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New video of Simon Thoumire playing English concertina


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#19 michael sam wild

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 07:17 AM

Melodeon players often do it sometimes three consecutive fingers on same button in same direction

#20 Boney

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 09:03 AM

It definitely has the "wow" effect. But IMHO, the musicality suffers. At that speed, for me, everything turns to mush. I'd rather have those tunes at half the speed with a nice rhythm going on.

You're not the only one. As I said in another thread, it's much more satisfying to hear a musician who's in full control, and he isn't in this clip.

#21 Tootler

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 05:45 PM

It definitely has the "wow" effect. But IMHO, the musicality suffers. At that speed, for me, everything turns to mush. I'd rather have those tunes at half the speed with a nice rhythm going on.

You're not the only one. As I said in another thread, it's much more satisfying to hear a musician who's in full control, and he isn't in this clip.


I agree. This man is clearly a fine musician and this kind of thing does not do him justice. I found it very difficult to distinguish one tune from another. It is just a stream of notes with no real sense of phrasing at all.

#22 JimLucas

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 03:03 AM

It definitely has the "wow" effect. But IMHO, the musicality suffers. At that speed, for me, everything turns to mush. I'd rather have those tunes at half the speed with a nice rhythm going on.

You're not the only one. As I said in another thread, it's much more satisfying to hear a musician who's in full control, and he isn't in this clip.

I agree. This man is clearly a fine musician and this kind of thing does not do him justice. I found it very difficult to distinguish one tune from another. It is just a stream of notes with no real sense of phrasing at all.

And I disagree completely.

You may not like Simon's style. He is jazzing things up a bit. But I can hear -- and see -- that he is completely in control. (And so is Ian.)

I might even venture to suggest that it's not Simon's playing but your perception that's not "in full control", rather like those who think all Irish tunes sound the same, or those who claim that there are only two Morris dances... "the hanky dance and the stick dance".

I had no difficulty distinguishing the tunes, and I enjoyed how he put them together as a medley. To me the phrases and phrasing are quite clear, and I enjoyed the variations in how he elaborated each of the different tunes.

#23 fernando

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:27 AM

And another player with the same way of playing the English Concertina:

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=IeKnpElGJws

He's good! it looks like he's doing exactly the same as Simon Thoumire

Fernando

#24 Boney

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:54 AM

It definitely has the "wow" effect. But IMHO, the musicality suffers. At that speed, for me, everything turns to mush. I'd rather have those tunes at half the speed with a nice rhythm going on.

You're not the only one. As I said in another thread, it's much more satisfying to hear a musician who's in full control, and he isn't in this clip.

And I disagree completely.

You may not like Simon's style. He is jazzing things up a bit. But I can hear -- and see -- that he is completely in control. (And so is Ian.)

I'm speaking mostly of his rhythm. It's somewhat sketchy throughout, with some clear bobbles in there, like at about the two minute mark, and I recall another near the end. By in full control, I mean the feeling that he's playing easily, not at the limits of his ability. Maybe he just started it faster than he meant to.

Edited by Boney, 08 February 2011 - 07:57 AM.


#25 Tootler

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:49 PM

It definitely has the "wow" effect. But IMHO, the musicality suffers. At that speed, for me, everything turns to mush. I'd rather have those tunes at half the speed with a nice rhythm going on.

You're not the only one. As I said in another thread, it's much more satisfying to hear a musician who's in full control, and he isn't in this clip.

I agree. This man is clearly a fine musician and this kind of thing does not do him justice. I found it very difficult to distinguish one tune from another. It is just a stream of notes with no real sense of phrasing at all.

And I disagree completely.

You may not like Simon's style. He is jazzing things up a bit. But I can hear -- and see -- that he is completely in control. (And so is Ian.)

I might even venture to suggest that it's not Simon's playing but your perception that's not "in full control", rather like those who think all Irish tunes sound the same, or those who claim that there are only two Morris dances... "the hanky dance and the stick dance".

I had no difficulty distinguishing the tunes, and I enjoyed how he put them together as a medley. To me the phrases and phrasing are quite clear, and I enjoyed the variations in how he elaborated each of the different tunes.


