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Tunes - their place in the tradition

Will Fly 17 Dec 08 - 04:52 AM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 08 - 05:11 AM
Will Fly 17 Dec 08 - 05:22 AM
Paco Rabanne 17 Dec 08 - 05:28 AM
GUEST, Sminky 17 Dec 08 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 17 Dec 08 - 05:56 AM
greg stephens 17 Dec 08 - 06:02 AM
Ruth Archer 17 Dec 08 - 06:04 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 17 Dec 08 - 06:16 AM
Les in Chorlton 17 Dec 08 - 06:30 AM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 08 - 06:33 AM
Will Fly 17 Dec 08 - 06:39 AM
Bryn Pugh 17 Dec 08 - 06:47 AM
Les in Chorlton 17 Dec 08 - 06:51 AM
Bryn Pugh 17 Dec 08 - 06:52 AM
Ruth Archer 17 Dec 08 - 06:53 AM
greg stephens 17 Dec 08 - 06:59 AM
Ruth Archer 17 Dec 08 - 07:20 AM
Les in Chorlton 17 Dec 08 - 07:31 AM
Will Fly 17 Dec 08 - 07:49 AM
Marje 17 Dec 08 - 07:56 AM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 08 - 08:09 AM
Richard Bridge 17 Dec 08 - 09:02 AM
Wolfhound person 17 Dec 08 - 11:44 AM
Newport Boy 17 Dec 08 - 11:57 AM
Will Fly 17 Dec 08 - 12:00 PM
Wolfhound person 17 Dec 08 - 12:31 PM
Les in Chorlton 17 Dec 08 - 12:52 PM
Will Fly 17 Dec 08 - 01:24 PM
Jack Campin 17 Dec 08 - 02:09 PM
Steve Gardham 17 Dec 08 - 02:10 PM
Suegorgeous 17 Dec 08 - 04:26 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 17 Dec 08 - 04:31 PM
Richard Bridge 17 Dec 08 - 05:16 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 17 Dec 08 - 05:40 PM
Les in Chorlton 18 Dec 08 - 03:03 AM
Paul Burke 18 Dec 08 - 03:11 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 18 Dec 08 - 04:31 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 05:10 AM
Jack Campin 18 Dec 08 - 05:19 AM
bubblyrat 18 Dec 08 - 06:17 AM
bubblyrat 18 Dec 08 - 06:22 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 06:28 AM
Ruth Archer 18 Dec 08 - 06:29 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 06:38 AM
Les in Chorlton 18 Dec 08 - 06:47 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 06:55 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 06:55 AM
Ruth Archer 18 Dec 08 - 06:58 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 07:07 AM
greg stephens 18 Dec 08 - 07:07 AM
Richard Bridge 18 Dec 08 - 07:16 AM
Ruth Archer 18 Dec 08 - 07:25 AM
Will Fly 18 Dec 08 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 18 Dec 08 - 08:07 AM
The Sandman 18 Dec 08 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Working Radish 18 Dec 08 - 09:36 AM
Les in Chorlton 18 Dec 08 - 09:48 AM
Bryn Pugh 18 Dec 08 - 10:17 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 08 - 03:11 AM
Will Fly 19 Dec 08 - 03:38 AM
Richard Bridge 19 Dec 08 - 04:08 AM
Paul Burke 19 Dec 08 - 04:40 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Dec 08 - 04:57 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 19 Dec 08 - 08:16 AM
SRD 19 Dec 08 - 09:28 AM
Les in Chorlton 19 Dec 08 - 11:41 AM
The Sandman 19 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM
Les in Chorlton 19 Dec 08 - 01:11 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Dec 08 - 07:27 PM
Will Fly 20 Dec 08 - 07:07 AM
Ruth Archer 20 Dec 08 - 08:49 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 20 Dec 08 - 09:13 AM
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Subject: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 04:52 AM

Jim Carroll recently posted a very eloquent and elegant exposition about the reasons for his passion for the folk tradition, which was received with appreciation by most of the people who responded to it.

I had a question or two about the place of tunes in the tradition - non-vocal music - for Jim, who was engaged on more pressing matters and couldn't respond at the time. Jim - if you can spare some time to respond to the questions, I'd be very interested in your response.

One of the key points in Jim's argument was the metaphor of turning a song over and, if you saw a (c) symbol stamped on it, then it wasn't part of the tradition. Whether you agree with that or not is a matter of personal belief. My question is about tunes and their place in the "canon".

To take an example from Irish music: Carolan's compositions have been with us for 300 years or so and, as far as I'm aware, were clearly composed by him. Is the passing of those 300 years enough to have "canonised" Carolan's music sufficiently for it, and the man, to be part of the Irish tradition?

Moving to England, another example to ponder would be Billy Pigg, "the border minstrel" and (to my mind) the king of the Northumbrian small pipes. Billy played many traditional tunes, but he was never one to overlook a good tune if it suited him, and was also not one to let an occasional wrong note "get in the way of a good tune". So, would the tune "Bill Charlton's Fancy" (composer: B. Pigg) be part of our English traditional canon? Billy also adapted tunes he'd heard on the radio, for the pipes, and played them to great applause at Alnwick and other gatherings.

So, the questions are: how far do modern compositions or compositions by a known creator fit into the canon? And where is the break point where composition ceases to be part of the canon - Kathryn Tickell playing a duet with a blues harmonica player? For example. Could I just add, I'm not trying to be contentious here - I'm merely exploring the boundaries and place of composed instrumental music within a folk tradition.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:11 AM

Well Will, you have funny sessions if someone's playing the canon! Not been in one like that since 1812, the bodhran is quite loud enough for me.

But Sirius Lee.

Let's say, everyone has been playing a tune for yonks, say Bonny Green Garters. Then you find out it was composed by, say Beethoven*. Does the canon need to be reloaded?

I think this kicks the (c) into touch. It means there can't BE a canon until someone has done all the research, and even then someone might come up with a mediaeval manuscript that shows Soldier's Joy (c) 1150 Abbess Hildegard of Bingen.

Perhaps the process of what happens to a tune or song can be more important than its composition? The fact that many of our best traditional songs can be shown to have been reworked from bits and pieces by 18th or 19th century hack balladeers doesn't make them worth less as songs, and the process of refinement and reinterpretation over the years has polished them into powerful works of art. Evolution is perhaps as important a part of the process as continuity.

You've also got to think about how much Tickell, Rusby, McColl etc. are composers, how much carriers, the role of authority in tradition....

