Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Traditional Music Repertoire - A Question!

Are you a trad musician?  Here's a question for you:-

What goes through your mind as you choose tunes?

It's not a trick question - I'm just curious to know what kind of thing you're looking for, and what you're thinking about.

For example, if you're looking for songs, my trad muso friends tell me they're looking for poignant tales, strong women, difficult subject matter.  A good story, 'stark visual imagery' and strong emotions.  Even murder!

So that tells me the theme of the song is very important to you - which makes sense, especially if you're planning the programme for a gig. 

Looking for old dialect words in songs can help you work out where they might have originated, if the book itself doesn't give anything away.  (That's a helpful hint from one of our contacts!)

What about fiddle tunes?  Obviously the tunes are all-important,but I guess also a quirky title, maybe one that suggests the song's origins, might also catch your attention.  What about the key, or other features? 

If you're browsing a pile of song or tune-books, do you approach new or older collections differently?  What are you thinking about when you look at an early 20th century book? 19th century collection?  An 18th century one?  I'm going to be talking to our trad Scottish musicians about historic songbooks this week, and I'm really keen to know what people look for.  I can tell you what goes through my mind, but I'm starting from a slightly different place, so it would be informative to know how other people approach the books I've come to love so much.

 Tweet me @karenmca if you'd like to share your approach to repertoire selection.

Thank you!

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