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The folk 'process' and tunes

Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 06:01 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 06:06 AM
Mr Happy 18 Sep 09 - 06:49 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 Sep 09 - 07:04 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 07:04 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 07:10 AM
Jack Campin 18 Sep 09 - 07:14 AM
GUEST,mike sam wild 18 Sep 09 - 07:38 AM
Tug the Cox 18 Sep 09 - 07:47 AM
GUEST,mike sam wild 18 Sep 09 - 07:53 AM
Dave Hanson 18 Sep 09 - 08:22 AM
GUEST 18 Sep 09 - 08:26 AM
treewind 18 Sep 09 - 08:34 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 08:41 AM
Phil Edwards 18 Sep 09 - 08:59 AM
Howard Jones 18 Sep 09 - 09:39 AM
TheSnail 18 Sep 09 - 10:30 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 11:26 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 Sep 09 - 11:54 AM
TheSnail 18 Sep 09 - 11:57 AM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 12:00 PM
Valmai Goodyear 18 Sep 09 - 12:07 PM
Will Fly 18 Sep 09 - 12:26 PM
Jack Campin 18 Sep 09 - 03:12 PM
Tootler 18 Sep 09 - 03:40 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Sep 09 - 05:51 AM
The Sandman 19 Sep 09 - 12:53 PM
The Sandman 19 Sep 09 - 12:54 PM
The Sandman 19 Sep 09 - 12:58 PM
Stringsinger 19 Sep 09 - 12:59 PM
Jack Campin 19 Sep 09 - 01:17 PM
Will Fly 19 Sep 09 - 01:28 PM
Geoff Wallis 19 Sep 09 - 01:48 PM
The Sandman 19 Sep 09 - 02:02 PM
Jack Campin 19 Sep 09 - 02:24 PM
The Sandman 19 Sep 09 - 03:44 PM
Jack Campin 19 Sep 09 - 08:47 PM
Declan 20 Sep 09 - 03:40 AM
Will Fly 20 Sep 09 - 04:43 AM
Howard Jones 20 Sep 09 - 04:58 AM
Paul Burke 20 Sep 09 - 05:22 AM
The Sandman 20 Sep 09 - 06:03 AM
Will Fly 20 Sep 09 - 06:29 AM
Mr Happy 20 Sep 09 - 07:10 AM
Jack Campin 20 Sep 09 - 07:29 AM
Mo the caller 20 Sep 09 - 08:55 AM
The Sandman 20 Sep 09 - 09:17 AM
Will Fly 20 Sep 09 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,Ed 20 Sep 09 - 02:07 PM
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Subject: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 06:01 AM

Much of the discussion about the folk "process" and the "tradition" on this forum is centered around songs and singers. There's an interesting and much looser perspective - as I've said before - when discussion centres on the process and tradition regarding tunes. I thought I'd mention an interesting example of how even a fairly modern tune in the folk idiom can subtly change form. The example I'm thinking of is a tune written by Cape Breton composer Joan MacDonald Boes in 1987 called "The Sweetness Of Mary".

The tune, as written, is in the key of A. The thematic structure is not quite the usual A-A-B-B found in many tunes in the folk idiom, but A-A-B-B-B-A - where A and B parts are 4 bars long. You might say: that's it - this modern tune was written 22 years ago; the dots are available in fiddle books, and that's how you play it. However, that's not quite the end of the story.

It's accepted in many fiddle circles that the definitive version of "The Sweetness Of Mary" is the one played by the great - and recently late - Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland. You can hear a wonderful version of it here. Jerry actually plays a more straightforward A-A-A-A-B-B-B-B, and not the version as written, but he plays it in the written key of A (a favourite key of Cape Breton fiddlers).

Now - go to TheSession.org and do a search on the tune. There it is, in abc format - also as A-A-A-A-B-B-B-B - in the key of G. Is this because some fiddlers find moving out of first position a little too difficult? No matter - there it is in a different format and a different key from the original.

No go to the Lewes Favourites tunebook - tunes as played in this part of Sussex. Their version is here. The structure is A-A-A-A-B-B-B-B - and the key is D. The ceilidh band I play in - based in Sussex - also play it in D, but with an A-A-A-A-B-B-B-A structure!

I like to play it myself on fiddle and tenor guitar as written, as it happens - but I don't think I'd get very far in a local session if I did.

