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Traditional Music And 'classical' Theory


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#37 David Barnert

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 09:56 AM

Perhaps it's a good thing I have been away from concertina.net for the two weeks since this thread started. It's just my kind of topic, and I would have undoubtedly been one of the more prolific posters to it. But I have just read it from start to finish and find that I have not much to add to what has already been said.

Long before I started playing the concertina, I studied classical music theory pretty seriously in college (6 semesters, the only non-music-major in my classes) and it is my perception that this has greatly enhanced my ability to enjoy listening to and playing both classical music and folk music.

When I hear a tune, I know how to go about trying to play it because I have learned how to determine what mode it is in, what degree of the scale the first note (and other key notes) is and what the tune is doing harmonically. As a duet concertina player, I can play a tune with my right hand and let my left hand find its way through well-rehearsed patterns of chords that were drilled into me in my youth. I do not claim that what I have achieved as a concertina player cannot be gained without the knowledge of theory, but in my case, it has been invaluable.

Several folks have mentioned classically trained musicians having trouble with folk idioms as examples of the hindrance of music theory. I would only caution that I know many classical musicians who are ignorant of theory. They may know how to read printed music, but they have no idea how chord progressions work. They are not the same thing!

I suppose I would sum up my position on this topic like this: One learns about music primarily by listening to it. Music theory is simply a way of taking advantage of what others have learned by listening before us so that we don't all have to reinvent the wheel.

#38 m3838

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 03:52 PM

Keeper:
What I mean is that theory makes it is easier for me to know that
a certain note ('pitch', to be accurate) lies in a certain place
relative to its tonic.

Me:
So if you have regular keyboard that you know by heart, this bit of theory makes it easier to pick a tune on a fly or find appropriate harmony or accompaniment, right?
Invaluable.
I'm not sure it translates well into Anglo with it's random accidentals, wrapeed around ends of the keyboard and holes in scales. I think only experience will help you here and not in all keys.
I found it extremely easy to read with Anglo, if the music is diatonic, in the home key and doesn't go beyond Two octaves range. Anything else is "hit and miss".

David:
I suppose I would sum up my position on this topic like this: One learns about music primarily by listening to it. Music theory is simply a way of taking advantage of what others have learned by listening before us so that we don't all have to reinvent the wheel.

Me:
But you're not playing a folk instrument. Neither duet concertina, nor bandoneon, bayan, piano accordion, pianoforte are folk instruments. I'm not saying you can't play folk music with them, but they are designed to be less playable and more universal.
Not so much for the particular style, but for playing in any keys, with self-accompaniment, where you really have to know what you are doing. Button accordion, pennywhistles, 20 button anglos, original hurdy-gurdies and many other instruments are not made to play anything. Their range is very small, but instead they give you a character, that players of other instruments only 'try' to emulate (push/pull punch on EC, Oom-pa on Duets). Fast chord changes are un-uttainable on uni-sonoric instruments and easlily done with bellow changes on Anglo and melodeon, for example.
I found that folk music in general is not concerned with intricacies of melody or nice written variations, it mostly is rotated around very thick and complex sound, where songs are sang against the background of a thick, powerful drone.
Irish music I'd rather classify as "chanting", where the same melody repeats over and over, untill you stop recognizing it as a music, and, sort of, transcend into different world, where you don't have anything that's not symbolic. The key here is not to listen intencely and demand more of variety. Other words not to approach it from the position of a consumer.
I just have a hard time imagining a place for the Theory in this setup.
I guess we really have to spend time narrowing the scope of discussion and coming into agreement of terms.

So for the folks that just want to play anything and have plenty of time - I'd say, go for chromatic and take classes. It will not provide for absent talent, but will help to substitute it with some working tricks, which, for the most of us, is quite enough.
For the folks that aspire to keep up the folk culture and enrich their understandings of themselves, I'd say - go for specific instruments, play specific music and learn from each other, not from theory or books. Just stay away from school of "learning".
It's tougher, but brings better, more tangible results faster.
Music of this sort is not "music" per se., it's a mindset. And "re-inventing the Weel" is eccential part of it.
I realize only fiew of "us" are this type, but most of us are living off these folks. If we manage to replace these guys with so called "art music" - all will die, including art music itself.
It's like replacing acoustic instruments with electronic emulators.
Its' a far fetched comparison, but look at folk scene. For how much longer will it be possible to go deep into the rural areas to find remnants of the folk culture that once flourished in the cities? It's basically gone. Dead. What's the replacement? Beatles?

