What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

I know a couple of six parters and I know that some pipe tunes have eight parts. Is that the limit?

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

I can’t see that there needs to be an upper limit: there’s no rule about it, as far as I know. It’s probably down to how much time you have and how much you can remember. A quick glance through the 3/2 hornpipes in ‘John of The Green: The Cheshire Way’ collection reveals quite a few with more than 10 parts, and at least one with 18. (‘Black’s Hornpipe, 1st setting’ pp. 6-7).

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Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

It probably depends on what you call a ‘part’. Many tunes appear on paper as having many parts, but when you play them you realize they only have two parts, and multiple variations.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

n + 1

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Surely it depends how similar the parts are? If they’re all completely different then it risks just sounding like white noise. If they’re subtly different then it could be amazing.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

We might be talking about two different musical formats

1) theme-and-variation

2) tune-and-turn

With theme-and-variation pieces there’s the original tune (a single part one could say) and endless possible variations upon it. This was a very popular format in the 18th century (and earlier and later) both in folk music and art music. There are several old Northumbrian pipe tunes in this format.

Then there’s Scottish and Irish (and Appalachian etc) dance music where the old tradition is a two-part format, the "tune" and the "turn" (if you hum the tune for me I can turn it for you).

I don’t know how documented it is in Irish trad, but in Highland pipe music the entire process of extra part-building has been fossilized over a 200+ year period by the same tunes appearing over and over in collections.

So you’ll see an old Highland pipe reel in 18th or early 19th century collections as a two-part tune. Then sometime in the 19th century two extra parts will appear, the third part obviously a variation on the first, the fourth part a variation of the second. I believe the written-down tune appearing in a collection is recording and fossilizing what originally was a piper’s ad-hoc variations.

Then once we get into the 20th century a 5th and 6th part will appear, once again obvious variations on the 1st and 2nd.

Some of these old traditional reels are still developing new parts and are nowadays played as 8-part or even 10-part tunes, sometimes the middle variations modulating from A to B minor.

With either theme-and-variation and tune-and-turn formats I don’t think there’s any limit, other than musicians not playing tunes that they feel are too long, so the tunes fall from favour.

In the Highland pipe world it’s the opposite, with the longer-than-four-part tunes generally regarded as the most suitable tunes for high-level playing. (Though there’s been some pushback recently.)

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

" It’s probably down to how much time you have and how much you can remember"
and how much your listeners can endure. I remember once listening to a highland piper play a fine tune - and he was an excellent player. Highly enjoyable; as were the first few variations. But he went on to the nth variation and our will to live flagged as we realised that it was going to be a lot more than n+1. More GBH than GHB.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

How many parts does the ‘Strayaway Child’ have ? I tried to learn it once but kept getting the parts muddled so gave up on it.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

152 is the limit.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Did a small bit of research, an excellent example of extra parts accreting onto an old two-part reel is "Charlie’s Welcome" which can be traced as follows:

Donald MacPhee collection (pre-1880) two parts.
Ross Collection (various publications between 1869 and 1923) four parts.
Donald MacLeod Collection Book 6 (c1975) eight parts.

Different pipe bands and pipers play it differently, here’s the 8-part version often heard nowadays (jump to 3:36 for the reel Charlie’s Welcome)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUMldWjV8fY

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

> So you’ll see an old Highland pipe reel in 18th or early 19th century collections as a two-part tune.

Important to add though that there was as far back as we know a tradition of playing a small number of tunes as "big" reels. John MacKechnie is a classic example, appearing in Joseph MacDonald’s Treatise on piobaireachd of 1760, and at that point it was a traditional format. These were probably big showpiece tunes, a bit like the Gold Ring or the Bucks of Oranmore can be for solo players.

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Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

(I suspect that in the early collections, there was a great deal of material held back, and that good players would keep their "greatest hits" to themselves. Wilie Ross was famously said to play quite differently from his books.)

