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Virtuosity


Rod
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I think it is more than just the general populace liking it. A brilliant musician might be able to take a musical tradition and start playing around with it and then next thing you know, you have a new musical genre distinct from the old. Did Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs set out to invent a new musical tradition when they developed Blue Grass? Or were they just playing with the traditions they knew and loved?

 

Something to think about...

 

--

Bill

 

 

In my opinion you are dead on with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.

 

Bill and his brother Charlie were a duet in a very traditional vein until their break-up in 1938. Bill expanded into a traditional string band, got a lead singer (he liked to sing tenor except for his show numbers). He was listening to a lot of influences in other "country" genre. Of course those influences were leaking in as it did with others. Banjo players came and went as did other members (Bill's personality was always...problematical) until in 1945 he auditioned a banjo player from Hickory North Carolina...Earl Scruggs, who experimented with and perfected a three-finger picking technique with a driving beat combined with melody not experienced before. It became a lead instrument, elbowing with the fiddle and mandolin for top billing. Did either of them set out to deviate from what they saw as a single genre....they always maintained the contrary, but it sho' nuff' shook things up. That and of course Lester Flatt's singing and song writing which transmitted word meaning so clearly. It just happened as the public responded and other musicians took up the call.

 

P.S. It also took several hot cloggin' steps away from dance accompaniment. New instrumental numbers were created to stand on their own. Unless you are one whirlwind of a dancer, ye best not try an' clog dance to Bill's Mule Skinner Blues. It ain't no dance tune an' it ain't no blues neither!

Edited by Mark Evans
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In my opinion you are dead on with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.

 

Yes, but what did Monroe and Scruggs actually do? They "invented" Bluegrass - but for me, that's just American folk music in its post-war version!

 

If I see it correctly, thery used the old, traditional American instrumentation of banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, (fiddle, too?). Yet you call Bluegrass a new music.

 

In Ireland, since the war, we've seen the introduction of the guitar, the tenor banjo and the bouzouki into traditional music. It's still traditional music.

 

Go figure, as you Americans say ;-)

 

Cheers,

John

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In my opinion you are dead on with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.

 

Yes, but what did Monroe and Scruggs actually do? They "invented" Bluegrass - but for me, that's just American folk music in its post-war version!

 

If I see it correctly, thery used the old, traditional American instrumentation of banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, (fiddle, too?). Yet you call Bluegrass a new music.

 

In Ireland, since the war, we've seen the introduction of the guitar, the tenor banjo and the bouzouki into traditional music. It's still traditional music.

 

Go figure, as you Americans say ;-)

 

Cheers,

John

 

The problem with your definition is that the older traditional music forms of America still live on. While bluegrass certainly developed from the Old Time music of Southern Appalachia, it is definitely distinct from that particular genre which lives on in its own tradition. Further, your suggestion, I think takes an overly narrow view of American Folk Music. America is a much larger country than Ireland, and has a far more diverse culture. Some of its enduring folk traditions are very different than others. Blues, bluegrass, jazz, cajun, zydeco, appalachian, etc. The fact that all of these different forms should get different names suggests that the musicians represent the differences in their respect traditions.

 

ITM, on the other hand, while certainly having regional variations, is generally recognized by its proponents and others as a single tradition.

 

In other words, the introduction of the bouzouki did not cause a fracture of ITM into two different co-existing traditions. Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs did in fact create a new and distinct form.

 

--

Bill

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In Ireland, since the war, we've seen the introduction of the guitar, the tenor banjo and the bouzouki into traditional music. It's still traditional music.

 

Go figure, as you Americans say ;-)

 

Cheers,

John

 

The problem with your definition is that the older traditional music forms of America still live on. While bluegrass certainly developed from the Old Time music of Southern Appalachia, it is definitely distinct from that particular genre which lives on in its own tradition.

ITM, on the other hand, while certainly having regional variations, is generally recognized by its proponents and others as a single tradition.

 

In other words, the introduction of the bouzouki did not cause a fracture of ITM into two different co-existing traditions. Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs did in fact create a new and distinct form.

 

--

Bill

 

Bill,

to be quite honest, there's more difference to my taste between a fast, young Irish fiddler with guitar and bouzouki accompaniment and an old, unaccomanied Irish sean nos singer, than there is between one group of Americans playing their folk songs with fiddle, guitar and picked banjo, and another group of Americans playing similar folk songs on fiddle, guitar and clawhammer banjo. Both sound American to me!

 

You've got a point though: if something developed in Ireland, it's Irish. If something developed in America, it's - well - Celtic? Yiddish? French? African? Spanish? ...

 

;-)

 

Cheers,

John

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In Ireland, since the war, we've seen the introduction of the guitar, the tenor banjo and the bouzouki into traditional music. It's still traditional music.

 

Go figure, as you Americans say ;-)

 

Cheers,

John

 

The problem with your definition is that the older traditional music forms of America still live on. While bluegrass certainly developed from the Old Time music of Southern Appalachia, it is definitely distinct from that particular genre which lives on in its own tradition.

ITM, on the other hand, while certainly having regional variations, is generally recognized by its proponents and others as a single tradition.

