Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I was going through some music looking for something new to play, and landed on General Burnside's Jig.
It only took a couple of bars to realize that I already knew it. It was a version of the tune that's also called The Octaroon Jig, and Emancipation Jig in a couple of other books - only a few notes different. (not any of the important ones)
Boston Jig aka Modoc Reel is another tune with multiple titles (there's at least one more for that too) It would be interesting to do a survey of the tunes that have multiple names. My current theory — fueled by early morning toast and coffee is that these tunes might have been ones that were "out there" and being played before this music started being formalized. "Hey we should put this one in the book - the one that goes twanka-twank-twankety-bong" "Good idea. What's it called?" "I dunno. What do you want to call it?"
Anyone looking for a topic for their ethno-musicology term paper?

Views: 61

Comment by Tim Twiss on January 23, 2013 at 8:54am

Yea....know what you mean. I actually started a database called "tune similarities" , where I tried to list tunes together that had the same "DNA". I agree...there must be root tunes out there that have been floating around.

Comment by Rob Morrison on January 23, 2013 at 9:13am

Ian-- First off, it's the fiddler's job to remember the names of the tunes.  Consequently I don't put all that much effort into remembering them.  But for fun, when I get bored, I like to to try to do medleys of all the tunes that have at least one identical or very similar part.  Try doing a medley of these some time--Rural Walkaround, Matt Peel's Walkaround, Luke West's Walkaround (both versions), Alabama walkaround, Cotton Pod Walkaround, Coon Hunt Walkaround, Camptown Hornpipe, Old Johnny Boker, and Circus Jig.  It sounds as if you're playing clever and subtle variations of the same tune, which, in a very real sense, you are.  The great multiplicity of names for the tunes underscores the plain fact that the roots of minstrelsy lie in an oral and not a written tradition, no matter how useful the written scores are.  The pioneers of minstrelsy built upon an organic folk process that never stopped while minstrelsy dominated Amaerican popular culture for some 50 years.  And, more importantly, that tradition survived the death of minstrelsy in various forms in isolated regions all across North America and not just in the southern Appalachians.  But, I digress...



Comment by Al Smitley on January 23, 2013 at 9:16am

They are all over the place for fiddle tunes.  I think they are referred to as "tune families" or something like that (that doesn't sound right).  Even within a single publication (Ryan's, for example), there are tunes that show up multiple times but with different titles.  Thus, there are not really 1050 Reels and Jigs but 1050 Reel and Jig titles.

Comment by Ian Bell on January 23, 2013 at 9:24am

One of the Buckley books has the same tune under two titles as well, only a few pages apart -  oversight?, typesetters gone wild?, too many contributors and not enough editors? Who knows.

Comment by Ian Bell on January 23, 2013 at 3:50pm

Your right about those tunes Rob. whenever I set out to play one of those "walkarounds" (Luke's, Matt's etc.) I'm never certain which one is actually going to appear under my fingers. It's often some wierd hybrid of of some or all of them. But then, I guess that's how "new" tunes get borned in the first place.

Comment by Tim Twiss on January 23, 2013 at 3:52pm

Live, I seldom play more than one or two that are "similar". To an average audience, it is a blur of "plunky plunk" unless there is a totally different groove, feel, or lyrical content.


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