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Is Irish Concertina Music Boring?


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#37 hjcjones

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 06:45 AM

My original question was intended to be about the use of anglo concertina in Irish music, not about the worth of Irish music itself. It was deliberately intended to be provocative, but I'd hoped not offensive. I'm disappointed that some of the responses have been critical of the music itself - that's not what I was getting at. On the other hand, I'm encouraged that the tone of the discussion has remained civilised - I can imagine what a similar thread on Mudcat might now have degenerated into! I'd probably be in hiding from death threats by now :)

What I'm puzzling over is that although I love Irish music, and I love concertina, I don't find listening to Irish music played on concertina as satisfying as hearing it played on other instruments. It's partly to do with the sound - I find the sound of several reeds together more exciting than a single note - but also a feeling that on concertina the music does not flow quite as fluently as it should. Chiton1 argues that this is part of the instrument's identity, and doesn't affect the music in a negative way.

While I agree with everything that Jody says in his post, my question is about listening to Irish music on concertina, rather than playing it. The musician will always have a different perspective from the audience.

When I say that I don't feel that a single-melody style makes best use of the instrument's potential, what I mean is this: it seems to me that the anglo is perfectly set up to play chordally. If you hold down more or less any adjacent buttons, on the two main rows at least, you'll get an acceptable chord. With low notes on one hand and high notes on the other, it seems natural to me to play chords to accompany the melody. The more chromatic, single-note melody approach seems to me me to be ignoring the instrument's greatest strength.

I'm not suggesting the Irish style is easy! On the contrary, I recognise that it requires a lot of effort, and being lazy, it's easier for me to play Irish music on other instruments rather than try to learn a new style on anglo. But it's not the sound I want to get from the instrument anyway.

What got me interested in the concertina was hearing it played chordally and thinking, "I want to make a noise like that!". Personally, I don't get the same response from listening to single-line melody on concertina, whether it's Irish or other genres, anglo or other systems. I may enjoy the music and admire the technique, but I don't get that urge to reproduce it myself.

Clearly there are many on here who feel differently. Chiton1 has expressed his own reaction to hearing Noel Hill play, and makes the interesting point that he likes to play concertina because it complements the more "usual" instruments. So come on, you Irish players out there, what was it that made you choose concertina over other instruments?

#38 Alan Day

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 12:24 PM

Howard I was lucky enough to be the host of the very successful Anglo Concertina Evening at Warwick Festival and it finished with Chris Sherburn and Last Nights Fun playing Irish Music the crowd were going crazy screaming for more. I am certain Chris would have got many to love the Anglo for Irish music that night.I could have sworn you were there.
Due to it's success it was completely ruined by Sidmouth the following year , who completely misunderstood the concept.
Al

#39 david_boveri

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 01:40 PM

My original question was intended to be about the use of anglo concertina in Irish music, not about the worth of Irish music itself. It was deliberately intended to be provocative, but I'd hoped not offensive. I'm disappointed that some of the responses have been critical of the music itself - that's not what I was getting at. On the other hand, I'm encouraged that the tone of the discussion has remained civilised - I can imagine what a similar thread on Mudcat might now have degenerated into! I'd probably be in hiding from death threats by now :)

What I'm puzzling over is that although I love Irish music, and I love concertina, I don't find listening to Irish music played on concertina as satisfying as hearing it played on other instruments. It's partly to do with the sound - I find the sound of several reeds together more exciting than a single note - but also a feeling that on concertina the music does not flow quite as fluently as it should. Chiton1 argues that this is part of the instrument's identity, and doesn't affect the music in a negative way.

While I agree with everything that Jody says in his post, my question is about listening to Irish music on concertina, rather than playing it. The musician will always have a different perspective from the audience.

When I say that I don't feel that a single-melody style makes best use of the instrument's potential, what I mean is this: it seems to me that the anglo is perfectly set up to play chordally. If you hold down more or less any adjacent buttons, on the two main rows at least, you'll get an acceptable chord. With low notes on one hand and high notes on the other, it seems natural to me to play chords to accompany the melody. The more chromatic, single-note melody approach seems to me me to be ignoring the instrument's greatest strength.

I'm not suggesting the Irish style is easy! On the contrary, I recognise that it requires a lot of effort, and being lazy, it's easier for me to play Irish music on other instruments rather than try to learn a new style on anglo. But it's not the sound I want to get from the instrument anyway.

What got me interested in the concertina was hearing it played chordally and thinking, "I want to make a noise like that!". Personally, I don't get the same response from listening to single-line melody on concertina, whether it's Irish or other genres, anglo or other systems. I may enjoy the music and admire the technique, but I don't get that urge to reproduce it myself.