 

In other words, the introduction of the bouzouki did not cause a fracture of ITM into two different co-existing traditions. Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs did in fact create a new and distinct form.

 

--

Bill

 

Bill,

to be quite honest, there's more difference to my taste between a fast, young Irish fiddler with guitar and bouzouki accompaniment and an old, unaccomanied Irish sean nos singer, than there is between one group of Americans playing their folk songs with fiddle, guitar and picked banjo, and another group of Americans playing similar folk songs on fiddle, guitar and clawhammer banjo. Both sound American to me!

 

You've got a point though: if something developed in Ireland, it's Irish. If something developed in America, it's - well - Celtic? Yiddish? French? African? Spanish? ...

 

;-)

 

Cheers,

John

 

John,

Just a point, but I am not sure comparing a fast young fiddler with an older sean nos singer is necessarily a fair comparison. They are two distinct art forms within the tradition. A fiddle player from 100 years ago would also be vastly different than the sean nos singer.

 

--

Bill

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My interpretation of "virtuosity" is "trying to play the right notes."

For
virtuosity
, "trying" isn't enough... "succeeding" is required.

"Succeeding?" I can only aspire so far...

Then I wouldn't consider you a virtuoso. Would you?

 

Aspiring is not the same as doing.

 

To put my feelings about this would-be-crushing riposte in words of one syllable:

 

Some of us are not too good yet on the box. I am one such. But that is not the point. I think this thread is daft. I sent my post to show this. The first post is put in words so loose that the sole true way to post back is just to say "YES".

 

Use some sense. That's all I have to say. The End.

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John,

Just a point, but I am not sure comparing a fast young fiddler with an older sean nos singer is necessarily a fair comparison. They are two distinct art forms within the tradition. A fiddle player from 100 years ago would also be vastly different than the sean nos singer.

 

--

Bill

 

Right, two distinct art forms within the tradition. So why not call Bluegrass and Old-time two art forms within the American tradition?

 

Cheers,

John

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John,

Just a point, but I am not sure comparing a fast young fiddler with an older sean nos singer is necessarily a fair comparison. They are two distinct art forms within the tradition. A fiddle player from 100 years ago would also be vastly different than the sean nos singer.

 

--

Bill

 

Right, two distinct art forms within the tradition. So why not call Bluegrass and Old-time two art forms within the American tradition?

 

Cheers,

John

 

Which American tradition? That's a mighty big tent. Maybe you could say Southern tradition, but you would then have to clarify predominat ethinic enfluence and region (mighty big place the old South). We've a lot of folks adding things into the Southern Gumbo, and with back shanty meanderings and on the sly pollenation have managed to develop distinct styles deserving names none the less.

 

In my wanderings between genre, I found the devoted adhearents of Bluegrass and Old-time not overly interested in mixing with one another. In fact some of the bitter-enders of both traditions would suggest warming up a pot o' tar and bringing out those saved chicken feathers in the barn loft as a good natured response to your suggestion :ph34r: .

Edited by Mark Evans
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John,

Just a point, but I am not sure comparing a fast young fiddler with an older sean nos singer is necessarily a fair comparison. They are two distinct art forms within the tradition. A fiddle player from 100 years ago would also be vastly different than the sean nos singer.

 

--

Bill

 

Right, two distinct art forms within the tradition. So why not call Bluegrass and Old-time two art forms within the American tradition?

 

Cheers,

John

 

Simple, any particular tradition gets to define for itself (by consensus of the artists within said tradition), for the most part what makes up that particular tradition. An Irish Fiddle Player would recognize Sean Nos Singing or Dancing as well as modern step dancing as all belonging in some respect to the same tradition of ITM. The same would not be said of Bluegrass and Old Time. Yes, they might recognize the common points of their origin, but they no longer recognize each other as belonging to the same tradition.

 

--

Bill

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Having said that, there's not much worse than bad players trying to play fast...

 

I can think of one thing, and that’s an animation of a rolling concertina distracting me whilst I’m struggling to read with these poor old eyes of mine. :(

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I disagree with this quite strongly. Traditional tunes are... just tunes - sequences of note values/durations. That's all. The nice thing about traditional music is that nobody tells you how to play them - you make it up yourself - what instrument, what style, what rhythm, what speed, what key, what tuning, whatever. Making it up is pretty much an essential part of playing the music. Good players can take almost any tune and use their imagination to play in a way that makes you (me anyway) wonder if there's any such thing as a good/bad tune - because 90% of the pleasure is in the musicianship, not the source material (in contrast to most "classical" music where the balance is probably swung the other way). ...

 

It's my turn to drop in with a disgreement, Danny! Have you ever listened to the "Building a library" programme on Radio 3, (Saturday mornings around 9.30)? This demonstrates that within "classical" music, too. "Good players can take almost any tune and use their imagination to play in a way that makes you (me anyway) wonder if there's any such thing as a good/bad tune - because 90% of the pleasure is in the musicianship, not the source material". I am repeatedly amazed at the difference a change of tempo, balance or phrasing makes when listening to different artists or ensembles playing the "same" piece of music.

All the best

Samantha

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