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Learning by Immersion


Shas Cho
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So-called 'immersion' has proved to be a powerful way of learning a new language.

And what is music, if not a cultural language?

Until I began to play the penny whistle

I had virtually no experience of Irish music.

I've learned a number of tunes on the whistle,

mostly via the midis and scores offered by abc notation.

While I am grateful for the availability of abc,

I am painfully aware that even the tunes I play 'fluently'

lack the authentic phrasing and accent of a native player.

 

Now that I am learning the anglo concertina

I would like to learn this expressive new language as well as possible.

I think that, given my isolation from ITM sessions and groups,

the best method for me would be to have a selection

of authentic recorded Irish music to listen to.

 

Please consider my low budget and slow dial-up internet access.

This means that I will be limited to purchasing two or three CDs

to form the backbone of my elementary education.

The obvious temptation is to order a K-Tel collection,

thereby obtaining hundreds of tunes for a relatively small outlay.

The problem with that, of course,

is that I would have a collection of low-budget K-Tel music...

 

So here (at last!) is my question:

 

What recording would you recommend for a novice anglo player

who wants to absorb the musical accent as spoken in Ireland?

Please don't list a dozen recordings,

as that is beyond my reach.

Try to narrow your dozen suggestions to the best one,

or at most the best three.

 

Any observations would be most welcome, too,

such as WHY these recordings would be helpful,

and WHAT I should attend to in each.

 

Thanks for your help.

 

Shas

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I would suggest that to begin with you should avoid the latest (modern, young) virtuoso players... but start where they started.. listen to their grandfarthers etc., because the most recent crop of CD's have the most complex playing which, although wonderfull, is not the best stuff for learners to be trying to aspire to.

 

Try some of the CD's offered at www.free-reed.co.uk

 

Titles like.

 

Irish Traditional Concertina Styles; the previous generation recorded in the early 1970's.

 

Clare Concertinas ; as above. more fine concertina playing from before the Noel Hill revolution.

 

Also one should listen to the people that the Concertina players were listening to;

 

the Fiddlers and Pipers and anything recorded before 1980.

 

My reason for saying this is that one must listen to the Solo (un- accompanied) playing to get the real accent (The Gimp) of the music before its Tea was sweetened.

 

Also try to find recordings of;

 

Chris Droney

John Kelly (senior)

Packie Russell

Tommy MacCarthy

Kitty Hayes

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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I would suggest that to begin with you should avoid the latest (modern, young) virtuoso players... but start where they started.. listen to their grandfarthers etc., because the most recent crop of CD's have the most complex playing which, although wonderfull, is not the best stuff for learners to be trying to aspire to.

 

Try some of the CD's offered at www.free-reed.co.uk

 

Titles like.

 

Irish Traditional Concertina Styles; the previous generation recorded in the early 1970's.

 

Clare Concertinas ; as above. more fine concertina playing from before the Noel Hill revolution.

 

Also one should listen to the people that the Concertina players were listening to;

 

the Fiddlers and Pipers and anything recorded before 1980.

 

My reason for saying this is that one must listen to the Solo (un- accompanied) playing to get the real accent (The Gimp) of the music before its Tea was sweetened.

 

Also try to find recordings of;

 

Chris Droney

John Kelly (senior)

Packie Russell

Tommy MacCarthy

Kitty Hayes

 

 

Listen to Mary Macnamara. East Clare music seems a little slower that the usual frentic pace. She plays with great clarity so the ornamentation clearly stands out. I also think her phrasing is just about perfect.

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Listen to Mary Macnamara. East Clare music seems a little slower that the usual frentic pace. She plays with great clarity so the ornamentation clearly stands out. I also think her phrasing is just about perfect.

 

 

You have a very good point there Swig.

 

The older players that I suggested tend to play at a swift pace.

I would also (in the Mary MacNamara generation) add Jacqueline MacCarthy and Geroid O'hAllmhurain, both clear and not so fast players.

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I recommend Mary MacNamara's cd called Blackberry Blossom. Martin O'Brien, one of her students, has a great cd out as well.

 

I also recommend the Irish Concertina 2 by Noel Hill. If you want immersion, you should really listen to both East and West Clare.

