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IRTRAD-L  June 1994

IRTRAD-L June 1994

Subject:

Re: Celtic Music and mistakes of others

From:

Susan Cross <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Irish Traditional Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 23 Jun 1994 12:25:01 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (119 lines)

  To begin with, please excuse my clumsy manipulation of the text and
address.  I'm just learning how to deal with Pine and havn"t mastered
many of thes commands.  My comments are somewhere below.
 
On Tue, 21 Jun 1994, Robert Borcherding wrote:
 
> Paul Wells writes:
>
> >At many fiddlers' contests and festivals and such
> >here in the South, the informal playing that goes on apart from the main
> >stages is more likely to be bluegrass, or at least heavily
> >bluegrass-flavored, than it is old-time music.  It can be seen as a new
> >style that has largely taken the place of older fiddle and string band
> >styles.  A generation or two ago, the young, talented musicians in a
> >community might have learned to play old-time fiddle or banjo; today they
> >learn bluegrass.
>
> Now you've done it, got me riled.  : )
>
     Metoo.  I am pretty surprised to hear someone say that BG has
replaced OT everywhere.  Perhaps in Tennessee, but there are plenty of
places where OT is more important (please tell me I'm right, someone).
 
 
> I started out my entry into the folk process playing Bluegrass, and it is
> bothersome to have it dominate fiddler's festivals, etc.  It CAN be quite good,
> but it also can be quite boring.  Why?  Because while I found it in some
> instances to be played with musical respect, usually it is an opportunity to
> "show-off."  The competition, whether obvious or not, between players seems
> very intense.  And as an Old-timey player (for dances) it is a very lamentable
> thing, because it has lowered the number of dances.
 
 
    Another difference between BG and Irish is the fact that BG is
chord-based, while Irish is based on the melody line.  If all you have to
do is fit something into the chord structure, it is almost expected that
you will  try to get in as hot a riff as you possibly can without
destroying the flow of the music--hence the competition.  Also, with such
boring chords (excuse me),  what else do you have to do but try to be
hot.  In celtic music (at least Irish and Scottish, not Breton),  it is
the melody that is the most important.  Any fanciness must be
subordinaate to the melody, which is usually quite complex.  So there is
much less room for using the music as a vehicle for your own flashiness.
You've got to be more of a team player to like to play celtic.
 
 
 
 >
> I play music because I love it - it's hard to avoid constantly comparing
> oneself to others, but to engender a musical genre where competition is the
> primary form is silly.  FASTER, LOUDER, COMPLEXER...
 
 
     There are some people who are just more competitive by nature.  I
have seen them at the Fleadh, where they play their best, then have no
desire to join a session.  You can see them at sessions where they are
not into listening to the others and working as a team player, but rather
are into showing off.  They exist in every kind of music, always have and
always will.
 
 
 
 
> Regarding Irish music, although there is a bit of competition (who knows the
> most tunes, plays the best, knows of the most styles, etc.) it is primarily a
> dancing music.  I read somewhere, perhaps the Northern Fiddler?, that 80% of
> the musicians in Ireland quite playing when the dances became unpopular.  It is
> not the musicians that keep dancing alive, it is dancing that keeps the music
> alive.  Subtract the stringent requirements levied by dance and you find that
> the music will alter, as Bluegrass quickly did when it no longer was attached
> to the needs of dance.  Having good musicians available can sustain dance
> longer than it would have otherwise, but the dance is needed to retain the
> music!
>
     I have noticed two camps regarding Irish music, and I am
disappointed that they are not getting along better.  The session camp
has been playing faster and faster over the past few years as new hot
young blood is coming into it, as Donegal-style fiddling has become more
popular, as more and more fiddlers are holding their bows half-way up the
stick, as mandolin and banjo players are taking up the fiddle, etc.
     The dance music camp seems composed mainly of older players who also
play sessions, but play maore slowly, at dance tempos.  Some of these put
in very few rolls-a really old style, perhaps, and others put in lots of
ornamentation. Since playing the melody line slowly but with lots of
ornamentation requires just as much dexterity and talent as playing the
tune fast, I see no reason to think that either one shows better
musicianship than the other.  Yet I have seen people who don't know each
other get red-faced and yell things like, "Where's the fire?"  I enjoy
playing both ways and as afiddle player, just hold my bow farther up the
stick to play fast.  Perhaps the best way to deal with this widening
schism is to be polite and play the way everyone else is playing, perhaps
giving deference to the oldest players.  At our sessions in Columbus, OH,
where people come from a 250 mile radius, we play fast until some dancers
announce that they want to dance.  Then we turn into a ceilidh band and
slow down by half, and that is fun too.  It is an oportunity to try new
ornaments and variations.  Playing slow with the septagenarians in
Chicago is a one-of-a-kind experience---they are SO deft, artistic and
delightful that you wonder why you ever wanted to play fast in the first
place.
 
Susan Cross
[log in to unmask]
 
 
 
 
> SO, I suggest a concerted effort to increase Irish dancing - and I don't mean
> the cutesy-outfitted-dancing-girls-type-of-dancing, rather I refer to the
> social forms that once dominated Ireland.  I've not done Irish ceili dancing
> myself, though.  : (
>
> Now lets see, I put that asbestos suit around here somewhere - there it is, go
> ahead, flame me...
>
> Robert Borcherding,  please address E-Mail as follows,
> from INTERNET: [log in to unmask]
>          UUCP: wupost.wustl.edu!sempco!robertb
>

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