Fiddle Music's Written Tradition | Bowing Down Home

Since the mid-18th century, an extensive written tradition for fiddle tunes has co-existed with the aural one. Several comprehensive tune collections published between 1880 and 1910 were widely available on PEI during the lifetimes of the fiddlers represented on this website, and had a significant impact on the local repertoire. These include the following Scottish books: The Athole Collection (1884), The Skye Collection (1887), Kerr’s Merry Melodies for the Violin (4 vols: 1875-89), and two works by noted Scottish fiddler James Scott Skinner: Harp & Claymore (1903-4) and The Scottish Violinist (c. 1910). Also of significance were a New England publication called Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1883; later renamed One Thousand Fiddle Tunes), O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903), and O’Neill’s Dance Music of Ireland (1907).

Both Don Messer and most major Cape Breton media fiddlers routinely mined these old tune books and others in search of fresh material to record or broadcast. This media exposure re-kindled local interest in hundreds of 18th and 19th century tunes that may never have previously circulated in the Canadian Maritimes, or which had long ago been forgotten.

See also these special topics: Tune Genres, Medleys , Tune Origins