 

So, if you can only get two cd's, you should get Blackberry Blossom and Irish Concertina 2. Getting only slower East Clare style would bias your ear just as much as getting only fast, modern stuff. Noel and Mary are the two best players in the Irish tradition (of very different styles) and you would be doing yourself a great disservice to not have both those cd's. I love the older stuff myself, but if you can only get two cd's there is no question that those two are it.

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Before buying any CDs, I would do an intensive study of youtube recordings of the many well-known concertina players. You'll find all the big names there. Find out which or whose style you like best and would be most motivated to learn. Then go and buy CDs from your three most favorite players to study their playing in more depth. Don't worry about faster players. There are plenty of tools to slow down their playing. Go with what excites and inspires you. Don't buy what others suggest to you - find out what you like.

 

To the names already mentioned I would definitely add Edel Fox and Mícheál O Raghallaigh, and I'm sure others will come up with some more names to check out.

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Thank you to all who have given me the benefit of their experience.

I agree that I'm looking more for the traditional music

than the 'latest and greatest.'

The remarks about Mary MacNamara make sense to me, too-

I'm not impressed by blinding speed and tune-burying ornamentation,

and even if I were, it will be a long while before I can attempt that style.

 

Jihela, I agree with your advice as well.

The problem is that I cannot access youtube videos

with my dial-up connection,

so I need these suggestions to get started with.

 

Any other comments?

Agreements?

Alternative thoughts?

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Here is a specific question that I'll put in a seperate post:

 

Has anyone here used the Foinn Seisiún books and CDs?

As the advert says,

"This series of books and CD sets was produced

to provide those learning to play Irish music

with a virtual session to play along with"

 

That sounds about perfect,

but in my experience good ideas do not always translate into effective results.

 

Anyone?

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I have the Foinn Seisun CD1, not the book. I have played along with it a few times through, and it is absolutely a good tool for, well, playing along to. With the books I'd say it'll be worth your while:-)

 

I agree with most things said above, and would like to add two albums, Dympna O'Sullivan's "Bean Chairdin" and Sean O'Dwyer's "Irish Traditional Concertina from Beara".

 

In my experience playing along to recordings is the second best thing. I have also had good experience with the Amazing Slow Downer for picking up new tunes.

 

Good luck!

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Here is a specific question that I'll put in a seperate post:

 

Has anyone here used the Foinn Seisiún books and CDs?

As the advert says,

"This series of books and CD sets was produced

to provide those learning to play Irish music

with a virtual session to play along with"

 

That sounds about perfect,

but in my experience good ideas do not always translate into effective results.

 

Anyone?

 

I have the Foinn Session books and CDs (1 to 3)

I think there is a number 4 now which I haven't got, but probaly will get at some point.

 

They give you a good selection of session standards and I find them good to play along with before venturing out into playing at sessions.

The tunes are played at a good pace, though not blindingly fast, if you can play along with a tune on the CD, you can have enough confidence to take it out into the big wide world.

 

The main drawback I would say is that the arrangements are often very inspiring and I find some downright stodgy! You also won't learn ornaments or style from them or a particular concertina sound - you get a massed band effect or what you'd hear at a big noisy session.

This is where the CDs others have recommended come in, listening to players like these would really inspire you and show you what can be achieved with a concertina.

 

The tunes are available on line individually (as MP3's ), if you have a slow dialup link, that will still be a problem. But perhaps you could download one or 2 and that would show you what to expect in general from the CDs. Or perhaps some kind soul on Cnet could send you some of them by regular mail! I'm not sure about the legality here, but the tunes are freely available on line, so maybe that would be OK

 

Chris

 

ps http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/r2music/folk/sessions/swf/folkmenu.html

are a similar online "virtual session" with the dots as well. I'm not sure how slow your dialup is, but I think that I could just about play these when I was using a modem, they are made with a modest bit rate. (It's useful to have sound capture software though so you can grab the tune when it gets played, and save it for offline use.)

Edited by spindizzy
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All good advice

I keep going back to Tommy and Jaqueline McCarthy. The CD by Denise Shiel is a good one althoughI can't find out much about her.

