Not interested in the actual banjo but isn't it cool that there is a handwritten book of music - someone's banjo playing repertoire - that has survived all these decades. I think the seller is optimistic (like a lot of people buying banjos at auction and then shifting them on!) https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/195488437190?hash=item2d8404d3c6:g:AuIAA...

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The classification of Irish dance tunes pre-dates the convention of the pub session by many decades. Each type of tune is designed to accompany a particular type of dance. This is for both solo dancing and social dancing.  While there were regional differences in how these were danced and in what order the types of tunes were played, a double jig, a single jig or slide,  a slip jig, a hop jig, a hornpipe, a polka, a barn dance, a reel...... each required a particular type of tune.  And then there are "Set Dances" for which one and only one tune is played. Almost as soon as functional tune-making and tune playing arose, these melodies entered the repertoire of instrumentalists who played primarily for listeners; for relatively stationary bodies rather than moving ones.   

O'Neill was a receiver and collator. He did not create these long-existing categories, all of which were self-evident to the players, listeners, and dancers.

Since, in the printed banjo and/or fiddle collections there is no describable or observable difference between breakdowns and jigs, why are there two categories?  This is what I am trying to understand.   What makes a tune book breakdown not a jig?



Joel Hooks said:

I believe that none of the post revival Irish Session rules were in use before they were established... if that is the standard with which you are referring to assign classifications to these tunes.

Which brings up a question I have, when were those standards established?  In all the banjo books I have studied I've never seen any real order to the "types" of tunes.  Not once do I recall seeing something called a "slip-jig".  But there are "stop jigs", which are usually tricky to play and sometimes make me giggle as I try to keep time. 

Was Francis O'Neill the start of the strict categorization?

Most of the time "hornpipes" and "reels" tend to follow form, but "jigs" and "breakdowns" have no set pattern or meter.  They can be in 2/4 or 6/8 or any time really.  Even the ones titled (or subtitled) "Irish Jig" could be 2/4 or 6/8-- it did not seem to matter.

I'm asking because I know little about the classification of Session tunes. 

 

Jody Stecher said:

I've been looking at the other tunes in his Turner collection. Some are called "jig" and some are called "breakdown". I can find no difference in their structure. What am I missing?

Joel Hooks said:

Thunderstorm Breakdown, with second banjo, is found in this Turner's collection:

https://archive.org/details/turners60jigs/page/n26/mode/1up?view=th...

I have found some of the pieces from this Turner's collection were printed in other Turner's books.  It is possible that one could find all the others in this MS in published form.  XL also has "arranged by" and then some squiggly lines.

But, yes, it is neat to find these MS folios.  It is very personal.  That said, they often have no monetary value attached to them as we are the only ones interested in them 

When I began playing for Irish dancers in the late 1960s when a 6/8 jig was wanted we were inevitably asked for a "double jig".  This was in San Francisco. The dancers were both immigrants and the children of immigrants. There were plenty of Slip Jigs and these were in 9/8.  I am examining my reprint copy of The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music, the compilation of which began in 1891. It contains 70 double jigs, 22 single jigs (also 6/8), 7 quadrilles (also 6/8),and 22 hop jigs (9/8). So while it is clear that double jigs predominated in this collection, which has never been thought to be not truly representative there are plenty of tunes called "Jig" which are not double jigs and which are not in 6/8 time.  

However.... two "howevers" actually......  all these Irish jigs have an element of 3 in their structure. None are in duple time... and... I'm talking about Ireland, not England.

Mike Bostock said:

Jigs have an absolutely consistent meaning and structure in the traditional or vernacular music of England (and Scotland and Ireland). 6/8 time...almost invariably. As far as I can recall, the only example of the term jig applied to a traditional English vernaular tune that is not in 6/8 that I know is one that is local to me here in Somerset - Radstock Jig (aka James Higgins' Jig). We can see that consistent 6/8 pattern in printed collections going back to Playford in the 17th century and beyond. Also in the many examples of personal tune books of village fiddlers. Two excellent national collections that enable anyone to access the evidence of our musical heritage are the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and the Full English Project. These are pretty much go-to first stop resources for English traditional musicians:

https://www.vwml.org

https://www.vwml.org/projects/vwml-the-full-english

Out of the 60 tunes in this collection of "Jigs and Breakdowns" only 3 are in 6/8, all the rest are in 2/4 or common time.

https://archive.org/details/turners-60-breakdowns-jigs-hornpipes-fo...

