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Gary Chapin

What does it mean to play a bourrée well?

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Interesting article, thanks for sharing - and, as you say, with wider resonance than the wonderful world of bourrees.

 

I've never really got involved in aiming at authenticity to that degree - I think I see myself as a much more pragmatic dance musician.

 

For me if I start a bourree, and people get up and dance a bourree without anyone having to stand there and think about what it is, job done. And yes I guess I've arrived at that through hours absorbing other players, but to be honest I've never attempted to analyse it to that great a degree ...

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For me if I start a bourree, and people get up and dance a bourree without anyone having to stand there and think about what it is, job done. And yes I guess I've arrived at that through hours absorbing other players, but to be honest I've never attempted to analyse it to that great a degree ...

Thanks, Steve. I'm not often in a situation with folks who would be inclined to dance a bourree ... however well I might play one. But I agree, I don't think I have thought about it consciously until recently (just the act of writing the blog has prompted that sort of thing). But I have been posting recordings on YouTube, and have had comments on my left-hand ("don't play bass-chord-chord, that's for waltzes"), and it's come up enough for me to ask "what should one do with the left hand?" The vielle and the cornemuse are no help because they are drone based. So, really, what I'm doing is just what you say, listening to players and absorbing ... but I'm also thinking about it a bit differently. Being rigidly authentic is not what I'm after, but being connected to this tradition is important to me.

 

Now to go find that group of people who will spontaneously break into dance if I play a bourree.

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Hi Gary,

to ask yourself a question is the fastest way to get an answer that suits you. Often as not, after a little consideration, you will come up with the best answer, maybe even a correct answer.

 

To ask the same question of a great number of people could be the road to confusion or statistical averaging.

 

I read your blog and can see that our local best Diato player, Anne Rivaud (and she is very local to us, maybe two miles away) plays often in a "syncopated two hand chording" style. However I will listen much more attentively next time and to the other Diato players we meet and see if I can come up with anything usefull to say about Diato Bourree styles in Limousin. Although I feel that Anne is a devotee of Marc Perrone.

 

Most discussions we have within our band centre around the correct emphasis and speed for creating good dance music but as I need to find some harmonic ideas for my Concertina playing I have the same types of questions as yourself.

 

regards,

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Now to go find that group of people who will spontaneously break into dance if I play a bourree.

 

I should perhaps have made plain that this only happens in specific situations and with certain groups of people - I'm not such a bourree technician that starting one up in the middle of the High Street will spontaneously produce mass bourreeing.

 

Wouldn't the world be a better place if it did though :)

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I'm not such a bourree technician that starting one up in the middle of the High Street will spontaneously produce mass bourreeing.

But maybe if you play in a cathedral you could start a bourrée mass? :unsure:

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Seems like these musings would apply to any traditional music, not just bourrées. It just happens I've been obsessed with bourrées lately.

 

http://accordeonaire...urree-well.html

 

Gary,

Interesting article, and interesting comments on it!

 

The whole thing brings me back to my favourite analogy: music and speech. Both are acoustic phenomena, but both have notation systems for transmitting instances of them - e.g. novels or symphonies, or just short pieces of information and simple tunes - through the non-acoustic medium of paper and ink.

 

In the case of language, it is obvious that a person cannot reproduce the written word acoustically unless he already speaks the language in which it is written. This is particularly true of English, with its extremely erratic spelling, and with most dialects, in which the letters have different values from the standard language.

 

By analogy, a person cannot reproduce a written-down bourée, jig or waltz acoustically, unless he already knows what a bourée, jig or waltz sound like, and can already play several of them.

 

Of course, millions of people have learned one or more foreign languages, and can converse quite effectively in them. But, in all but very exceptional cases, they retain a foreign accent when they read their second language. And no-one minds! So why should a bourée be played with a French "accent" and a jig with an Irish "accent"?

 

The analogy between music and language is not absolutely 1:1. In music, we have an acoustic aspect and a notational aspect. In language, we have an acoustic, a notational and an informational aspect. In language, the informational aspect is paramount, and we can overlook the acoustic imperfections of a non-native speaker, as long as his information comes across. In music, the acoustic aspect is the music. Each musical genre - even classical music - has its peculiar "accent", and the music just doesn't ring true with another accent. There are exceptions, but opera singers who attempt pop ballads tend to sound rather stilted, and pop singers who attempt classical songs tend to sound rather colourless, because each has developed the "accent" for his particular genre.

 

And how does one develop an accent for a musical genre? The same way as one develops a regional accent in one's mother-tongue: by listening to nothing else for a few years, then mimiking it and being corrected by family and friends, and then by talking the way the people around you talk. This makes you "authentic," although, ironically, all you want to do is to mesh verbally with your surroundings. This doesn't stop you from becoming an eloquent speaker who can say things better than anyone else. Same with music: absorb the genre as it is, and then use this authentic "accent" to do things that not everyone can do.

 

Very philosophical, I know, but that's the way I see it.

 

Bottom line: don't try to analyse what is authentic and what is not, and to copy what you think is authentic. Listen to everything in the genre, absorb it, and see what comes out when you try it yourself!

 

Cheers,

John

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And how does one develop an accent for a musical genre? The same way as one develops a regional accent in one's mother-tongue: by listening to nothing else for a few years, then mimiking it and being corrected by family and friends, and then by talking the way the people around you talk. This makes you "authentic," although, ironically, all you want to do is to mesh verbally with your surroundings. This doesn't stop you from becoming an eloquent speaker who can say things better than anyone else. Same with music: absorb the genre as it is, and then use this authentic "accent" to do things that not everyone can do.

This really gets at it beautifully, thanks. And it does match my obsessive way of approaching things. It also matches my experience in Alsace, where just being around musicians who lived this music improved my playing in subtle, wonderful ways.

 

Very philosophical, I know, but that's the way I see it.

It's a weakness of mine, also. I've been chastised for it in the past.

 

Bottom line: don't try to analyse what is authentic and what is not, and to copy what you think is authentic. Listen to everything in the genre, absorb it, and see what comes out when you try it yourself!

Yes. I suppose I'm feeling a little impatient. I've played for dancers (although not for two years) and I've been listening listening listening. Just feeling stuck and trying to figure a way up to the next level.

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