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Is Irish Concertina Music Boring?


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#19 yankeeclipper

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 11:23 AM

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "Irish concertina music isn't as bad as it sounds..." :lol:

#20 david_boveri

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 11:36 AM

i can understand why people may think what they do about irish music, and can relate, but to me, some of the opinions on this thread seem to be culturally ignorant.

as far as i remember irish music has been a part of my life. i cannot recall a time in my life when i didnt want to play irish music, or the flute. i remember waiting with agony the long years until i was 10 years old, which was when the band program started at my school. my grandma plays the fiddle and my uncle plays the flute, and though i have little recollection, much of my time in my formative years was spent in irish pubs and at festivals and sitting in on irish music classes and concerts.

by a certain point my uncle moved away, and so the irish-related activities dried up in my life and all i had was his cd. my exposure to irish music became limited to that of his band. i spent many years as a teenager with that music being my only exposure to irish music and learning how to play off of sheet music on the tin whistle.

as i became more adventurous, i started to branch out in the world around me, and eventually started trying to get to sessions and workshops and buying cd's of irish music.

when i first got mary macnamara's cd i could not stand it. when i got noel hill's new cd i thought it was boring. when i listened to willie clancy, he didn't sound as good as everyone had made him sound. tommy potts hurt my ears and i couldnt ilsten to him for more than 10 seconds at a time. the irish concertina, when played by others, did sound to me sometimes to be forced and alien.

rather than giving up, i figured there was something i was not getting. so i kept listening, and i kept playing, and it slowly started to make more sense. what before sounded boring and slow, like mary macnamara, sounded vibrant and exciting. tommy potts to me know seems like a musical genius, unparalleled in his ability to stretch time and melody to unrecognizable forms while still keeping the soul and feel and meaning of those musicians before him untouched and unblemished.

when learning a language, it not only helps to listen, but to speak, communicate, struggle, and challenge yourself. every form of music is like a language or dialect. if you cannot speak a language, when you listen to it, it may sound like gibberish. if you speak spanish, and you hear portuguese, it will sound almost intelligible. if you speak mandarin, cantonese may sound like there is some background noise interfering with hearing what people are saying.

irish music, like any genre, falls prey to the same mechanism of cognition. to me, a lot of rock music and popular music sounds muddy and uninspired--which is not a characteristic of the music, but an inescapable result of my cultural experience.

likewise, if you do not play irish music, you can still enjoy it, but it will never sound quite the same as someone who plays it. everything we experience and understand changes with time, and with more experience, our understanding and appreciation deepens. there are subtleties in irish that are inaudible to the outside listener--just as there is in all music. without a firm understanding of this musical language--which is radically different than much of western music, poplar and otherwise--irish music can sound like a bunch of notes, uninspired, and inappreciable.


i dont care if anyone likes our music. i dont care if anyone thinks our music is boring. the idea of a balanced sound, which is paramount to most music in the west, is absent from the most traditional of irish music. to the outside ear, an irish session sounds like a wall to wall cacophony of reels. but to me, it doesnt sound like that. when someone plays 5 reels in a row, i can hear every phrase, variation, accent, and note. if you dont speak chinese, a conversation will sound like a bunch of noise. and even if you do, yes, many peoples conversations will be annoying or boring. thats ok. i dont like all of irish music or all types of music, but i dont like it when people try to discount a person or tradition as being somehow flawed or inadequate, which is what it sounds like to me that some people here are trying to do.

you dont ever have to put forth the time to like irish music, but to dismiss an instrument within a tradition--to me--sounds as ignorant as dismissing a language, a culture, a group of people, as being inferior just because you do not share with them a common background.

#21 chiton1

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 11:39 AM

My question is not "is Irish music boring?", but "is Irish concertina music boring?"

