From The Traditional Tune Archive
Revision as of 09:12, 7 September 2018 by WikiSysop (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Jump to: navigation, search

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

September 22 2018  Featured tune:           WHISTLE O'ER

Robert Burns

WHISTLE OVER/O'ER (THE LAVE O'T). AKA and see “Maggie Pickens,” “Nancy Wants Her Own Share.” Scottish (originally), English; Rant or Strathspey. England, Northumberland. G Major (most versions): E Flat Major (Emmerson). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Emmerson, Hunter): AAB (Davie, S. Johnson, Kerr, Lees, Neil, Skinner): AABB (Alburger, Hall & Stafford, Raven): ABCCDD (Martin): AABCCD (Athole), AABBCCDD (Bremner, Glen, Gow, McGlashan): AABBCCDDEE (Oswald). The tune (and song, both extent in several versions) appears to be an early 18th century set of "De'il Stick the Minister," although it has often been attributed to dancing master John Bruce of Dumfries (c. 1720–1785, born in Braemar), the poet Robert Burns being the first to do so. Others (e.g. Mayne) say the air was composed long before him, and Emmerson (1971) finds in all little evidence to support claims for Bruce. A colorful character, Bruce was a Jacobite, born in Braemar between 1700 and 1720, who was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle after the rising of 1745 and the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Reportedly his skill as a fiddler helped free him, and he went to Dumfries where he became acquainted with Robert Burns (who called him "an honest man, though a red wud Highlander") before passing away in 1785 (Collinson, 1966/Alburger, 1983). Grattan Flood (1906), whose scholarship always requires a skeptical reading, says the tune was originally an Irish air dating back to the 17th century called "Maggie Pickens," which the Scots appropriated c. 1715–1740 and set to the song "Whistle o'er the Lave o't" (whose words were so indelicate, according to Flood, that Robert Burns had to rewrite them in 1790).

The tune has long been employed as a march. For example, it was a favorite march of the Irish Volunteers (1774–1784), and (alternating with “The British Grenadiers”) it has been the march-past melody of the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

"Whistle's" first printed appearance was in 1757 in either Robert Bremner's Scots Reels {as Glen, 1891, finds} or James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion where it appears in rant form. Alburger searched the Blaikie Manuscript (1692), as it had been reported by James Dick to be contained there, however she could not locate it in the Wighton copy. It is one of the "missing tunes" from William Vickers' 1770 Northumbrian dance manuscript, but is contained in the 1768 Gillespie Manuscript of Perth. O’Neill (1922) prints a version from the Caledonian Muse (1785) that he says is identical to that published by Bremner.

Today, the version that was published by James Scott Skinner (1890) is commonly associated with the Scottish traditional dance "Sean Triubhas," along with "Gin Ye Kiss My Wife I'll Tell the Minister," which Skinner says is the “original tune” of the dance. Seann Triubhas (‘The Shoddy Breeks’) is performed in tartan trousers, not kilts, although other items of Highland dress remain the same. Christine Martin (2002) says the Seann Triubhais is the youngest of the traditional Highland dances and was devised sometime after the Battle of Culloden, when the wearing of the kilt was outlawed and tartan trousers were substituted. Martin dates the dance to 1783, and says Bruce (the dancing master, noted above) employed the “Whistle o’er the Lave o’t” tune for it. In fact, states Emmerson (1972) "Whistle" is so intimately associated with the dance that it is now commonly known as "Seann Triubhas" (see also note for "Seann Triubhas Willighan," the original tune for the dance). O’Neill (1922) noted that it was “the statement of Joseph Cant of Chicago, a first prize winner at several piping competitions; that it was the favorite tune for the Sean Truis or "Old Man's Dance" in his native Perthshire. The rhythm of it was deemed more suitable to the requirements of dancers burdened with years than the preceding tune (“Shaun Truish Willichan”). On such excellent authority it has been included in this classification.” David Murray, writing in his book Music of the Scottish Regiments (Edinburgh, 1994), says: “The dance is said to express the disgust of the Highlanders at being forced to wear trousers instead of the kilt under the terms of the Disarming Act of 1747—although some of the steps and arm movements, which are claimed to illustrate this disgust, owe more to the ballet training undergone by a prominent Highland dancer of the nineteenth century than to the native Highland tradition.” (p. 179)

The song "Whistle o'er the lave o't" was written in the 17th century and contains ribald lyrics which can be found in David Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs. “One of many Scots songs with indelicate suggestions,” notes Purser (1992), “‘fiddling’ has long been a double-entendre and whistling a way of avoiding the over-explicit.” Burns’ words (which poke fun at the institution of marriage) go, in part:

I am a fiddler to my trade
An' a' the tunes that e'er I play'd
The sweetest still to wife or maid
Was Whistle owre the lave o't.

My mother sent me to the well,
She had better gang hersell,
I got the thing I dare nae tell,
Whistle o'er the lave o't.

WHISTLE O'ER full Score(s) and Annotations and Past Featured Tunes

%%scale 0.7 X:1 T:Whistle o'er the leave o't M:C| L:1/8 Q:"Lively" B:Oswald – Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book 12 (c. 1760) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G G>DE>G TB>A B2|d>eB>g TA>G E2|G>DE>G TB>A Bg|G<G B>G TA2G2:|

Why TTA 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

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 bottom of the SideBar on the left, and can be used to search the entire index for any key word.
  • Alphabetically by tune title. Under “The Index” 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 Index” 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.
  • Drill Down. Cumulative information about TTA entries can be found in the “Drill Down” under “The Index” in the SideBar on the left.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Issues” 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.