strathspey Archive: Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

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Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39592 · Alan Paterson · 13 Oct 2004 09:59:20 · Top

I am currently entering the data for the (relatively) new CDs for Book
12 (Bobby Brown) and Books 31/32 (alistair Wood) into Dancedata.

It has struck me that very many of the tunes used on these CDs are
credited to that prolific master "Traditional", where I already have
them accredited to People such as O'Neill, Gow, Marshall and most
especially Scott Skinner.

Considering that A) the RSCDS is normally recognised as being (shall we
say) nit-picking regarding detail (and rightly so IMHO) and that B)
these composers are particularly well-known in this context and C) Scott
Skinner is not THAT far in the past, this seems to me to be a touch
reprehensible.

Anyone care to comment?

Alan

Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39594 · Anselm Lingnau · 13 Oct 2004 10:40:09 · Top

Alan Paterson wrote:

> Considering that A) the RSCDS is normally recognised as being (shall we
> say) nit-picking regarding detail (and rightly so IMHO) and that B)
> these composers are particularly well-known in this context and C) Scott
> Skinner is not THAT far in the past, this seems to me to be a touch
> reprehensible.

I suppose two things come together here:

1. What goes on RSCDS CD liner notes is likely to be whatever the musicians
who recorded that CD tell them should go there. After all, they played
the tunes, they oughta know who wrote 'em -- and who would the Society
be to disagree?

2. To a musician, »traditional« means »anything old enough so we don't have
to pay royalties«. And yes, Virginia, this includes Scott Skinner, who
joined the heavenly fiddle section back in 1927, which is more than the
statutory 70 years ago. Anyway, most musicians would much rather play
tunes than figure out who wrote what as long as it's old enough, which
is why so many tunes on CD liners are credited to »traditional« even if
we have a pretty good guess of who came up with them. Not that *that*
would be crystal clear in all cases -- many of the old masters were not
above pinching each other's tunes, to the extent that somebody like Wm.
Marshall felt he had to publish a collection of his tunes although he
really didn't want to -- he was an amateur musician, after all, not a
pro like, say, the Gows, and had a day job to pay the bills -- just to
keep others from passing them off as their own (they are that good!).

My advice would be to stick to the most specific attribution that you have and
ignore any »traditionals« in the face of known explicit names on the grounds
of musicians' indolence. If you do find a conflict -- say, a tune attributed
to A on CD X and to B on CD Y with no other recordings as tie-breakers, ask;
if the resident musicians on Strathspey cannot help, the folks over on
SCOTS-L might. Also, Andrew Kuntz's index of fiddle tunes, which is available
via www.ceolas.org, is likely to be very helpful for most of the, er,
traditional repertoire.

Anselm
--
Anselm Lingnau, Frankfurt, Germany ..................... anselm@strathspey.org
The secret of success is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake these,
you've got it made. -- Mark Twain

Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39595 · Jim Healy · 13 Oct 2004 12:10:04 · Top

Greetings!

As Jimmy Shand is once alleged to have said. "Ah must be gettin'auld. X has
just recorded a tune he says is by 'Trad' and ah distinctly remember
writin'it!"

But that's not the point. The RSCDS does try to do better than that -
although as Anselm mentions in the case of some Gow tunes 'Trad' is probably
more accurate. I have asked Alan for (and already received) a list of his
anomalies. These will be looked at.

Jim Healy
Perth, Scotland

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Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39596 · Fyreladdie · 13 Oct 2004 16:31:18 · Top

In a message dated 10/13/04 1:00:11 AM, alan.paterson@paranor.ch writes:

<< Considering that A) the RSCDS is normally recognised as being (shall we
say) nit-picking regarding detail (and rightly so IMHO) and that B)
these composers are particularly well-known in this context and C) Scott
Skinner is not THAT far in the past, this seems to me to be a touch
reprehensible. >>

Alan I believe there are 2 reasons for marking a tune "Trad", though
recognition of the composer should be applied where possible. One reason is the space
allowed for written material on the insert of the CD and the other is for
purposes of copyright. Many tunes are in collections such as the Gow Collection.
That doesn't necessarily mean any of the Gows wrote it. For
copyright/intellectual rights it helps distinguish the old and copyright tunes. In the days of
vinyl the back of the record jacket had plenty of room for information. But I
think you are right about this. It would be good to have the name of the
composer, if known.