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Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

And of course the 1733 Dixon Manuscript features tunes consisting of upwards of 8-10 parts.

I often like to look backwards, i.e. take a familiar multi-part tune and then check out what Gunn and MacDonald were doing with the tune a very time ago. Pretty much the entire Gunn collection consists of tunes with two parts only.

One of the great things about the Ceol Sean Collection of collections is that you can check out the evolution of a particular tune throughout the 19th and 18th centuries.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

How long is a piece of string?

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

What do you actually mean by limit? There isn’t some authority that’s going to bust your door down if you start playing a 9th part.

It’s music so at the end of the day you can go write a piece with a million parts if you want.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

How many soldiers can you fit in the back of a 5-ton truck?

A: "ONE MORE!"

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

The Sligo version of "The Pinch of Snuff" has 9 (mostly variations in different keys), Johnny Watt Henry’s "Wise Maid" has 12, and O’Neill’s "Morgan Rattler" has 10.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Jack Lattin has 10 parts in the 1733 Dixon Manuscript. But by the 21st century it was up to 24 parts in "Geordie Syme’s Paircel o Tunes", put together by https://thesession.org/members/14605.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Last time I saw Máirtín O’Connor Trio they played a jig with 13 parts. (If I remember correctly, the parts had four bars instead of eight. That is rather uncommon for jigs, while reels with the same format are common and they often have more parts than two.)

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

The dolphin told me ¨42¨ was the answer.
So long, and tnx for the fish!

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

The Dixon tunes, at least the ones I’ve seen (I don’t have the book) are theme-and-variation pieces, very popular in the art music of the time, in my opinion distinct from the way the parts of a traditional Irish "tune and turn" dance tune function.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

This tune evolution calls to mind polyploidy in plant and animal species — while many organisms have the usual two sets of chromosomes (these could be considered the ‘tune’ and the ‘turn’), some have evolved to have three or more (or six, eight, 10 or 12!) sets of chromosomes = the ‘variations’.
Viva la evolución!

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Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Dia dhaoibh! Greetings all, and in these times hoping you are all safe and well x

ross faison, you asked;
‘How long is a piece of string?’
SIMPLE!
Twice the half of its length!
🙂

All the best everyone and keep well
Brian x

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

It depends how long you can resist without a sip of your pint

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Donegal fiddler John Doherty (RIP) used to group two or more parts of different tunes, together, and play them as a single tune.

So theoretically, if anyone adopted his style of tune part combos, the number of parts would increase incrementally.

Of course, even if a "tune" comprised the A part of tune 1, and the B part of tune 2, it might not necessarily work if you did the same thing with the B part of tune 1, and the A part of tune 2, even if you reversed the order.

This could be a nice little mini-project … 🙂

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Here’s a nice example of this:
Flood on the Holm / Spinning Wheel - https://thesession.org/tunes/8570#setting19560

(It was recorded by Altan on the album Runaway Sunday, and it’s on one of Johnny Doherty’s recordings as well.)

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

"Surely it depends how similar the parts are? If they’re all completely different then it risks just sounding like white noise. If they’re subtly different then it could be amazing."

That doesn’t make sense at all. By your logic then, switching from one tune to another is white noise; so everything must seem like white noise to you.

I would have agreed if you said if there were only slight variations then it would sound like white noise but cannot fathom why you would say large differences would sound like white noise.

Your premises seems completely upside-down.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Regarding what Jim wrote above - there is a post somewhere by Will or Zina where they talked about playing the A part of a common tune, playing the A and B parts of a second common tune, and then playing the B part of the first tune. I really wish that I could find the post or remember the tunes, because I got a kick out of playing it.

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Brian, you made my day!

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

I was at a concert last year, a duo of Liam O’Connor and Cormac Begley. They played a jig with I think 13 parts - I was able to count them all!

Re: What is the maximum amount of parts a tune can have?

Maybe the same one as the one Máirtín O’Connor Trio playeed. I think they got it from the Goodman manuscripts.