July Tune of the Month: Mary Scot
Having just finished reading Bruce Haynes’s excellent book The End of Early Music, I have renewed appreciation for the fact that composers were much less deified than they are in mainstream classical music today. The greater burden was on the performer to make a particular rendition of a tune emotionally-compelling than on the composer to write a good tune in the first place, and composing skills were as much a part of being a good musician as one’s technical skill on the instrument. The modern-day notion that composers (who are invariably dead) are great geniuses producing masterworks that must be played exactly as they appear on the page is rooted in Romanticism, not the 18th century.
In light of this, it’s unsurprising that most of the great early-to-mid 18th century Scottish composers published their own setting of this month’s tune—Mary Scot—and yet we have no idea who the original composer was. Each setting is a little bit different, reflecting the taste and creativity of the person behind the tune collection. Jeremy and I opted for our own variation based on McGibbon’s setting, which we’ll include at the end, but before we get there here are some other settings:
And finally, the edition we played from. I will never not respect William McGibbon.
As a special bonus, note that it reappears verbatim later: