obscure repertoire, just to keep things fresh.

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

I sense a few rough parallels in two very different music traditions.
@ 7:05 People can be extremely protective of something as personal as art and the real book (music notation in general) is seen as a dilution of it… 7:22 >> There’s a lot of cultural resentment to the rise of the jazz academy…(university trad music education) 7:35 >> Some things in the realm of music (ITM) are sacred & the real book (Bulmer & Sharpley) is not one of them.

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Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

@Calum
A while back I started a discussion asking if the popular tunes had "always" been the popular ones, or if they did become famous just because they where the ones, recorded by Bothy Band, Chieftains back in the days.
I was quite surprised that the popular ones (or at least some of them…) seem to have been popular for at least a hundred years or so. This indicated by references to them, for example in old poems.

https://thesession.org/discussions/42785

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

Unfortunately, I think thesession.org is functioning a bit as a Real Book in that it has become a key source for sheet-music oriented musicians. Many of its settings have become a shibboleth that identifies players with a relatively shallow knowledge of traditional Irish music.

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

There are many professional jazz musicians that hold the Real books in great disdain (wrong chords and chords that lock bar players into one thing). A good jazz musician should learn the tunes from: one or more classic/favorite recording as well as their own woodshedding and interpretation as well as an ability to change directions in a live performance. Many of the same things that make trad musicians great apply to jazz. Listen to Keith Jarrett play Autumn Leaves some time - it’s a freaking work of art and it certainly did not come out of a Real Book.
I think that the jazz songs that have come to be known as standards have come into existence much more from recordings as well. The Real Books followed and influenced small town amateurs like me but had little to do with the pros and what they put on record.

Re: Has there been a “Real Book” in trad?

I wanted to read other’s responses before posting my own thoughts that led to this thread. So posters seem to agree that Trad has avoided the centrality of one book as a learners’ canon. I’m interested in Joe’s characterization of certain settings on thesession as characteristic of a shallow understanding of the music. I feel thesession.org does a great job of presenting multiple settings, but the prime position of X:1 is hard to overstate.

I’m thinking of Morrison’s. When newer players tackle the first bars of the jig, it often comes across that they felt a particular written setting was definitive. It’s instructive to open them up to alternative ways of playing a phrase.

Another example: when a flute/whistle learner avoids a tune if they look it up and see it going below their range, not scrolling down to a flute setting. They then sit out that tune for months or even years at sessions, and might even tell others, "it’s not a flute tune," and perpetuate the cycle. Eventually they hear a great flute version or work out their own folding of the melody, and a lot of doors open.

The idea of threshold knowledge — concepts that, once understood, transform a person’s understanding of a subject in a fundamental way — seems to apply to this more than the idea of gatekeeping. One person’s threshold concept is another’s shibboleth, though.

The comparisons AB notes in the 7th minute of the video tie into this…some boundary construction seems rooted in preserving or strengthening, while other boundaries seem rooted in more negative factors like resentment or -isms.