Bob McMurtry

Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39598 · SMiskoe · 13 Oct 2004 20:44:42 · Top

I agree with Alan, there is not enough attention paid when it comes to
composer. I have several CD's that list trad dances and I know who wrote them.
Also, I don't think it that difficult to research the composer considering the
number of printed books and the various data bases available these days.
Cheers,
Sylvia Miskoe, Concord, NH USA

Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39599 · John Chambers · 13 Oct 2004 21:09:11 · Top

Alan Paterson wrote:
|
| It has struck me that very many of the tunes used on these CDs are
| credited to that prolific master "Traditional", where I already have
| them accredited to People such as O'Neill, Gow, Marshall and most
| especially Scott Skinner.
|
| Considering that A) the RSCDS is normally recognised as being (shall we
| say) nit-picking regarding detail (and rightly so IMHO) and that B)
| these composers are particularly well-known in this context and C) Scott
| Skinner is not THAT far in the past, this seems to me to be a touch
| reprehensible.
|
| Anyone care to comment?

O'Neill was primarily a collector. Although it is suspected that he
included a few of his own tunes in his books, they are mostly tunes
from the Irish immigrants in the Chicago area at in the early 1900's.
(Many of his tunes are also standard Scottish repertoire.) He often
included a name at the upper right of a tune, but it was the person
that he got the tune from. Sometimes that person was the composer,
but usually not. You need to consult other sources to figure out who
might have composed a tune; O'Neill is really no help.

The Gows were all composers and collectors, and their books were a
mixture of tunes. They weren't always too clear about a tune's
origin. Like O'Neill, they would put a name on a tune to say that
they got the tune from that person. Some of their own tunes were
truly original; some were their version of older tunes.

Skinner apparently did write most of the tunes in his books, but he
is known to have published slight variations on others' tunes without
giving credit. He may not have known the tunes' origins.

The idea that you should give credit to the true composer of a tune
seems to be mostly a 20th-century innovation. Thus, Handel, Mozart,
Beethoven and others routinely took tunes from various sources, wrote
their arrangements, and put their own name on the result. Sometimes
they'd say something like "Variations on a theme by ...", but more
often they'd just take full credit. This wasn't considered dishonest
in their time. The Gows and O'Neill (and to some extent Skinner) were
just following this tradition when they published their personal tune
collections without being too careful with attribution.

But I wouldn't be too hard on them. Discovering the true origins of
tunes has always been difficult. Try finding the names of composers
of currently-popular songs. You'll be impressed with how difficult
this often is.

Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39601 · Richard Goss · 13 Oct 2004 22:16:20 · Top

Sorry if my comments are not to particular respondants, but if interested you can figure them out.

Yes, the Gows and others included a lot of claimed, and not claimed, tunes. As a result, when the Society publishes tunes, they should list Gow if Gow, and Traditional (Gow), if traditional but Gow is our oldest source. Child did not write any of the Child Ballads either, and I assume that most of them have no known authors or sources prior to those from whom he got them. We still refer to them as "Child 76a", etc.

The real point is that these tunes did not just jump from a folk fiddler playing an ancient tune to our publications. So we should always give credit to someone.

Yes, the Society is picky. In fact, I feel they are two picky in a lot of areas (especially where they are wrong). At the same time, the authority of the Society rests in the quality of its publications, and this means it would be wrong not to give credit, especially when the sources are so available.

I would even go backwards when we republish our dance books, and correct reference errors from the past. So if in 1930, we said "from an old MS," and now we know that it was "Jamieson", then we should say so. If the Society has not kept a file of correspondence dealing with its published dances, by dance and tune, it is about time they started.

Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39604 · Ron Mackey · 13 Oct 2004 23:34:25 · Top

> Considering that A) the RSCDS is normally recognised

as being (shall we say) nit-picking regarding detail* (and rightly so
IMHO) and that B)

> these composers are particularly well-known in this context and C) Scott
> Skinner is not THAT far in the past, this seems to me to be a touch
> reprehensible.
> Anyone care to comment?
> Alan

Should we modify that by adding *'when it suits'?


Composer "Traditional" and the RSCDS

Message 39607 · John Chambers · 13 Oct 2004 23:52:05 · Top

Richard Goss commented:
| I would even go backwards when we republish our dance books, and correct reference errors from the past. So if in 1930, we said "from an old MS," and now we know that it was "Jamieson", then we should say so. If the Society has not kept a file of correspondence dealing with its published dances, by dance and tune, it is about time they started.

Actually, they could just use the Fiddler's Companion site. ;-)

If they discover something that's wrong there, I'm sure Andrew
would be glad to get the correction.

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