I'm not making any critical comparisons of the different versions of "The Sweetness Of Mary" here - merely making the point that even a fairly recent tune composition, in "folk" terms, can become part of a subtle process of change depending on geography and inclination.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 06:06 AM

I should also have mentioned that the melodic line in the Lewes Favourites version is also interestingly changed from the original melody as composed by Joan MacDonald Boes...


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Mr Happy
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 06:49 AM

An interesting issue, Will.

I'm frequently intrigued by the question of why tunes [& songs] are written in particular keys.

For songs, I'd guess that the composer would set the key according to their own vocal range - yet as we all know, most people, tho' not all, performing it will change the set key according to personal voice range.

My guess for tunes would be that it's the particular instrument that may dictate the key.

Other suggestions?


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:04 AM

This is fascinating. As soon as musicians move away from a written version and tunes go feral, intentional and unintentional changes creep in. It happens naturally and doesn't usually cause any anger or mud-slinging; I think it's an excellent example of the folk process in action and keeps the music alive. In a session, people will generally follow the player who's leading that particular tune on that particular occasion.

In The S of M I think the change of structure to AAAA-BBBB is rather like adjusting pronunication to local dialect, just as an English singer may change Scottish words to English ones ('maid' for 'lass' and so on). Your band's A-A-A-A-B-B-B-A is more common in tunes from the North of England, particularly from Northumberland and the Borders; is that because it includes a Scottish/Canadian and a Northumbrian piper?

The key change from A (fiddlers, especially Scottish ones, will always slip into A if you don't keep a close eye on the blighters) presumably came about to make life easier for melodeon and Anglo concertina players. G is the most common session key and is closer to A in pitch.

I like playing S of M in D because it sounds better to me than G and doesn't shut out the melodeon players. (A wouldn't be a problem for me: English concertinas are fully chromatic and it's always nice to use the less familiar reeds because you can't ask the chap who tunes them only to tune the ones you actually play.)

Very rarely, tunes suffer changes which don't improve them. From a personal point of view, I don't enjoy the B music of The Quaker being grafted onto the A music of Walter Bulwer's No. 2 polka because it robs us of two good tunes and bereaves the tunes that both are frequently played with; I also don't enjoy the B music of From Night Til Morn being cut down to eight bars from twelve, although I can see why it happens.

Having said that, the changes don't ruin the tunes for ever; it's not like drawing a moustache on the original Mona Lisa, but only on a copy. You can always go back to the original, or any point between now and then.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:04 AM

I think I mentioned that the key of A is often favoured by Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle players - I've been told this by several good fiddlers, but I don't have other evidence than this. So, in this particular instance, this particular key would suit the musical locale. It's not the easiest key for the fiddle in terms of playing in first position - and many folk fiddlers, in England at any rate, seem reluctant to move away from first position by comparison.

I have to say that the most popular keys at sessions I attend - all in the Sussex area - are D and G. It may be different elsewhere, and I'd be very interested in comments from dedicated fiddle players (which I'm not - just amateur!). Interestingly, one of the prime movers in some of our sessions is a small pipes player, and a lot of the stuff he plays is in D. We do the "Marquis Of Lorne" in D, for example - but I've seen it written in tunebooks in G...


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:10 AM

Valmai, thanks for some helpful and interesting insights. Oddly enough, I personally think the S of M "sings" more in A on the mandolin and fiddle. It utilises the lower strings on the mandolin in D, and can sound slightly muddy as a consequence. Playing it in A uses mainly the 1st and 2nd strings - and gets one up beautifully to the 10th fret - wheee.

Tenor guitarists cheat, of course. They use a capo on the 2nd fret and play in G!


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:14 AM

Memory and the paradigmatic structures of traditional music have a lot to do with it. I used to play along with somebody who did the original version of Sweetness of Mary. I could never quite get it straight in my head (and he never managed to write down what he was doing in intelligible notation). I now do the Jerry Holland version, which makes a lot more sense to me (though it's not a tune I like very much).

But doing it in A is difficult on most of the instruments I play - G is a lot more sensible.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: GUEST,mike sam wild
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:38 AM

I think the instrument played often dictates what is the best key. I play a C/G Ango concertina and it can't do what a lot of fiddlers and flute players etc can . So you adapt to the company and local preferences if possible


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:47 AM

Some fiddle tunes need fewer changes of fingering in A.
Atholl Highlanders has 3 partsd, I play them all in G on melodeon, little optopn. The fiddler in the band could play just about anything, but when he discovered that oyther fiddlers played the 3rd part in A he cursed me for making his life difficult. The band would often switch to A, leaving me as an onlooker!


