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#1 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:03 AM

In the thread next door where they are debating ear & note learning, the ugly spectre of SNOBBERY at sessions keeps cropping up, so I thought it might be a good time to take it out of that discussion & discuss this subject on its own.

Alan Day's last post, included these questions:

Does it only exist in Irish music, this snobbery? Should only Irish play it? Or is it that only Irish players can play it properly?
Al


Alan, I personally believe that this very unpleasant snobbery element on the Irish Music scene is a direct result of the CCE involvement in general & more specifically their dreaded Competitions which for my money, succeed in somehow brainwashing kids into thinking that because they have won some silly little plastic medal at a stupid competition, that they are now somehow miraculously better musicians than other musicians around them. :rolleyes:

ITM is NOT a sport! ..... or can we expect to see ITM races at the next Olympics? :lol:

Snobbery is a very unpleasant, unflattering & an absolutely disgusting element of the ITM scene, today.

However, I have never found this nasty & very unpleasant flaw in sessions of older musicians.

Alan, I am interested & pleased to hear you say you haven't come across it in your sessions. However, I would be surprised if it didn't exist in CCE run sessions & spin offs, in areas of England where Comhaltas hold sway.

I have seen very little evidence of it in Scotland either, by the way.

As for your 2nd & third questions, sadly there are spacers out there who actually believe this to be the case ..... i.e. the football hooligans of the ITM World. :rolleyes:

Naturally, at most sessions, at least in this area, any musician who turns up with a musical instrument is welcome to join in, & we are even more delighted when they demonstrate that they are interested enough to have learned to play the tunes we know & love. We really, really don't care whether they are from Clare or Katmandu, Galway or Gibralter, Mayo or Madrid! If they are pleasant, friendly & interesting people, who also play music, then they are of course, very welcome indeed.

The notion that only Irish folk can play ITM is of course racist to the core & should not be tolerated among any decent musicians, anywhere! :angry:

So tell me, does session snobbery exist in your area? Do you tolerate it at your session?

Cheers
Dick

P.S. Sorry Alan, I hope you don't mind me borrowing your questions? Posted Image

P.P.S. Of course, Concertina Players have no need to display any snobbery ....... because everyone knows we are better than all other musicians! Posted Image

Edited by Ptarmigan, 08 March 2009 - 06:17 AM.


#2 Chris Timson

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 06:58 AM

I'm not very conscious of snobbery in English music sessions, except sometimes there is a bit of an anti Irish tune sentiment that you don't get with, say, French or Swedish tunes. That, where present, only seems to apply to the high speed diddly stuff (oops, my prejudices are showing now) and O'Carolan tunes, for instance, seem to be quite acceptable.

Chris

#3 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 07:03 AM

... a bit of an anti Irish tune sentiment ....

Chris


Ah yes Chris, I did come across this at a Scottish Fiddle group practice in Inverness, many, years ago, in the early 80s. However, this was at the practice of a group of musicians who had dedicated themselves to preserving the Highland Fiddle tradition, so I personally felt that attitude was quite acceptable there.

I don't know if this attitude carried over into the local Pub Sessions or not.

Cheers
Dick

#4 Steve Mansfield

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 08:13 AM

I'm not very conscious of snobbery in English music sessions, except sometimes there is a bit of an anti Irish tune sentiment that you don't get with, say, French or Swedish tunes. That, where present, only seems to apply to the high speed diddly stuff (oops, my prejudices are showing now) and O'Carolan tunes, for instance, seem to be quite acceptable.

Chris


I think the anti-ITM attitude in English sessions is generally less than it was, purely because there is now a much stronger English tune session circuit and a much greater general (general as in 'amongst session musicians' anyway) awareness of English traditional music. It wasn't, in a lot of cases, anti-ITM as such: it was more a case of creating the space for playing other repertoires, and the easiest way of stating that as a session 'policy' was, to quote the Old Swan Band, 'No Reels'!

Over on Mudcat there's a long thread running at the moment about ITM being played at breakneck speed, click here to go there if you're interested, although be warned at the time of typing this it's reached 174 messages and rather wandered off-piste!

The general public still, in many cases, think that anything played on concertinas, squeezeboxes, flutes, fiddles etc. is automatically Irish of course, but that's another discussion completely.