* this could well be true. Or he used a traditional tune.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:22 AM

Soldier's Joy (c) 1150 Abbess Hildegard of Bingen

I wish - I wish!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Paco Rabanne
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:28 AM

My favourite tune is 'Brafferton Village' written by the mighty Kathryn, which she wrote what, 20 years ago? Do tune sessions have a 'tradition' at all? At our tuesday night session we hammer through everything from O'Carolan to the theme from 'Crossroads'
                The usual instruments are smallpipes,whistles and Oirish pipes played the the lovely Gedpipes, plus violin, octave mandolin, dobro type mandolin, a Maccaferri guitar, bouzouki and sundry squeezeboxes.

                  It maybe that the only trdition is our own on tuesday.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST, Sminky
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:44 AM

Surely (c) expires eventually?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:56 AM

This is an interesting debate. I'm of the (personal opinion) that the 'rules' for tunes, such as they are, are slightly different to the rules for songs.

There's no legal difference, but it seems to me that good new trad-style tunes tend to get taken up more quickly than songs, and therefore become more 'trad-ish-ional' more quickly. (This may be to do with the way sessions work, as opposed to singarounds - and the much smaller number of new tunes to new songs).

Dusty Windowsills, Ashokan Farewell and Spooter Skerry are good examples of new tunes, still firmly in copyright, that you'll hear a few times in one day at a festival session along with Foxhunters, Blackthorn, Gravel Walk etc (and these are not so very old either). And I doubt the composers see a penny for those 'performances.'

But I think tune writers (myself included, not that you'll hear many of mine in sessions, sadly) seem to be more relaxed about launching their work out into the world than songwriters - though I did have to get a licence to record Leaving Lochboisedale and The Stronsay Waltz from the _estates_ of Wlison and Chalmers (they themselves might have been more relaxed if they were still alive, who knows).

I do register my tunes because I want the pennies I can get from my own concert and radio plays, but I hope that won't stop people playing my stuff at sessions.

Furthermore, I wouldn't want a penny from PRS for use of my tunes in sessions - because I wish tune sessions (and possibly singarounds, though that's trickier to call) could be exempt form licence. The problem is, however, that there IS nowhere to draw a line, so you either have a licence regime for everything, or no copyright legislation at all.

I've agitated with PRS to have a 'mainly trad' exemption for folk gatherings, but for now they won't have it - because, as I accept, there is no safe place to draw a line.

One thing I'd like to stress again for the umpteenth time - because I've read posts recently which show there is still confusion on this - that no-one can copyright a work once it's moved into public ownership - ever. They can only copyright their unique arrangement of that work - which effectively means only their own performances of that work. The work itself remains free for anyone to use or arrange (and register if they choose) as they like. Incidentally you don't need permission to record a copyright work either - you just have to inform the copyright holder (via MCPS, in the UK) and pay the licence, unless the own waives that licence. They can't stop you if you follow due process - even if you change the work considerably. Only if you change is so much it's no longer recognisable as the original work (lawyers' call) can you avoid the licence, and, if you wish, register the new work in your copyright. (THINK this is correct - read it all again the other day somewhere - correct me if I'm wrong someone).

Yesterday I was putting my new album up on CD Baby and filling in the tune codes as required, using my PRS database as reference.

I was shocked to see four entries for Lochboisdale and six for Stronsay Waltz which claimed arrangements of those two tunes - which I know are both still in copyright. Now, maybe the copyright holders have approved those registrations, but I suspect not. And in time no doubt the lawyers will twig and move in for the kill.

It just stresses again the importance of promoting a culture in the folk world where writers are routinely acknowledged - even once the work is in fact in public ownership - so mistakes like that are less likely, and the creative engine behind this great art-form is is better appreciated.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:02 AM

Tom Bliss:you said
"Foxhunters, Blackthorn, Gravel Walk etc (and these are not so very old either)."
300 years is long enough to be an old tune in my book, which the Fox Hunters is for sure, at least. How old do you think they ought to be?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:04 AM

In terms of people actually playing in tune sessions, my experience (as an observer, as my melodeon stutterings can hardly be called "playing") is that the players don't seem nearly as interested in the provenance of tunes as singers of traditional music are. I don't know if this is more the case with a younger generation of musicians, but it's certainly my experience that if you ask some of them the name of a tune and where it came from, they just shrug their shoulders - they just play the tunes that catch their fancy. I know someone whose been in a couple of prominent bands who has heard one of his own tunes creep into the repertoire of another band - "It's become one of 'their' tunes; I don't think they even know that I wrote it!" he said.

So I guess what I'm tryting to say is that, in practice, it seems a much more fluid and organic line than the more rigid divide we sometimes observe between traditional and contemporary song.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:16 AM

Sorry - bad examples, but you know what I mean.

Yes, Ruth, that's what I was trying to say too!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:30 AM

I think it is important to separate what you enjoy from what you don't. This probably has little to do with what is trad. and what is not but people often confuse the two.

Most of us who sing and or / or enjoy old songs are fascinated by the idea that they have been kept alive in the oral tradition largely by rural working people who were generally, but not always musically illiterate.

Whilst this is sometimes true for tunes it is not as true. To own an instrument and play from music was probably not on option for the song carriers. Thousands of manuscripts have survived from The Dancing Master times. They were not created for a musically illiterate rural working class.

I think this places them in a different tradition.

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:33 AM

There's the question then of whether tunes were ever "traditional" as a separate type as distinct from a matter of intellectual property- look at Richard Robinson's music pages- all the collections seem to give a mixture of tunes which are traditionally traditional, ones obviously composed for particular occasions or locations ("The Long Room at Scarborough"), fashionable tunes that probably only got played for a season or two, ones wagged from operas and plays, etc. It doesn't look very different from what players are doing now, though we obviously have little idea of what musically illiterate players were doing.

I find it amusing when some players start getting all officious about certain tunes- the Calliope Jig is "really" called Calliope House, and "must" be played in A because the composer intended it that way- ignoring the fact that in a session milieu tunes are like children, once they are out in the world their life is their own.

Song tunes may or may not be another matter- I don't see anything wrong with, for example, singing Lakes of Coolfin to Dave Burland's Keepers and Poachers tune tune.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:39 AM

Interesting comment from Paco R: Do tune sessions have a 'tradition' at all?

I don't know - but what appears to be coming across from comments to this thread at the moment is that, once you move away from songs to instrumental music, there seems to be a more relaxed approach to the concept of 'tradition'. Interesting. I recall hearing "Yesterday" played as a guitar instrumental at a few folk sessions when it first appeared around 1965. And the other one sometimes played in the clubs was MacCartney's "Blackbird" - mind you, a little riff nicked from a Bach Bourrée can go a long way... 300 years perhaps, and we'll hear them at sessions?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:47 AM

This thread raises - speaking only for self, you understand - an interesting point, and one with which I might, whilst still in HE (thank the gods I am not!) have tormented my Tutorial students :

Start with a 'traditional ' tumn, such as 'Napoleon's Retreat' and then do with it what Martin Carthy did with his awesome version of 'King Henry' (not sure whether this was on 'Landfall' or on

'Sweet Wivelsfield', but a fellow 'Catter will tell me, doubtless) ; or 'Thomas of Winesbury' to which Richard Thompson set the lovely, haunting words of 'Farewell, Farewell' ('Liege and Lief', weren't it ?);

and where, and in what, does Copyright arise ?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:51 AM

So, it looks as if their has been, and still is, a living tradition of tunes some of which have no known author, played within a particular community and passed on without written music, for hundreds of years.

