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Revision as of 08:30, 11 June 2019

Welcome to The Traditional Tune Archive
    The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish
 traditional instrumental music with annotations, formerly known as
                          The Fiddler's Companion.

40,654 Tunes by title with Annotations

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November 15 2019  Featured tune:           TEXAS BARBED WIRE
November 15 2019  Featured tune:           TEXAS BARBED WIRE

Old Molly Hare illustration by Barbara Cooney

The widespread "Old Molly Hare" is an American descendant of Scottish fiddler-composer Nathaniel Gow's (1763–1831) reel "Largo's Fairy Dance," composed for the 'movable feast' of the Fife Hunt Ball in 1802. It is known as "Fisher Laddie" in northern England, where it appears in a collection of Northern English sword dance tunes by Cecil Sharp. The "Old Molly Hare" song and title appears to be strictly American in origin. Musicologist Charles Wolfe (1991) believed it to have been a minstrel piece that went into oral tradition among both blacks and whites. Various ditties or rhymes have been sung to it, including 'floating' verses:

(You) country coon, you come here soon;
The girls won't be here till tomorrow afternoon ..... (John Powell, quoted by Winston Wilkinson) Old Molly Hare, what you doin' there,
Diggin' out a post hole and scratchin' out yore hair? ..... (Ford)
Old Molly Hare, whatcha doin' thar,
Running through the cotton patch, as far as I can tear.
Old Molly Hare, whatcha doin' thar,
Sittin' in the corner, smoking a cigar.
Old Molly Hare, watcha doin' there,
Run through the country, run like a hare. .... (Riley Puckett/Reiner & Anick)

Ford (1940) relates an improbable story he had from a man who had been a noted caller of old-time dances when he was younger, around the 1870's or 1880's. According to him the settlers of the Missouri/Kansas prairie region plagued by rodent holes, especially rabbits, which were a hazard to cattle or horses. There was a boon to the burrows, however, as they could by used for fence posts, saving the homesteader the arduous labor of digging another hole to set his post. Usually, says Ford, the settlers as a matter of pride took great pains to set their posts in a straight line. There was however, one character in the community, "whose ingenious efforts to avoid over-exertion were a constant source of amusement to his friends and neighbors."

When he built his fence he was not particular about a straight line. He selected rows of rabbit holes, set his posts, strung the wire and had his fencing done in no time at all. But the result was even more erratic than he had anticipated. He was surveying the completed work one day when several neighbors, coming in from the range, rode up. They took one look at the fence and then had their usual laugh, to poor old John's embarrassment. 'John', said one, in a voice of suppressed amusement, 'how much liquor does it take to the mile, to build a fence like that?' 'Well,' said John, scratching his head, 'I hadn't calculated fer it to be a worm fence. Reckon though, if I had a still hitched to it and the neighbors pourin' cold water along, like they do on all my honest endeavors, you fellers 'ud be down at t'other end of the fence holdin' yer cups to ketch the whiskey!' As soon as the laughter had subsided over John's turning the tables, the neighbor added: 'Anyhow, you certainly did get your fencing done in a hurry, John. Did you have any help?' 'Yes and no,' was the reply. 'I sort of took advantage of Mother Nature on part of the work. Old Molly Hare dug the post holes—but me and the mules had to set the posts and string the wire!' It was shortly after this episode that the above-mentioned verse appeared, and began to be used by callers when the tune 'Old Molly Hare' was played.

The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's; also recorded for the Library of Congress in 1939 by Herbert Halpert from the playing of Tishomingo County, Mississippi, fiddler W.E. Claunch and Meridian, Mississippi, fiddler W.A. Bledsoe (who was originally from Tennessee).

Past Featured Tunes - Old Molly Hare full Score(s) and Annotations

Old Molly Hare
Source: SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/mhejna
Played by: Maddy Hejna -Burlington, United States

X:1 % T:Old Molly Hare L:1/8 M:2/2 B:Winston Wilkinson, Southern Folklore Quarterly, vol. VI, no. 1, p. 5. S:James H. "Uncle Jim" Chisholm (Greenwood, Albermarle County, Va.) K:D abaf b2b2|gage a4|fdfa gfed|1 cABc d2fg:|2 cABc d4||

fafd B4|fdfa gfed|cABc d4|

Ad2d d2a2|gfed cdec|defa gfed|1 cdef d2d2:|2 cdef d4||

Who Builds The Archive
Who Builds The Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.
This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.
Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

Please register as a user to make the most of the many functions of the TTA, and enjoy the many ways that information about traditional tunes can be elicited and combined, from simple to complex situations. Users may make contributions, which, when reviewed by an editor, become part of this community project. Serious user/contributors may become editors through the TTA's autopromotion process, in which quantity and quality of entries allows increased levels of permission to edit and review the entire index.
Above all, the developers wish you joy in the use of the TTA.

Latest Tunes
Latest Tunes

Help Getting started


Navigation: Registered users can navigate the Traditional Tune Archive for information in a number of ways.

  • Search. The Search function is located at the top right, and can be used to search the entire index for any key word. See Search help pages
  • Alphabetically by tune title. Under “The Archive” on the SideBar on the left is “All Tunes”. Click on “All Tunes” to open up the list of tune titles in the TTA arranged in alphabetical order, 200 titles to a page. At the top of the page is an alphabetical breakdown that serves as a shortcut to pages. Clicking on any title will bring one to the music and tune fields. Once the tune appears, clicking “Tune Discussion” at the bottom of the page (below the notation) will open up the narrative information on the tune.
  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Archive” in the sidebar can be used to draw down reports from the TTA in either in single items or in a number of combinations. One might, for example, use a single item query to run a report in the TTA for a particular composer/core source. Clicking on the arrow at the right of the bar draws down a list of composer/core sources, or one may be typed in. For example, clicking on “Bill Pigg” and then the “Run Query” tab at the bottom left will result in a list of all compositions listed in the TTA that the Northumbrian piper either composed or is the core source for. Reports may also be run in combinations, as, for example, by selecting “William Marshall” as a composer/core source, “Three Flats” for the number of accidentals, and “Major” for the Key/Mode. This will result in a report of all Eb Major compositions of Scottish fiddler/composer William Marshall that are indexed in the TTA.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Publications” in the left side bar. These are reproductions of publications for which access has been granted to the TTA by the copyright holder, under the Creative Commons license.