The structure of MS4.29

The other day I was in Belfast, and I went to Queen’s University Belfast Special Collections to look at Manuscript 29, which contains Edward Bunting’s live transcription notations which he did in the 1790s, as well as tunes he copied from other books, and other jottings and rough notes. But instead of looking at the notations and writing, I spent my time peering at the ends of the book, looking at how the pages are fixed together.

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D’éalaigh Máire Liom

I feel like I am not making much progress going through the “Damn your Body” pamphlet, because even after looking closely at each notation I don’t have much to say about whether it is a harp transcription or how it fits into the old harp tradition. I fear that this next tune, D’éalaigh Máire Liom, on page 192, is another unsatisfactory one. But I’ll do a summary post on it, because the only other option is to give up and skip over it, and I am not ready to do that yet. I would rather have an informed opinion about every page of the manuscript, even if that opinion ends up being “I have no idea what is going on with this notation”.

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Bruach na Carraige Báine

Edward Bunting made what looks like it might be a live transcription of a performance of the traditional Irish song air, Bruach na Carraige Báine, onto the fifth page of his “Damn your Body” transcription pamphlet, some time in the 1790s.

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Damn your Body

Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 185/183/192/f91r is a kind of title page for a 16 page pamphlet which is now bound up in the composite manuscript MS4.29. The pamphlet consists of 16 pages in MS4.29, from page 185/183/192/f91r through to page 200/198/207/f98v, and contains live transcription notations of traditional Irish music, which were written down by Edward Bunting on his collecting trips in the 1790s. This pamphlet seems to have been bound up with all his other loose collecting pamphlets in around 1802-1805, to form the volume which is now QUB SC MS4.29.

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Uair bheag roimh an lá

The final tune in this little group of three or four tunes we have looked at recently, is Uair bheag roimh an lá, a little hour before the day. We have Edward Bunting’s live transcription dots from the 1790s, and we have piano arrangements that he made based on this transcription. In this blog post I will line all these up and try to say something useful about the live transcription dots on Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 94/90/099/f44v.

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Clár bog déil

The third tune in this group of four we are looking at is on the same page as the Little Munster Mantle. It is titled “Castle Moon” above the notation, and “Cleaur bug deal / soft boards of Deal” below.

This notation looks to me like it was made by Edward Bunting as live transcription “dots” written live as a traditional informant played or sang to him in the 1790s.

The notation is in Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 93/89/098/f44r.

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Little Munster Mantle

The next tune in the group of four that I am looking at just now, is titled in the manuscript “Little Munster Mantle”. The notation consists of a line of dots, starting on B, and then two lines of notation a 3rd lower starting on G. I think this represents a live transcription notation, written here by Edward Bunting at speed from the performance of a tradition-bearer some time in the 1790s.

The notation is on Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 93/89/098/f44r. Lets look at the transcription in more detail.

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A bhean dubh rún dileas

There’s a group of four tunes that Edward Bunting notated apparently live from traditional informants, on pages 92 to 94 of his little collecting pamphlets in the 1790s. I’ll do a series of four posts looking at each of these tunes in turn.

First up is A bhean dubh rún dileas. The live transcription notation is on Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 92/88/097/f43v. We have already discussed this page because it has the abandoned transcription dots of the Fairy Queen. But today I want to study the other tune on this page, which Bunting wrote over the Fairy Queen dots, obliterating them.

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Ailí Gheal Chiúin Ní Chearbhaill

I first came across the song of Ailí Gheal Chiúin Ní Chearbhaill from the singing of Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin. You can read her commentary about this song in her book A Hidden Ulster (2003) p.220-223, or on her Oriel Arts website where you can also see a video of Pádraigín singing the song with harp accompaniment by Sylvia Crawford.

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