Having read those comments I went back and had another listen. On the whole, while I agree that technically it is a very accomplished piece of playing overall, it left me cold. Yes I could distinguish the tunes, but only by listening carefully and at times he seemed to lose the tune. Particularly at around two minutes and again near the end just before he slowed down. As an exercise technical virtuosity OK, but a musical performance, for me; not really. Could you dance to it? No chance! (Don't forget, they are all dance tunes). I remember a well known Irish flute player making that point some years back.

I have to admit that I dislike intensely this kind of high speed playing which to me is just stream of notes with little real musical merit.

#26 JimLucas

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 10:21 AM

I'm speaking mostly of his rhythm. It's somewhat sketchy throughout...

I still disagree.
It's not sketchy at all.
I find it rock steady throughout, except of course where he changes the tempo completely at the end.

Unless what you mean by "rhythm" is strong changes in dynamic to emphasize the major beats, the sort of thing that's emphasized in Morris and various other dance forms. But that's not the kind of music he's trying to play, and it would be as heavy-handed in his style as trying to play a Bach Allegro like a Sousa march

...with some clear bobbles in there, like at about the two minute mark...

I think I know what you're talking about... slightly after the 2-minute mark. It gets a bit busy, but they are most definitely not "bobbles". He's mixing in both rapid triplets and, in spite of the speed, grace notes. Is it possible that your ear can't tell which notes are the melody and which are the grace notes, or even doesn't recognize that he's playing ornaments?

...and I recall another near the end.

Here I'm not quite sure which part you mean; to me it isn't obvious what you're referring to. Possibly where he does some jazzy improvisation around the melody?

Maybe he just started it faster than he meant to.

I doubt that very much.

The first tune, at least, is a classic showoff piece, "traditionally" played hell-for-leather by fiddlers in Scotland, Bluegrass country, and in Irish sessions in both New York and Sweden (in my experience), often with four or more added variations, though I have also heard the original (I believe) 2-part version played more slowly for New England contra dances.

I have also heard Simon playing that tune (The Mason's Apron) just as fast on other recordings (and once live), in other medleys and with different embellishments. He can certainly play more slowly when he wants to -- e.g., here, -- so I think it's clear that in this case he didn't want to.

#27 symon

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 10:55 AM

I must admit to being in two minds about his playing. Part of me wants to be able to do what he does from a technical viewpoint - to be able to play that fast. But, another part of me is unsure about whether that is how I want to play.
I suspect that my ear isn't trained enough to appreciate fully what he is doing. Having only listened to it once, I am impressed by the speed but worried about the fact that it verges on just being a blur of notes (or so it seems to me).
But, it all adds to understanding what the English concertina is capable of and, perhaps more importantly, what I want to do with it. (Does this count as thread drift? I seem terribly indecisive! Must be a side effect of typing this while at work and having to be decisive off screen)

#28 RatFace

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 10:56 AM

at times he seemed to lose the tune. Particularly at around two minutes...


I'd disagree - I'm absolutely sure that at no time was he in danger of "falling off" and losing the tune. I'm sure he could improvise his way out of any "hole" he got himself into, without losing the tune.

However, he does fluff a lot of notes - the timing of many notes isn't quite "spot on". However, I think the overall rhythm is secure. That just seems to be the way he plays...

Could you dance to it? No chance! (Don't forget, they are all dance tunes).


He's not playing "dance tunes" in that he's not playing for dancing - he's playing for listening. If you try to shoehorn his performance into your own preconceptions, you'll be disappointed. Why not listen to what he's actually doing rather than what you think he should be doing?

I have to admit that I dislike intensely this kind of high speed playing which to me is just stream of notes with little real musical merit.


I don't know why one should feel the need to actively dislike it, rather than simply not liking it (the latter being simply a lack of pleasure). Also what do you mean by "little real musical merit"? Isn't the point of music to make people want listen to it? If it does that, making them happy, sad, peaceful, excited, inspired, or in some other way "moved" - isn't that more important that ticking some box labelled "traditional tune played at traditional tempo in traditional style"?

#29 Boney

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 11:11 AM

Is it possible that your ear can't tell which notes are the melody and which are the grace notes, or even doesn't recognize that he's playing ornaments?

No, I don't think so.

How about at 1:17 where he flubs a few notes, then gives a smile?