Clearly there are many on here who feel differently. Chiton1 has expressed his own reaction to hearing Noel Hill play, and makes the interesting point that he likes to play concertina because it complements the more "usual" instruments. So come on, you Irish players out there, what was it that made you choose concertina over other instruments?


i can agree with you that when i first started giving irish concertina music a serious shot, it did sound a little strange.

why did i chose it? my main instrument used to be flute, but the my grandma told me some stories about how her aunt played the concertina. so i would always look it up on ebay. i looked it up at my friends house, and his dead went and bought a cheap hohner online. they let me borrow it one day for a week, and then my mom surprised me with one the next christmas. i spent most of my time just playing it, and listening to fiddle players. i actually played for about 2 or 3 years before i ever had an album of anyone playing the concertina.

it does blend extremely well, i think.

#40 JimLucas

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 04:13 PM

What I'm puzzling over is that although I love Irish music, and I love concertina, I don't find listening to Irish music played on concertina as satisfying as hearing it played on other instruments.

I think that pretty well says it:

It's not about the (anglo) concertina and Irish music; it's about Howard Jones' personal taste.

While I agree with everything that Jody says in his post, my question is about listening to Irish music on concertina, rather than playing it. The musician will always have a different perspective from the audience.

And yet a great many Irish -- both musicians and audience -- find the playing of many concertina players with a variety of personal styles to be not merely adequate, but pleasurable and exciting... solo, as well as in groups.

While I doubt that it was your conscious intent, your comments seem to say that your personal taste more appropriately defines "Irish" music than do the tastes of these Irish.

What got me interested in the concertina was hearing it played chordally and thinking, "I want to make a noise like that!". Personally, I don't get the same response from listening to single-line melody on concertina, whether it's Irish or other genres, anglo or other systems. I may enjoy the music and admire the technique, but I don't get that urge to reproduce it myself.

Once again, it seems to be really about you, not about Irish music.

So come on, you Irish players out there, what was it that made you choose concertina over other instruments?

Hearing it played solo... and both in a melody-only style and on richer arrangements.

#41 Nigel

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 04:35 PM

I chose the instrument first, then the music, which is probably the wrong way round! I had no experience of playing any musical instrument (still haven't, some might say), but the concertina took my fancy. I have always enjoyed folk music - not easy growing up with a peer group fixed on punk and ska. As an Englishman now living in Ireland I had a choice of musical styles, which may be a unique choice for an instrument - do fiddle or flute players play in English or Irish styles? I choose Irish, not only because that was the natural choice if I wanted to play with other people, but because I prefered the music. I like the sound of a single reed. Although I love English folk music music, to my ear, it can sound like fairground music. particularly when played on melodeon or concertina with heavy use of chords. What I mean is too much oompah, not enough melody. I do make some limited use of chords in my playing, but often find they overpower the melody or detract from the beautiful sound of the concertina. Maybe that is just my poor playing. I noticed this particularly when playing airs. You can add all sorts of chords and ornaments, but I usually prefer to hear the simple unadorned melody.

Nigel

#42 michael stutesman

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 07:47 PM

"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?"
[/quote]



I'd like to point out the obvious here.
I think many would agree that the fiddle is the most versatile instrument ever invented but It's the devil to learn to play well. That's what steered me toward the concertina though I play english system and not anglo.

#43 david_boveri

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 08:08 PM

"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?"




I'd like to point out the obvious here.
I think many would agree that the fiddle is the most versatile instrument ever invented but It's the devil to learn to play well. That's what steered me toward the concertina though I play english system and not anglo.


hahaha. there's something about easy things that makes them less satisfying! whenever people ask me why i study chinese, i have a whole stock of answers provided which are partially true. the truth is that i like to study it because it's really hard.

#44 meltzer

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 09:21 PM

I chose the instrument first, then the music, which is probably the wrong way round! I had no experience of playing any musical instrument (still haven't, some might say), but the concertina took my fancy. I have always enjoyed folk music - not easy growing up with a peer group fixed on punk and ska. As an Englishman now living in Ireland I had a choice of musical styles, which may be a unique choice for an instrument - do fiddle or flute players play in English or Irish styles? I choose Irish, not only because that was the natural choice if I wanted to play with other people, but because I prefered the music. I like the sound of a single reed. Although I love English folk music music, to my ear, it can sound like fairground music. particularly when played on melodeon or concertina with heavy use of chords. What I mean is too much oompah, not enough melody. I do make some limited use of chords in my playing, but often find they overpower the melody or detract from the beautiful sound of the concertina. Maybe that is just my poor playing. I noticed this particularly when playing airs. You can add all sorts of chords and ornaments, but I usually prefer to hear the simple unadorned melody.