#5 hjcjones

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 08:58 AM

The general public still, in many cases, think that anything played on concertinas, squeezeboxes, flutes, fiddles etc. is automatically Irish of course, but that's another discussion completely.

When someone comes up to me and says, "I love all that Irish stuff" I say "OK, we might get around to playing some later".

Getting back on topic, of course there is a competitive element to music, just as there is in any human activity. At any session where the players are unknown to each other, at a festival say, or when a stranger arrives at an established session, there is a certain amount of testing-out goes on to establish a pecking order. It is usually good-natured and unspoken, and serves to raise everyone's game, so I don't see it as harmful.

Where it does become damaging is when the better players (or those who think they are) feel they have a right to dominate the session and block out less experienced players who want to start a tune.

#6 Chris Timson

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 10:42 AM

Where it does become damaging is when the better players (or those who think they are) feel they have a right to dominate the session and block out less experienced players who want to start a tune.

This is getting into the area of what I would call session ettiquette, and its total absence in a (fortunately) few benighted individuals.

Chris

#7 Azalin

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 11:33 AM

I think snobbery in irish music is often totally misunderstood by those who feel 'persecuted' by it. It often has nothing to do with being irish or not. There is some people, including me, who are after a certain sound and style, and has some minimum standards so that the music becomes enjoyable to them. It's a bit like watching a movie, some people won't mind bad acting, bad scenarios, awful stories... other will be very selective in what they watch. Some people have been practicing countless hours to try to achieve the sound and style they're looking for, and of course if becomes a big part of their lives. You'll often skip some social events, barricade yourself at home to listen and practice with intensity. Are you going to be happy with some half drunk guy sits down beside you and babbles some sounds out of his instrument, while you've been spending years trying to perfect some sound? I think not.

I'll tell you what. I think the problem with "non-snobs" is that they can't comprehend that there are sessions for different styles, levels, etc. They feel as if it was their right to play anywhere they want, and go on screaming "snobs!!" when they're not happy. I think it's just plain ignorance and lack of sensitivity.

Don't get me wrong though, the hotshot in a session who won't let a less experienced musician play is in the same boat as the beginner who's in an advanced session and complain of snobbery. As Chris was stating, this has to do with session etiquette, and it works both ways.

Anyhow, there seems to be this lack of understanding between the 'snobs' and 'non-snobs' what will always be there because it's simply two different school of thoughts and I find one isn't really compatible with the other. I wish all sessions could have different 'levels' and you attend the ones that fit your needs, but it would be too simple would it not? There will always be a time when you think you belong somewhere, and others won't agree, and your ego is going to take a hit.

#8 Robin Harrison

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 11:58 AM

I think the anti-ITM attitude in English sessions is generally less than it was, purely because there is now a much stronger English tune session circuit and a much greater general (general as in 'amongst session musicians' anyway) awareness of English traditional music.

...........................I lead the music for the Toronto English music session ( Paul Read organises it ) and this is a perception that we deal with. It arose last week and my response to a question re.Irish music was this. "Not only do we not play Irish music, we also don't play music from Brunei, Turkestan, Malawi or Chad.It is an English session"
It of course begs the question as to what English music is as it seems a redundant term and indeed we play a few French and Welsh tunes but the idea of the session is to explore a repertoire that is not otherwise played and Irish music is well represented here; English is not.We don't feel that we are excluding any music so much as choosing to play other tunes. A number of our participants attend ITM session and some primarily Irish musicians attend our ETM session and the repertoire does not over-lap. The question still arises though.
Cheers Robin

#9 Paul Read

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 11:59 AM

I have no involvement in the Irish scene in Toronto but I know a number of people who are. I am sometimes amazed by the stories I hear. It seems to be a very political scene and there is also a healthy dollop of snobbery reported. I won't say more because this is all based on stories from others and observations from the outside. It's probably dangerous to generalize and I'm sure there are areas of it that don't have the snobbery element. We now have here a very successful English tune session which is just that. There is no Irish music at our but that is because it's an English session so why would there be? Also, if anybody wants to play Irish music there are many opportunities around the city.

#10 yankeeclipper

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 12:17 PM

The "other" discussion included some frank and vigorous defenses for snobbery and competition. And those who exercise both in their music sessions, shutting out less skilled players, have every right to do so on their own private turf.

