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ITMA Ryan's Mammoth Collection


michael sam wild
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has anyone tried to go on the Ryan collection on ITMA site. Is it very slow or is it just me? Compared with the Session etc it is very laborious.

 

Has nayone bought the Mel Bay reissue of Ryan's?. I read somewhere ( probably the book, The Scribe , about the other O'Neill (James) the Chief's amanuensis, that O'Neill probably lifted and renamed a lot of the tunes to sound more 'Gaelic' and that a lot of the Irish musicians in the Sates used it for tunes.

Edited by michael sam wild
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This Book is still available, from Amazon, now titled "One Thousand Fiddle Tunes" and pubished by M.M.Cole. Chicago. If you Google it you could find it available from other sources.

I have had my copy for about 30 years but would not like to say if O'Neill took a great number of tunes from from it. It was a common practice though and sometimes I think Ryan took many tunes from "Koehler's Violin Repository" which,incidently, is now available on line for down loading from the National Library of Scotland.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I picked up a copy a couple of weeks ago at the Dublin Irish Festival. In reading the forward, by Patrick Sky, it says that the tunes in Cole's "1000 Fiddle Tunes" published in 1940 are mostly identical to the tunes in "Ryan's Mammoth Collection" published in 1885. It has tunes I recognize as ITM, as well as old-time. For example, I recognized several tunes that Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers had recorded in the twenties and thirties, as well as tunes I have heard played at both old-time and Irish sessions. It seems to be a collection of tunes that were being played in the USA in the late nineteenth century.

 

Alan

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I have a copy of Coles 1000 fiddle tunes that I bought in the 1950's. It is on paper that is crumbling. I recently replaced it with the Mel Bay reprint of Ryan's Mammoth collection. The music is identical-- the Coles version seems to be a facsimile of the Ryan publication. The Mel Bay version has a better binding and clearer print. The Mel Bay version has an introduction giving a scholarly and interesting discussion of the sources and history of the publication, including the connections with O'Neill.

 

This has been a source for American fiddlers for over a hundred years. My grandfather used it. There are some great tunes in it.

Edited by Larry Stout
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Ryan worked for Elias Howe, a Bostoner who prodigiously collected and published dance music, in the mid to late nineteenth century (note: he is not the same Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine). Howe published many, many tune books in nineteenth century America, and just about all the Ryans tunes were earlier published by him. If you go to my article at concertina.com on the history of the Anglo in the US, you will see two of his concertina tutors digitally loaded on that site, which contain a good number of the same tunes as well as others. If I recall correctly, by mutual agreement in the late 1800s Howe's employee Ryan republished some of Howe's collection, with the idea that maybe they would sell yet again under a fresh title! Coles Fiddle Tunes, as someone mentioned, was a much later unauthorized (but ok, since out of copyright) reprint of Ryan's, and Howe's, tunes. Mel Bay reprinted both Ryan's and Howe's collections a decade ago; Howe's is now out of print, but one can still order Ryan's.

 

Elias Howe's collections made extensive use of whatever tunes the people in New England and America were playing, which included Irish, Scottish, English and most importantly American tunes. In particular, the Ryan collection is very rich in minstrel dance tunes of that era. There are many tunes in Ryan's that are attributed directly to their minstrel composers - people like Dan Emmet, Frank Livingston, etc. The only issue I have with the ITMA online work is that it excludes these composer's names...thereby losing the identity of the tunes as minstrel tunes. By simply being attributed to Ryan - an Irish name - one might get the idea that this is another Irish tune collection, when in truth it is mostly an American (and hence polyglot) collection.

 

Yes, O'Neill 'lifted' quite a number of tunes from this collection (I've seen the number 200 bandied about). Lifting them is fair play - nearly everyone did it back then - except that O'Neill rather inexplicably did not acknowledge Howe, whilst he did acknowledge Irish collectors like Petrie etc. He also retitled some of the Howe's/Ryan's tunes with more Irish-sounding names, further obscuring their ancestry. Patrick Sky did quite some research on this point, as have others...see Sky's foreword in the Mel Bay publication of Ryans tunes.

 

For the record, O'Neill considered that Dan Emmett was one of the sons of Erin since he had an Irish last name, and hence a good Irish composer whose tunes were worthy of inclusion in his (O'Neill's) collections. Emmett however was born in 1815 in frontier Ohio (somewhere back in time he had an Irish ancestor). He was one of the founders of blackface minstrelsy.

 

By the way, when Paddy Murphy played The Dawn, he was actually playing The Miller's Reel, a Howe/Ryan/Coles tune that had been written specifically for the minstrels...I forget the composer and original publication date, but both are known. Retitling and such is a natural thing in the folk process.

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One Amazon reviewer wrote that it only had a few good tunes and a lot of rubbish, Is it worth buying?:unsure:

 

 

Well, that is a critisism which could be leveled at many of these large Tomes. A book like this covers several genres and thus the pieces from outside of ones area of interest could be viewed as just page fillers or rubbish.

 

Some of us collect any volumes like this in the hope that one day that special and illusive tune might be found. Just one lovely tune that becomes a friend for life could be worth the price.

 

Having said that there are not many tunes that I have garnered from this collection alone.

