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Subject: Tradition or orthodoxy.
From: Jim Carroll <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Irish Traditional Music List <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 22 Jul 2002 23:01:58 +0100

text/plain (43 lines)

Áine Ní Haralambie wrote:

> Why should a singer who likes a song and wants to sing be barred from
>doing so because of an
> offensive word.

No reason at all in my opinion.
If these songs are to have any relevence today, I can see no reason why
singers should not make necessary minor changes to adapt them to their own
times, as long as they maintain the objectives of the original song-makers,
(which should be clear from the text), and as long as they don't make any
great claims of tradition for the changes they have made.
I am not referring to the wholesale re-writing of songs to, say, give them
happy endings, or a "modern" feel, just to small changes, like
the example given of removing racist (and unneccesary) language.
The songs should not be treated as archeological artefacts destined for some
museum or other,
but pieces of oral art which have survived largely because of their
adaptability; long may they continue to do so.

>Most of all, the art was accessible to the average person, not just the
>highly talented.

Is it not possible that the "average person" might also be highly talented?
Many of the recorded examples we have of traditional singing, certainly in
the British Isles, and among English language singers in Ireland, were
obtained when the singers were past their best and were well on in years,
with all the technical problems that old age brings.  Listening to many of
these singers, I am often struck by the thought, "what must they have
sounded like when they were young?"
I believe that when the tradition was at its height the recognised singers;
(and not everybody who knew songs was a recognised singer); aspired to high
levels of performance; and in communities where the songs were held as
important, these performances never fell below set standards.
If these songs are to survive into future generations, they will only do so
if they are respected and well enough performed; anyway, they deserve no
(I'm saying this as somebody who gave up singing because my own performance
not measure up to my expectations).

Jim Carroll

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