Breathnach’s tune catalog system

Breathnach’s tune catalog system

I didn’t find this specific discussion in my searches.

As I understand it, Breathnach used a number system (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 for a seven note scales where 1 represents the root) catalog tunes. I believe he used only the downbeats for reels and hornpipes. I’m not sure how he cataloged jigs.
This system allowed him to identify common tunes regardless of key. He had each tune on a filing card with certain bits of info as well. Then he would file the cards numerically and the common tune or cousin tunes would appear more obvious. When you go through his notes from the CRE books it is interesting how he discovers that some tunes in Chief O’Neil’s are repeated several times, sometime with 2-3 different titles.
I’m wondering if there is a modern system that is analogous to what Breathnach did. I know that Tunepal does something like it but it is key dependent.

Re: Breathnach’s tune catalog system

There are quite a few schemes out there for indexing tunes by note progression - things like the UDS system, where you replace each note with U, D, or S, for Up, Down, Same - so the Kesh might be SSS SUU DSS SUU. It turns out that you don’t need many notes to distinguish between many tunes. Trouble is when you have a version of the Kesh that starts DGG GAB…

The more complex problem of dealing with variation is to come up with a way of discarding information, which sounds exactly like Breathnach’s scheme. It’s easy to imagine ways of measuring "distance" between a given pair of tunes, but the challenge is to come up with an indexing scheme that lets you go both ways. One for the computer scientists, I suspect.

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Re: Breathnach’s tune catalog system

Speaking of finding similarities between tunes a good first step would be to identify and enumerate common musical phrases which arise in tunes over and over again. Like Chinese hieroglyphic keys.

Then a representation of a tune in the index becomes a sequence of such phrases. Short groups of notes joining them may be safely omitted. A phrase may be substituted by another similar (or not so similar) one. So, a list of common substitutions may come handy.

I believe, that position of a phrase in a tune is an important bit of information as well. So, it’s not about just a sequence of phrases, but rather about fitting phrases into a given barframe.

Sorry about stepping aside from the OP.

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Re: Breathnach’s tune catalog system

Stiamh - Thank you. This is what I was looking for.