This tradition has been added to by people writing new tunes and bringing in tunes from other sources and that written music has always played an essential role in this process.

Are we who gather in small pubs and so on part of a later living tradition?

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:52 AM

Or, possibly, verce visa : what Ray Fisher did with the Breton tune/song 'Son ar Chiste', which became Martin Carthy's 'Willie's Lady', on 'Crown of Horn' ?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:53 AM

Will, there's also the fact that instrumentalists are constantly composing new tunes, and they are often indiscernable from old ones. Any largely instrumental gig you go to, even if you're talking about younger bands or ensembles, will probably contain as many new tunes as old ones, often welded together in the same tune set. Because there is this rich vein of contemporary composed material, it is almost inevitable that it will find its way into sessions - I can think of a couple of great John Kirkpatrick tunes which regularly get played, again by the younger generation of players, who probably don't even think about whether they're traditional or contemporary, or who might have written them - they just know they're good tunes.

As I related recently on another thread, there was a great session at Sidmouth this year where a stunningly good harmonica player (Will Pound) was tearing up Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Music For A Found Harmonium" - and afterwards, another young musician I know, whom I'd consider to be very musically literate, said to me, "Wow - did you hear Will playing the MFI advert?"


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:59 AM

Just because traditional and copyright tunes are played cheek-by-jowl at sessions doesn't mean that people aren't aware of the difference. I think, for example, that most musicians sitting in a pub would be aware that Yesterday and the Foxhunters Jig are different sort of animals. The grey area is the modern tune composed in the trad manner. Some people would know Da Slockit Leet is a recent tune, and would know who wrote it. Others would maybe know the name of it, but not its provenance. Others would know the tune, but not its name or origin or anything
Doubtless this is because writing a jig or a reel in the traditional manner is a skill easily mastered, any fool can do it. Writng a song that can pass for traditional with an experienced folkie: now, that is a very very difficult art indeed!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 07:20 AM

"The grey area is the modern tune composed in the trad manner."

This is what i was referring to. And while it may be true that "any fool can do it" (I don't know as I am not a musician), the tune has to be of pretty good quality to be picked up by others and enter the wider session canon.


"Writng a song that can pass for traditional with an experienced folkie: now, that is a very very difficult art indeed!"

Maybe it's just that not that many people have tried, as there are different expectations and parameters around song than there are around tune-playing. Bert Lloyd was pretty good at it!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 07:31 AM

Although the communities of people who kept songs alive and those communities that kept tunes alive overlap, I still maintain that the overlap was probably small.

I would also suggest that the community that keeps old songs alive now is quite different from the communities from which the songs were collected whilst the community that keeps tunes alive would probably have a lot in common with those who played tunes a couple of hundred years ago.

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 07:49 AM

the community that keeps tunes alive would probably have a lot in common with those who played tunes a couple of hundred years ago.

Interesting comment there, Les. I suspect that there were many varied social occasions for people playing their fiddles, etc., in years past. I mentioned the Alnwick gatherings where Billy Pigg and his mates played. Families would gather and provide communal food and drink, have the crack, do some dancing, listen to the musicians, go to sleep, wake up and set to a second time. (You can read all about this in the extensive and valuable sleeve notes on the original album "Billy Pigg" the border minstrel").

In Dickens and Hardy, there are quite a few scenes described where a lone fiddler or two fiddlers play all the tunes for a social dance ("A Christmas Carol", "The Pickwick Papers", "Under The Greenwood Tree", etc.). And I suppose music would have been played in public houses and inns - though I can't recall offhand anything in fiction that describes that. Other suggestions?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Marje
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 07:56 AM

Very interesting thread.

I suppose tunes are treated differently from songs in the folk context because, for one thing, they're a lot less easy to recognise and categorise. With a song, you only have to hear the first word or the title and you know what song it is. A tune will sound different on a different instrument or at a different speed. Also, while words of songs are very often passed on or learned in the written form, tunes are very often passed on aurally.

All this means that tunes are perhaps more easily subjected to the "folk process", in the way they get tangled up together and edited into sets. Difficult or unexpected sequences of notes can get smoothed out by players, and the keys can change to suit different instruments.

I think that when a tune is in a traditional dance rhythm and is easily learned by session players and dance bands, it can very quickly become part of the traditional repertoire, even though it may still be in copyright.

The tunes that don't do this so easily are the "party-piece" tunes - those that only work on one sort of instrument, or that rely on a sophisticated riff or chord sequence. They may be excellent tunes, but if they don't sit well within sets of dance tunes, and are not accessible to a range of instruments and playing styles, they are probably not going to be regarded and treated as traditional in the same way.

I'm not saying that any of this defines what is or is not "traditional" (which could jst end up as another circular discussion), I'm just pointing out a few characteristics of the ways in which tunes are assimilated into the tradition (or not).

And Les (above) - yes, I think we who meet in pubs to play music, are a part of a living tradition. Tunes and songs, in our hands, are being rediscovered, shared around and kept alive, and are evolving all the time. We use extra methods of transmission that weren't available until recently, but people have always used all the means and instruments at their disposal. We shouldn't regard ourselves as second-rate or vicarious musicians and singers just because no roving collector on a bicycle has recorded us in our kitchens. We are furthering the tradtition and should be proud of that.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 08:09 AM

In Dickens and Hardy, there are quite a few scenes described where a lone fiddler or two fiddlers play all the tunes for a social dance ("A Christmas Carol", "The Pickwick Papers", "Under The Greenwood Tree", etc.). And I suppose music would have been played in public houses and inns - though I can't recall offhand anything in fiction that describes that.

A quote half remembered- some traveller in a Lancashire inn kept awake by "the doodle-doodle-doodle of the bagpipe"- which incidentally makes it clear they were playing 3/2 hornpipes.

