I agree that some performances are a form of technical
whacking off, with artists just trying to show that they
can get through a piece as fast as possible without stumbling
or straying far from the `pure' form of the music. Often
it is like a duel between the musicians to see who can
go the fastest, or a duel with the dancers to see when
they will collapse.
Many musicians gain technical competence quite early
(say by 20) but will take a while to mature, gain
subtlety and the ability to transmit emotions through
the music, and the daring to play around with the music
a little more, rather than duplicating the same performance
each time like an automaton. Performers should be able
to unexpectedly (except to their accompaniment) vary pace,
throw in crosscutting tune variations, and otherwise improvise,
as in jazz. That's why I always preferred Emile Benoit
to some technically better younger Newfoundland fiddlers,
who, although smoother, don't yet make their fiddles hum
in contentment and weep in joy and pain to the universe.
Perhaps after 50 years or so a fiddle becomes an extension
of the musician. It's hard to capture on recording, though,
since variability and unpredictability is a part of it.
Often younger performers are too nervous to fool around,
or think the audience will want a perfect duplicate of
the CD, whereas less accomplished older musicians get
a better response even if they stumble occasionally.
Of course, it is not just along age lines. Many
younger performers sound great, with a raw energy, until
they get jaded by too much rehearsal, and get bored
with doing the same old stuff night after night, on tour,
until it shows. Despite the technical brilliance, I
can often tell when a performer is not really into it,
and doesn't have that fiery creative spark, or any
real connection with the audience.
Given that, while I was a little disappointed with
Johnnie Cunningham in a recent Celtic Fiddle Fest
concert, I thought that he was amazing afterwards
in the pub, when he was just jamming and fooling around
over a few pints. A good session beats a concert any day.
I think performers should partially or fully dispense
with set lists more often, or have rotating set lists,
or encourage more audience requests. Performers should
try to retain their raw, youthful energy but add
surprise, subtlety and emotional control. Often the
rough edges get smoothed off too far, and acceleration
wins out over detail --- and if you spin a celtic braid
really fast, it loses its definition. When tunes are
played really fast, they all start sounding the same.
When they are slowed down, there is room between the notes
for all kinds of information, which can then be mentally
carried back up to the faster pace. Also, if one performer
induces an emotional response in me with a certain tune,
I can usually partially carry that over to later performances
of that tune by others. Of course, emotional response to
a tune varies depending on your emotional state at the
start of the concert, but a good peformer can turn around
a bad mood where others would fail.
Disclaimers: 1. It's late.
2. I am not a musician (yet).
3. didn't proofread
David Dalton ------------------------------ <[log in to unmask]> ------
Dept. of Geophysics & Astronomy, (604) 822-2267
2219 Main Mall, University of British Columbia fax 822-6047
Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z4 home 733-1303