On tradition

Here's a video that I've posted before of Wod playing in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I wrote both of these tunes. They're Hanter Dros for Breton dancing. Take a listen to the second which begins at 4.48. It came to me while driving home after a gig along the A303 so I called it The King's Barrows.

It's always an honour when other musicians like your tunes enough to want to play them and the King's Barrows seems to have caught on. Here it is played by English fiddler Sam Sweeney (at 3.15). In his expert hands the tune has taken a new direction. It's a little faster and he gives it a slightly different rhythmic emphasis, a different push and pull, such that it would be harder to dance a Hanter Dro (not that that matters). You could say he's englishified it.

If you'll indulge me further, here's the same tune played by Moore, Moss and Rutter. Now it's been turned into an arrangement, complete with key change, and it would be tricky to dance a Hanter Dro to it.

And that's exactly how tradition works. Every musician takes a tune or a song and, probably without even thinking about it, plays it as they hear it. Nothing stays the same, nor should it for this is the very process by which the tradition stays alive.

Even in the two years since that video of Wod was taken, the way we play the tune has changed. We've found new variations, new ways to swing it (though in truth, it's been playing us). Tunes are like children. Once we've brought them into the world, we have to let them go. They have their own lives to lead.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

from Kahil Gibran, The Prophet


  1. So true, Andy. Tunes, traditions, children change because they're ALIVE. Thanks for sharing this triad of The King's Barrows.

  2. Musicians and storytellers, never spin the yarn the same way twice.



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