#39 Larry Stout

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 05:13 PM

I've played fiddle for a bit over 50 years now-- it has a long folk tradition (going back at least 120 years in my family) which is primarily melodic and needs some decoration and variation to keep tunes interesting through the many repetitions which take place in the traditional setting of dancing. I have tried other instruments to add color and variety to my playing (mandolin and viola d'amore, never a folk instrument to my knowledge, though I'm not the only one playing it that way now--it really only likes to be played in D minor because of the sympathetic strings).

I became interested in concertina by dancing to music played on EC for contra dances and from listening to Alistair Anderson.

Because the concertina allows for polyphonic music in a way that the fiddle does not, I think that an understanding of harmony might well help me play better and more interesting folk music on it. I also think that if I understood counterpoint better I might be more capable of writing countermelodies for use in my band (which mostly plays for English Country dancing). Any help on a gentle introduction? I studied some music theory in college and mostly I remember that it was hard!

Contra dance musicians make considerable use of written sources as well as learning tunes by ear. Many new tunes get written in the genre as well as borrowing from other folk traditions (I've heard Ukranian and Klezmer influences as well as old time, Irish, Scottish, skandanavian and historical American sources used). There are thousands of tunes available on the net in abc format. Both learning a tune from the "dots" and picking it up in a dark session by ear (and for that matter being able to read fingers) are essential for the modern folk musician. Understanding the harmonic structure and the shapes of common melodic elements help in learning by ear-- a big part is knowing what you can leave out!

While my experience with Irish music and old time style American music is that there are only a small number of keys used (D, G, Am, A Dorian), other American sources go further afield (Bb, F, A, E) and Scottish fiddle music often even further (Eb). Knowing how to handle a chromatic instrument is essential for this variety.

As for folk music disappearing in the cities and being driven further into the rural backwoods-- in my experience it is alive and well in both places. There are a lot of good folk musicians in New York City, Washington DC, St. Louis and Philadelphia (probably Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, etc, too, I just don't know them personally) but there is also a great community dance in Hudson, IL, where some of the musicians are teenage farm kids.

Larry

#40 Jim Besser

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 07:45 PM

Contra dance musicians make considerable use of written sources as well as learning tunes by ear. Many new tunes get written in the genre as well as borrowing from other folk traditions (I've heard Ukranian and Klezmer influences as well as old time, Irish, Scottish, skandanavian and historical American sources used). There are thousands of tunes available on the net in abc format. Both learning a tune from the "dots" and picking it up in a dark session by ear (and for that matter being able to read fingers) are essential for the modern folk musician. Understanding the harmonic structure and the shapes of common melodic elements help in learning by ear-- a big part is knowing what you can leave out!


Agree on all points.
Learning traditional tunes by ear, and how they are played locally, is important for contra dance musicians and others. The way "Kitchen Girl" is played at Glen Echo, Md. is probably pretty different from how it's played in Normal, Il.

But also I find myself needing to turn more to notation for many of the modern tunes. "Evil Diane" or "Catharsis" aren't quite as easy to pick up by ear as "Golden Slippers.".

And knowing what to leave out is important, although I'm sure many of the Irish musicians around here would disagree. Simplifying a tune to emphasize the rhythm is often good for dancers.

#41 David Barnert

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Posted 14 November 2005 - 10:01 PM

David:
I suppose I would sum up my position on this topic like this: One learns about music primarily by listening to it. Music theory is simply a way of taking advantage of what others have learned by listening before us so that we don't all have to reinvent the wheel.

Me:
But you're not playing a folk instrument. Neither duet concertina, nor bandoneon, bayan, piano accordion, pianoforte are folk instruments. I'm not saying you can't play folk music with them, but they are designed to be less playable and more universal...

Music theory is instrument-independent. Everything I said about music theory applies when I play the banjo or the pennywhistle or the pipe & tabor as much as on the concertina.

#42 Guest_Peter Laban_*

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:54 AM

Irish music I'd rather classify as "chanting", where the same melody repeats over and over, untill you stop recognizing it as a music, and, sort of, transcend into different world, where you don't have anything that's not symbolic. The key here is not to listen intencely and demand more of variety. Other words not to approach it from the position of a consumer.