I realize it's a live performance, and I don't expect it to be perfect -- are you saying it is? I know this is subjective, but to me, the whole thing comes across as skittish, and barely in control. There are stretches where it's quite solid, but then there's a section with a lot of ornamentation or something, and it lags just a bit then catches up...stuff like that. It's subtle, sure, but it's enough to bug me. It's not really the "mistakes" that bother me, per se, but the approach behind the performance that leads to those mistakes, if you see what I mean. I still enjoyed it, but it's not my favorite kind of playing.

#30 Boney

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 11:22 AM

at times he seemed to lose the tune. Particularly at around two minutes...

I'm absolutely sure that at no time was he in danger of "falling off" and losing the tune.

Yes, I agree, I wouldn't put it that way either. It's something much more subtle (but maybe more pervasive) that I'm talking about.

However, he does fluff a lot of notes - the timing of many notes isn't quite "spot on". However, I think the overall rhythm is secure. That just seems to be the way he plays...

Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. I guess some people enjoy that kind of approach, and feel a few fluffed notes here and there (if they even notice them) hardly distract from their enjoyment of the speed and virtuosity. But I think that "feel" colors some people's perception of the whole piece enough for them to get annoyed...even if they aren't exactly sure why. Very mysterious and viscerally emotional stuff, this music.

#31 JimLucas

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:27 PM

How about at 1:17 where he flubs a few notes, then gives a smile?

Flubs a few notes? I've just listened to it three more times, and what I consistently hear is a very precise (and rather common) "hot lick" substitution for a couple of bars, to end one phrase and punch into the next. And my interpretation of that smile isn't "Oops," but rather "Wasn't that fun!"

I realize it's a live performance, and I don't expect it to be perfect -- are you saying it is?

I suppose not... but a long sight closer to perfect than you seem to think. And by "perfect", I mean that he's getting exactly what he wants.

There are stretches where it's quite solid, but then there's a section with a lot of ornamentation or something, and it lags just a bit then catches up...stuff like that.

It's funny, but the first time I listened to it, even I felt sort of the same about that bit. Listening to it again several times, it became less "muddled" with each listening, and tapping out the rhythm I couldn't find any actual lagging and catching up. I'm fairly convinced now that the problem the first time was that it was my brain's processing of the music that was lagging and then catching up. When I listen to it now, every note seems crystal clear and steady. (Or is it my brain that's now compensating, evening it out for me? Some day I'll learn to record YouTube videos and slow them down for critical analysis, but at the moment I have other, more urgent priorities.)

It's not really the "mistakes" that bother me, per se, but the approach behind the performance that leads to those mistakes, if you see what I mean.

I see what you mean; I just don't think that it's there, not in anything close to the extent you do.

I still enjoyed it, but it's not my favorite kind of playing.

It's one of my very many favorites. (I'm particularly fond of slow airs, also Bach and Telemann.) I wouldn't want to listen to just that all the time, but that goes for pretty much any kind of music.

#32 michael sam wild

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 12:45 PM

It definitely has the "wow" effect. But IMHO, the musicality suffers. At that speed, for me, everything turns to mush. I'd rather have those tunes at half the speed with a nice rhythm going on.

You're not the only one. As I said in another thread, it's much more satisfying to hear a musician who's in full control, and he isn't in this clip.


I agree. This man is clearly a fine musician and this kind of thing does not do him justice. I found it very difficult to distinguish one tune from another. It is just a stream of notes with no real sense of phrasing at all.



\so is Anglo better than EC for those sort of reels?

#33 Geoff Wooff

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 01:35 PM

Many years ago (36/7 years I think) a band that I played in, along with another C.net member, visited a Folk Club in South London. Nick Jones was the guest that night and we thought to enjoy his performance and do a little 'floor spot' to promote our band. So we played our best tunes and thought we had done well but, we were in for a shock when Mr.Jones came to start his second set and produced a fiddle, played a beautifull set of tunes and gently suggested that although we had buckets of enthusiasm, that enthusiasm was more for ourselves than the music we had played.
His words were to the effect that we had put ourselves in front of the music, used the music to show off. So the lesson was play to show your audience how fine the music is.

