Tune of the Day: Auld Lang Syne
This song is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. By extension, its use has also become common at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.
The song's Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago” or “days gone by”.
The tune to which Robert Burn's poem “Auld Lang Syne” is now universally sung is a pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo. English composer William Shield (1748–1829) seems to quote the melody briefly at the end of the overture to his opera Rosina, which may be its first recorded use. The contention that Burns borrowed the melody from Shield is highly unlikely, although they may very well both have taken it from a common source, possibly a strathspey called “The Miller's Wedding” or “The Miller's Daughter”. The problem is that tunes based on the same set of dance steps necessarily have a similar rhythm, and even a superficial resemblance in melodic shape may cause a very strong apparent similarity in the tune as a whole.