I seems to me you are making for me the point I brought up above: that it requires an experienced listener to identify what is going on in Irish music. Putting it down as 'repeating the same all the time' is totally contrary to what you'd hear in the playing of a good traditional Irish musician: a constant stream of variation and minute changes in the melody and it's just that what makes Irish music interesting and so exciting in the hands of a good player.
Saying 'the key is not to intensely and demand more variety' is so contrary to the way most Irish musicians approach their music and to the way I listen to Irish music, it leaves me baffled.

Did you ever really listen I wonder.

Edited by Peter Laban, 15 November 2005 - 08:08 AM.


#43 BruceB

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 12:23 PM

Peter Laban wrote, referring to m3838.......
>>I seems to me you are making for me the point I brought up above: that it requires an experienced listener to identify what is going on in Irish music. Putting it down as 'repeating the same all the time' is totally contrary to what you'd hear in the playing of a good traditional Irish musician: a constant stream of variation and minute changes in the melody and it's just that what makes Irish music interesting and so exciting in the hands of a good player.
Saying 'the key is not to intensely and demand more variety' is so contrary to the way most Irish musicians approach their music and to the way I listen to Irish music, it leaves me baffled.
<<

I completely agree. "Chanting", "repeating the same all the time" may be a proper descrition of really BAD Irish music, but if you came to that conclusion after hearing someone who knows how to play I'd say you need to get your ears cleaned and try to be just a tiny bit open minded. Were you just trolling with that silly comment?
I admit, I once felt much that way about Irish music. A friend of mine liked some early Chieftains LP and played some for me. I wasn't impressed and probably went right back to some Alice Cooper LP. Years later I went ot an Irish music festival at Snug Harbor in the NYC area. I had heard some Irish played on a wooden flute that I liked. As soon as I walked in I saw a guy playing pipes (I thought I hated bagpipes) and sat to listen for just a second. To say I was blown away wasn't the half of it. It was a transforming, astounding, musical experience. Turns out I was sitting with about 25 people, listening to Paddy Keenan from maybe ten feet away. To call his playing in any way repetative is actually really funny. To this day it is perhaps my most cherished performance memory. A while later I sat under the main stage with a ton of people in a rainstorm, listening to Cherish The Ladies play onstage above us. That was a wonderful experience too. That one day transformed the way I think about music in general and Irish music in particular.
bruce boysen

#44 m3838

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 01:17 PM

Peter:
Putting it down as 'repeating the same all the time' is totally contrary to what you'd hear in the playing of a good traditional Irish musician: a constant stream of variation and minute changes in the melody

Me:
Firstly I didn't say it. I said "repeating the same melody over and over". Minute changes to the melody don't change the melody. It's still the same melody, repeated over and over.
"Constant stream of variations" is not very good expression, because, firstly, it's physically impossible, and secondly, even hitting the same key on the piano may qualify as "constant stream of variations". Depends on agreed convention of terms.
Another point is "Good traditional ... musician". In deliberately leave "irish" out of the equasion because irish or yiddish or chinese - all is folk music and all shares common qualities. "To me" (!) folk music is not about CD recording or listening to it, performed by skilled professional. It's about doing it and being a part of it. Either playing, singing or dancing. Or simply clapping to relatives and friends, who play, sing or dance. Anything else is just modern entertainment, done for the sole purpose of making money.
I'm not Irish and not skilled listener. Are you?
And what qualifies a person as skilled listener? Years of listening, being part of a tradition or talent?
To me, I rarely like performance of modern professional folkies.
I have a fiew Irish recordings, but rarely listen to them. On the other hand I never miss opportunity to "See" an Irish performer. Different matter alltogether. Listening to Tuva's music, Mongolian, Tibetan chants, Russian, Ukraiinian, Hungarian, American etc. convinced me, that it's not the "music" per se, it's the iinvolvement. Creating a continuum, where one might be happy, where time is stopped, sort of Nirvana, where there's nowhere to go, no purpose, no beginning or end, but the continuum itself is so rich, there's no need for anything to happen. I think achievement of such continuum is the sole purpose of infamous Tibetan Chanting, or Tuva's throat singing. Or, "to me", of Irish (and all other folk) music.

Peter:
Saying 'the key is not to intensely and demand more variety' is so contrary to the way most Irish musicians approach their music and to the way I listen to Irish music, it leaves me baffled.