Nigel

I reckon we're about the same age then, Nigel (looking at what your peer group listened to). I know what you mean about the oompah, but I like to think (and I realise that it's late at night but f*** it) that I bring something of the punk/new wave sensibility to my English-style Anglo playing. Mostly by avoiding the oompah and doing countermelody or the big f***-off open chords/drones. As a good ex-punk myself, I might almost be tempted to see the highly-decorated Irish style as the trad expression of prog rock.

No Beatles, no Elvis, no Rolling Stones. ;)

#45 CaryK

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 09:33 PM

When I say that I don't feel that a single-melody style makes best use of the instrument's potential, what I mean is this: it seems to me that the anglo is perfectly set up to play chordally. If you hold down more or less any adjacent buttons, on the two main rows at least, you'll get an acceptable chord. With low notes on one hand and high notes on the other, it seems natural to me to play chords to accompany the melody. The more chromatic, single-note melody approach seems to me me to be ignoring the instrument's greatest strength.

What got me interested in the concertina was hearing it played chordally and thinking, "I want to make a noise like that!". Personally, I don't get the same response from listening to single-line melody on concertina, whether it's Irish or other genres, anglo or other systems. I may enjoy the music and admire the technique, but I don't get that urge to reproduce it myself.

Clearly there are many on here who feel differently. Chiton1 has expressed his own reaction to hearing Noel Hill play, and makes the interesting point that he likes to play concertina because it complements the more "usual" instruments. So come on, you Irish players out there, what was it that made you choose concertina over other instruments?


I guess that is why two styles of playing have developed., the English and the Irish style. ITM on the concertina with an accompaniment line doesn't sound Irish to me at all, it then sounds more like a vaudeville or minstrel show music hall piece to my ear. I really do prefer playing ITM by sharing the melody between the right and left hands with occasional, appropriate, and deft ornamentation thrown-in to enhance it, when desired. And in my case, when my current ability allows for it. The anglo's sound with the Irish style seems just right for Irish music. I do get a desire to play tunes with an accompaniment line to go with the melody from time to time, but I don't ever find I have that desire when playing ITM. It would give it the "wrong" sound to my ears. I like the English style though for American folk and popular tunes. They seem too thin sometimes with just melody.

So for ITM the anglo concertina is well suited because it is able to produce the strong melody and rhythm that ITM requires without depending on an accompaniment line. And the AC is well suited for other genres because it has the ability to produce the strong melody and rhythm with the accompaniment line that other genres depend on.

Finally, I chose the anglo concertina for its sound and I chose ITM as the main, but not the only genre I play, for its sound and emotional feeling I get when playing it (and I'm not even Irish). The two marry-up pretty nicely. Hope this is a helpful answer to your original question about anglo concertinas and Irish music.

#46 meltzer

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 09:37 PM

I know what you mean about the oompah, but I like to think (and I realise that it's late at night but f*** it) that I bring something of the punk/new wave sensibility to my English-style Anglo playing.

Christ almighty, that makes me sound like a coplete w*****r. Time for bed, I reckon. :blink:

#47 Rod Thompson

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 09:47 PM

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?


Not arguing about preferences here, or playing abilities etc, but aren't these statements contradictory?

A BC buttonbox has only one row of diatonic buttons, and very few notes are playable cross rows to avoid bellows reversals. This is in contrast to the concertina and melodian. Surely if bellows reversals inhibit ITM playing, the button box would be in trouble.

I am constantly amazed by the quality of BB playing that is around, and am certainly not offended by the bellows reversals. (Or in concertina playing).

On the other hand, if concer players are not using the full power of the instrument, this must also apply to the button boxers - who hardly ever use the left hand keys.

#48 McIsog

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 12:01 AM

I am staying out of this thread.

BTW - I love Irish music on the Concertina. It is the single reason I own concertinas and am studying ITM with the anglo.

Goodnight!,

Dan

#49 Ptarmigan

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 01:58 AM

Is Irish Concertina Music Boring?

For a start, how can you possibly justify lumping ALL musicians who play Irish Music on Concertina together & say that all the music they play is boring?

So of course the short answer to your question has to be a resounding NO!

Do some musicians play too fast? - Yes, of course they do, but is it only Irish musicians who are guilty of that? :rolleyes:

Like, I suspect, most musicians here, I have experienced sessions at which the tempo has been uniform the whole night & I would argue that this is a disservice to the music, whatever music you are playing. I have heard this criticism often being leveled at Irish Sessions & at Scottish Sessions, both because the music being played was all fast.

However, I have heard the very same criticism being leveled at English Sessions where the music being played was just all too slow.

All slow or all fast, surely one is just as boring as the other?

I have played Irish Music on an Anglo for 30 years now & I still love it, but like everyone here, I also have my favourite players of Irish Music on Anglo and there are other well known players who I personally wouldn't cross the road to listen to. However, I would never insult them or their music by calling them or it boring. The fact is I simply don't like their style, but that's all.