There's also the Christmas dance at the turning point of Eliot's Silas Marner. But these were in many ways just jukeboxes- it was the only way to get music. You can only call the consumers of this music "part of a tradition" in that they hadn't an alternative.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 09:02 AM

1. The Karpeles definition (1954) allows for the adoption of composed tunes as much as it does songs, in my view, by due process of folk!
2. It may well be that musical literacy (ie the ability to read music) was much more common 100 years ago than now, and who knows about 200?
3. One can only clear a tune (or song) via the MCPS if the copyright owner (or his/her music publisher) is an MCPS member AND it is not subject to the first recordign procedure: a member may list a song or tune at MCPS and specifiy that it may not be licensed for first recording without his consent. In some jurisdictions eg Australia AMCOS has a more sophisticated procedure by which a copyright owner may exclude specified things for specified songs from the liensing agency's power.
4   The MCPS mandate does not generally include significant alteration or the change of words. I was once involved with a situation in which a TV company thought to produce and educational video of a well known modern classical work - did the bits with the MCPS and then recorded it with the movements in the wrong order. The composer's estate hit us like a ton of bricks!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:44 AM

Tune traditions are kept alive by a mixture of literate and illiterate musicians, IMO, and always have been. Yes, we're playing tunes that are hundreds of years old in some cases, but how do we know that? Because researchers have found early versions of them in MSS and early publications, that's why.

The concept of the illiterate peasant music confined to a small area is a badly outdated one. In some areas of the country, education was far better than others, and here the intelligent working man (or woman, come to that, though I think there were less) was quite likely to be able to read music a bit - if s/he was that way inclined. Musicians, and tunes, got around - one way or another. Not as fast as today, maybe, but they did it.

As to modern tunes, someone above wrote "any fool can compose a traditional tune" (or words to that effect, I can't find the exact quote). Well actually no and yes, because it is only the good tunes that are taken up by other musicians, shared and passed into the tradition. It's considered by some an honour locally if your tune passes into the tradition and "loses" its attribution!

Think of Margaret's Waltz written by Pat Shuldham-Shaw (for Margaret Grant, I think - that bit may be wrong). I understand that Aly Bain learnt it in Texas, brought it back to Shetland thinking it was an American waltz, and it's all over the place now. But I would hazard a guess that most players would say "who?" when told the composer.

The collectors and publishers of tunes also influence the tradition. Peter Kennedy's Fiddle Tunes books were seminal in this respect.
I'm partly responsible for the continued publication of a series of books regarded by some as "authoritative" versions of local tunes - that's a hell of a responsibility - and one that keeps me constantly researching & reviewing.

Cries of "you're not playing what's written here" are heard regularly from classically or other musically highly trained players who haven't yet learnt that trad. tunes evolve, acquire dialects according to where they're played / heard, vary their details according to the instrument played and so forth. The version on XXX's latest CD is never the "only" or "right" one.

Aside: a question for folk degree students final exam - discuss the concept of "right" in traditional music.

In addition to the traditional material, I have a list of some 50 living composers in my genre, some of whose works deserve publication, either as tune composition winners or by absorption into the local sessions.
I also know of quite a lot of tunes, some already published by the composers, which should have been recycled at birth. Any fool may be able to write what they think is a trad tune, but it's likely to be mediocre at best unless they've well listened to their elders / betters in whatever genre.

Billy Pigg was also mentioned above. Wayward genius he was - but he had a very solid grounding in the techniques and sound of his instrument for over 20 years before he wrote his earliest tune (probably Archie's Fancy) in about 1954. Recordings of him were made when he was already a very ill man - they do not always do him justice, and it was suggested by a few other players that he was unable to play "properly".
However he was not very musically literate and the few MSS of his tunes that exist, do not reflect what he played, particularly in the case of one of his most well-played tunes "The Old Drove Road". Those of which there are several recordings are not consistent either - a nightmare when editing a book of his tunes & repertoire.

Rant over - it's nice to have a thread on tunes, though.

Paws


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Newport Boy
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:57 AM

Les

Although the communities of people who kept songs alive and those communities that kept tunes alive overlap, I still maintain that the overlap was probably small.

I'm not sure about that. I've been listening to Phil Tanner a lot recently - you would class him as a 'songs' person, but he also took over the fiddler's duty when the fiddler took a break - mouth music, of course.

I don't think he was unusual - there are fewer recordings of mouth music, but that may be due to the early collectors concentrating on songs. Isabel Sutherland also did both, and although some of her mouth music may have come from her collecting, she did introduce some as learned from her aunt, as were a lot of her songs.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 12:00 PM

Hi Paws - thanks for your viewpoint. The recordings I have of Billy Pigg were made in the 1950s. Interesting that documentation about him says that he was an ill man in that period, because - apart from some erratic mucking around with the tempos, his playing is exuberant. I find this waywardness absolutely enthralling and it's obvious that he had a superb technique and a devil-may-care attitude to the tunes. Many years ago, in a fit of hard work, I worked out "Bill Charlton's Fancy" - all variations - and "Madame Bonaparte" on the tenor banjo (had to play them fingerstyle to get the speed) - and a bugger they were to do!

However, to return to the point, it's impossible for a stranger to the music to work out whether Billy wrote the tune or not - so well do they fit into the traditional style.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 12:31 PM

Will - Billy had his first heart attack in 1950/2, and had to shift employment to something part-time as a result. He was never well again.Indeed his tunes are excellent developments of tunes by Tom Clough, James Hill and others - even if he did recycle themes three or four times in different rhythms. Bill Charlton's was based on a theme heard by Bill from a brass band playing in the area.

Now of course, they're all in print so it's easier, but listening to the tapes I have, it is still challenging to pick up the nuances he was using - which were notes, gracenotes, mistakes or variations.

Paws


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 12:52 PM

We seem to take tune sessions for granted as if they have been going on from 1677 or some such date to 2008. I suspect not.

The current pub / festival session is surely a product of the second revival? 50s/ 60s Folk Clubs were almost all songs with tunes coming in as folkies became more instrumentally competent.

Wher did the 60s/ 70s tune players get their tunes from? Ceilidh / Country dance bands, EFDSS publications, Irish musicians visiting England?

Was this revival of tunes in sessions drawing largely published sources?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 01:24 PM

I'd never played in pub "sessions" as such until about 15 months ago when I met up with an old friend from 60s folk club days. I'd listened to the odd Irish session here and there, and had done one or two stints with a ceilidh band in London in the early 70s, but that was about it.

However, through picking up the tenor banjo in the early 70s, and coincidentally getting hold of some traditional fiddle and pipe tune books around the same time, I started working out some of the repertoire - in the privacy of my own front room!

There was certainly a huge tune tradition being carried on in the London Irish community in the 60s and 70s, with modern-day players such as Maggie Boyle and Ben Paley being brought up in that milieu. Duck Baker also moved in those circles and brought out what, to me, is still one of the definitive albums of "Celtic" guitar - "The Kid On The Mountain". (I don't particularly like the "Celtic" tag for this music, but it's a common enough marketing term to be understood).


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 02:09 PM

I was shocked to see four entries for Lochboisdale and six for Stronsay Waltz which claimed arrangements of those two tunes - which I know are both still in copyright.

