Computers and Melodic Indexing

Celtic music has a vast repertoire and anyone who tries to research tune titles, composers and sources can easily be overwhelmed. Computer databases make searches easier. There are a few different ways to index melody. The most useful system for jigs and reels is a numeric code, championed by Irish traditional music enthusiast Brendan Breathnach. In a nutshell, the numbers 1 to 7 are used to represent the various degrees of a scale. A simple 8-digit code comprised of the first 8 stress notes, leads to the melody in question. The Irish Traditional Music Archives in Dublin often identifies obscure Irish tunes and variants, using this system.

To accommodate the written tradition, Scottish scholar Charles Gore and others further refined the numeric code, adding text modifiers to represent accidentals and octaves. This added accuracy allows searches of the printed repertoire, without having the original books in hand. Gore has published a book titled The Scottish Fiddle Index which includes over 12,000 titles and melodic codes, for more than 200 Scottish titles spanning the era from 1740-1900. It is available direct from the author. Charles Gore: phone/fax 44-186 682 2678.

Another interesting possibility for tune searches will be ABCs. Barfly, a Macintosh based ABC program, already allows text-based searches of multiple files and directories, and the import and export of specific information. This means that once all of the repertoire, history etc. are entered into ABCs (a monumental task), then we will be able to search for a composer, a melodic fragment, a title ... whatever is remembered. PSC

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last upddate 11/14/99