 

Tom Cary is very good CD

 

I agree , you should listen to the older players and the instrumentalists who inspired them,

 

The first concertina player recorded was Willy Mullally from the 1920s well worth listening to as well as Mrs Elizabeth Crotty.

 

The newer players include Noel Hill. Mary MacNamara , Dympna O'Sullivan and Claire Kevil and lots more but they often use keys that are tricky and pretty fast for a beginner. Martin O'Brien is ncioe dfor a young player.

Saturate yourself and Play Along Ad Infinitum ('PAADI')

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well, the parameters of your question---how to learn "by immersion" in only one CD--contains the seeds of its own defeat. "learning by immersion" is not possible in one sole recording. but my nomination to give you a flavor of irish concertina beautifully played, and phrased with the lilt and swing and lift authentic to rural ireland, would be the reissue cd by rte of the playing of Elizabeth Crotty, "Concertina Music from West Clare." i am a big fan and admirer of the other nominations cited here, but this cd is packed with quintessential clare dance music in standard keys, and played with fluidity and technical polish that is simply mind-boggling given that mrs. crotty played "on the rows" largely on a cheap german concertina and later on a lachenal. the phrasing and fluidity of her melody-line playing equals that of both chris droney playing, like her, "along the rows" on a wheatstone, and that of paddy murphy playing "across the rows" on a wheatstone. and the heart and simple emotion also typical of this music, is all there in her playing.....

 

the archival recording of paddy murphy, "In Good Hands: Field Recordings From a Pioneer of the Irish Concertina," also featuring classic old dance tunes in standard keys and also exquisite, would be another great introduction, but i give the edge by a hair to mrs. c in that paddy murphy's ornamentation is a bit thick. nothing wrong with that, it is beautiful. but there is something so elegant about her style.....

 

i believe both these cds include interviews with each player.....they are both very special recordings...

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Haha!

Yes, ceemonster, it would be difficult to be immersed in a single CD.

That was never my intent, of course.

I wanted folks to try to single out the CD (or two)

which they felt was most helpful,

after which I have always intended to use the combined advice

to choose a small selection of CDs.

 

As the various artists have been suggested

I have looked them up on-line,

and have been fortunate to find a number of them

at the Comhaltas Traditional Music Archive.

By downloading samples when the kids are in bed

I've managed to hear a variety of players.

Hopefully all of this will enable me to spend my nickels

in the most effective (and fun!) way possible.

 

I'm lusting for the Anglo International CD set.

Not so useful for immersion in ITM, to be sure,

but it looks like a very enjoyable overview

of what the anglo can be and is used for.

 

Thanks very much to everyone

who has generously shared their thoughts and suggestions.

 

BTW, has anyone found a free or inexpensive programme

similar to the Amazing Slow Downer for Mac?

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............

 

BTW, has anyone found a free or inexpensive programme

similar to the Amazing Slow Downer for Mac?

Hi Shas

 

Audacity is an old standard that's still around that still works

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

 

I don't speak Apple, but doesn't "Garage Band" do that, and is it still bundled with a Mac?

 

Thanks

Leo

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Ha!

I did not realise that Audacity could do that.

You just select the tune and click on "change tempo".

Brilliant!

 

I've never successfully interacted with Garage Band.

It's still bundled with Mac,

but I think I would need to take a course to understand it.

 

Thanks for the tips!

Just brilliant!

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So-called 'immersion' has proved to be a powerful way of learning a new language.

 

In that context I can't help thinking that listening to CDs is as much like immersion as doing a linguaphone course. Not quite offering you the same benefits as being in the company of native speakers. It's a start.

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In that context I can't help thinking that listening to CDs is as much like immersion as doing a linguaphone course. Not quite offering you the same benefits as being in the company of native speakers. It's a start.

 

I agree completely, Peter.

We have to work with what we've got.

 

When I was a young pup I lived and worked in Europe for a few years.

Growing up on a remote ranch in Colorado

I had no opportunities to learn a foreign language

by interacting with native speakers,

so I got a Berlitz course from the nearest library.

The many hours I spent with those cassette tapes

did not, of course, make me a fluent speaker of German.

When I stepped off of the plane in Frankfurt

everyone knew I was a tourist...

but they could understand me.

 

It was, as you say, a start. :)

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