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 Post subject: Variation?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 2:54 pm 
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What makes a tune a variation or a new tune? I was looking at "The Mason's Apron" on the Session. Most postings are two parts, four lines of four bars. One version has 48 lines! 192 bars! Can this much difference be the same tune?

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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 3:13 pm 
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Michael w6 wrote:
What makes a tune a variation or a new tune? I was looking at "The Mason's Apron" on the Session. Most postings are two parts, four lines of four bars. One version has 48 lines! 192 bars! Can this much difference be the same tune?

In that particular tune, yes, there are many, many different settings, some of which have many parts. They're typically show pieces, that is, pieces just designed to allow the player to show off. Fiddler's seem to like that tune (not this fiddler, though).

Most of the extra parts in The Mason's Apron are just variations of existing parts. They're typically variations just of the second part. It's a strange thing. Personally, I find it tedious, but each to his/her own.

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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2020 9:38 pm 
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As much as I have used and value thesession.org I have begun to gravitate towards Henrik Norbeck's ABC tune finder. I usually type -Norbeck's Irish tunes- in the search bar when I am looking for it. I prefer to read standard notation, but the ABCs are there as well. While there are so many variations of tunes that are great, Norbeck's will have the tune written as heard by a particular artist or two with their variations added at the end. Then he will tell you where the tune was transcribed from: artist and recording. Most of us who are searching don't have handed down tunes from grandparents and cousins in our heads. If we did we wouldn't need to look them up HaHa. So we are usually working from tunes we've heard on CDs or in sessions. Being presented with 7 or more variations or transcriptions can be confusing. As I played more and more I'd go to thesession.org with a tune planted firmly in my head from playing in a session around me that I wanted to archive for later on paper. I'd often find a line in this version, then a line in that version, and a few notes here and there that had me printing a couple of alternates and cutting and pasting the old fashioned way with scissors and scotch tape.

Tunes have a solid foundation and are fluid at the same time.

The more you listen the more you'll hear tunes played in different locals with different notes as well as whole parts. You either have to just pick the one you like the best, or if you are in sessions, the one that most people know (unless you like herding cats.)


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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:43 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:10 am 
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It's often a grey area between what is a variant setting of a tune, and what is a distinct tune.

I believe that many or perhaps most of Irish reels and jigs were generated by the "telephone game" nature of tune transmission, where you hear somebody playing a tune at a session, and learn the essence of it, but when you go off on your own what you end up playing has numerous little differences.

Then you play your version at a session, and somebody learns that. And so it goes, and as the tune spreads it's in a constant process of mutation. By the time it gets back around to that first player it's different enough to be regarded a separate tune. (And it's probably acquired a new title by then, too.)

It's quite amazing how rapidly this process of mutational transmission can operate. Back in the 1980s there was a Canadian pipe band the leader of which wrote a new tune for the band to play in competition. I saw the band perform that tune the year it was introduced. In the manner of the pipe band world the composer had published his tune in his latest Collection.

It was a scant year later I was at an Irish pub and a trad band played that tune. It was all mixed up! There were parts missing, new parts had appeared, and the order of the parts was all scrambled around.

I said something like "you've changed that tune quite a bit".

And the fellow said "oh no, one of our band members just got back from Ireland and that tune is all the go, everyone's playing it. She learned it at a session there".

The fact that I had heard the composer play it, and had the sheet music the composer had published, meant nothing to these people. Whatever way it was heard at a session was the "real tune" and they couldn't care less how it appeared in sheet music, which they couldn't read anyhow.

Subsequently I heard that tune over and over at different sessions and played by different Irish bands and it was never the same twice, the tune had instantly generated seemingly endless versions.

And it wasn't just the Irish trad session people! The tune was recorded by more than one top Pipe Bands and their versions were different from each other, and different from the original. I heard a Pipe Band in Scotland play an even more degraded version, and in this case a new title had affixed itself as well. (Sometimes with trad tunes the titles change faster than the tune does.)

Somebody back then who wanted to learn that tune would be confronted with dozens of versions wildly different in the number, order, and nature of the parts, and in at least two different keys, and with at least two different titles, and might be surprised to find out that the tune was recently composed.

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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:45 am 
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Yes, the Clumsy Lover did the rounds for a bit during the eighties. I got a version off Seán Og Potts at the time. Thankfully the novelty has long since worn off.

I don't see all that much a problem if a tune changes in the hands of musicians. You rarely hear, for example, Reavey's tunes played as they are published and it definitely improves their playability in most cases.

Just a thought : Keeping the distinction between variants, versions and variation clear would help talking about all this.

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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2020 10:33 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Just a thought : Keeping the distinction between variants, versions and variation clear would help talking about all this.


Getting our terms right is always a good idea. I decided to see what the classical world has to say on the matter so I went and got a copy of one of the most famous tunes in the world and Mozart’s variations of it: Zwölf Variationen in C über das französische Lied "Ah, vous dirai-je Maman", KV 265 (300e). Here’s the score: https://dme.mozarteum.at/DME/nma/nma_co ... &l=1&p1=49

I go on to youtube to hear it done by Sheona White on the tenor horn (my favourite performance): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl6r4rLhIgw

Following the melody on the stave I realise she’s playing a variation of the variations! :-?


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 Post subject: Re: Variation?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2020 8:57 am 
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As I was saying it's often a grey area, a continuum between two settings being considered versions of a single tune and at some point being considered distinct tunes.

It's semantics, really. Sometimes two things that are reckoned as being separate tunes might be closer together melodically than two things reckoned different settings of one tune.

Just now I stumbled on this, people trying to parse this issue (I'm not familiar with the tune(s) in question)

https://thesession.org/discussions/45040#comment899422

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