My only quibble is their appropriation of the term "traditional" (or "trad") for behavior that would be considered shameful amongst the people who originated the music they play. Irish traditional music has its deepest roots in the gaeltacht. There, snobbery, inhospitality and intolerance are NOT "traditional"; quite the opposite, in fact. I was fortunate to have begun learning traditional music in the Scottish gaeltacht, in remote village pubs, isolated croft houses and winter fireside ceilidhs where music is freely shared and appreciated regardless of the players' skills. There, amongst native Gaelic speakers, newcomers are welcomed, learners are encouraged, and no one is ever shut out.

It is unfortunate that a growing number of latter day reel-to-reel speed merchants wrap themselves in such a noble word as "traditional," when their unfriendliness and haste are more reflective of today's industrial world. Fortunately, so far, such behavior is far from universal.

Edited by yankeeclipper, 08 March 2009 - 01:47 PM.


#11 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 12:21 PM

I think snobbery in irish music is often totally misunderstood by those who feel 'persecuted' by it. It often has nothing to do with being irish or not. There is some people, including me, who are after a certain sound and style, and has some minimum standards so that the music becomes enjoyable to them. It's a bit like watching a movie, some people won't mind bad acting, bad scenarios, awful stories... other will be very selective in what they watch. Some people have been practicing countless hours to try to achieve the sound and style they're looking for, and of course if becomes a big part of their lives. You'll often skip some social events, barricade yourself at home to listen and practice with intensity. Are you going to be happy with some half drunk guy sits down beside you and babbles some sounds out of his instrument, while you've been spending years trying to perfect some sound? I think not.

I'll tell you what. I think the problem with "non-snobs" is that they can't comprehend that there are sessions for different styles, levels, etc. They feel as if it was their right to play anywhere they want, and go on screaming "snobs!!" when they're not happy. I think it's just plain ignorance and lack of sensitivity.

Don't get me wrong though, the hotshot in a session who won't let a less experienced musician play is in the same boat as the beginner who's in an advanced session and complain of snobbery. As Chris was stating, this has to do with session etiquette, and it works both ways.

Anyhow, there seems to be this lack of understanding between the 'snobs' and 'non-snobs' what will always be there because it's simply two different school of thoughts and I find one isn't really compatible with the other. I wish all sessions could have different 'levels' and you attend the ones that fit your needs, but it would be too simple would it not? There will always be a time when you think you belong somewhere, and others won't agree, and your ego is going to take a hit.


That's all very well Az, but although this approach might work in an ideal World, where every city, town & village can boast a number of sessions of different levels, the fact is, back in the real World, most places have only ONE session, if they're lucky, so musicians of all levels should make more of an effort to tolerate those who are still learning ... after all they all had to learn at some stage, themselves.

There's always the private session, where players of similar ability can meet, e.g. in houses. However, if there is only one open session for hundreds of miles, snobbery should never be allowed to rear its ugly head.

As for your "half drunk guy" .. it shouldn't matter whether he is a good player or a bad player, if he's spoiling the session, he should be politely shown the door! ;)

Cheers
Dick

#12 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 12:25 PM

I think the anti-ITM attitude in English sessions is generally less than it was, purely because there is now a much stronger English tune session circuit and a much greater general (general as in 'amongst session musicians' anyway) awareness of English traditional music.

...........................I lead the music for the Toronto English music session ( Paul Read organises it ) and this is a perception that we deal with. It arose last week and my response to a question re.Irish music was this. "Not only do we not play Irish music, we also don't play music from Brunei, Turkestan, Malawi or Chad.It is an English session"
It of course begs the question as to what English music is as it seems a redundant term and indeed we play a few French and Welsh tunes but the idea of the session is to explore a repertoire that is not otherwise played and Irish music is well represented here; English is not.We don't feel that we are excluding any music so much as choosing to play other tunes. A number of our participants attend ITM session and some primarily Irish musicians attend our ETM session and the repertoire does not over-lap. The question still arises though.
Cheers Robin


Robin, sounds like you are very lucky to be living in Toronto, if the place boasts a number of different sessions & you can pick & choose.

However, if there was only one session, surely you would welcome all sorts of music, but perhaps encourage them to think of starting their own session elsewhere?

Cheers
Dick

#13 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 12:27 PM

Fortunately, so far, such behavior is far from universal.

Aye Yankee, & so say all of us .... let's hope it never becomes so!

Cheers
Dick

#14 bill_mchale

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 02:25 PM

Robin, sounds like you are very lucky to be living in Toronto, if the place boasts a number of different sessions & you can pick & choose.