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: GUEST,mike sam wild
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 07:53 AM

'get the melodeon player' is quite common!


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:22 AM

This happened with Dave Richardsons tune ' Caliope House ' it was written in E but it's mostly played in D now and most Irish player play it back to font, ie. starting with the B part not the A.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:26 AM

"I don't enjoy the B music of The Quaker being grafted onto the A music of Walter Bulwer's No. 2 polka "
Someone complained about this elsewhere a while ago, and I discovered the most likely culprit - it's printed like that in Nick Barber's "English Choice" book (pub. Mallinson). He's quite unrepentant and also a good friend; I'm not about to pick a fight about it. I know several people who have learned it that way though.

I am personally responsible for several people learning a Playford tune called "Jack's Health" wrong (bar missing from the A music) because I learnt and then recorded it that way. Also we don't do The Dennington Bell the way most Suffolk musicians do (including Dolly Curtis who was the source of the tune), because we make it into a regular 32 bars.

And I recorded "The Dunmow Galumph" as written by Doug Adams, but not the way most bands and musicians have played it ever since.

I don't count a key change as a substantial modification to a tune - you transpose it to whatever fits the limitations of your instrument if it's one of many folk instruments that only works in certain keys (melodeon, anglo concertina, pipes, whistles). But I've been having fun recently trying out lots of tunes on C 1-row melodeon, and it's amazing how different some of them sound and how quickly you are tempted to make modifications to suit the sound or range of the instrument.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: treewind
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:34 AM

Sorry, that was me, not noticing lack of cookie...


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:41 AM

I don't think a key change is, in itself, a big deal either. It might be a problem if you'd picked up a particular version on the net, say, learned it in that key (thinking it to be correct) and then got to a session to find everyone else was playing it in another key altogether! Not everyone can instantly transpose on the same instrument, particularly if it's a "fixed" one like a 1-row melodeon.

As for sessions, it would be unhelpful to lead off on a tune in a particular key knowing that the convention in that area, or pub or session or whatever, usually took it in a different key. Anyway, the lesson for me is to get a better grasp of my instruments so that I'm able to switch from key to key as need arises. As I'm a string player, that's not an insurmountable difficulty - just more practice!

Still, it's interesting to know that even modern, composed tunes can undergo sea changes, even in these modern times.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 08:59 AM

switch from key to key as need arises

Vini Reilly said once that the great innovator of the Sex Pistols wasn't Johnny Rotten or Malcolm McLaren, but Steve Jones, because he showed that you didn't have to bother learning chords: all he did was hold an E chord, then move it up and down the neck as required.

On the other hand, you probably don't want to sound like Steve Jones. (Vini Reilly, though...)


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Howard Jones
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 09:39 AM

It's those D/G melodeons which force modern sessions into those keys. Ironically, these seem to have been imported by Peter Kennedy in the 1950s to enable melodeon players in the North East to join in with the local fiddlers, who were playing a lot of Irish music in those keys learned off the radio. There was some recent discussion of this on melodeon.net .

"The Sweetness of Mary" demonstrates how a modern tune can evolve through the folk process, even though the identity of the original composer is known. I believe this is easier for tunes than songs, for a number of reasons:

- they are shorter and easier to learn by ear, but then mistakes may creep in. With a song, it's often easier to search for the lyrics written down somewhere than try to learn it by ear
- it is not always easy to track down the "correct" version, especially if you don't know the title - with a song you can google the words.
- they allow for more improvisation in a group setting, where such tunes are often passed on, so the version which sticks in the mind may be an embellished one.
- without words to give the tune structure, it is possible for this to get confused or altered.

Ironically, I suspect that the internet makes it easier for variations to arise, since different versions of both tunes and songs can more easily be disseminated. Websites like The Session come to be seen as the definitive versions of tunes, but may not be the originals. With songs, there are many mistranscriptions of lyrics online, especially where the transcriber is not a native English speaker.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 10:30 AM

From the introduction to the Lewes Favourites Tune Book -

Health Warning

Please remember the music here is only a guide!

