This is a reminder about the query I sent out in May asking for
people's lists of recommended tunes for patter squares. If you
were thinking of sending me such a list, please do. While I've
gotten some responses, the number so far has been disappointingly
low. (If anyone knows of some other online forum where it would
be appropriate to post this query, perhaps with hope of a higher
response rate, please let me know.)
At the bottom of this message, I'm including a copy of my original,
rather detailed, request. Perhaps that request was so wordy as to
put some of you off reading and responding. To summarize the
* Please send (if you feel qualified and inclined to do
so) a list of tunes that you would play or recommend for
traditional-style western and/or southern square dancing
("patter squares" for short, as distinguished from New-
England-style prompted squares or singing squares of
* Please send responses directly to me, <jim.saxe(a)gmail.com>,
not to the entire mailing list on which you're receiving
this, so that anyone else's responses won't be influenced
by yours. I'll eventually send out a summary of the
* I'm hoping particularly to hear from people who can come
up with a list of ten or more (perhaps many more) tunes
without scraping the bottom of their personal barrel.
(At risk of belaboring the obvious, I mean ten or more
tunes per responder, not as a grand total.)
* Please don't send lists (or references to lists) where tunes
suitable for patter squares are mixed in with other stuff.
* You don't have to educate me about how "it's not just the
tune; it's the way it's played."
Thanks in advance for any responses.
On May 12, 2017, at 6:24 PM, James Saxe <jim.saxe(a)gmail.com> wrote:
[I'm sending this query to the trad-dance-callers list, to the
SharedWeight callers' and musicians' forums, and to a number of
individuals. Please send responses directly to me *off-list*
(see Note 1 below). I plan to collect responses for about the
next two months and will summarize results to the lists and to
individual respondents some time in July. Thanks. --Jim]
As some of you may know, I've worked on and off in fits and starts
for some time at gathering lists of recommended tunes [see Note 2
below] for (traditional-style) patter squares. [In case you're
wondering what I mean by "(traditional-style) patter squares", see
Note 6 below.] My idea is to compile lists from a wide variety of
sources and to look for tunes mentioned independently by many
different recommenders. So far, I've compiled tune lists from a
few dozen books and albums, and I'm currently adding lists from
a bunch more books, articles, record catalogs, etc. I'm sending
this message because I'd like to supplement all these sources with
lists from current informants, possibly including you. So ...
* If you are a musician who has substantial experience
playing for (traditional-stye) patter squares and if
you have a list of recommended tunes that you're
willing to share--either an existing set list or a
list you come up with by sitting down and scratching
your head for a while--please send it to me *off-list*
[see Note 1] at
jim dot saxe at-sign gmail dot com
* If you are a musician who mostly plays for other things
than patter squares (e.g., contras or New-England-style
squares or concert performances) or even if you're not
a musician, but if you nonethelessAå have accumulated a
list of tunes you particularly like *for patter squares*,
I'd also be interested in hearing from you.
* I'd also be interested if anyone can supply lists of
tunes played *for patter squares* by players skilled
in the genre who are no longer living (e.g., Ralph
Blizard, Lyman Enloe, Benton Flippen, Bob Holt, Pete
McMahan, Lee Stripling, Joe Thompson, or Melvin Wine,
to name a few). However, see Note 5.
* If you know other people who might be willing and able
to contribute lists of recommended tunes, please feel
free to pass this request along. (But please try not
to put up my email address in places where spammers
are likely to harvest it. Also, see Note 1. Thanks.)
Below are some notes clarifying what kind of responses I am
and am not interested in. ***Please read at least Notes 1-3
Note 1: If you got this query via a mailing list, please send
tune lists directly to me and *not* to the entire mailing list.
As stated above, I'm trying to see which tunes get mentioned
*independently* by many recommenders, so I don't want the lists
anyone sends me to be influenced one way or another by whatever
suggestions other people have already sent. If you pass my
request along to some of your friends, I'd prefer that you each
send tune lists just to me rather than discussing tunes among
yourselves first and then sending me a combined list (unless
you and your friends are in the same regular band and such
discussions are how you normally create your set lists). Please
look carefully at the "To:" (and "Cc:") line of any reply and
make sure that that it doesn't include the address of any mailing
list. That would include addresses of the form
James Saxe via ... <...>
where <...> is a list address.
