Hello out there,
I got talking with a fiddle student this morning and we got into
the subject of concentration on the instrument. I was explaining
the difference between our American idea of performance, vs. the
traditional performance, which would be maybe better defined by the
word, presentation. In both instrumental and vocal music, ie
ballad singing, the norm for facial expression is holding still,
remaining expressionless. The idea is for the music to be the focus
of attention, not you. Many times, with ballad singers, the listeners
also look away, and concentrate on what they hear. This doesn't mean
that the music is unemotional--the stories of the ballads are often
heartrending, and the nature of the music on fiddle--the major, modal,
or minor sound, the phrasing--has a lot more to say, that how the
performer looks. (Fiddle or other instruments).
How is a singer/player supposed to look while playing? We have
been raised to see performers who have incorporated theatrical gestures
into their music.
I think one of the saddest things I ever saw was a film of
Aunt Molly Jackson being coached to appear on TV--they dressed her all
up in Calico and had her reaching out with her arms, smiling, etc,
while she was singing a murder ballad. It is one of the problems in
performing traditional music on the stage that viewers bring expectations
which include body language and expression from the performer that
seems to enhance the music.
The idea of modesty, and keeping still to let the music
through is a more Eastern one, and I like the zen aspect of it.
I liked the excerpt that Seamus Keleher submitted--good
points made clearly. Thankyou.
Cathy Larson, wife of Sky