However, if there was only one session, surely you would welcome all sorts of music, but perhaps encourage them to think of starting their own session elsewhere?

Cheers
Dick



Dick,
With respect, I think it is only fair that the people who run a session should get the right to determine the content of a session. If a guy is taking his time to run an Irish Trad session (or an English, Old Time or Scottish session for that matter), I think it is only fair that the people who come to that session be prepared to play or listen to that particular music tradition. Its hardly fair to the people who run a session and who are regulars of that session for someone to come in and try to hijack it away from them.

Now, I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with a session that is open to multiple music traditions. At the same time however, we can't expect a group of musicians to remake their session to suit our needs... even if their session is the only session for a 100 miles.

Frankly I find the whole idea ridiculous... one wouldn't go to a Rock and Roll Jam Session expecting everyone to try some country tunes. So why is it that players of acoustic music assume that others should welcome their favorite tunes when they don't fit the session.

At my local ITM session, we occasionally get people who try to introduce Civil War Tunes, Old Time Tunes, etc. We might listen to one or two of the tunes politely, but ultimately, the Bar Owner who hosts us wants us to play Irish Music and thats what we want to play too.

--
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#15 hjcjones

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 02:56 PM

a few English musicians[nobody on this forum ] deliberately play in C ,I am sure they do this partly to exclude others.
it is an attempt to be exclusive, it could be construed as being snobbish .
I do not like this attitude .

I have no problem playing in C ,but it is difficult for alot of fiddle players .


Dick, C was the traditional key for many English tunes, particularly in East Anglia where the instrument of preference was the one-row melodeon in C. The old fiddlers seemed to cope with it. The old fiddlers' tune books contain tunes written in any number of keys, although whether they were played in those keys is another question. The D/G melodeon became ubiquitous in order to fit in with fiddle players, who in spite of playing a chromatic instrument seem reluctant to play in anything other than D, G or A. A friend of mine (who admittedly is a very good fiddler and plays professionally) told me that he likes to play in C as it offers different possibilities to the usual keys.

It is also the home key for the standard Anglo, played "English" style - G is very high-pitched and D lacks strong chords, while A is even worse.

In my regular session I will often play tunes in C - as I am usually the only one playing a diatonic instrument I make no apologies for that. I used to play a set with the Electropathics where after playing "Buttered Peas" in G we would switch to a tune in C, still on G/D melodeons. It was fun to watch the puzzlement on other melodeon players' faces as they tried to figure out what was going on. I admit, that could be interpreted as "snobbish" - on the other hand I'm sure it was an eye-opener to a number of players as to what is possible on a melodeon.

#16 David Levine

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 03:24 PM

... a growing number of latter day reel-to-reel speed merchants wrap themselves in such a noble word as "traditional," when their unfriendliness and haste are more reflective of today's industrial world. Fortunately, so far, such behavior is far from universal.


Is this sour grapes? People who play too fast for their skill level are often the very people who haven't copped on to the fact that speed is not the essence of the music. But playing fast is fine for those who can play fast and play well. Plenty of traditional musicians play very fast, now and in the past. I don't get the sense of bitterness in the above quote, expect that perhaps the writer couldn't keep up to a fast tempo. I prefer to play at a moderate tempo. I play better at a moderate tempo. But I certainly wouldn't criticize some players for their ability to play fast.

When I play with some folks who are All-Ireland winners (Francis Droney and Aine McGrath) I only play flute and I am hanging onto the tune for my life. Then back in my local session I'm told to slow down. There's no right or wrong and there's no reason to be bitter.

Competition: it’s always there to some extent. But it doesn’t have to be a negative element. Musicians are no more all equal than are tennis-players. It mostly doesn’t matter.

Although music is a cooperative enterprise there can be an edge: who knows which version, which version is better, what tempo. Sometimes this edge gets in the way. Mostly it doesn’t matter or it’s taken positively - as in: “I’d like to try that. Where’d you learn it and how is it done?” Don’t most of us – except for the sainted few, who don’t have big egos and don’t write in forums – try to avoid having our egos get in the way?

Snobbery: there are some people I avoid playing with. Loud bodhran players. Clangy banjo players. A young woman around here who plays the fiddle badly – she drinks a lot, she’s out of tune, her timing is off, and she doesn’t listen – she’s ruined local sessions on several occasions. She doesn’t learn, she doesn’t care, and we’re all trying to avoid her. Is this snobbery?