"Stronsay Waltz" is a slightly slowed-down version of the 6/8 march "The Scottish Horse", which is a few decades older.

I find it amusing when some players start getting all officious about certain tunes- the Calliope Jig is "really" called Calliope House, and "must" be played in A because the composer intended it that way

It was written in E. On the fiddle, it definitely sounds better that way. For other instruments there isn't that difference.

what appears to be coming across from comments to this thread at the moment is that, once you move away from songs to instrumental music, there seems to be a more relaxed approach to the concept of 'tradition'. Interesting. I recall hearing "Yesterday" played as a guitar instrumental at a few folk sessions when it first appeared around 1965. And the other one sometimes played in the clubs was MacCartney's "Blackbird" - mind you, a little riff nicked from a Bach BourrÈe can go a long way... 300 years perhaps, and we'll hear them at sessions?

Working musicians' notebooks are a window into past behaviour. 300 years ago, Scottish fiddlers and flute players were transcribing Highland reels into the same books as Lowland songs, tunes by Corelli, and tunes by people in the grey area between folk and art music like Carolan and Charles Maclean.

So, it looks as if their has been, and still is, a living tradition of tunes some of which have no known author, played within a particular community and passed on without written music, for hundreds of years.

In Britain, probably not. Again, working musicians' notebooks tell the story. A significant proportion of practicing instrumentalists had them. Much of their contents was copied from print sources like Aird, and they were so widely used that anybody playing for a dance would have been able to find someone local with a paper copy of any tune they wanted to play for it. They may have got a few supplementary tips saying not to be play it quite as written, but the basic tunes didn't depend on an exclusively oral tradition to survive and spread.

What's the story with old musicians' manuscripts in Ireland? Is something like the Village Music Project possible there? Or has it been done long ago?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 02:10 PM

Will, there are no hard and fast boundaries. You are entitled to place your own boundaries as much as Jim is. In my opinion he places his in the wrong places but that's only my opinion. the Beatles' songs are much more part of a healthy widespread oral tradition than anything in our little insular museum. (Before I get shot down I love that museum every bit as much as Jim does)


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 04:26 PM

Tom (or anyone) - what does "move into public ownership" mean? what's public ownership?

Ruth - Martin Graebe has said that he's a few times heard his own song Jack in the Green introduced as traditional...


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 04:31 PM

"move into public ownership" means to move out of copyright, 70 years (in Britain) after the composer/author's death.

In Uk law, Anon = Traditional = Out of Copyright = in Public Ownership.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:16 PM

No.

Many works are out of copyright and still of known authorship.

Many works are traditional and of known authorship (or at least known publication) - therefore not "anon".

"In public ownership" is an interesting one - what indeed does it mean? Is it the Ghandi statement "I have never copyrighted anything" - despite which the Navajivan Trust polices his copyrights like a hawk! Is it the copyright owner who wills his state to "My country - England"? Is it "Crown copyright"? Is it the quasi-copyright in the King James edition? One thing is sure, if it is supposed to refer to works that are out of copyright, no-one owns them. It is one reason why I have always objected to the expression "public domain" for that tends to imply that the work could again be reduced to private ownership.

Oh, and, to be pedantic, the date of expiry of copyright is the 31st December after the 70th anniversary of the death of the author - no broken years.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 05:40 PM

Of course many works are out of copyright and still of known authorship - that is self-evident from the 70 year rule. But my statement "In Uk law, Anon = Traditional = Out of Copyright = in Public Ownership" is true.

Your statement: "Many works are traditional and of known authorship (or at least known publication) - therefore not "anon" is not, as I understand it (you're the lawyer!), a legal definition. In law, 'Traditional' has the same status as 'anon,' 'Out of Copyright' 'In public Ownership' and indeed 'public domain.' We are not legally obliged to recognise the creator - hence why we need a campaign to persuade people always to do so - because it matters for reasons other than legal ownership of the work in question.

I take your point about the implication of 'public domain', though I don't think there is any legal basis for that (does the Queen Anne Charter 1709 or the Copyright Act 1911 mention it)?

Obviously these terms don't mean the same thing in common parlance - specially not 'Traditional' which has a variety of sometimes contradictory meanings.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 03:03 AM

Whilst in great danger of disappearing up my own:

So, it looks as if their has been, and still is, a living tradition of tunes some of which have no known author, played within a particular community and passed on without written music, for hundreds of years. (Me earlier)

In Britain, probably not.
(Jack in response)

But their is. The community has changed because the whole of our society has changed. The community that plays the tunes is much more geographically widespread. However, many of its contributors know others even at some distance through festivals and the canon of tunes is quite well known and shared.

We are part of that community as we sit here typing and sharing ideas and tunes electronically. That bit is different but the access to tunes through sessions, by ear and by musical notation is as it was years ago.

I think the level of musical literacy amongst tune players today is probably close to what it was years ago and perhaps social class etc. I don't think this can be said for people who sing. The collectors of the first revival collected mainly from the rural working class who, with some exceptions, were musically illiterate. Most of us who sing today are not from the rural working class and many more of us are musically literate.

I am making no judgments about the quality or importance of anything. It looks to more as if the people who kept old songs alive and the people who kept old tunes alive, although sometimes the same, were more often not the same people at all.

Perhaps this goes some way in explaining why the tune community is a bit more flexible in its approach and less touchy about what can be played? A good tune is a good tune but a good song about sowing and reaping on the lips of a science teacher can sometimes feel a bit odd.   

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Paul Burke
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 03:11 AM

Since when did musical traditions take much notice of the wording of the law, Tom? It might have relevance for the PRS or whatever, but as far as a session musician is concerned, there's no difference between a tune composed last week by Harrison Birtwistle and one composed 300 years ago by Anon (unless your session mates or the puinters know). The problem is to work out how to play it and make it fit in with your sort of music.

It was written in E. On the fiddle, it definitely sounds better that way.

De gustibutts not curat legs. Each to his oghone.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 04:31 AM

"Since when did musical traditions take much notice of the wording of the law, Tom? It might have relevance for the PRS or whatever, but as far as a session musician is concerned, there's no difference between a tune composed last week by Harrison Birtwistle and one composed 300 years ago by Anon (unless your session mates or the puinters know). The problem is to work out how to play it and make it fit in with your sort of music. "

Tune traditions have not taken much notice of the wording of the law in the past, no, but tune musicians are no more exempt from it than any other law-abiding citizen.

Copyright law may be a clumsy instrument (and who needs any more of THEM in sessions) but it does exist for good reasons, and without it many things we take for granted would disappear (including important things like medicine).

There are three good reasons why we tune sessionisas have a duty to be aware of copyright law and moral ownership - however inconvenient and irrelevant that may seem.