I really don't want to get into a discussion of personal likes and dislikes of Irish music, or any other genres. My point is that the anglo concertina doesn't seem to be very well suited to playing Irish music. Its devotees have done their best to get over the limitations of the instrument, and from a technical point of view they have gone a long way towards it. Nevertheless it seems to me that even in the hands of the top players, they can often be heard to struggle against those limitations.

Sometimes the limitations imposed by an instrument can be liberating. The limitations of a melodeon, for example, can force a tune into new and unexpected directions and impose different harmonies, and these can have exciting results. In my (admittedly limited) exposure to Irish anglo, I haven't notice that. What I have noticed is that things like bellows reversals, for example, can impede the flow of the music, even if only momentarily. Irish music needs to trip along (which is not the same as playing fast!) and often the instrument prevents that.

It's perhaps unfair to criticise Irish concertina players for not using chords much, since harmony doesn't play a big part in Irish music. But it does seem a waste of the instrument's potential.

I like Irish music. I like playing it, and I like listening to it. But when I put on Anglo International I find myself skipping past the Irish tracks to something more interesting




To me Irish music played on Anglo concertina isn't boring at all (hee I started playing concertina because of it!). To you it is......... :blink:
The use of chords isn't everything (and there are more and more Irish concertina players using double notes and chords these days, much to dislike to some on Cnet.... :P ).
Hermann

#22 tombilly

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 12:54 PM

Firstly I love Irish trad: it speaks of the countryside and people I live in and with. Like any musical genre, it is an acquired taste - you have to listen lots to get into it. Personally, i think a lot of other musical genres are boring but I'm sure if I bothered to listen to them sufficiently, they'd grow on me - so, it's whatever you're used to.
This is linked as to whether you like ITM on concertina because first and foremost, Irish trad. is melody driven - the pure drop doesn't have chords and harmonies and all that stuff. A lot of ITM dance music as opposed to airs is about rhythm - good solid rhythm and the concertina is as good as any instrument on which to get that lift and bounce and steadiness. Indeed, the changing direction of the bellows can drive that just in the way a flute player uses breaths.
Perhaps your distaste arise when people try to be too fancy - to add in too much ornamentation. It's curious that several people here like Mary MacNamara's playing as I do myself, she plays fairly straight, it's more accessible etc. Ditto for Martin Hayes. I suspect it takes longer to get into Noel Hill's playing etc. Take Joe Burke the box player - I always thought he overdid the twiddly bits and lost the tune a bit but recently I put a CD of his on and thought, hey, 'that's great stuff' in it's own way, so obviously my ear has just developed a bit more.

Edited by tombilly, 19 April 2008 - 01:09 PM.


#23 Alan Day

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 01:39 PM

It is a dull miserable weekend and Howard ,you thought you would liven things up here.Which you certainly have.
I am honored that Anglo International is being used for discussion and comparison of styles,but saddened that names are now coming into the discussion.this is a classic example of what some will like others will not. Noel Hill's playing has been mentioned and I would just like to say that Noel ,is a VERY passionate Irishman he plays his country's music with the love he has for it, in the traditional way he thinks it should be played. A few think his arrangements are over the top, most do not. Although I do not play Irish Music I still enjoy it, but must admit I prefer Irish Bands rather than solo playing,but has been said it needs carefully listening to, it is far too complex just to have on as background music ,which I confess I regularly do with The Chieftans.
I remember someone giving me a French Record (also not everybody's cup of tea )and after the first listen I only enjoyed one of the tracks, I was on a long journey and let it play over and over again. Suddenly one track I enjoyed became two then three and I finished up loving it all. Classical Music is the same you hear more every time it is played through.
You will have to hold your own coat Howard on this one.
Al

#24 marien

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:23 PM

To me Irish music is not boring. Some say that the dots are too simple to make it interesting, and if you know one tune then you will know them all. You can compare it to classical music that is based on harmonics, and you may come to the conclusion that irish music is primitive, simple, or boring. Qualifying a music style as boring also sais something about the judge. If irish music is not really your kind of music, then maybe you don't recognise what it is all about, and maybe you do not feel what is in it, like a certain drive, kind of minimal music jokes or certain moods, I don't know what you missed there. Anyhow, there are enough people in the world who (with me) think that irish music is not boring and 100.000 lemmings can't be wrong...