Me:
Well, I expressed my opinion. This opinion is changing thing and is a result of my expirience plus my own aspirations. Perhabs I'm wrong, but so far I haven't encountered logic, convincing enough to change my opinion on the matter.
Folk music, where there is a stage and people in the audience - is a joke.
Skill is not relevant to folk music.
My teacher told me a story:
In the village, where he spent his childhood, there were two accordion players (the only entertainment of the time), who were taking turns playing at local dances. One was relatively skilled and the other, who just returned from the war, lost three fingers on one hand and a fiew on the other.
His playing wasn't as fluid, but there was something in his music, that made people like it more.
My teacher was so moved by the second guy's playing, that it decided his career.

There is good critique of some infamous diatonic accordion tutor in Russian. The tutor approaches diatonic accordion from the point of view of classically trained bayan player and gives very intence, interesting variations of folk tunes.
Professional work. A cuitique pointed at the fundamental differences between the characteristics of the tutor and folk styles. The tutor focuses on teaching pieces, reading music, learning the counter melody, correct posture. The folk style is about playing by ear, embellishements with an array of tricks and playing spontaniously, on demand, in any wheather and terrain conditions. A folk musician is playing any tune instantly and doesn't depend on written music or fiew learned pieces. Other words, a folk musician doesn't have a repertory.
It's an interesting tutor and interesting critique, that condences this discussion.
If you want, I can dig out the web addrress of the tutor and translate the critique.

#45 Guest_Peter Laban_*

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 02:05 PM

Me:
Firstly I didn't say it. I said "repeating the same melody over and over". Minute changes to the melody don't change the melody. It's still the same melody, repeated over and over.
"Constant stream of variations" is not very good expression, because, firstly, it's physically impossible, .



A constant stream of variation is exactly what I meant, we can be pedantic about it if we want to but anyone who has heard the recording of (piper) Johnny Doran playing Rakish Paddy will know exactly what I mean: a constant stream of variation, the tune played seven times over, parts repeated and rarely a bar or phrase played the same twice. To put a fine point on it there is a recording of (again piper) Willie Clancy made by Paddy Hill (there you have your concertina connection) where Willie, though obviously influenced by Doran's approach, pull the same feat yet using different variations again than Doran did. Physically impossible? Just listen.


Another point is "Good traditional ... musician". In deliberately leave "irish" out of the equasion because irish or yiddish or chinese - all is folk music and all shares common qualities. "To me" (!) folk music is not about CD recording or listening to it, performed by skilled professional. It's about doing it and being a part of it. Either playing, singing or dancing. Or simply clapping to relatives and friends, who play, sing or dance. Anything else is just modern entertainment, done for the sole purpose of making money.


I would deeply disagree with you there. Traditional music (and I deliberately don't use the old-fashioned seeming 'folk') is like any music, a vehicle for expression of whatever the musician has to express, as much an art as the next one.
Recording denominates that the music is done solely for the purpose of making money? I don't see that point. I have just finished a CD with a musician whom I consider an pure traditional musician: concertinaplayer Kitty Hayes. Kitty is 78 years old and relearned the concertina when 70, after not playing for 45 years or so. She's as traditional, or 'folk' if you like, a musician as ever there was one. We recorded the CD in her kitchen playing like we do almost every week, on the spur of the moment, whatever came into our heads and one may say recorded it warts and all. Just because we enjoy eachother's company and want to keep some of the music we play and have it available to the people who like it. Making money never came into it.



I'm not Irish and not skilled listener. Are you?
And what qualifies a person as skilled listener? Years of listening, being part of a tradition or talent?
To me, I rarely like performance of modern professional folkies.



I seldom buy CDs and even more rarely listen to them. However thinking a musical genre exists only in recorded form is maybe a sign of a limited vision. The music I like is alive and well and there are plenty of exponents around me to enjoy it in an unrecorded form

I consider myself a half decent musician and as an extension of that a skilled listener (i.e. equipped with a fair amount of knowledge of the music in question).


Me:
Well, I expressed my opinion. This opinion is changing thing and is a result of my expirience plus my own aspirations. Perhabs I'm wrong, but so far I haven't encountered logic, convincing enough to change my opinion on the matter.
Folk music, where there is a stage and people in the audience - is a joke.
Skill is not relevant to folk music.