Although we are fairly sure there are no serious errors in the notation now, it is by no means necessarily exactly what gets played. Learning tunes by ear is a different process from learning from notation. It starts with the rhythm or 'bounce' of the tune and its major features, and adds detail as it gets more confident. When playing, each musician may add extra notes to the tune, substitute plausible alternatives or simply leave notes out depending on the vagaries of the instrument, the speed, how they feel or simply how much alcohol has been consumed.


As for "The Sweetness Of Mary", I've just tried playing it in A and, as an English session fiddler, all I can say is "bung that for a lark". I like it in D; I can get some use out of that expensive and hardly ever played bottom string.

At Monday night's session (you haven't been for a while, Will) it was played and led by the aforementioned Scottish/Canadian and followed the A-A-A-A-B-B-B-A structure which I personally prefer. After a bit of confusion the first time through, everybody adapted which is as it should be. Listen to the leader and follow them.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 11:26 AM

As for "The Sweetness Of Mary", I've just tried playing it in A and, as an English session fiddler, all I can say is "bung that for a lark". I like it in D; I can get some use out of that expensive and hardly ever played bottom string.

LOL! I know exactly what you mean. I think the attraction of the original key for me is that it is a sod to play for a beginner on the violin. It's the challenge of playing it in A that I like. Sounds crap much of the time but, played with the bathroom door shut and a towel draped over the mirror, it does no-one any harm...


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 11:54 AM

I strongly suspect it will not only clean the mirror but dissolve the mass of matted hair in the bath plughole as well. (Sorry, just thinking of my own bathroom there, yours may well be blameless.)

Faultlessly played on a fiddle, A would be spellbinding. It would have some of the arresting quality that harmonics have on a guitar. It's a bit high to get a strong sound on my English concertina as the higher reeds are weaker, but it would be all right overlaying someone else's lead.

We may get a chance to find out this evening which key Derrick Hughes would favour for it on the serpent. By the way, I've just bought him a small clockwork one.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: TheSnail
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 11:57 AM

Serpent? Key?

Of course if it was the pipes we'd know exactly what key he'd be playing in.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 12:00 PM

A clockwork serpent! This is a must have. I'll look forward to Derrick blowing out the windows at the Royal Oak...

I shall be showing off my new tenor guitar, made by a certain Ditchling luthier... plus the matching mandolin...


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 12:07 PM

The clockwork serpent comes with its own built-in key.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 12:26 PM

Faultlessly played on a fiddle, A would be spellbinding. It would have some of the arresting quality that harmonics have on a guitar. It's a bit high to get a strong sound on my English concertina as the higher reeds are weaker, but it would be all right overlaying someone else's lead.

Valmai - did you listen to the Jerry Holland version I made a link to in my original post? I happen to think his version is spellbinding - but that's a just my personal opinion. Playing it on the mandolin in A - mainly on the top two strings - also gives more projection than in D, on the mandolin.

As I said before, the point of the thread is really to make the point that modern tunes can be written, assimilated, changed, accepted in a way that seems more difficult for modern songs. Having said that, Roger Bryant's song "Cornish Boys" - for example - seems to have slipped seamlessly into the clubs and sessions, and that's the same vintage as "The Sweetness Of Mary".

Other modern-ish and composed tunes that seem to have become session standards are ones like the "Ashokan Farewell" and "Da Slockit Leet".


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 03:12 PM

Sometimes you just decide the composer was wrong.

I sometimes play Matt Seattle's "Lindisfarne". I doubt I've heard two people play it the same way, and I haven't heard Matt himself play it for years.   The score on his website suggests a part order which I find insanely complicated, unintuitive and far too long. There are four basic sections: A, B, A-variation, B-variation. I play A A B B A-var A-var B-var B, which is easy to remember and ends more definitely than if I just repeated the variation figuration for a fourth time. (I also have a jig version of it that I can stick on the end).

I will try it out on Matt someday and see how he reacts.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Tootler
Date: 18 Sep 09 - 03:40 PM

If you want to hear Matt Seattle playing Lindisfarne, get hold of a copy of the Kathryn Tickell Album "Northumbrian Collection". He plays it there.

We play Lindisfarne AB repeated twice and leave out the variations mainly because our particular group has some novices and they would struggle with some of the variations.

