The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #58629   Message #929809
Posted By: Lynn W
09-Apr-03 - 03:32 PM
Thread Name: creative output of folk fiddlers
Subject: RE: creative output of folk fiddlers
You may well be right about the tunes being copied from printed sources - I am certainly no expert on such things. The reason I had thought that they were learned by ear was that the sort of mistakes which were made (e.g Royal Review should surely be in 9/8 -no time signature is given but it is barred as 6/8?) were the sort of mistakes I have made myself when trying to write down tunes from memory so I just jumped to the conclusion he was doing the same. The book is not in the VMP list but I did email a couple of people there when I got the book and posted a link to the website on the tradtunes list. If you are interested, I have another tunebook (of which VMP have a copy)on a website at click here
This is keyboard rather than fiddle I think.
The whole question of who wrote the tunes is fascinating but almost too big to think about - it makes my head hurt! Wild guesses are more in my line than sound evidence but I think that firstly, a lot of the tunes were probably written by few people. This would include printed sources such as ballad operas and musical plays - most of the tunebooks I have seen have some of these. I am sure you are right that a lot of tunes were copied down from printed sources (such as Oswald's Caledonian Companion)although I have no idea where most of those tunes came from originally. If you think of tunes that are played in sessions today, where we know the writers, the same tune writers come up for lots of tunes - I am thinking of the likes of James Hill, Ed Reavy, Sean Ryan etc. I am trying to think of a popular tune written by someone who only wrote the one tune, but I can't think of one at the moment, although there must be lots I'm sure. If we accept that a lot of tunes were transmitted by printed sources, this would also favour people who had written a lot of tunes I think - it certainly does nowadays. Tunes written by your average village fiddler would have a harder time being spread about, especially as a lot of fiddlers would not "give" their special tunes to others as unusual tunes were part of their attraction. I heard on an old-time record, Emmett Lundy I think, "he wouldn't show me the tune but I catched it off him"! So, I think there must have been many tunes written that didn't last. It would be interesting to know how many tunebooks in the VMP contain tunes that are unique to one book, not a big proportion I think.
It's a fascinating topic and I could go on at great length (you already have, I hear you say!)but must go for the moment. If you haven't looked at the EASMES site you would find it very interesting for this sort of thing. Early American music and its European Sources,
loads of tunes indexed by first 2 bars click here