I don't think it's my place to convince you with logic, I think you should maybe shake off a few notions and listen to good (Irish tradional, as far as I am concerned but you may want to expand this to your own tastes) and listen with an open mind, you may yet be pleasantly surprised. And remember: the open ear hears the most.

[edited spelling]

Edited by Peter Laban, 15 November 2005 - 04:51 PM.


#46 m3838

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 02:34 PM

Bruce:
I completely agree. "Chanting", "repeating the same all the time" may be a proper descrition of really BAD Irish music,

Me:
You seem to assume that the word "Chanting" is some sort of "putting down".
I see it as highest elevation. Where variation is happening not for the sake of evading the boredom, but as spontanious fluctuation of a continuum. Not necessary, but like a breathing, unavoidable.
I'd be careful about putting "Chanting" and "BAD" together.

Bruce:
but if you came to that conclusion after hearing someone who knows how to play I'd say you need to get your ears cleaned and try to be just a tiny bit open minded. Were you just trolling with that silly comment?

Me:
Just expressing opinion about popular on this site Irish music in non-standard terms making you lable it as "trolling"?
Perhabs it's not only me, who must become a tiny bit open minded?
As for " you need to get your ears cleaned" and "Were you just trolling with that silly comment?" - I want you to read it 10 times and it will be your punishment.

Bruce:
I admit, I once felt much that way about Irish music... (I thought I hated bagpipes) and sat to listen for just a second...

Me:
I always felt pulled to folk music, Irish included.
Always liked bagpipes, liked all kiinds of chanting, Indian, Jewish, Arabic, Celtic, French. At any time in my youth I'd prefer weird folk instrument to electric guitar or the like. Never cared about rock-n-roll (at 17!).
Turns out I might have just as much experience of listening to folk music as some of folks on this forum. So much, that the exitement of belonging or the aura of a discovery is long gone.
However, I too, approach much of folk music as a consumer. But let's call a cucumber a "cucumber".

#47 BruceB

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:35 PM

>>Folk music, where there is a stage and people in the audience - is a joke.
Skill is not relevant to folk music.<<

Michael,
Ok, I take back the trolling line as I think you're sincere. Like Peter, I find statements like the one above baffling, and even a bit insulting. Probably more than a bit insulting.
bruce boysen, has actually PAID to hear folk music. What an idiot I am! (How is it even possible to PLAY Irish music without skill?)

#48 JimLucas

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 03:43 PM

Irish music I'd rather classify as "chanting", where the same melody repeats over and over, untill you stop recognizing it as a music, ...

In American sessions as I remember them it has been generally observed that Irish musicians "always" play tunes exactly twice through, then immediately switch to the next tune; it's the Old-Timey musicians who repeat the same tune "over and over" all night long. ;)

#49 JimLucas

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 04:11 PM

To me, I rarely like performance of modern professional folkies.

In the hope that I might understand what you're referring to, could you please name a few of these "modern professional folkies" that you "rarely like". (And do any of them play the concertina?)

Skill is not relevant to folk music.

I'm not sure what you mean by that.
Are you suggesting that "folk music" doesn't need "skill", or that "folk music" inherently lacks "skill"? And do you consider "skill" to be a positive or a negative attribute?

#50 Kurt Braun

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 04:12 PM

Folk music is wonderful stuff. A big part of the wonder of it is the simplicity and availability. But let’s not pretend that folk music is something it isn’t.

It is like a canoe. An "ignorant" native can build one. Needless to say, most any college educated person with a penchant for being handy can too. They can even pull their home computer into the design, read scads of technical stuff and so on. Still, we will never resolve who makes the better canoe, the college amateur (even if he or she makes a living selling them). But let’s not get lost here. It is a canoe not the Queen Mary. If I could build the Queen Mary, I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to build a canoe as well as the best of them down at the wooden boat club. It isn’t the same thing.

At the same time, if I could play a folk tune and get someone excited, there is this kick that is much the same as playing a concerto with an orchestra. But again, it isn’t the same thing.

It is clear that canoes and folk music can be built with or without theory or lots of recondite knowledge and it would be more theoretical for my taste to try and answer the aesthetic question of which would be “better?” So, I’ll not argue that it is “better” to know theory.

