Sound Clips on the Web
While most of this site approaches Tam Lin as a faerie story, it is also a ballad, and has as much of a musical background as a mythological one. I've tried to gather sound clips and other information from around the web, and some of the more musically informed have been kind enough to help me with this area. If you'd like to contribute information, please feel free to contact me.
Please note, there are two very different types of music generally referred to as Tam Lin. One group of songs is associated with the ballad of Tam Lin, and is meant to have words. The second group is a set of unrelated reels, and is meant to be danced to, often with a lot of whooping and yelling (I hear it's quite lively.). The previous musical notations at this site were, sadly, for the later. I have since removed those notations, though I'd like to continue to thank Henrik Norbeck, who so generously provided them, and recommend that anyone else interested in the reel go check out his site and see the tune
there. You can also read some interesting discussions on the reel tune at The Sessions website. Click on the comments tab. My thanks to Steve Winick for supplying the url as well as much information below.
Please note that while the webmistress of this site can and will tirelessly track down information regarding the ballad of Tam Lin, she can't read music sheets to save her life. Attempts to clean up the images may have resulted in errors. Play at your own risk. Anyone providing a midi version of any of the music will be generously thanked.
Musical Notations are organized more or less by ballad and date of acquisition.
Notes on the Midi files (notes and files provided, most kindly, by Andrew Cushen)
The first 3 are in the key of F Major/D Minor, and are closely related; the 4th is in G Major/E Minor.Thank you, Andrew. Any mistakes associated with the sound files are mine and not his. - Abigail
In fact, there are but two differences between the first version and the second. The first difference is speed; the second version is played twice as fast. If you read music, the Quarter notes in the first version are Eighth notes in the second, etc. Apart from that, the main melodies are identical. The only other difference is that the second version has a low counter-melody, or "bass line", added to it.
The third version is identical to the main melody line of the second version; it just strips off the low melody "bass line".
So we will look at the first three versions as being the same; as noted, the only differences are speed and the addition of the "bass line" in the second. They are all in the same key. Other than one note which I will discuss shortly, the melody is strictly in the key of F Major, or D Minor (the two keys contain the same notes; D Minor is the "Relative Minor" of F Major, in musical terms). I am going to refer top it as D Minor, as the tune has that sad sense you get from a Minor key.
Examining these 3 versions, the only note that is not in the key of D Minor is the C# note, which appears as the last note of the 3rd full measure in version 1, and as the fourth note of the 2nd full measure in versions 2 and 3. In the key of D, C# would be the Major-7th note. You do not ordinarily have a Major-7th in a "straight" Minor key - instead you have a Minor-7th, also known as a Dominant 7th. The momentary addition of the Major-7th momentarily changes the key to D Harmonic Minor. The Harmonic Minor scale has an exotic, almost "Eastern" sound. Many folk melodies make use of altered Minor scales like the Harmonic Minor, and other unusual scales like the Church modes, such as the Dorian and Lydian modes; Celtic folk songs in particular make liberal use of these scales. You don't hear the distinct flavoring of the Harmonic Minor scale that strongly in these versions of "Tam Lin" because the Major-7th is played quickly and not emphasized. Notes like this that are played quickly in between two notes that are in key are referred to as "passing tones" or "passing notes", as they are played when passing from one note to another. Minor keys in general are often used in accompanying a sad or eerie lyric, as they have a correspondingly "sad" or "creepy" feel to them when used skillfully.
The fourth and final version of "Tam Lin" that we will look at here, the fourth song notation from the top of the page, is almost an entirely different melody, though clearly related to the previous three. It is in the key of G Major/E Minor; again, I will refer to it as E Minor. There is no Major-7th in this song; the notes are strictly from the "straight" E Minor scale. As such, there is not much to add here, other than to note in passing that the 6th note of the scale, C, is used only once in the entire melody, whereas the rest of the notes in the scale are used several times each.
O I forbid you, maidens a',
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.