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Notated Music Bonaparte's Retreat [music transcription]

About this Item


  • Bonaparte's Retreat [music transcription]


  • Jabbour, Alan (Transcriber)

Created / Published

  • [Between 1966 and 1968]


  • -  Instrumental music
  • -  Fiddle tunes
  • -  Folk music--Appalachian Region
  • -  Marches
  • -  Ethnography
  • -  Sheet Music
  • -  Music score
  • -  United States -- Virginia -- Giles County -- Glen Lyn


  • Ethnography
  • Sheet Music
  • Music score


  • -  Meter: 4/4
  • -  Transcribed by Alan Jabbour, from a performance by Henry Reed.
  • -  Strains: 3 (low-high-high octave, 4-4-4)
  • -  Title change: This tune is transcribed after "Lost Indian" on the page.
  • -  Key: E
  • -  Rendition: 1r-2r-3r-2r-1
  • -  Phrase Structure: ABCD QRQC A"B"A"D" (abcd aeb'f qrst qrb'f a"b"c"d" a"b"gf')
  • -  Compass: 11 (18 counting lower drone)
  • -  Stylistic features: Tuned E-B-E'-E"
  • -  Handwritten: *fingering confused here (in 1st & 2nd beats) **possibly a mistake in 4th beat--actually a false start at 1st beat ***a confused fingering mistake This is all he played, & he evidently considered this a unit. Tuned EBEE
  • -  "Bonaparte's Retreat" is a well-known march among fiddlers of the Upper South, and by now it has moved into general circulation as a specialty fiddle tune. The tune is a scion of an old Irish air, "The Eagle's Whistle." Bayard, Hill Country Tunes, #87 gives a Pennsylvania set of "Bonaparte's Retreat" and excellent comparative notes. Petrie, The Complete Collection of Irish Music, #305 and #306 are good Irish examples, and the Journal of the Folk Song Society 2 (1905-6), 88-89 provides two song versions of "The Island of St. Helena" ("Boney's in St. Helena") using the same tune, so clearly the tune was associated with Bonaparte in the British Isles as well as in the American South. For American sets, both published and recorded, see the notes to the performance by Kentuckian W. H. Stepp on the documentary Library of Congress recording American Fiddle Tunes (Library of Congress, AFS L62). The Stepp recording has a special niche in American musical history, since it became the basis for the "Hoedown" in Aaron Copland's music for Rodeo (see "Copland's Kentucky Muse" in Civilization (June/July 1999: 110)).The tuning Henry Reed uses is the old special tuning favored in the Upper South for "Bonaparte's Retreat," transcribed in this collection as EBEE (high to low) and often described in fiddling literature as DADD. Henry Reed's performance is actually tuned somewhere between E and D by current standards. Like Stepp, he uses the lowest string exclusively as a drone. He played this tune because he had been discussing the practice of tuning the fiddle in different tunings, and the fiddle had been placed in the tuning EBEE. He had abandoned the practice of retuning the fiddle at some point as a young man, and though he found ways to convert most tunes to standard tuning that had been previously played in other tunings, a few specialty pieces such as "Bonaparte's Retreat" seem to have been lost along the way. During this session he was experimenting with recovering some of these old specialty pieces.


  • manuscript; 2 pages

Call Number/Physical Location

  • AFC 1967/007: Notebook 3: p. 33b-34a

Source Collection

  • Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 1


  • American Folklife Center

Digital Id

Online Format

  • image

IIIF Presentation Manifest

Rights & Access

The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the material in this collection, except as noted below. Users should keep in mind that the Library of Congress is providing access to these materials strictly for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other holders of rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. See our Legal Notices for additional information and restrictions.

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Photographs in this collection produced by Carl Fleischhauer, Karen Singer Jabbour, and Kit Olson are reproduced here with their permission. Mr. Fleischhauer does not object to additional use of the photos he created provided he is credited as the photographer. Persons contemplating other kinds of uses or use of the other photographers' work should contact the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Credit line

Please cite the source collection title, collection number, and repository, for example:

Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 1 (AFC 1967/007), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 2 (AFC 1969/008), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Fiddle tunes of the old frontier: the Henry Reed collection online presentation (AFC 1999/016), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Jabbour, Alan. Bonaparte's Retreat music transcription. [Between 1966 and 1968, 1966] Notated Music.

APA citation style:

Jabbour, A. (1966) Bonaparte's Retreat music transcription. [Between 1966 and 1968] [Notated Music] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Jabbour, Alan. Bonaparte's Retreat music transcription. [Between 1966 and 1968, 1966] Notated Music. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.