Now how about Gamelan music from Vietnam? I would not dare to call that boring. Would you?

#25 yankeeclipper

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 03:59 PM

Now how about Gamelan music from Vietnam? I would not dare to call that boring. Would you?

Not in the least - quite interesting, in fact. I've heard gamelan music in Bali and Java - didn't know there was a gamelan tradition in Vietnam.

#26 Dirge

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 05:41 PM

I have listened to limited ITM because I do think it boring, repetitive and only slightly more musical than clubbing seals. Furthermore I refuse to believe that flailing through the same tune 5 times in relentless unison has some great subtlety I can't comprehend, even if it has got all sorts of squeaks and twitches worked into it that I'm sure are very slick, so I won't be listening to much more either. However my dislike for ITM as she is usually presented is as nothing beside my contempt for modern Jazz, or the current David Gray genre of drippy pop singers, say. We all have preferences; these are mine; I don't expect to convert anyone. I've no problem with lots of you thinking ITM is wonderful. Knock yourselves out.

But Howard asked about the concertina particularly. I can't answer your question, Howard, I don't have a view, but it strikes me that if you have hit some great truth which results in a great move away from the concertina, all the Jeffries Anglos are going to halve in value over night. Be warned.

#27 PeterT

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 05:49 PM

But Howard asked about the concertina particularly. I can't answer your question, Howard, I don't have a view, but it strikes me that if you have hit some great truth which results in a great move away from the concertina, all the Jeffries Anglos are going to halve in value over night. Be warned.

Oh ****! Someone had better start another thread .... "Irish Concertina Music is Exciting".

Maybe Howard has designs on becoming a dealer. :unsure:

No, on reflection, I'm certain that the current popularity of the Anglo for Irish Traditional Music will continue and flourish.

Peter.

#28 geoffwright

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 05:50 PM

Utter tosh!
If you had posted "ETM is boring" on irishconcertina.net, you would have got exactly the opposite reaction to the above comments.
The Irish think ETM is all rumpty-pumpty morris - they don't think of the anglo as a chordal instrument, and they certainly don't see it as a C/G only instrument - it is fully chromatic.
You know who you are - you wimps who reach for another box if a tune in F or A turns up.

I am heavily into ITM, but will also take on all-comers at trad English or Northumbrian (and quite a lot of Scottish if it comes to that).
;-.

#29 hjcjones

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:13 PM

Let me repeat: I do not find Irish music boring (although some Irish sessions can be). While I don't claim to be an expert, it is music I am familiar with, and which I play, although not as much as I once did.

My point, which no one has really answered, either to agree with or challenge, is that it appears to me that Irish music does not sound as good on the anglo as it does on other instruments. It is not simply a question of style, I have noticed it in the playing of different musicians with differing styles. I did not intend it as a criticism of any individual players, on AA or elsewhere, and I fully accept that their technique and musicianship is outstanding. But for the free-reed sound, I would prefer to listen to a good button-box player than a good concertina player.

So, am I mistaken when I think I hear the tune "drag" a little because of bellows reversals? Or are the ITM concertina enthusiasts saying, yes, this can happen, but it doesn't matter, it doesn't affect the music?

If I want to play Irish music, I pick up other instruments. In part, that's because I've never learned the Irish style so my concertina is less suitable. But as a concertina player, I don't feel that playing Irish music on it makes full use of the instrument.

I'm well aware that there are plenty of people on here who see it differently. In particular, I take Geoff's point that Irish style uses it more chromatically. Let me put a slightly different question: what was it about the anglo that made you want to play Irish music on that (which is after all a relatively uncommon instrument in Irish music), rather than one of the more obvious instruments, such as fiddle?