In this collection of "101 Breakdowns, Jigs, and Hornpipes", I quickly ran through and counted only 3 pieces in 6/8 (one titled "Irish Jig") and one in 3/4.

While obviously a tiny sampling marked specifically to banjoists, it seems that to the British market "jig" was not synonymous with being in 6/8 (as it would not have been in North America), at least not after, say, the 1890s.

Again, I have to admit ignorance on this subject, but google tells me that "The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music" was published after and possibly inspired by O'Neill (meaning they were inspired to do something with the collection after seeing O'Neill's published collection).

So if I am understanding correctly, one would have on their dance card "slip-jig" so that they would know what dance was coming up, much like "polka" or "schottische"?  And that these terms for various classification were in general and common use before 1900's discovery of "folk music"? 

Adding to this, since the American traditional music of the Appalachian mountains was directly descended from this 
tradition, were all of these specific classifications in use there?

Jody, I've just had a quick look through some of the examples of English banjo compositions from the 1860's and 1870's that I have. There really isn't any consistent distinguishing feature between 2/4 straight jigs and breakdowns. We could include galops in that 'blurry' 2/4 category too. From my sample it's noticeable that dotted rhythm is slightly more common in tunes titled as jigs. But dotted rhythm also occurs in breakdowns in the same sample. Triplets (often paired) occur in both straight jigs and breakdowns. The one absolute is that all the traditional 6/8 jigs in the sample do not include dotted rhythm. But any Brit musician could've guessed that without looking.

Some of the tunes are marked for tempo. Andante or allegro are not restricted to either dotted or undotted rhythm. Nor are they restricted to either breakdowns or jigs.

It seems that there was a tendency - in print - to refer to the exact same rhythm structures as jigs or breakdowns (and galops). In practice someone getting to their feet on the boards or flagstones in a pub would have an expectation of rhythm for step dancing.



Jody Stecher said:

I've been looking at the other tunes in his Turner collection. Some are called "jig" and some are called "breakdown". I can find no difference in their structure. What am I missing?

Joel Hooks said:

Thunderstorm Breakdown, with second banjo, is found in this Turner's collection:

https://archive.org/details/turners60jigs/page/n26/mode/1up?view=th...

I have found some of the pieces from this Turner's collection were printed in other Turner's books.  It is possible that one could find all the others in this MS in published form.  XL also has "arranged by" and then some squiggly lines.

But, yes, it is neat to find these MS folios.  It is very personal.  That said, they often have no monetary value attached to them as we are the only ones interested in them 

We also need to keep in perspective that the polkas, galops, gavottes, schottisches and mazurkas that became common in a banjo context at the end of the 19th century were themselves a contemporary addition to the traditional core repertoire of reels, hornpipes and jigs. These tune additions exemplify the conscious and gradual 'genteel-isation' of the banjo characteristic of the banjo boom in England. One can add to that the ragtime rhythms that we begin to hear in the 1890's.

These straight jigs, while not having any association with the genteel, are also a diversification of the repertoire in an English vernacular context.

Interesting discussion.  I think Mike may be right about the blurriness between jigs, breakdowns and galops.  May be a breakdown just means 'a fast-paced banjo tune'.  I've never really understood what a 'Patrol' is either!

I've now had a look at some (reprints of) 19th century English and American tune books. I don't have repros of 19th century English pipers, all are of personal notebooks of fiddle players. It is as Mike says: 9/8 jigs are in the repertoire but there are not many. If there is only one it is The Drops Of Brandy.   Consulting both Ryans's Mammoth Collection and it's likely predecessor Howe's, we see that tunes are organized by type. 9/8 jigs are mixed in amongst the 6/8 jigs. Hornpipes, Clogs, Reels, Country Dances, each are grouped together. Howe's book was first published in 1867.  Chief O'Neill was a teenager in County Cork at the time.  Howe's and Ryan's seem to reflect music that was popular with ordinary people at the time. Although the books gave dance instructions, especially for the Contra Dance tunes, I think these books were more descriptive than prescriptive.  