The first is so that it can be up to copyright holders, not us, to decide if they want to exercise their right to a royalty (very few do, but the principle exists and it's important - for copyright in general). This is less of an issue in sessions, but more so in recordings and paid performances. But we should remember that tunes are learned in sessions and then taken away and used for fee-earning work. A culture of attribution would reduce the frequency of copyright material being wrongly attributed as PD, and royalties being denied to composers who do want them.

The second is that there are many of us who would like trad sessions to be licence free. The first step (something that's been discussed in various places, including by me with PRS) would be to firm up the existing casual exemption, wherein we can make a statement that only PD tunes are being played. We can only do that (legally) if we know the tunes really ARE PD. The second step would be to formalise that process* and allow composers legally to permit free use of their work in prescribed circumstances (such as sessions), whereas not in others (such as use for a TV programme theme tune - which would earn a fortune). At the moment it's all or nothing. Failure to register means the tune is PD. Register and it's illegal to play it in a session without a licence. Some of us would like to see a half-way house.

(*I agree with everyone who hates the ideas of formalisation in folk - but the way things are going I believe it's wise to sort out these grey areas BEFORE we get stamped on, as we were over PEL).

The third is that creative skills are not widely respected in folk circles (songs and tunes), and this has led to the role of composers and authors being diminished, and attribution being seen as an irrelevance. This has other implications beyond the legal, but touches on musicalogical issues such as provenance, collection and (re) arrangements.

Its a pain, but that's just how it is.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 05:10 AM

Just to return to the main thread topic a little, I purchased the 2-DVD set of the "Transatlantic Sessions 3" BBC4 programmes some months ago. I thought the whole set of programmes was superb, with excellent performances from a variety of good musicians. As far as the selection of music goes, it's a very eclectic mix of songs/tunes from traditional sources and songs/tunes from the musicians themselves. So, alongside tunes like "St. Anne's Reel", you have a wonderful piece by Russ Barenberg called "The Drummers Of England". When I first heard Russ's composition played on the programme, I thought it was a traditional American tune - couldn't tell the difference!

It's this kind of pick'n mix approach - which I like - that partly prompted the thread in the first place.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 05:19 AM

So, it looks as if their has been, and still is, a living tradition of tunes some of which have no known author, played within a particular community and passed on without written music, for hundreds of years. (Me earlier)

In Britain, probably not.
(Jack in response)

But their is. The community has changed because the whole of our society has changed. The community that plays the tunes is much more geographically widespread. However, many of its contributors know others even at some distance through festivals and the canon of tunes is quite well known and shared.

We are part of that community as we sit here typing and sharing ideas and tunes electronically. That bit is different but the access to tunes through sessions, by ear and by musical notation is as it was years ago.


I wasn't saying the community didn't exist - I agree with you there - but disputing that it was musically illiterate. It doesn't take many people in a locality who have sheet music and can use it to make the community as a whole musically literate at one remove. That's how written music was originally designed to work, for church choirs - the choirmaster could read it, the choristers learned by ear.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: bubblyrat
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:17 AM

I am musically illiterate------can't read a note ! As a tune-player,rather than a singer,I tend to learn any tune that I like,irrespective of whether it was written 300 years ago or last week.Thus I have several O'Carolan (or Carolan,if you must) tunes in my repertoire,alongside several by such as Frederick Paris,Wim Poesen, and Roger Talroth,et al. As I have got older,I have grown away from some of the ideas and prejudices about what is "traditional" and what isn't,as, frankly,I think that life's too short to worry about what may or may not be "conditional" about the type of music that I love.This week,I shall be learning to play,on guitar," Kitty Lie Over Next To The Wall", and a version of "Buttons and Bows" in Morris Dance time-signature------what fun !!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: bubblyrat
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:22 AM

By the way, lots of tunes can be adapted to suit (well, in theory !) the Morris-----I like to do my version of the hymn "To be a Pilgrim" (He who would Valiant Be )and "Ye Banks and Braes " is surprisingly adaptable,too !


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:28 AM

This week,I shall be learning to play,on guitar," Kitty Lie Over Next To The Wall", and a version of "Buttons and Bows" in Morris Dance time-signature------what fun !!

What fun indeed! The interesting question for me therefore is, if I run a "traditional" club - in the sense of the 1954 definition - and the performers perform a mixture of songs and instrumental tunes, what's "permissible" to play? Do I frown on "Ashokan Farewell" because it was composed just some years ago by Jay Ungar - outside the "tradition" - or what?

I know this seems like splitting hairs and that my example is probably tenuous, but I'm only doing it to illustrate a point: that the authenticity/appropriateness or otherwise of songs seem to generate much more heat than the authenticity/appropriateness or otherwise of tunes. Now - is this because the content of songs - their social context, the viewpoint and experience of the singer (I can't say composer) from whom it was collected, is the key factor?


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:29 AM

You want to see Bampton dancing to Jona Lewie's Stop the Cavalry...


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:38 AM

A great tune - and a great song, though sneered at by some people. Won an Ivor Novello award and dead catchy.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:47 AM

Will,

"I'm only doing it to illustrate a point: that the authenticity/appropriateness or otherwise of songs seem to generate much more heat than the authenticity/appropriateness or otherwise of tunes. Now - is this because the content of songs - their social context, the viewpoint and experience of the singer (I can't say composer) from whom it was collected, is the key factor?"

Excellent point Will.

I think that much heat is generated because many of us, and our friends who come to clubs but don't sing, are uneasy about being teachers, bank clerks, nurses and electricians singing sea shanties, songs of agricultural bliss and the Blackleg Miner, and we don't quite know what we are keeping alive or why.

Most of this baggage is lost with tunes. But I would go much further and suggest that those of us who play tunes today are pretty much the same people carrying on the same tradition as people have for 3 or 4 hundred years.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:55 AM

Indeed Les. I didn't want to mention the "C" word - Class - but you can't ignore it. I can't imagine meself singing "The dirty blackleg librarian" somehow. :D

However, I suppose that, by singing songs that came from a rural setting and singing them with feeling - even if we don't come from that background ourselves - we're perpetuating the history and the story and keeping that setting alive for others. It is, after all, a performance. Discuss...


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:55 AM

PS: Or an industrial setting.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 06:58 AM

"I like to do my version of the hymn "To be a Pilgrim" (He who would Valiant Be )"

Or even "Our Captain Calls All Hands", which is how it was collected by RVW - the tune later adapted for "To be a Pilgrim". :)


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 07:07 AM

I was at the Waterson-Carthy "Frost and Fire" concert last night in Shoreham (a magnificent evening, by the way), and they sang a Christmas song to the tune of what was very nearly "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" - but actually much better.