I think it is very unfair to slag off musicians who have spent a lifetime perfecting their art, their craft, just because you don't happen to like the way they play.

You know what, if you don't like their style, get over it, go listen to someone else's style. I guarantee there is always a style of playing, in any musical genre, to appeal to everyone.

So it is plainly just nonsense to say that Irish Music, or English music, or any other music for that matter is boring! Not all Irish music is played too fast. Not all English music is played too slowly.

It is actually these very silly generalizations that I personally find boring.

There is no boring music really, just boring musicians ............. who, in my opinion, spend far too much time criticizing other musicians! But of course there's nobody who falls into that bracket here, is there! B)

Let's spend more time celebrating the positive shall we? ;)

To redress the balance a little here, can I just end by saying that I find most Irish Concertina Music exciting, stimulating & moving.

Cheers
Dick

#50 JimLucas

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 03:33 AM

I am staying out of this thread.

BTW - I love Irish music on the Concertina. It is the single reason I own concertinas and am studying ITM with the anglo.

Ah, but by saying that -- in fact, just by posting that you were "staying out" -- you have failed to stay out.

It's a bit like those pages in some old IBM computer manuals, where they printed, "This page intentionally left blank." :huh:

#51 hjcjones

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 05:51 AM

I think that pretty well says it: It's not about the (anglo) concertina and Irish music; it's about Howard Jones' personal taste


That's why I phrased it as a question, albeit (as I have admitted) in a somewhat provocative way. And I've tried to explain why I feel that way about it, rather than simply say "I don't like this". And while part of it is down to my personal preference for the sound of multiple rather than single reeds, part of it is due to my perception that the mechanics of the anglo can hold up the music. Which Chiton1 admitted can happen, but didn't think it matters, so I suppose that is a matter of personal taste as well.

I fully expected the answer to be a resounding "No!", and we're starting to get some interesting replies explaining why. Which is what I was hoping for, and it's unfortunate that the thread got slightly diverted into arguing the merits of Irish music as a genre, before it got back on track.

Ptarmingan wrote:

I think it is very unfair to slag off musicians who have spent a lifetime perfecting their art, their craft, just because you don't happen to like the way they play.


I agree, and I have tried to stay away from that. I have said throughout that I have admired the virtuosity and musicianship of those Irish players I have heard.

#52 Robin Madge

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 06:36 AM

Well, I've just seen this thread for the first time.
Is Irish concertina music boring?

To listen to or to play?
Ignoring the fact that I always prefer to play rather than listen, I find that the Irish music that I like best to listen to is that played on the harp. This may well be because the Irish music that I like best is O'Carolan's.

I can't say that I'm fond of Irish music played solo on the fiddle or high whistle, though a low D whistle can be really nice.

For playing Irish music I reach for the G/D as I can't get the sound I want on a C/G (though the baritone C/G is great for confusing traditional irish players by putting in a bass harmony).
For most tunes I can hear the harmony sitting there waiting for someone to play it and it is only for a few tunes in some rather peculiar minor modes that I have a problem (don't get me going on Klezmer music though).

Robin Madge

#53 Paul Read

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 06:46 AM

To redress the balance a little here, can I just end by saying that I find most Irish Concertina Music exciting, stimulating & moving.

Cheers
Dick

I confess that in general I fall on the 'bored' side of the line. However, I just go back from the NE Concertina workshop and there was an Irish guy (Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh) there who was magnificent at the evening concert. He didn't play too fast so you could hear the tune and he played all sorts of chords and runs and bending of notes etc. He certainly made the music (or his playing of it) interesting for me.

#54 RatFace

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 06:52 AM

First, my contribution to some thread drift:

A BC buttonbox has only one row of diatonic buttons


Ummm - it has two diatonic rows (admittedly one in B major). There are two notes available in both directions, B and E on a B/C box.

Perhaps the smoothness (or rather, the way the phrasing can be made relatively independent of the bellows direction) is to do with the way you can hold the right hand end of the box securely (normally against the leg and right-hand thumb), and indeed the left, with no "flapping" when the bellows direction changes. I don't play Anglo, but just looking at the way the hand strap/support is off-centre, it seems (almost*) inevitable that when you change bellows direction there will be a certain degree of "flapping" due to the orientation of the ends changing (given that you can only support the orientation of the ends with the fingers when pushing). Playing in a punchy style would be a way of getting around this - i.e. making the "flap" happen so fast that it doesn't matter.

* Actually it's possible to eliminate the flap by using the fingers to always keep the ends in the same orientation on the push as they naturally go to on the pull - i.e. with the front of the bellows closer together than the back. Some players do this.

Anyway, as to the original question - I thought david_boveri's answer expressed my opinion very much and very well (thanks!) - that is that any method of communication requires at the very least both parties (player and listener) to understand the language to some degree.




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