 

It appears that many musicians have trolled through the big collections looking for something different for a new CD, however the clever part is making sense of the settings and adjusting things a little to make a workable piece.

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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One Amazon reviewer wrote that it only had a few good tunes and a lot of rubbish, Is it worth buying?:unsure:

If all you're interested in is Guinness-brown tunes in versions popular with contemporary ITM sessions, maybe not.

 

But if your tastes are broader than that, I highly recommend it.

 

Among 1000 tunes, you're almost guaranteed to find a few that you think are duds, but just as surely you'll find several treasures, each of which alone could justify the purchase of the book.

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One Amazon reviewer wrote that it only had a few good tunes and a lot of rubbish, Is it worth buying?:unsure:

 

There are a lot of nuts out there; look for GROUPS of Amazon reviewers!

 

There are some wonderful tunes here. The Poppy Leaf and City of Savannah (in Georgia) were co-opted by Alistair Anderson and by the Boys of the Lough (the Poppy Leaf originally came from James Hill in Tyneside near Alistair's home, anyway). The American Rifle Team is a douzy written to record the first American victory in a rifle competition in Europe (they beat the Royal Irish team, as I recall). If you can play that tune to tempo on an EC, you have a pretty good mastery of the instrument. I still haven't tried it on Anglo. The Electric Hornpipe, Monogram Hornpipe, Liverpool Hornpipe, General Longstreet's Reel (he was a Confederate general of note), Key West hornpipe...they are great tunes. And then there are the Saratoga Reel, Ostinelli's Reel, the Bees Wing Hornpipe and the Golden Eagle (both James Hill tunes I think), President Garfield's and the Staten Island hornpipes, to say nothing of the Texarkana hornpipe and the mighty Trafalgar hornpipe. A fiddler friend in Huntsville Alabama* used to say that Coles tunes were how you sorted out the real fiddlers from the dross...it takes skill to play them, as they are in all sorts of difficult keys, and made up of great heaps of sixteenth notes. Play them if you are up to it!

 

The introductory notes by Patrick Sky (in the Mel Bay version of Ryan's tunes) are well worth the price. I like someone who takes the trouble to think through the history of the music, and the origin of the tunes. Too often today everyone assumes that all the diddly tunes are Irish.

 

*That friend is Ed Baggott. Many years ago we learned to play Coles tunes at the feet of a master old time fiddler named Bill Northcutt, in Houston. Bill sadly passed away long before his time. Ed speaks of those times, and of Bill, on his website, and also includes some fine recordings of some Coles tunes. http://edbaggott.com/ Ed plays these tunes for the purpose for which they were written: dancing.

Edited by Dan Worrall
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One Amazon reviewer wrote that it only had a few good tunes and a lot of rubbish, Is it worth buying?:unsure:

 

 

I believe the same thing was said in 1885. My wife and I have only had the volume a few weeks and have alredy had much enjoyment from looking through the tunes. I also find sight-reading the tunes is a great practice exercise. I definitely felt that it was worth buying.

 

Alan

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  • 1 month later...

Caoimhín Mac Aoidh's biography of James O'Neill, The Scribe, mentioned above, documents the tunes the O'Neills swiped from Howe/Ryan's "Eastern publication," as the Chief termed it, in the once instance where he even alluded to their work. The Bernardo title is pretty funny, also the Reconciliation becoming the Olive Branch, or the Oriental hornpipe becoming "The Boys from the East."

 

Pat Sky also edited an earlier work of Howe's, Howe's 1000 Jigs and Reels, for reprint by Mel Bay. Wholly new typesetting here instead of the facsimile used for Ryan's. It's a much broader work than Ryan's, with every manner of tune imaginable presented here; also complete chaos as regards organization. It's much like the Kerr's Merry Melodies books, which seem to have lifted a good few selections from Howe - and Ryan? The KMM and Ryan were published around the same time, though - 1880's.

 

I love these books, and have come across a good few tunes for myself. There's lots of mundane stuff as well, of course.

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to the rubbish comment.. oh my, just try out 'downfall of waterstreet' pure heaven and 'after the hare, the diamond reel, many of the strathspeys, just send you! the collection is full of treasures. on the first go thru maybe you miss, but then here they are, shining genius from characters we wish we would have met. sure some duds but so many great ones!

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A book like this covers several genres and thus the pieces from outside of ones area of interest could be viewed as just page fillers or rubbish.

Yep. One person's treasure is another man's rubbish, and vice versa. That's why some folks go dumpster-diving. (And in big cities one can nicely furnish several apartments with what can be found set out on any big-rubbish pickup day.)

 

Tastes vary. I doubt that the publishers considered any of their tunes to be just "page fillers"; rather they are attempts to please a wide spectrum of tastes. The polkas aren't intended for the opera buffs, nor the operatic arias for polka bands, but they did try to include "something for everyone".

 

Even a tune that may seem too simple and boring when you or I read it from the page can become quite catchy when played by folks whose tradition it was lifted from. I had precisely that experience yesterday, when I sat in with some local Jämtland (west-central Sweden) players. Some of the tunes were so simple that I didn't even have to listen once through before playing along, yet the style (lift? swing? call it what you like) with which those fellows played them made the whole experience great fun for both players and listeners.

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