On the other hand, my respect for native canoe builders and musicians is a respect of their knowledge and skill. The same holds true for the worlds best cruise liner builder or symphony orchestra. The best people in all of these worlds will hold the others in high esteem. Forgive the double negative, but there is no pride to be taken in not being able to read music, play by ear, blend with the ensemble, understand chords or tune structures, play the song over and over the exact same way so the dancers don’t trip up or have their thunder stolen, understand how ones instruments works and too many more things to mention. And Percy Granger has much to be proud of and a great way of showing his love some of the same music I love. He wouldn't write what he does if he didn't have respect for folk artists. He listens. At the same time, if we don't see that Granger knows so much we don't know, we aren't listening.

#51 m3838

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 05:46 PM

A constant stream of variation is exactly what I meant, we can be pedantic about it if we want to but anyone who has heard the recording of (piper) Johnny Doran playing Rakish Paddy will know exactly what I mean: a constant stream of variation,

Me:
I went to his website and listened to all mp3s and two video clips.
Awesome.
Doran is playing against the backdrop of his drones and a filldler. Together it creates powerful musical screen. Again, to me all his tunes sound alike, I get my kick out of mesmerizing screen of sound.
I think we would disagree on the amount of change depicting a "variation".
With music being so simple, it's easy to stear it left and right a little, without losing the tonic. To me it doesn't matter. It's how they play, that matters. If 'what' was important, they'd play Mozart.
Have you ever noticed that the only musicians that play accordions with all 4 or 5 voices sounding together - are folk musicians? Are you going to agrue that Stravinsky's music is more physically complex than all the folk music put together? But that only on folk scene you see 2-3 people creating the wave of sound equal of a small orchestra?



Traditional music (and I deliberately don't use the old-fashioned seeming 'folk') is like any music, a vehicle for expression of whatever the musician has to express, as much an art as the next one.

Me:
You're stating the obvious, except perhabs definition of traditional music.
Last year I listened to traditional court music from Burma. It's the whole act - the dresses, the skill, the dance, choreography... Very traditional, nothing to do with folk.


Recording denominates that the music is done solely for the purpose of making money? I don't see that point. I have just finished a CD with a musician whom I consider an pure traditional musician: concertinaplayer Kitty Hayes.

Me:
Wow! Good for you.
I didn't mean this kind of recording. I assumed professional recording, with crews working shifts and a distributor. The cost of producing is high, it must make money to survive. It must be sold and it dictates the style of performance.
I guess I'm behind the progress a bit. It didn't occure to me that it's possible to make a quality CD in one's kitchen.
Can't hold it though, if you consider yourself a "half decent musician", why did you bother with making a CD? (Sorry)

Kitty is 78 years old and relearned the concertina when 70, after not playing for 45 years or so. She's as traditional, or 'folk' if you like, a musician as ever there was one.

Me:
Yes, and I consider her a folk musician, and your kitchen sessions a scene of folk music and a nucleus of a folk culture.

I don't think it's my place to convince you with logic, I think you should maybe shake off a few notions and listen

Me:
Great! I'll do just that.
The only question in my closed mind is:
Are you sure it's only me who must shake off a few notions?
And why is it that you miss out the most important points that I make and narrow on some of the lesser ones, where we don't really disagree?

#52 semaj1950

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 07:53 PM

If somebody can't dance to it, what's the point in playing it? Music is a language, a communication with differently understood symbols than words. The point of all music is to convey something from one person to others.

I've skimmed through this topic--I read rather slowly, and I want to practice something tonight--with great interest. I've been playing for my own enjoyment for at least 38 years, and for the enjoyment of others for nearly that long. I started out playing almost entirely by ear, then started reading a bit to find more tunes, then started teaching others to read. But even after all of that, the essence of music, to me, is this: You must give to your playing all that you can in order to derive from it all that you can.

If you are ambivalent about a performance, you should just stay home and turn on the TV. I used to hang around with an old African-American fiddler in Kentucky named Bill Livers. I learned more about playing--not just reproducing notes in a proper sequence--but truly playing, that is, being at play with music, from Bill than anywhere else. When Bill played, he became totally absorbed in his music. The worries of being black, and poor, and of failing health, and loosing his vision slipped away, and he became the music he played. Any great musician one is likely to see also transcends earthly bounds in that way. I guess the word I'm hedging around is passion. If a musician plays with passion, the audience is affected by it. If the musician plays with nothing but technical perfection, but with no joy, the audience might be impressed, but not affected. You can play circles around every body else, but you should smile, or at least grimace when you get to the really good spots.