Much of the traditional music that has been aired by the BBC of late is(IMHO) quite 'over the top' and maybe this is what is needed to impress the watching public. It may well have the positive effect, in this case, of promoting the Concertina and that cannot be a bad thing. However, it is not my cup of tea.

As a person who has been playing this type of music on the EC and other instruments,off and on, for close to forty years I have a fairly refined (personal) idea of what is and what is not Good Taste.

I still see my playing of ITM on the EC as a 'work in progress', never really satisfied but, if I could offer any advice to others it would be that which was given to me all those years ago by Nick Jones.

In coversation with Ralph Jordan (the other C.neter mentioned above) recently we agreed that it is good that no recordings exist today of our band "Fingers Galore".... the name says it all !

Edited by Geoff Wooff, 09 February 2011 - 02:10 PM.


#34 Peter Laban

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 02:00 PM

Reminds me of the comment Paddy Cronin made when asked his opinion about a certain musician :'he has all the notes!'

#35 JimLucas

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 02:20 PM

Having read those comments I went back and had another listen. On the whole, while I agree that technically it is a very accomplished piece of playing overall, it left me cold.

I think I know what you mean. I feel that way about a number of musicians and even musical genres, though Simon's playing isn't among them.

Yes I could distinguish the tunes, but only by listening carefully and at times he seemed to lose the tune. Particularly at around two minutes and again near the end just before he slowed down.

A misunderstanding? A difference in perspective? He didn't "lose" the tune, but he definitely (and I'm certain, deliberately) did depart from the basic melody, improvising in what I (who am relatively ignorant of jazz) would consider a "jazz" idiom. I'm rather sure that those "strange" chromatic interpolations were not random.

Could you dance to it? No chance!

  • He's not trying to play for dancing.
  • But yes, I could!
  • After all, there's more than one kind and more than one tradition of dance.
Simon is Scottish, not Irish. So are at least two of those tunes. (I don't know about the other two, but maybe they are, too?)

He has also mentioned Alistair Anderson, from Northumberland, as his early inspiration.

I don't know enough about Scottish dancing to know whether there's a sort for which music at the tempo of that video would be appropriate, but I remember Alistair once describing Northumbrian dances (such as Strip the Willow) as "starting off at breakneck speed and accelerating from there."

Don't forget, they are all dance tunes.

Are they, really? Though I first heard it played on the whistle, The Clumsy Lover is originally a modern Scottish pipe tune. If we go beyond that video, many Scottish fiddle tunes originated as performance pieces, many Irish (and Scottish, English, etc.) tunes started out as songs, and I'm pretty sure that most Carolan tunes weren't originally intended for dancing. Also, I know many a musician who will play tunes quite differently in concert from what (s)he does when playing for dancers. That, I believe, is reasonable.

I have to admit that I dislike intensely this kind of high speed playing which to me is just stream of notes with little real musical merit.

"Dislike intensely," you say. Does it make you uncomfortable?

I think some of us have been thinking that you have been trained, perhaps by yourself, to dislike that sort of music, but another possibility has just occurred to me: Could it be something more innate, like the fact that some folks truly can't seem to come to grips with the in-out of an anglo concertina, while others can't handle the ping-pong alternation of the English? What also comes to mind is a couple of folks I know, one of whom plays baritone concertina because he totally can't hear the upper notes of a treble, and the other finds most music with heavy bass inadequate, because she can't hear the bass notes, even when her body can feel their impact.

Note that even if that is the case, I'm not calling it a deficiency, just a difference, like folks with longer or shorter fingers. I, for one, can't appreciate music that is extremely loud.

#36 Boney

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 02:21 PM

How about at 1:17 where he flubs a few notes

Flubs a few notes? I've just listened to it three more times, and what I consistently hear is a very precise (and rather common) "hot lick" substitution for a couple of bars, to end one phrase and punch into the next.

When he comes back in after that "punch," the first few notes are weak and rhythmically sloppy, even garbled. As Danny said, he doesn't lose the main beat, but I really don't think it was intentional. But, maybe this has reached the point where we both have our overall impression of the video, and have a hard time hearing things that contradict that impression.

And by "perfect", I mean that he's getting exactly what he wants.

I'll bet he can hear more mistakes than both of us put together.




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