I plan to gather recommendations for the next couple months and
to post a summary some time in July.
Note 2: Please *don't* explain to me that the suitability of
a tune for a particular kind of dance can depend very strongly
on how it's played. I'm already quite well aware of that.
However, I also think it would be widely agreed that some tunes
lend themselves to being played well for dancing more than
others. (If you strenuously disagree, I will look forward to
your forthcoming album of rip-roaring square dance arrangements
of tunes from the Child ballads and _The Sacred Harp_. Meanwhile,
please don't respond to my query by attempting to un-ask it.)
After I've settled on a list of frequently-recommended tunes,
a possible follow-on project would be to try to identify one
or more renditions--online and/or on commercial recordings--of
each tune played in a danceable style worthy of study by
musicians learning to play for patter squares. For such a
project, style of playing would of course be a prime concern.
But that's not what I'm working on or asking about right now.
Note 3: Please *don't* give me lists (or references to lists,
albums, tune books, syllabi, etc) where tunes well suited for
patter squares are mixed with other sorts of tunes without
specific indication of which tunes are which.
Note 4: I'm not all that interested in recommendations for just
one or a few tunes. If you have substantial experience playing
for patter squares, I'd expect that you can come up with at least
ten tunes that you think are quite suitable, and perhaps you
can come up with many more than that without feeling that you're
starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. (If you send a long
list, you might want to distinguish which are your favorites and
which are the second-tier or third-tier choices.)
Note 5: If you send me a list of tunes from the repertoire of
some deceased musician, please tell me something about how you
compiled that list. I'm not merely looking for a list of tunes
played or recorded by, say, late great fiddler Bestus Bowslinger,
but for a list of tunes that Bestus actually played *for patter
squares*. And if you happen to have some tapes of Bestus playing
at actual dances, and if they include 30 different patter-square
tunes, and if you send me the names of the 20 tunes you happen
to recognize, then I'd like to be informed that the your sampling
of Bestus's repertoire has been filtered by the limitations of
what tunes you recognize.
Note 6: When I say "(traditional-style) patter squares," I mean
to exclude singing squares and squares that are prompted to the
phrase of the music in the New England style (or in the style of
19th-century quadrilles) and I mean to include the kinds of
squares generally thought of as traditional to the western and/or
southern U.S. I specifically would include visiting couple dances
in this genre, even when the progression is around a big circle
or by a scatter promenade, rather than around a square of four
couples. I'd also include most "transitional" (50's era) western
squares (other than singing calls) as well as more recent
compositions in similar style. I do *not* mean to say that the
dances in question must be called in a style that includes a bunch
of rhyming doggerel ("do-si high, do-si low, chicken in the bread
pan scratchin' out dough") or other extra verbiage.
Much of the "hoedown"/"patter" music produced in recent decades
for the MWSD market is, IMO, very non-traditional in character
and thus not of interest for purposes of my current inquiry.
(Hint: If a tune isn't found in any tune books, played at any
jam sessions, or recorded on any non-MWSD label, it's not what
I'm happy to get recommendations for recently-composed tunes in
traditional style, as well as for genuinely traditional (old)
tunes. I'm also happy to get recommendations for tunes from
"northern" sources that nonetheless have the right feel to work
well for traditional southern/western dances.
Of course I realize there aren't precisely defined and widely
agreed boundaries between different kinds of square dances or
different styles of calling (prompted vs. patter vs. singing;
phrased vs. unphrased; New-England vs. southern vs. traditional
western vs. ...). Ditto regarding precise definitions of musical
genres. I also realize that a particular choreographic pattern
might be danced to different styles of music and calling, etc.
That said, I still hope that the preceding paragraphs will suffice
to provide an adequate idea of what I'm looking for.
Thanks in advance to any of you who have tune lists to share.