Bunting tune collecting statistics

As I work on the transcriptions project I am also assembling a spreadsheet of tunes and metadata to try and get a grip on attributions, variants, and titles.

I entered all of the attributions from the three printed volumes today. There are printed attributions for the 1840 tuns in the introduction, giving names, places and dates of collection. For the tunes published in 1797 and 1809, we have the annotated volumes in the British library (Add MS 41508) which Karen Loomis drew to our attention.

I counted 285 tunes in total. Of them, 149 (52%) are tagged as coming from harpers. 88 of these tunes (31%) he either does not say, or he gives us only a place, or he gives us a name without saying who is is. My guess is that most of these are from singers, fiddlers and other traditional musicians. 9 (13%) come from pipers. 3 (1%) come from a book, and the remaining 36 (13% are sourced from a collector or correspondent.

To be more crude, half the tunes that Bunting published are from harpers; a third are probably from traditional musicians, and most of the rest are sent to him by scholars and gentlemen.

I tried to do the same with the transcriptions in ms29 and ms33(1) but I haven’t identified enough of the tunes, or gathered enough attributions evidence yet, for the numbers to be meaningful. In time!

One thought on “Bunting tune collecting statistics”

  1. I looked at all the tunes reported to have been played at the Belfast meeting in 1792, as listed in newspapers and contemporary reports. I count 56 tunes.

    Apart from the 5 tunes (9%) with titles I can’t figure out, we have ms29 transcriptions of 16 (29%) of these tunes. And I should point out that we don’t know if this is transcribed from the same harper, or is even the same version – we only have titles for the Belfast tunes. And, the transcriptions I have found, are scattered throughout the manuscript, with no clear grouping or pattern. 6 of the Belfast tunes (11%) are represented in ms29 by copies, either from printed books or elsewhere.

    I also checked the list of tunes said to have been played by named harpers. I count 24 tunes. Of these, 7 (29%) are represented by transcriptions in ms29. 4 tunes (17%) are represented in ms29 by copies from printed books or elsewhere.

    Looks like my suspicions are confirmed… ms29 was apparently not the notebook Bunting used at the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792.

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