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Welcome to the Traditional Tune Archive
The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as
The Fiddler's Companion.

Featured Tunes

Eliza Biscaccianti

OSTINELLI'S REEL. AKA - "Austin's," "Ostinella Hornpipe/Ostinella Reel." American, Reel or Hornpipe. A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. This melody is named for a popular late 19th century stage violinist named Louis/Lewis Ostinelli, an Italian who arrived in Boston in the year 1818, and became a conductor of the Handel and Haydn Society and helped found the Boston Philharmonic Society (originally Gottlieb Graupner's Philharmonic Society); he also was the first violinist in both orchestras. He married renowned Boston pianist, organist and teacher Sophia Hewitt, and their daughter, Eliza (1824-1896), married Italian cellist Count Biscaccianti and became one of the prominent prima donnas of Europe. The couple separated around 1830. Michael Broyles references the musician in his book Music of the Highest Class: Elitism and Populism in Antebellum Boston:

He was keenly aware of the reputation the violin had as a vernacular instrument in new England. According to several anecdotes, he was furious when his violin was referred to as a fiddle or when he was requested to play dance music. Once when asked by a lady if he was to play for a dance following a concert, he deliberately cut his violin strings and said 'Veree story, veree story, madam, you see I can no play.'

It is thus somewhat ironic that his lasting musical fame appears to be in this reel and "Souvenier de Venice Hornpipe," printed in Ryan's Mammoth Collection/Cole's 1000, for many years the primary texts for those "vernacular" fiddlers in the United States. "Ostinelli's Reel" has some currency among modern Texas-style players after being included in the repertoire of influential fiddler Benny Thomasson, among others. John Hartford finds that a melodic fragment appears as a part in the tune "Grey Eagle." Parts of the melody shift into third position on the violin. As an example of how tune titles can become garbled in oral transmission, it appears on a recording by Timmy Cronin under the title "Austin's" on his 1950s Avoca recording ‘Irish Accordion’.

Source for notated version: "Recollections of a Busy Life", a 1938 typewritten manuscript by New Hampshire fiddler John Taggart (1854-1943), entitled "Recollections of a Busy Life" (New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, N.H.). Taggart wrote in his ms. that the tunes "were all taught me during my boyhood days in Sharon (N.H.), by the various fiddlers in that vicinity" [Miller]. Miller points out that Sharon is in "the heart of the Monadnock Region of southwestern New Hampshire, where fiddlers and contra dances abound to this day" (pref. iv) [Miller]; New Hampshire Fiddlers' Union [Phillips]; New York fiddler John McGrath (d. 1955) [O'Malley]; Tyler Hagood [Silberberg].

Printed sources: Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 41. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 59. Miller (Fiddler's Throne), 2004; No. 226, p. 138. O'Malley (Luke O'Malley's Collection of Irish Music), 1976; No. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; p. 214. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 67. Silberberg (93 Fiddle Tunes I Didn't Learn at the Tractor Tavern), 2004; p. 34. White's Unique Collection, 1896; No. 143, p. 25.

X: 1
T:Ostinelli's -- Reel
B:Ryan's Mammoth Collection
Z:Contributed by Ray Davies,
.e.A.f.A .e.A."1"a.A | "3".c'.A."1"a.A "0".e.A.f.A | \
eagf edcd | edcd Bcd^d |
.e.A.f.A .e.A."1"a.A | "3".c'.A."1"a.A "0".e.A.f.A |\
eagf edcB | Aaec A2 :|
C"4"AEc A"4"eca | "0"e"0"e'"3"c'"1"a "0"e"3"c'"1"a"0"e |\
 caec A"4"ecA | dcBA GFED |
C"4"AEc A"4"eca | "0"e"0"e'"3"c'"1"a "0"e"3"c'"1"a"0"e |\
 caec Bdgf | (3efe (3dcB A2:|]

(OSTINELLI'S REEL full annotations and Past Featured Tunes)

Why there is a need for the Traditional Tune Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.

This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.

Please register as a user to make the most of the many functions of the TTA, and enjoy the many ways that information about traditional tunes can be elicited and combined, from simple to complex situations. Users may make contributions, which, when reviewed by an editor, become part of this community project. Serious user/contributors may become editors through the TTA's autopromotion process, in which quantity and quality of entries allows increased levels of permission to edit and review the entire index.
Above all, the developers wish you joy in the use of the TTA.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

Getting started


Navigation: Registered users can navigate the Traditiona Tune Archive for information in a number of ways.

  • Search. The Search function is located at the bottom of the SideBar on the left, and can be used to search the entire index for any key word.
  • Alphabetically by tune title. Under “The Index” on the SideBar on the left is “All Tunes”. Click on “All Tunes” to open up the list of tune titles in the TTA arranged in alphabetical order, 200 titles to a page. At the top of the page is an alphabetical breakdown that serves as a shortcut to pages. Clicking on any title will bring one to the music and tune fields. Once the tune appears, clicking “Tune Discussion” at the bottom of the page (below the notation) will open up the narrative information on the tune.
  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Index” in the sidebar can be used to draw down reports from the TTA in either in single items or in a number of combinations. One might, for example, use a single item query to run a report in the TTA for a particular composer/core source. Clicking on the arrow at the right of the bar draws down a list of composer/core sources, or one may be typed in. For example, clicking on “Bill Pigg” and then the “Run Query” tab at the bottom left will result in a list of all compositions listed in the TTA that the Northumbrian piper either composed or is the core source for. Reports may also be run in combinations, as, for example, by selecting “William Marshall” as a composer/core source, “Three Flats” for the number of accidentals, and “Major” for the Key/Mode. This will result in a report of all Eb Major compositions of Scottish fiddler/composer William Marshall that are indexed in the TTA.
  • Drill Down. Cumulative information about TTA entries can be found in the “Drill Down” under “The Index” in the SideBar on the left.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Issues” in the left side bar. These are reproductions of publications for which access has been granted to the TTA by the copyright holder, under the Creative Commons license.

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