Songs of oral tradition in the Breton language
in books, reviews, manuscripts, discs, cassettes, CDs

General informations - Malrieu catalog
of Oral Tradition

The "Malrieu OT catalogue" (OT = Oral Tradition) is different from the "Malrieu BS catalogue" (BS = Broadsheets). These two catalogues correspond to two different types of collection.

This OT catalogue originates, initially, with a Ph.D. thesis in Celtic Studies: ‘The popular song of oral tradition in the Breton language: Contribution to the establishment of a catalogue’ (University Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne, 1998). The first volume of the thesis is devoted to a reflection on "The popular song of oral tradition in the Breton language”. The other four volumes of the thesis concern the "Catalogue of traditional song in Breton": Volume 2 details the principles of analysis and gives different types of sorting that constitute as many gateways into the catalog to find a given song (critical title, theme, place of collection, performer, collector, bibliographic reference); Volumes 3, 4 and 5 detail the 1790 standard songs, giving all the versions identified for each of them. It should be noted that only versions found in books, journals, manuscripts are taken into account.

It was conceived from the beginning, around 1980 (a time when it was not yet known that microcomputers would exist), to benefit from data processing in computer science on a program written by Georges Épinette.
This catalogue can be consulted in the university library or at Dastum (29bis rue de la Donelière, 35000 Rennes). It cannot be considered exhaustive and is aimed first of all at testing a method for classifying Breton songs of oral tradition. Let us hope that its public availability on this site will generate new energies in order to add the unpublished printed collections and the unpublished collection kept in Dastum (about 100,000 versions of different songs!).

This work was then enriched by new occurrences and additional precisions by Didier Bécam (see Credits) who also transposed the computer data to databases adapted to the availability on the Internet.
Patrick Malrieu’s initial catalogue included 1688 standard songs (M-00001 to M-01790). Starting with version 6 of this site in December 2019, Didier Bécam began to enrich this catalogue by identifying new type songs, by sifting through new books. From version 11 of September 2023, audio publications (78 rpm, vinyl, cassettes, CDs) have been taken into account. This additional analysis made it possible to identify new songs-types: more than 1000 in April 2024, from M-02001 to M-03014.

The proximity on the same site of the "Broadsheets" base and the "Oral tradition" base also facilitate the passage from one to the other, knowing that certain broadsheets have become traditional or that conversely traditional songs have also been published on broadsheets. We highlight the links between these two catalogs at the end of each song-type.

Notion of song-type, critical title, version, occurrence

The song catalogues are based on the concept of song-type. Two songs belong to the same type if they say the same thing in the same way, that is, deal with the same subject, using comparable expressions. This song-type is identified by a critical title and a reference of type M-xxxxx.
Note: The critical titles have been reviewed and may differ from those of the thesis.
Each collector having given a title which suits him or her to a song he or she has collected, or titled it according to the incipit (or opening words)(to which uncertainties must be added the use of often unlikely written forms), it is therefore necessary to give a title called "critical" in order to regroup the different variations of the same song and facilitate the searches.
While this is not an absolute rule, we have often tried to ensure that the title is significant to the content of the song. But some titles have become so well known that it seemed preferable to keep them as they were (for example, what to call the song about the submersion of the city of Ys otherwise than Ker Is?)..

To this notion of song-type, one must add the notions of version and occurrence.
A version is a song collected from a singer at one place and published by a "publisher" (the author of the work who brought the song to the public or the author of the manuscript where it appears). Even if the information about the singer and the place are not always mentioned by the publisher, they nevertheless are at the origin of the existence of the version. Each version of a song-type is identified by a number (1,2,3, ...). This number serves only as an identifier and has no meaning..
A version could be the subject of several editions (by the same editor in different books, in an anthology, in a written form and then in recorded audio form, etc.). These are multiple instances of the same version. The occurrences of a version are identified by a letter (a, b, c, ...) reflecting the chronology of publishing of the occurrence: occurrence "a" is the oldest.

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