Is it snobbery to avoid playing in a session with three bodhrans and four guitars? Az has it right: it can take days and weeks to learn a tricky tune properly and to feel comfortable with it. There might be some snobbery in ITM circles but to me it’s perfectly understandable and acceptable. I believe in being inclusive but only up to a point. Why should somebody who has given his life to music be expected to tolerate insensitive bollicks? The old guys didn’t and they were quite right. Anybody who thinks it was all sunshine and light back in the old days isn’t copping on to a lot of the sub-text.

#17 Ptarmigan

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 03:25 PM

RE: Playing in C!

Well folks, I always carry a spare Fiddle in the car, just in case a Northumbrian or Uilleann Piper turns up at the session with oddly pitched Pipes.

I do this:
A because I love playing my Fiddle with Pipes & have no problem tuning down to whatever pitch
&
B because I want to make sure musicians joining our session for the first time, feel welcome & not excluded.
After all, it only takes a few minutes to do!

We once played for 12 hours in a session, at a wee Co Fermanagh festival, in the key of C.
One or two people apparently felt that we were being exclusive, but it was a festival after all & there were numerous other sessions people could join, if they were unwilling or unable to play in C.
We had an Uilleann Piper whose Pipes were in C & a Flute player who had recently bought a beautiful C Flute, so it seemed like the most natural thing in the World to tune down for them, so that we could all play.
Even our Melodeon player {C#/D} quite happily put his Melodeon away & played Guitar.

Obviously this option is not always possible for Concertina players.

I must say though, I really do LOVE playing in C & F.
They are such lovely warm, mellow keys & when you tune down, all your tunes sound very different & you actually start remembering lots of tunes you thought you had forgotten.

I'm afraid I can't say the same about that old craze we had over here for tuning up to Eb! I didn't like the idea of putting all that extra strain on my good Fiddle, so I always did my best to refuse to put it in danger.
Eb always sounds a bit weak & screechy to my ears, anyway. :(

Cheers
Dick

#18 Frank Edgley

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 03:31 PM

I think snobbery in irish music is often totally misunderstood by those who feel 'persecuted' by it. It often has nothing to do with being irish or not. There is some people, including me, who are after a certain sound and style, and has some minimum standards so that the music becomes enjoyable to them. It's a bit like watching a movie, some people won't mind bad acting, bad scenarios, awful stories... other will be very selective in what they watch. Some people have been practicing countless hours to try to achieve the sound and style they're looking for, and of course if becomes a big part of their lives. You'll often skip some social events, barricade yourself at home to listen and practice with intensity. Are you going to be happy with some half drunk guy sits down beside you and babbles some sounds out of his instrument, while you've been spending years trying to perfect some sound? I think not.

I'll tell you what. I think the problem with "non-snobs" is that they can't comprehend that there are sessions for different styles, levels, etc. They feel as if it was their right to play anywhere they want, and go on screaming "snobs!!" when they're not happy. I think it's just plain ignorance and lack of sensitivity.

Don't get me wrong though, the hotshot in a session who won't let a less experienced musician play is in the same boat as the beginner who's in an advanced session and complain of snobbery. As Chris was stating, this has to do with session etiquette, and it works both ways.

Anyhow, there seems to be this lack of understanding between the 'snobs' and 'non-snobs' what will always be there because it's simply two different school of thoughts and I find one isn't really compatible with the other. I wish all sessions could have different 'levels' and you attend the ones that fit your needs, but it would be too simple would it not? There will always be a time when you think you belong somewhere, and others won't agree, and your ego is going to take a hit.


COMMENT:I think you have this "spot on!" This has nothing at all to do with Comhaltas. Rather, it has to do with levels. Players may lack manners or etiquette, but that does not change the fact that advanced players may not want to play the South Wind, or Fanny Power etc all night, with four guitar players (some playing dissonant chords) or five bodhrain players, some of whom insist on playing bodhrain along with a sean nos airs. I know this sounds insensitive, but there are sessions for all levels. There should be limited problems if we are all sensitive to others feelings and needs. This goes both ways. BTW, I find some of the "high speed sessions" can give me a headache. There are types of tunes other than reels, but those who care to play them should be able to do so without being called snobs..




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