Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Hi all

I was captured by the motif of the slow air Róisín Dubh played by Séamus Tansey in Episode 5 of Slí na mBeaglaoich. In trying to understand and learn the tune, I came up with the transcription that I posted here https://thesession.org/tunes/4184#setting38084 and that suggests a tune structure in terms of 8-pulse phrases and 4-pulse subphrases.

Does anybody know if there are any dance tunes related to this slow air, has happens for instance with the hornpipe, set dance and reel associated with the slow air The Blackbird? Or could anybody point me to further info on this tune?

Thanks
Sergio

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Róisín Dubh is played without any pulse as are all Irish slow airs. Slow airs never have a pulse, if there is a pulse it is not a slow air.

Posted .

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Hi gooseinthenettles, thank you for your comment. I perfectly understand this. However, in some cases the same motif and phrasal structure of a tune appears in a different tune type (there’s a very interesting chapter on the Blackbird in its slow air, hornpipe, set dance and reel version in a book by Cowdery, The Melodic Tradition of Ireland; another example I can think of is the jig The Connaughtman’s Rambles and the reel The Silver Spear, which look to me tightly connected…). That’s why I was asking if anybody knew of any dance tune related to Róisín Dubh.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Sergio, I think the ´structures´ you are finding are closely associated with the underlying poetic form of the song. Gaelic poetry has the usual array of poetic tools, rhyme schemes, alliteration, scansion and metre. Gaelic poetry is rather dense in the application of these forms. Internal (as in within a single line) rhyming, as well as alliteration within lines, and across lines. The structures do in fact inform a ´pulse´ and structure in the older sean nós songs…they are not simply a free form mish-mash, but the ´skeleton´, if you will, is the underlying poetry.

Róisín Dubh has a difficulty in that the original ´song-poem´ was originally a romantic lyric associated with a betrothal between the Mór Ó Néill family and the Ó Domhnaill families. Then it was turned into a political song, possibly by Ó Raifteiri.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

> Slow airs never have a pulse

What is The Trip Over The Mountain then?

Posted by .

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Sergio, the other part of your post about any relationship to any dance tunes is a fundamental confusion between dance music, and other lyrical forms. Dance music must have set rhythmic structures, pulse, and any musical phrases are slaves to that dance structure. Lyrical forms do not. Dance is the domain of Terpsichore, the muse of dance. Sean nós is a lyrical form, pure and simple. Sometimes, a melodic phrase from a sean nós piece can be so delightful it may give birth to a dance tune, but please do not confuse a sean nós piece with dance music. Sean nós is a slave to its poetry.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Spot on postie.

Posted .

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Thing is, it’s well established that the same melody will appear both as an air in the sean nos tradition, and in one or more of the dance idioms.

Tomas O Canainn writes:
"In the past, and even yet, original composition as such is not the norm.
One finds old material being reworked to provide the setting for a quite new song, perhaps.

The jig commonly known as Tuirne Mhaire becomes the air for the song An Brianach Og.
The regular time of the dance music has been altered to fit the words of the song. This particular jig has often been used in this way…

The set dance The Blackbird in hornpipe time is clearly related to the sean-nos song A Spailpin, a Ruin."

So there may well be dance-tunes related to Roisin Dubh.

In playing over Roisin Dubh what strikes me is the similarity of the first line to the Scottish Gaelic song Mo Dhachaidh (My Home).

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

The poem from which ¨The Blackbird¨ set dance is derived from is from about the Twelfth Century. The words and steps to ¨The Blackbird¨ set dance were composed about 1750. We really have no idea what melody, if any, is associated with the old Munster Poem, The Blackbird. A Spailpín a Rún is a narrative dialogue, and can easily have been composed contemporaneously with the composition of the set dance.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Lots of interesting information: thanks to everybody.

As for the pulse in sean-nós (and slow airs) let me add a suggestion from sean-nós singer Joe Heaney in the book I cited in my previous post:

"My father told me, «When you’re singing a song, start softly, build up a climax, and come down - slowly, easily toward the end - because, remember, in folk music there is no beat, it’s just got a pulse; and the minute you lose that pulse you’re dead, the song is dead. You can lose a beat», he said, «and still survive - but the pulse, no». That’s the advice he gave me. A pulse, you know, it’s something that goes evenly more or less, you know, with no sort of loundess all the time, or no sort of down all the time."

Sure there is no regular rhythm in sean-nós singing and slow airs, still I believe there are stressed notes such as accents in speech which relate to the pulse as described by Joe Heaney.

@Richard D Cook: thanks for suggesting relations between tunes!

@postie: thanks postie for the precious comments in your posts and for the info on the original song-poem: are its lyrics known?

I take sean-nós most seriously. Before attempting to work out a transcription of the basic melody of Róisín Dubh I went through the listening of the sean-nós singing by Caitlín Maude, Joe Heaney, Paddy Tunney and Nioclás Tóibín (together with the flute playing by Joe Burke). However, the lyrics were of little help here for a number of reasons. First, there are two (musical) versions of the song associated with the same lyrics (they can be found here https://www.joeheaney.org/en/roisin-dubh-1/ and https://www.joeheaney.org/en/roisin-dubh-2/, this last one being the one discussed in this thread). Second, I focused only on the first verse of the song as can be heard in https://www.joeheaney.org/en/roisin-dubh-2/, as my knowledge of Irish Gaelic is only basic and it takes me some time to analyze and fully understand the logical function of each word in a sentence:

A Róisín, ná bíodh brón ort ná cás anois
Tá do phárdún ón bPápa — ón Róimh uile
Tá na bráithre thar sáile le cabhrú linn
Ní cheilfear fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh.

I couldn’t find any strict relation between text and the melody except from the fact that the four lines correspond to four main musical phrases A B B’ A (the variation on the second B, ending on IV rather than on I, can be clearly head in the versions by Caitlín Maude and Joe Burke). Instead, simply looking at the musical form, one can easily work out the subphrases A1 A2 B1 B2 B1 B2’ A1 A2, with each subphrase counting 4 pulses (in the loose sense cited above…) corresponding to the longer notes. This prompted me to look for any dance tunes possibly related (in the sense that Richard D Cook has made clear in his comment) to Róisín Dubh.

Is there any sean-nós, postie, that you can think of which has a tight connection between text and music? I would be most interested in this. Thanks!

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Sergio, if you can possibly access Na Piobairi Ulleann´s Digital Archives, I would urge you to do so. In particular the ´Notes and Narratives´ talk by Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhride on June 19, 2016 on the Ulster Sean Nós tradition and Gaelic Poetry.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Yes, I do have access to those archives and to that movie: I will watch it soon, thanks!

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

The version sung by Breanndan O Beaglaoich in the NPU video archive (6-2-2018) is quite lovely.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

"When you’re singing a song, start softly, build up a climax, and come down - slowly, easily toward the end…"

In the first day of class the teacher said "this is the essence of music theory" and he drew a huge inverted V on the chalk-board. Every piece of music we studied followed that, as do novels, films, and roller-coasters.

Re: Róisín Dubh, tune structure

Enchanting flute & guitar version by Shannon and Matt Heaton, so kindly played for me and my little daughter Julie from their living room on July 11 Virtual Guided Session (mins ~ 28-30). Needless to say that I have no words to express my gratitude. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/fGeGtmggehI?t=1643