There's an aspect to' blurriness' that is itself indicative of context and purpose. I'm going to be very careful not to overstate this, but when musicians are an adjunct to vernacular participation i.e. dancing, there is expectation. Expectation is related to what is definable and predictable. The 19th century in England was a long divorce of musicians from being an adjunct to vernacular participation. Musicians increasingly became products of vernacular consumption. People who are consuming are less concerned with expectation and clear purposeful distinction.

Yes, these classifications are older than the published dance tune books. Yes Roche's collection was published after the first of O Neil's books but he seems to have begun his collecting earlier.  Anyway, jig and reel are like waltz and polka. Everyone in the culture that dances them knows what they are and it goes without saying that you can't waltz to a reel (although they do try in pockets of SW Virginia!). Each dance needs a melody with characteristic rhythmic structure. 

Dance cards, as far as I can tell, are from a different, more formal, social setting.  Depending on the geographic setting, these different tunes were (and still are) played in a prescribed order and the movement on the floor is prescribed.  Everyone knows what is coming. These are called "sets".  This is still happening in parts of Ireland and Eastern Canada. 

It's not tedious because all that is prescribed is the tune type. If, for instance, it's time for  6/8 jigs, the musicians may play any jigs they wish, and there were/are so many to chose from.

Joel Hooks said:

Out of the 60 tunes in this collection of "Jigs and Breakdowns" only 3 are in 6/8, all the rest are in 2/4 or common time.

https://archive.org/details/turners-60-breakdowns-jigs-hornpipes-fo...

In this collection of "101 Breakdowns, Jigs, and Hornpipes", I quickly ran through and counted only 3 pieces in 6/8 (one titled "Irish Jig") and one in 3/4.

While obviously a tiny sampling marked specifically to banjoists, it seems that to the British market "jig" was not synonymous with being in 6/8 (as it would not have been in North America), at least not after, say, the 1890s.

Again, I have to admit ignorance on this subject, but google tells me that "The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music" was published after and possibly inspired by O'Neill (meaning they were inspired to do something with the collection after seeing O'Neill's published collection).

So if I am understanding correctly, one would have on their dance card "slip-jig" so that they would know what dance was coming up, much like "polka" or "schottische"?  And that these terms for various classification were in general and common use before 1900's discovery of "folk music"? 

Adding to this, since the American traditional music of the Appalachian mountains was directly descended from this 
tradition, were all of these specific classifications in use there?

I follow you and agree completely up to the last two sentences. I don't disagree with them, I just don't know what you mean! 

Mike Bostock said:

There's an aspect to' blurriness' that is itself indicative of context and purpose. I'm going to be very careful not to overstate this, but when musicians are an adjunct to vernacular participation i.e. dancing, there is expectation. Expectation is related to what is definable and predictable. The 19th century in England was a long divorce of musicians from being an adjunct to vernacular participation. Musicians increasingly became products of vernacular consumption. People who are consuming are less concerned with expectation and clear purposeful distinction.

A "patrol" is a descriptive march (most of the time).  It is played ppp to fff and back to ppp which is supposed to simulate an approaching group marching, the march past, then marching away. 

They don't always follow this form but generally when "patrol" is in the title this is what you can expect. 



carrie horgan said:

Interesting discussion.  I think Mike may be right about the blurriness between jigs, breakdowns and galops.  May be a breakdown just means 'a fast-paced banjo tune'.  I've never really understood what a 'Patrol' is either!

Jody, I was referring to the social and cultural change in 19th century Victorian England involving music's increasing relationship with a non-participating, paying audience. Expectation and predictability does not disappear, but there is a focus shift toward a consideration of genre. I guess that can be described as the 'what' rather than the 'how' when compared to a culture in which people directly participate. We need to be very careful though, as despite the plentiful evidence for that social and cultural change, over-simplification and opinion can obscure very real and significant contradictions and contrasting exceptions within that broad picture.

Jody Stecher said:

I follow you and agree completely up to the last two sentences. I don't disagree with them, I just don't know what you mean! 

Mike Bostock said:

There's an aspect to' blurriness' that is itself indicative of context and purpose. I'm going to be very careful not to overstate this, but when musicians are an adjunct to vernacular participation i.e. dancing, there is expectation. Expectation is related to what is definable and predictable. The 19th century in England was a long divorce of musicians from being an adjunct to vernacular participation. Musicians increasingly became products of vernacular consumption. People who are consuming are less concerned with expectation and clear purposeful distinction.

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