#30 bellowbelle

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:25 PM

This is an interesting question, and one that I have been thinking about lately -- though, not particularly about ITM, but any genre of music.

Lately, when I try to think of what I want to play, I decide that it's all boring. I've concluded that I'm... BORED! :blink:

I think Irish music is a very 'sociable' music, just like gospel church music (which I'm a little more familiar with) is very social. It's not the type of thing you'd be apt to take up if you lived all alone on an island or whatever. So, without the social aspect of it, I think Irish music can get boring as a routine.

Sometimes, things get so boring that I'm kind of cheered up by something really sad. Lately, I've enjoyed listening to 'O Death Rock Me Asleep,' early music which is attributed to Anne Boleyn. I heard it on the radio and bought the CD it's on. Not looking to get my head chopped off, just.... kinda bored, I guess! Need to feel like things are, at least, not THAT bad... :P

Seriously, Anne Boleyn's song is beautiful -- I don't mean to belittle it. It's sad and lovely.

Boring stuff....well, I don't know that I'll ever really find the music I play to be 'exciting.' I think it's all potentially very boring. But, it's a good journey to take, and sometimes it's interesting.

Now, must get going to meet a train and play the Anne Boleyn song on CD in the car....

#31 kfk'51

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:58 PM

Bravo David Boveri--I would suggest that even casual music can warrant careful listening and even then some nuances may escape. I would also ask (rhetorically perhaps) why is the fiddle held up as an example? It could be argued that such an instrument should only be employed in playing Bach's and Ysaye's works for solo fiddle. Perhaps TIM should only be performed as "mouth music" with a couple of sheep's ribs for backup.
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#32 chiton1

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 08:15 PM

[quote name='hjcjones' date='Apr 19 2008, 07:13 PM' post='70856']
Let me repeat: I do not find Irish music boring (although some Irish sessions can be). While I don't claim to be an expert, it is music I am familiar with, and which I play, although not as much as I once did.

OK you love Irish music.

My point, which no one has really answered, either to agree with or challenge, is that it appears to me that Irish music does not sound as good on the anglo as it does on other instruments. It is not simply a question of style, I have noticed it in the playing of different musicians with differing styles. I did not intend it as a criticism of any individual players, on AA or elsewhere, and I fully accept that their technique and musicianship is outstanding. But for the free-reed sound, I would prefer to listen to a good button-box player than a good concertina player.

I like good button box players as well but I prefer the sound of a concertina to any other bellow/reed instrument (perhaps except the bandoneon, but I wouldn't play Irish music on it).

So, am I mistaken when I think I hear the tune "drag" a little because of bellows reversals? Or are the ITM concertina enthusiasts saying, yes, this can happen, but it doesn't matter, it doesn't affect the music?

I do not think the bellow reversal causes drags the melody. It will be perhaps less fluent than played on other instruments. But it is part of the instrument's identity, in my view it doesn't affect the music in a negative way. In fact in some cases it is a bonus adding some bounce to the music. And doesn't this apply to any music played on the AC? I can't believe English players play a lot of chords only to hide the fact that their melody lines are not legato enough?!

If I want to play Irish music, I pick up other instruments. In part, that's because I've never learned the Irish style so my concertina is less suitable.

Did you learn the Irish style on the other instruments?

But as a concertina player, I don't feel that playing Irish music on it makes full use of the instrument.

Would that be that you do not make full use of the instrument when playing Irish music? Is making full use of the AC pressing as much buttons at the same time? Did you ever listen to some of the new generation players who in my view make full use of what their instrument offers?

I'm well aware that there are plenty of people on here who see it differently. In particular, I take Geoff's point that Irish style uses it more chromatically. Let me put a slightly different question: what was it about the anglo that made you want to play Irish music on that (which is after all a relatively uncommon instrument in Irish music), rather than one of the more obvious instruments, such as fiddle?