Some folk seem to get hung up on changing the key of a tune to suit an instrument and think that the tune must be played in the original key.

I play Niel Gow's Lament for the death of his second wife in G on my wooden flute because it fits perfectly on the flute within the first two octaves, and sounds really good IMO. When I played it to a fiddler friend, he was horrified that I should change the key. He was even more horrified when I told him I first heard it played in G (ish) by a Northumbrian Piper (He is a fine piper himself). He also does not like us playing Calliope House in D, but as one of our main members is a D/G box player, it's not right to play it in E IMO.

I have another friend, a whistle player, who will rather not play a tune than play it in a different key from the one it was written in.

My own view is if you want to play a tune and it needs transposing to fit your instrument, then do it.

Obviously in a session, you have to go along with the group.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 05:51 AM

To put it simply, the folk process is simply socially tolerated and encouraged plagiarism.

:-)


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 12:53 PM

no one rejects tunes,as folk tunes because they have been composed,or becuse they have been processed.
however Neilidh Boyle complained that nobody played the moving cloud as he wrote it,which is fair enough,a composer of a modern tune has a right to say that he wants the tune played in a certain way.
likewise a composer of a modern song has a right to state that he wishes a song to be sung with certain words,particularly if the processed version changes the meaning of the song.
if their is an alteration to the mood of a tune,by some processor [e g changing notes to alter a minor feel to a major feel]the composer has a right to object,and to say the tune should be played like this or like that.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 12:54 PM

above should read there[not their].


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 12:58 PM

one other thing,
different keys have different moods,if the composer of the folk tune wants the tune played in b flat or a major, please respect his wishes it is his work.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 12:59 PM

No, not plagarism. That's when you consciously steal something verbatim. When you change it, it becomes something else. That's the folk process. Sometimes this is an unconscious process but it is with the idea of changing the music to suit a new environment.

Frank


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:17 PM

a composer of a modern tune has a right to say that he wants the tune played in a certain way

Legally, maybe, but in practice you'd be on a hiding to nothing if you tried to enforce that.

As I said, I like "Lindisfarne" the way I play it, I don't like it the way Matt Seattle says it ought to be played, and I wouldn't play it at all if I had to do that way.

Grey Larsen's "Thunderhead" is a more extreme example - *nobody* plays it the way he wrote it, and it's already evolved two variants with the parts opposite ways round. (The Scottish way is of course right - B minor first, then D).


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:28 PM

A composer has absolutely no say in how a tune is played in a live environment (and, in the case of folkie stuff, would probably never know). It's called "interpretation" and, no matter how much the composer might object to it, and however naff it might sound, the performer has the right to do what he or she wants with the tune. Artistic license and all that. There may well be some legal block to recording it without the composer's permission, but I wonder whether happens in practice.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Geoff Wallis
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 01:48 PM

'The Moving Cloud' can hardly be described as a 'modern tune' since Néillidh Boyle composed it some 75 years ago!


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 02:02 PM

processors have Carte Blanche,excuse me, I will just rewrite Masters of War,sorry Bob, your version is just not good enough.
jack campin,doesnt like Matt Seattles version of Lindisfarne,sorry Matt never mind that you wrote it,mr campin is going to play it in 10/8 time,in the key of c#,IT DOESNT MATTER THAT IT WAS YOUR CREATIVE OUTPUT. jack knows best,
I am just going to play the home ruler as a jig,and I have decided the congress reel should be played as a SLIP JIG who cares if its composer meant it to be a hornpipe or a reel,f### respect or even bothering to ask the composer,the processors know best.,f### Neillidh Boyle the moving cloud is going to be played as a barn dance,where does it all end
artistic license indeed,
playing in one key all night is so boring.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 02:24 PM

I wouldn't know about "Masters of War", but surely it's pretty common for singers to edit songs. If there's a line you think is a clunker you're not going to sing it.

Most of Matt McGinn's songs have the odd clunker, they were written in a hurry. If a singer can find an improved line I can't imagine the ghost of McGinn objecting.

I had an email correspondence with Grey Larsen about "Thunderhead" once, and sent him an ABC of the currently popular Scottish folk-processed version, which he didn't know. He seemed absolutely indifferent to how his tune was changed, so long as he got paid any royalties that were due.

