O'Neill's The Music of Ireland


O'Neill's The Dance Music of Ireland


O'Neill's Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody

Last Updated 20 December, 2003

The files presented here are derived directly from the labors of others and I take no credit for the substantial volunteer effort of the original transcribers.  I merely formatted their work into a form that I believe may be more useful for some.  The PDF documents here were assembled from the "abc" music transcriptions produced by that transcription team.  Their original abc files (each containing about 50 to 100 tunes) are available at http://www2.redhawk.org/irish/oneill/

In each case I did nothing but concatenate the abc files into a single source abc file, correct a few minor syntax errors that were causing errors or warnings in the scoring software, expand or replace BarFly macros, adjust line endings, and convert some text decorations to their symbolic equivalents (see below).  Thanks and corrections should both go to the original transcribers.  Most of the transcribers have provided e-mail addresses.

O'Neill's The Music of Ireland

A careful observer will note that there are multiple copies of some tunes in O'Neill's Music of Ireland.  Some blocks of tunes were transcribed more than once by different volunteers, and where that has happened I've included both transcriber's versions.  In all cases (except where an original transcriber may have made an error) the number appearing with the title above a score is the tune number in O'Neill's original book.  Thus, while the original book often had alternate versions of the same title, with different tune numbers, this PDF version also sometimes has multiple transcriptions of a single tune number.  There are over 2000 scores in this PDF version while the original book contained only 1850.

Finally, MIDI files are only provided for the last transcription of a tune (for those tunes that were transcribed by more than one person).  This is because the abc2midi program writes the files based on the abc file title and the xref number, so the last transcription overwrites the first.  There are also a few missing MIDIs (1838 total instead of 1850).  Apparently about 12 of the transcriptions contained syntax that caused abc2midi to fail, but I haven't taken the time to figure out where the problem lay.

O'Neill's The Dance Music of Ireland

The book "Dance Music of Ireland" was transcribed by Frank Nordberg at Musica Viva.  The Musica Viva site has sheet music, MIDIs, and ABC for thousands of songs and is well worth a visit.  I am not certain if Frank's original files in the O'Neill's book format are available on that site, though. I downloaded the ABC files from the same location as given above for the other two books.  Where Frank found it necessary to insert a comment regarding the transcription those comments are usually, but not necessarily always, identified by a number above or below the staff and a corresponding footnote number in the "Notes" section below the tune.  In any cases where I found it necessary to insert a comment, I used [JSA] to identify the comment as not one of Frank's so as to avoid inadvertently putting words in another's mouth.

Frank Nordberg used BarFly (a Mac ABC program) to transcribe Dance Music of Ireland.  He made liberal use of BarFly's macro facility so I first wrote PC software to expand, or optionally replace then expand, BarFly macros.  This allowed me to expand the macros for creating MIDI files and to replace the macros with my best guess at the original notation for the printed scores (converting a fully notated roll with numerous 16th and 32nd notes to a common DDD in a jig, for example).  Where Frank's macros implemented a roll I used the actual symbol for a roll (an arc) instead of the general purpose ornament symbol, a tilde (~).  Where Frank's macros implemented a trill or mordent I used the general purpose tilde.  However, remember that part of the charm of Irish traditional music is ornamentation provided by individual players and one shouldn't necessarily slavishly attempt to copy the performance of another.

BarFly also writes ABC with non-standard line breaks, resulting in thousands of lines of ABC source that had to be "massaged" by hand to avoid errors in other parsers and to format the printed scores attractively.  As part of this process I sometimes reformatted the staves and bars, such as converting a repeat at the end of one line followed by a repeat beginning another line into a double repeat bar in the middle of a line.  In such cases I did my best to remain faithful to the meaning of the notation while disregarding the appearance of the printed notation in favor of legibility and space.  I.e. I attempted to make the best compromise between conservation of space and readability of printed scores.

Finally, I added yet more code to jaabc2ps.exe before creating this document so now clicking on a title above a score (i.e. not in the indexes) will automatically play the corresponding MIDI file if your computer is configured with a default MIDI player.  This feature will be added to the other books when I get the chance to re-process them.

O'Neill's Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody

O'Neill's Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody was produced from the ABC files originally transcribed by Paul T. Kinder.  These original files were obtained from the same site as those for the other books, noted above.  This new version (20 December, 2003) includes linked MIDIs – clicking on the title above the score will automatically play the associated MIDI file if your computer is configured to play MIDIs.

All Books

I modified my version of the abc2ps software (jaabc2ps) to write pdfmarks in the Postscript output for the multiple indexes.  The PDF document has 9 complete PDF "bookmark" indexes:

The PDF document is also paginated suitably to be printed on both sides of paper so if you have a fresh laser printer cartridge, a few reams of paper, tons of patience, and a deep-seated need to kill trees you can print the entire document.

In general, while cleaning up the abc I converted plain text decorations to their symbolic equivalents wherever the meanings seemed clear.

These conversions were done for consistency between the scoring and midi programs.

I also moved text and decorations preceding a bar symbol, tuple symbol, or slur symbol to the appropriate note symbol.  (While intuitively a !D.S.! should often be attached to a bar the last version of the abc specification that I've seen only allows text and decorations to be assigned to note symbols - attaching them to bar symbols as is done by BarFly and some other programs causes errors in "faithful" ABC parsers.)

There were also a few cases where unrecognized characters appeared in the source abc and the intent of those characters wasn't clear.  In those cases I dropped the characters rather than guess (probably incorrectly) at the transcriber's intent.

I used James AllWright's fine program, abc2midi, to create MIDI files of the tunes.  Those MIDI files are available in a companion zip file from the same web site where you obtained this document.  Note that, while abc2midi is a fine program, it does not always play repeats, parts, alternate endings, and decorations correctly.  Also, most of the original transcribers did not use the tempo field so these MIDI files may not play at a realistic tempo (i.e. a "slow air" may play much too fast, for example).  Use the score and annotations as the final authority and the MIDI only for learning the melody intervals by ear.

You may wish to use a good MIDI sequencer program to adjust the tempo of the tunes as needed, either for learning or simply because the default tempo is incorrect.

John Atchley

O'Neill's Music Of Ireland PDF 22MB
O'Neill's Music Of Ireland MIDIs Only 900KB
O'Neill's Waifs and Strays Scores (PDF) and linked MIDIs 3.8MB
O'Neill's Dance Music Of Ireland Scores (PDF) and linked MIDIs 11MB