In my case I loved the tone / sound of it and when I heard Noel Hill play with Tony Linnane (on that classic record, featuring Matt Molloy on flute - Matt being the reason for which I starting playing the wooden flute) I just had to have and play a concertina. I also love the way it complements other instruments in Irish music like pipes, fiddle or flute.


#33 david_boveri

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 09:16 PM

I have listened to limited ITM because I do think it boring, repetitive and only slightly more musical than clubbing seals. Furthermore I refuse to believe that flailing through the same tune 5 times in relentless unison has some great subtlety I can't comprehend, even if it has got all sorts of squeaks and twitches worked into it that I'm sure are very slick, so I won't be listening to much more either. However my dislike for ITM as she is usually presented is as nothing beside my contempt for modern Jazz, or the current David Gray genre of drippy pop singers, say. We all have preferences; these are mine; I don't expect to convert anyone. I've no problem with lots of you thinking ITM is wonderful. Knock yourselves out.

But Howard asked about the concertina particularly. I can't answer your question, Howard, I don't have a view, but it strikes me that if you have hit some great truth which results in a great move away from the concertina, all the Jeffries Anglos are going to halve in value over night. Be warned.


i think you are failing to make a distinction between having a personal preference and having a complete lack of consideration for other viewpoints besides your own.

you cannot hear the subtlety because you have not learned how to. bottom line. there is a huge distinction between not wanting to find subtlety and refusing to believe something exists which you have never spent the time to search for. you say that you are doing the former, but you are quite fully doing the latter.

no form of music is better than otherwise. you seem to think otherwise. that is ignorant and prejudiced.

there are indeed contemptible things in this world, and musical genres are not one of them. every person, culture, genre of music, form of art, science and attempt to create meaning and beauty in this world is worthy and deserving of respect, consideration, and a chance. not only that, but it is severely limiting to only give each thing only one chance. every time i meet someone, no matter what they have done to me or how they have tried to hurt me, i always try to treat them with respect, dignity, forgiveness, and a fresh perspective. all artifacts of people are worthy of this same consideration.

it is ok not to like someone or something. but you are not disliking, you are discounting, which is a fundamental part of hatred and bigotry.

rather than searching for meaning, you seem to be searching for superiority and inferiority. at the end of the day this hurts yourself and deprives you of much meaning and joy which you surely deserve.

Edited by david_boveri, 19 April 2008 - 09:18 PM.


#34 yankeeclipper

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 10:38 PM

I kinda cringe when the criticism shifts from "it is" to "you are." <_< Dialogues are more enjoyable when we keep the focus on the music or the instrument, rather than the individuals with whom we agree or disagree. :ph34r:

#35 Jody Kruskal

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 11:41 PM

Irish music is NOT boring. Shame on you! There is no boring music, only boring musicians.

Irish or otherwise, there is a distinction between the pleasure of playing a tune and the pleasure of listening to a tune. Playing tunes with a few like-minded musicians is fun. The music is the medium for our interaction. To listen to the byproduct of this interaction might be interesting, entertaining or instructive, but that is nothing compared to the pleasure of participation.

So... much of the value of a tune is how much fun it is to play. Tunes are really not concert music, though good musicians can certainly pull it off. I agree that other instruments aside from the concertina might sound better on melody, but the concertina is really, really, really fun to play.

It sometimes seems like a stretch for me to make the sound of the concertina work musically in a session. Often I find myself solving that problem by playing other stuff and leaving the melody to the fiddle or flute. To call that other stuff “chords” is really misleading though. Chords are there as a concept of course, but if I were to use a one word label for good accompaniment in a session the word would more likely be “Rhythm”. Sure, there might be more than one note at a time, but I have fun thinking and playing like a piano, guitar, bouzouki or a bodhran.

Only on rare occasions do I get dirty looks for having this kind of fun.

#36 JimLucas

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 05:33 AM

Yesterday I was out mending fences... literally.

And I come back to this?

Sheesh!

:(






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