Hamish Henderson positively *wanted* his songs to go into oral circulation and get mutated.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 03:44 PM

GEOFFWALLIS,you made available copies of Kennedys recordings of Boyle[folktrax presumably gave you permission],so you are aware that during that interview Boyle objected to the way Moving cloud was being played.
it is cortesy just to ask the composer how he likes the music to be played particularly if youare going to record it.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Sep 09 - 08:47 PM

jack campin,doesnt like Matt Seattles version of Lindisfarne,sorry Matt never mind that you wrote it,mr campin is going to play it in 10/8 time,in the key of c#,IT DOESNT MATTER THAT IT WAS YOUR CREATIVE OUTPUT.

I usually play it on an Italian-type ocarina, and while I can do it in D, the one I like best for it puts that tune into F#. And Matt is now working with a percussionist trained in Middle Eastern rhythms. Must try to put it into semai metre (a form of 10/8) before I see Matt next. I suspect I could sell him on the idea.


I have decided the congress reel should be played as a SLIP JIG who cares if its composer meant it to be a hornpipe or a reel

If you start legislating about tunes that old, you're going to rule out a hell of a lot of the traditional repertoire. I take you are now going to stop playing "Out on the Ocean" or "The Musical Priest", both of which are Irish adaptations of very well documented and much older Scottish tunes? (Personally, I think "Out on the Ocean" is an improvement, "The Musical Priest" not, but I wouldn't dream of telling anybody not to play either).


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Declan
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 03:40 AM

On the subject of regional preferences for certain keys, I once remarked to a friend that the Scots had a preference for tunes in A and E, and added that that was where some of the musicians ended up on a Saturday night.

I'll get my coat...


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 04:43 AM

Dick, I don't think changing the way a tune is played is necessarily a discourtesy to the composer. Are the various "versions of "The Sweetness Of Mary" that I quoted in my initial post discourtesies to Joan MacDonald Boes? Particularly when, according to various sources, Jerry Holland's version, which departs from the original tune structure, is seen generally as the "definitive" version.

For a start, the composer may not have recorded or played their composition in a live situation themselves, so we start from the dots and do with them as we can. What's a "moderately slow" strathspey, for example? (the tempo instruction on my copy of the sheet music). You can hear Jerry Holland's speed from the link in my original post. You can see and hear my humble version (recorded yesterday) here. I play the original structure at what I consider to be a "moderately slow" speed. Which is the better version? One guess!

You mentioned rewriting "Masters of War". well, this thread is specifically about tunes, not songs - and the whole point was to make a comment that melodies, even modern composed ones, can undergo subtle and not so subtle changes with time and with no-one being particularly worried about that process. Horses for courses. You can't stop performers doing what they will in their own style with a tune - and why should they? If it has any validity, others will join in and the tune will flourish. If it hasn't, then the version will probably wither away. The point is, there's no fuss over the process - the modern tunes, changing here and there, sit happily alongside the "anon" tunes in sessions and singarounds, etc.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Howard Jones
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 04:58 AM

A composer writes a piece in a particular way, but once it has escaped from captivity they have little control over what happens to it. Indeed, anyone composing and performing in a traditional idiom should not be surprised when people start to play it in a different way.

As for playing in the original key, people will adapt the key, and even the tune, to suit their instrument. I've never got the idea of different keys having different moods, does this idea still apply when everyone is using equal temperament? Certainly different keys have different characteristics on particular instruments, and that may have had more to do with the composer's original choice of key than any theoretical ideas of moods. However that cannot necessarily be transferred to another instrument, and the characteristic the composer intended might be brought out better by playing in a different key. Or should tunes only be played on the instrument they were composed for?

Should an old tune only be played at the concert pitch current at the time? Is it wrong to play an old tune in A=440?

The point about folk music is that it is susceptible to change. "The Moving Cloud" is a folk tune, even thought the composer is known, because different versions have developed and it is now out of the composer's control. "Masters of War" isn't a folk song, because Mr Dylan's lawyers will sue the arse off you if you attempt to change it.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Paul Burke
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 05:22 AM

In folk music, there's really no such thing as "correct" or "wrong"- there's only "successful" (it gets played) and "unsuccessful" (shut the f* up). So if you want to play a reel as a slip jig, go ahead, but it's up to the community- other musicians- to decide whether it works or not.

It's worth looking at any self- organising system in evolutionary terms, and drawing comparisons from biology.

