The Performance of Scottish Fiddle Music: Towards a Tune-Concept

Ronnie Miller Gibson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


The study of historical performing practices of Scottish fiddle music is greatly facilitated by the existence in music notation of multiple examples of individual tunes. Significantly, each is usually unique, and when taken together as an index of performing practice they can be interpreted to highlight performers’ creative engagement with the tune, defined as a loosely constructed melodic contour which is distinguishable from other tunes. While it is sometimes possible to identify lines of influence between examples, the variant paradigm utilised in folkloristics proves an inadequate tool in this context given the insignificance of an urtext and the individuality of most examples, based as they often are on a performance rather than an existing text. This paper will introduce the tune-concept as a helpful model which challenges the conception of music as a fixed text by recognising the contingency of notation upon performance. Tensions between aurality and literacy will be examined with recourse to examples of Scottish fiddle music, but the findings will be applicable to any traditional music for which tunes form a cultural currency, and of relevance to studies of pre nineteenth-century performing practice. Ultimately, it will demonstrate that notated examples represent a springboard from which performers start rather than an end-product in their own right.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2014
EventRoyal Musical Association Research Students' Conference - University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Jan 20148 Jan 2014


ConferenceRoyal Musical Association Research Students' Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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