In lieu of Eliza not being there (baby was actually due day before yesterday (!), Mike Waterson was there - with just a hint of the Lord of Misrule about him. He was suffering from a bad cold and chest infection, bless him, but whatever singing problems affected him more than made up for with his wit and spontaneity. Great night!

By the way, if Eliza doesn't produce by Boxing Day, she will get "produced", according to Mum...


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 07:07 AM

Tune playing historically has been an activity that cuts across the class barrier. This is quite an interesting point to consider, and has popped up occasionally in this thread. I could make a lot of points on this topic, but I'll confine myself to, and got paid. He was roundly ticked off by his dad(also a fiddler) for this: the Hardy family(according to dad) were a cut above that. This is quite interesting, as we see instantly that the fiddling(playing the same tunes) was an acitivity that crossed effortlessly over the class divide. It was not the fiddling that was a problem to the dad, it was the fiddling for money.
THis division still exists, between the hobbyist musicians and the professionals. In some cases this has inverted in the last two hundred years, so in general now the professional musician is awarded higher status than the amateur. But by no means always. These points need consdering when you are discussing the class of people that kept the music alive(or made it in the first place).


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 07:16 AM

A work may be contemporary, and in copyright, but anonymous (=anon). This problem is one of the flavours of this year for copyright lawyers, who call such works "orphan works".

Originally (well, at least before the Copyright Act 1911 and in some respects before the previous Fine Arts Copyright Act) was a monopoly for publishers not composers, which was why IMHO if the first publisher of a work is known it is not "anon".

"Public Domain" is not a term of art in UK copyright law.

"Public Ownership" AFAIK has no meaning at all.

And a work may be IMHO "traditional" without being anon.

There are references to "folksongs" in the headings of S 61 and S 169, but the word is not used in the sections (ie the operative parts) and not defined.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 07:25 AM

Will, that was probably The Sugar Wassail, and it's on Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 07:28 AM

Spot on Ruth - I bought the CD at the gig last night but have been unable to play it yet. But the title has now come back to me - and that's what it was. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 08:07 AM

"And a work may be IMHO "traditional" without being anon."

And in mine and 99% of the folk world, too, which is why I said what I said above. But there is no legal status for such works, because the law provides no distinction between the two terms. It's just 'in copyright' or 'out of copyright,' and once it's out, the requirement for attribution/ownership, which until then was necessary for the maintenance of copyright, lapses. Which is why, for moral and research reasons, we need to encourage an awareness of authorship as well as copyright. And a habit of attribution is helpful for both, as well as in helping to avoid complications concerning works which are in fact still in copyright.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 09:08 AM

their place in the tradition,they are there to be danced to.
[bouzuki players please note ,perhaps they could stop thrashing away off the beat and all over the shop]and listen to some good ceilidh band pianos playing ON the beat, [or just listen to other musicians and try and play with abity of lift] and making us feel we want to get up and dance.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Working Radish
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 09:36 AM

I can't imagine meself singing "The dirty blackleg librarian" somehow

I would love to know a bit more about the popularity of TBM among actual miners. I suspect - with no evidence - that it's generally fairly low, although rising (with regional variations) around 1984-5.

The possibility has been raised that TBM originated not from Mr Sampey of Bishop Auckland but from the Yahie Miners, as reimagined by Bert Lloyd. Assume for the sake of argument that that's correct. Then you've got a song in praise of unionised miners being unforgiving and vicious, if not murderous (this stuff is far less prominent in the Yahie Miners) - and this song's produced by a non-miner & sung with great relish by other non-miners. (Self included. Well, my Dad's father was in fact a miner, but I never knew him.) I can't help thinking these two things are related - and that radical song sometimes has a particular intensity when you feel that you're joining in other people's battles, rather than fighting your own.

Tunes, anyway, are generally a lot more contentious - although I do remember the time I was busking on the flute and some away Rangers supporters asked me for the Sash... (I genuinely didn't know it, or even know of it.)


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 09:48 AM

Phil,

given the history of struggle, strife and strikes a lot of other trades and professions would more likely to be blacklegs:


It's in the evening after dark
When the blackleg surgeon goes to work
with his bloodstained fingers and private shirt
There goes the blackleg surgeon

See you tonight?

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 18 Dec 08 - 10:17 AM

Bubblyrat - Jinky Wells, Bampton's fiddler (inter alia !) "adapted"

'Ye Banks and Braes" and it emerged as "The Webley Twizzle".


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 03:11 AM

Will Fly,
First my apologies for not responding to your question earlier - a rather pleasant family visit prevented me from becoming more than superficially involved over the last few days.
Your original question:
Of course the traditions have taken up material of known authorship; but how much of this has happened recently has depended entirely on the health of the particular tradition.
MacColl's 'Freeborn Man' was, in our experience, extremely well received by the Travelling community, but whether it went into their song tradition is another question entirely. The 'versions' we have recorded from Travellers have, without exception, been either straight, unaltered repetitions or garbled fragments of MacColl's original. The song was written in the early 60s when the singing traditions in these islands (including among Travellers) was very much in decline and being remembered rather than still active and creative, therefore it was unlikely that new material was being absorbed and adapted.
There certainly have been cases in the past of songs of known authorship being filtered through the 'folk process' - Brian 'na Banban's' (Brian O'Higgins' 1882-1949) 'A Stór Mo Chroi' probably being one of the best Irish examples. The songwriting tradition in this area of West Clare was a particularly rich one and we have recorded dozens of locally made songs. One of the peculiarities we have noticed about nearly all these has been that, despite the fact that many of them must have been composed during the lifetimes of the singers we got them from, it has been virtually impossible to find the names of the composers - it appeared to have been a totally unimportant piece of information (this includes two songs where our singers were present at their making). Maybe this is due to the fact that there was no money involved in their composition - money certainly seems to play a part in the composition and ownership of songs nowadays - unfortunately. In my opinion attaching a name (and a price tag) runs contrary to the spirit of 'folk', 'tradition', however you care to identify it and guarantees that it will always be the property of the composer rather than the folk (in the proper sense of the word) and will remain unabsorbed and unadapted.   
So a shorter response to your question - if the machinery was in place and in good condition, it doesn't matter where the songs came from for their acceptance into the tradition.   
Regarding your point about tunes (sorry to go on at such length), I think the same applies.
Carolan is a difficult one; there is certainly no doubt that some of his compositions were taken up by traditional musicians, but I am not sure they have been adapted - they have always sounded (to my uneducated ear) to be composed pieces, somewhat grand and stately, and have stuck out as such among the rest of the repertoire.
I may be totally wrong, but I have always thought that the introduction of Carolan's music into the Irish scene came from Donal O'Sullivan's book 'Carolan; the Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper' which was published in 1954.
On the other hand, you don't have to go back centuries to find known composers material going into the Irish traditional repertoire. It is full of such pieces; Reavey's, O'Dwyers, Cooley's, Morrison's... all of which have been absorbed and have taken on regional adaptations.
Again locally to West Clare, the best example of this has been the compositions of the blind itinerant piper Garrett Barry who was playing and composing around the beginning of the 20th century and whose music is very much a part of the local tradition.
I think that there is much more to be said on this fascinting subject (thanks for that Will), which involves (again) the definition and (rarely discussed) function of folk song (proper) and music in our culture and social history - but maybe I'll go back to bed.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 03:38 AM

Jim - many thanks for your response, and for taking the time to reply. My thread, as I'm sure you knew, was really trying to explore the rather shadowy borderland of what's been formally composed and what's not known as composed within the boundaries of the tradition. It's a fascinating subject and one that we'll never probably get to the bottom of. Which doesn't matter - it's the debate and the swapping of ideas that counts.