Often a popular recording will, like a commercial apple, all but wipe out all other variants of the same song/ tune- I remember Derek Elliot complaining bitterly that folk club audiences all joined in one of his songs with the chorus as sung by Martin Carthy.

And some tunes flourish like Japanese Knotweed- the Ashokan Farewell being one.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 06:03 AM

The point I am trying to make,is that composer does if he so wishes,have the right and can insist,if his music is altered,That the piece is not recorded in a particular way,this can apply to tunes in the folk repertoire.
it is only courtesy to notify the composer and send him a recording before it is put out for sale.
supposing someone had wriiten a 32 bar jig,with the first part having c naturals,and the second part having c#,and some berk alters the cnaturals to c sharps and thus completely alters the flavour of the tune,the composer has a right to say your making a pigs ear of the tune,you cant record it.
neillidh Boyle felt that way about what people had done to his composition,no wonder he called it jungle music.
Neilidh Boyle had more talent and technique than most other musicians of his time.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 06:29 AM

Paul - you hit the nail right on the head. It's interesting, isn't it, that some tunes can undergo a sea change out there in the wild, away from the dots, while others - such as the aforementioned "Ashokan Farwell" and "Da Slockit Leet" seem to spread around with very little melodic change (as far as I can tell). Is this because the melody lines are so strong as to be invincible, I wonder? :-)


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Mr Happy
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 07:10 AM

In my immediate area, [Cheshire & N.Wales]"Ashokan Farwell" and "Da Slockit Leet" are popularly played in either D or G


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 07:29 AM

others - such as the aforementioned "Ashokan Farwell" and "Da Slockit Leet" seem to spread around with very little melodic change

But quite a bit of change in the titles. (I don't know what the right pronunciation of "Ashokan" is, except that just about everybody in Scotland including me gets it wrong, and "leet" means something entirely different to "licht" or "light" - it's the list of candidates for a job or office).

What's a "moderately slow" strathspey, for example?

A lot of 18th century tunes were labelled "Slow when not Danced" - the composer expected a variety of tempi depending on the occasion. Most dance tunes have to be done at varied tempi unless they're invariably associated with a single dance.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Mo the caller
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 08:55 AM

Also in Cheshire, Shropshire border. Horses Brawl has always been played in G until a hurdy-gurdy player started doing it in C. Muscle memory protests loudly. Why are some tunes easy to transpose and others not?

I tried, and failed, to post this bit yesterday. Sorry if the thread has moved on and it's not so relevant. Here goes again.

At Whitby this year David Oliver made an interesting comment about musical dots. Something like..
The notation is not the music. It doesn't become music until you play it.


I came to playing from dancing and it really trips me up to hear a dance tune played with the wrong no. of bars or repeats. So I knew (50% certain) who the 'guest' was, talking about Jack's Health. The same villan who plays Sun Assembly with repeats, leaving me all in the wrong place while mentally dancing it.
It has become common (David Oliver, maybe) to play Margaret's Waltz with 2 Bs. Since each B is 16 bars already this is too long for the dance.
And I know I am only stating a personal preference about dance tunes, and that the same tunes can be used for more than one dance. E.g. the Carolan tune Planxty Irwin which (in one book) has 5 dances set to it as a waltz, and two as a jig. And Christchurch Bells (24 bars) and Christchurch Bells in Oxon (32 bars) use the same tune with different repeats


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 09:17 AM

[imo]there is nothing so boring as people who insist on playing in one key all night.
keys have different moods,changing keys and arranging tunes so that they start in g then next tune is in d or a minor or whatever helps to prevent sameinessof sound and helps prevent the syndrome all diddley tunes sound the same.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 01:24 PM

Agreed, Dick. The more traditional sessions I've been to in Sussex tend to revolve around the keys of D and G - because, as others have said, the reeds and whistles/pipes are mainly in those keys. At the more eclectic sessions, there's a sprinkling of other keys to leaven the dough.


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Subject: RE: The folk 'process' and tunes
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 20 Sep 09 - 02:07 PM

I know "The Sweetness Of Mary" from Eliza Carthy's album 'Rice'.

She play's it A-A-A-A-B-B-B-A. My ears aren't good enough to give you the key without an instrument to hand, but she's accompanied by Saul Rose on Melodeon so presumably D or G. Interestingly, she credits it as being 'traditional'

Ed


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