So what does this have to do with the topic of music theory and "folk" music? I thought you'd never ask. One should pursue her or his passion with every bit of energy, and with whatever resources are available. The more one knows--whether theoretically or technically--the more one can get out of ones playing. The more the player gets out of it, the more the audience will enjoy it. Bill Livers couldn't read a note, but he played with all he knew. Every one watching him play felt his joy in playing, and took some of that joy home.

Learn all you want to--it's good for you, but play every note so it counts.

#53 m3838

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 08:46 PM

Jim:
In the hope that I might understand what you're referring to, could you please name a few of these "modern professional folkies" that you "rarely like". (And do any of them play the concertina?)

Me:
It is better to tell you what I like:
Sharon Shannon (I listened to her CD for a month, driving my family crazy), Mary McNamara (much slower, the way it should be), Frank Edgley (so eloquent), an accordion player from Sweden, Karl Lindgren(?) - by far my favorite (so energetic and superbly skilled. For folk musician that is)
. And many others.
I don't care about hearing John Williams, but love to 'see' him perform.
Hate multitude "klezmorim" portraying Jews from Shtettle as a wailing, complaining, poor crowd with a grain of Oh, so funny Yiddish humor.
I will obstaiin from naming groups or people I don't like so they wouldn't feel offended.


Jim:
Are you suggesting that "folk music" doesn't need "skill", or that "folk music" inherently lacks "skill"? And do you consider "skill" to be a positive or a negative attribute?

Me:
Skill is positive attribute (no, I'm not silly).
Any music (or brick laying) requires skill. However, after certain level (pretty low to standard of classical music) aquisition of more skill is not essential. Folk music is simple enough to make it easy to play the notes.
The sheer power of sound and rhythm are far more critical than the intricacies of melody or variations.
If you take these out - you ruined folk music. If you take variations, theory, skilled performance, stage attitude out - it's still folk music and most people will not notice anything wrong.
Have you ever listened to a russian bayan player, performing folk music, like Fridrich Lips?
Lightning fast, bright, superb handliing of an instrument. Arrangements of highest level of sophistication - technically far surpassing anything that's done in the West.
Or a balalayka orchestra, performing Beethoven.
Or an ethnic russian dance ansamble "Birch Tree", where only ballet pupils were accepted. Or Moyseev Folk ansamble, that will dwarf any professional ballet theatre. It was the ethnic face of the Socialist Motherland, my friends.
Having grown up listening to folk music, performed by such professionals, I was suprized by relative lack of skill of concertina players on the highest level. Noel Hill, John Williams and ohters have much less skill, demonstrated by concervatory graduates from Russia. And they were performing their own ethnic music, they werern't strangers to it.
To my opinion, such professional performers almost killed folk scene. Good thing there is no more funds for such idiotism in Russia today.

As you see, I am making distintion between folk music and folk musician, who started performing onstage. He immediately begins to compete with true musical professionals. I don't think he can remain "folk" musician, but I also don't care about classifying this relatively new phenomena.

#54 m3838

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Posted 15 November 2005 - 09:41 PM

Like Peter, I find statements like the one above baffling, and even a bit insulting. Probably more than a bit insulting.
bruce boysen, has actually PAID to hear folk music. What an idiot I am! (How is it even possible to PLAY Irish music without skill?)

Me:
Do you imply that other kinds of music CAN be played without skill?
Should I find your opinion buffling and even a bit insulting?
I think I answered your question about skill in my reply to Jim Lucas.
As for musical opinion being insulting, this is some indication of seclusiveness.
Imagine, people have many different opinions, some are buffling. Perhabs we do need to shake off a few notions...
Now, Irish music is not all that difficult to play. For one, the speed is an artificial addtion by ... professionals who are bored with slow flow of a melody and want to show off.
It's been discussed many times.
Embellishements are too, not to tricky to master.
What some call "variations" are too, easy to do.
Antonio Diabelli, Austrian music publisher, is famous by his expreriment: He wrote a waltz and sent it to many infamous austrian composers and asked to write a variation.
Most responded and sent him variations, which Diabelli published in a thick volume.
Beethoven responded with not one, but 33 variations,
(http://www.pianosoci...ndex.php?id=116 for mp3)
which was published as separate volume. I have a feeling we are talking about very different things and call it "variations". I think we must be a bit more humble and not apply musical terms, that don't fit.



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