When Cecil Sharp published the figures for what he dubbed the
"running set" in Part V of _The Country Dance Book_ (1918), he
didn't publish the actual tunes he had heard played at dances
in Kentucky, but instead recommended other tunes (which he
published in _Country Dance Tunes, Set 9_) as "superior to the
Kentucky tunes in melodic interest." I'm wondering whether
notations of the *actual* tunes Sharp heard in Kentucky--or
even their titles--still exist.
The tunes in question do *not* appear in _English Folk Songs
from the Southern Appalachians_ (collected by Cecil Sharp,
edited by Maud Karpeles, originally published in 1932, but the
copy I'm looking at is a 2012 reprinting of the 1952 "second
impression"), though that work does include fifteen "Jig
Tunes" that Karpeles describes as being used to accompany solo
In the preface to _English Folk Songs from the Southern
Appalachians_, Karpeles writes [Vo1. 1, p. xiii,footnote 4]:
Cecil Sharp's original manuscript collection is in the
Clare College Library at Cambridge, and there are also
complete copies in the Harvard College Library, Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and in the New York Public Library.
If Sharp's transcriptions of Kentucky tunes for the "running set"
have not yet been published elsewhere, perhaps they still survive
in those collections.
Does anybody know?
I also have a related question.
Out of the fifteen tunes Sharp published in _Country Dance Tunes,
Set 9_ as suggested for the "running set", nine are in 6/8 time
and one is in 9/8. I also have a copy of Douglas and Helen
Kennedy's _Square Dances of America_, which includes 18 tunes.
[Note: There was also another, I believe later, edition with
fewer tunes.] The Kennedys recommend ten of those 18 tunes for
the "running set", and out of those ten tunes, nine are in 6/8
My question is: Is this idea of 6/8 music for the "running set"
entirely a fancy conceived by Sharp and picked up by the Kennedys,
or does it have even a slight basis in Kentucky tradition?
I'm strongly inclined to guess the former, but one thing gives me
pause: Describing the music for the "running set", Sharp writes
[_The Country Dance Book_, Part V, p. 17]:
Throughout the dance the onlookers and the performers
also, when not actually dancing, should enforce the rhythm
of the music by "patting," i.e., alternately stamping and
clapping. ... In 6/8 time the hands are usually clapped
on the third and sixth quavers, but the "patter" will
often strike his thighs, right hand on right thigh on the
second and fifth quavers, and left hand on left thigh on
the third and sixth, stamping of course on the first and
fourth quavers. ...
Whatever anyone thinks of Sharp's taste in calling the Kentucky
dance tunes a "inferior", I don't know of claims that he was
technically unskilled at notating what he was hearing. The
detailed description above seems to suggest that he actually
heard such 6/8 rhythms in Kentucky. (By the way, when I try
to "pat" in the manner described in the last few lines quoted
above, I find that it's not so easy. Doing it accurately,
especially at a fast tempo, could take a good deal of practice.
Or perhaps it would be easier to learn by emulating someone
than by trying to work it out for myself from the printed
Phil Jamison has a collection of 95 recordings of southern
callers made in the period 1924-1933.
These include dances in both big circle and four-couple
square formations. I've listened to most of these and I don't
recall a single one being in 6/9 time. If there really was a
tradition of 6/8 dance music in the southeastern U.S., it's
a bit surprising that it wouldn't be represented at least once
in Phil's collection.
I'll note also that the "jig tunes" in _English Folk Songs
from the Southern Appalachians_ are not in 6/8. They're all
notated in duple meters--2/2 or 4/4--except for a few places
where a tune mostly notated in 2/2 has an odd beat notated
using an isolated measure in 3/2. The collection does
include a number of songs in 6/8.
The Wikipedia article on Maud Karpeles says:
... In 1950, and again in 1955, she returned to the
Appalachian Mountains (aged 65 and 70). This time she
travelled with a heavy reel-to-reel recording machine,
and recorded singers for the BBC. Some of the people
she met remembered meeting Sharp the first time around.
I don't know whether she recorded or notated any tunes for
dancing on those trips.
Thanks for whatever light anyone can shed on any of these