Thanks to all for contributing.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 04:08 AM

Perhaps I should have put it in capital letters.

"A work may be contemporary, and in copyright, but anonymous (=anon). This problem is one of the flavours of this year for copyright lawyers, who call such works "orphan works"."

Therefore there is a difference in law between "anonymous" and "traditional".


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Paul Burke
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 04:40 AM

Greg- good point about the status of professional musicians- it reflects cricket's gentlemen and players exactly. (For non- cricketers, before about 1960, amateur cricketers- the gentlemen- were considered of higher status than the paid professionals.) But you can bet that this was a class distinction, rather than anything to do with money. Many nominal "gentlemen" earned much more from cricket- though not directly paid on a match basis- than did the "players". Similarly, unpaid musicians would be divided into those of too high status to be insulted by a direct fee, and those whose services were not required.

As for Jim's excellent discussion of the provenance of known recent songs and tunes, also remember that some at least of these could have been regarded initially as reworkings of existing material, so not pure compositions as such. And particularly with tunes, they could become attached to a personality by association, rather than being their compositions.

As for copyright, the person who invented the integrated circuit, which has done more good (and harm) than any song or other work of art, got 25 years protection from the date of registration. I can't honestly see why pop songs should be expected to bankroll the grandchildren of their composers.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 04:57 AM

"And particularly with tunes, they could become attached to a personality by association, rather than being their compositions."
Absolutely Paul - meant to add that, but was far too long-winded anyway.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 08:16 AM

"I think that much heat is generated because many of us, and our friends who come to clubs but don't sing, are uneasy about being teachers, bank clerks, nurses and electricians singing sea shanties, songs of agricultural bliss and the Blackleg Miner, and we don't quite know what we are keeping alive or why."

There's an underlying assumption here that I don't, necessarily, go along with - and that is that many of us sing and play folk music in order to express our views about 'class struggle'. Although I certainly sympathise with the politically and economically oppressed of the present and of past ages this sympathy is not my primary motivation for being interested in the music. For me folk music, like most types of music, has a very strong escapist element to it (shock, horror!!). I suspect that many of the old singers and musicians kept the songs and tunes alive not to fulfill their destinies as 'class warriors' but to provide a welcome respite from their daily struggles for existence. By singing old songs, and by hearing others sing them well, I am not 'pretending' to be a plough boy or fisherman but I feel that I may be getting an insight into an older, and very different, culture from my own.
Note that many of the traditional ballads are about the doings of the aristocracy - and hence described a life which was also very different from the lives of the plough boys and fishermen who sang them.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: SRD
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 09:28 AM

May I point you towards the chapter in Scholes' 'The Oxford Companion to Music' appertaining to Folk Song. It's too long (nearly 3.5 pages of small type) too reproduce here and looks at the subject from a 'Classical' music point of view, but it is an item of historical scholarship. It covers many of the points that have arisen here and is probably as debateable as all of them. One point that is made, which made my Mother-in-law change her description of "Dirt!", spat out as a derogatory epithet, to "I meant the soil from which all things grow" was the following: 'It is self-evident that the germ of all music lies in folk music.'
To which I would add that a song without a tune is a poem, not original I fear, but pertinent.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 11:41 AM

Shimrod,

I'm not sure I disagree with anything you have said. I think the point I was making above is two fold:

1. The people who kept sangs alive through the 18 & 19 C are not much like those who sing those songs now whilst the people who kept tunes alive through those times are socially and musically much more like those of us who play tunes today.

2. Because tunes come with much less social baggage people tend to play them simply because they like them.

As to what we choose to sing, I have about an octave plus 2 on a good day and less breath and I don't have any great tone . This limits what I can do. I like daft songs because I can carry off the humour and I like to hear people laugh. I, like you and I suspect most singers, don't imagine myself to be a sailor a pit disaster victim.

"I certainly sympathise with the politically and economically oppressed of the present and of past ages"

I agree and I have generally found it to be the case in most song circles, although, and this is a point I have made before, less so in dance circles.

I wouldn't want to exaggerate any of these points. I think much is lost when we push contending opinions to each extreme.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM

I sing the songs because I like them.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 01:11 PM

Fair enoughski Capt. but what first attracted you to to the vast and varied collection of old songs with their strange tales, varied tempos, strange chord progressions, odd time signatures that have been kept alive by farm workers, sailors, soldiers, travellers and mill girls?

eh?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Dec 08 - 07:27 PM

Amazing coincidence, Ruth.
I've got a gig in a maritime museum tomorrow and the theme is songs about being away from home at Christmas. At the last minute I've decided to include Jona's 'Stop the Cavalry' which I've just tried out on the melodeon & it sounds good. Robin Garside who's doing the gig with me rang up earlier today and he's up for it too.

(Don't anybody tell Jona though or the PRS!) If the PRS are snooping the gig's in Hull, Canada.

BTW the rest of the songs will be trad and rather loosely away from home, Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy, Rolling Home to Merry England, Leaving of Liverpool, Send back my Barney, Mermaid, Lady Franklin's Lament etc etc.


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Dec 08 - 07:07 AM

"Stop The Cavalry" on melodeon, eh? Now. I'd like to hear that! Can't get to'Ull though - not even the one in England. (Wedding reception barn dance this evening).


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 20 Dec 08 - 08:49 AM

I'm trying to remember whether Bampton actually play it on the melodeon, Steve, or whether they just kind of sing the "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba" bit as they dance...

Maybe young Joseph will come in and enlighten us...


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Subject: RE: Tunes - their place in the tradition
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 20 Dec 08 - 09:13 AM

"Don't Stop the Cavalry" was already in the Electropathics' repertoire when I joined them in 1984. Keith Hancock and I both played it on melodeon, as had Dave Hanvey before us. We dropped the "Wish I could be home for Christmas" bit to make it work as a 32-bar polka


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