Jump to content

The Irish-on-concertina Discussion


Is "boring" boring?  

60 members have voted

You do not have permission to vote in this poll, or see the poll results. Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

Recommended Posts

My own perception is that the discussion has almost become hostile. I suggest adding a category to the poll: "Bordering hostility."

 

I agree, and I am a participant in it.. or was. I have decided to drop out of the thread. I have a hard time dropping out of an argument (since I generally enjoy

arguing.. what Irish Man doesn't? ;) ), but there is a point where one has to realize one is not making any headway and that there is little point in continuing.

 

--

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 51
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Guest Peter Laban
Count me in on the summing up! Different musics do demand different listening habits. And "performance" is a key word.

 

To my mind, the consequence to be drawn form Laban's quote is that Irish dance music is totally unsuited for a session environment. At least for those sessions where somebody starts a tune and everybody mucks in. The tunes, and the styles of playing them, that we now regard as traditionally Irish originated in a society with a scattered population, where social gatherings were small and musicians were mostly - of necessity - soloists.

 

And another aspect follows from this: in the old Ireland that I once knew, there was not only a tradition of music-making - there was a tradition of listening, too!

 

I believe that a main function of music in any culture is to be performed, and to be listened to and enjoyed. (There are other functions, like dance and worship, which are more participatory, but also involve performance and listening.)

 

Cheers,

John

 

From what I quoted also follows it's no use discussing details of a particular music with people who don't know what they don't know, and in some cases refuse to accept there are things they don't know.

 

Which made the whole discussion pointless and I too glazed over completely once M3838 joined the fray.

 

So it goes.

 

I can say I have encountered many people, musicians, dancers, people who love the music but never got to play it and just ordinary people out for the night who were and are capable of a very detailed appreciation of the music being played. Immersion in the 'language' and engaging with it is the key to it all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As the perpetrator of the original thread, I have found it both interesting and informative. A number of people have taken the time to explain, patiently and at length, why they feel my perceptions are wrong, and that what I see as deficiencies are in fact simply part of the style. I don't think they've persuaded me to alter my opinion, but I do have a better understanding of why so many of the members of this forum do love both to play and to listen to Irish music on the concertina. Thank you, everyone.

 

With hindsight, I wish I had phrased the title of the thread a little better. Instead of "Is Irish concertina music boring?" I should have asked, "Is Irish music boring when played on concertina?" Too many respondents took it as a criticism of, even an attack on, Irish music, which was most certainly not my intention.

 

The thread has been irritating at times, and as is the way of these things it has started to take on a life of its own far removed from the original question. But, considering how passionate many people here are about both Irish music and the concertina, the discussion has been extremely civilised, and on the few occasions when someone has overstepped the mark they've been brought back in line gently.

 

When a thread has (so far) generated nearly 4000 viewings and 134 replies, not to mention this offshoot, its not surprising that most of the boxes have been ticked. It was bound to generate a variety of reactions, and that was my (slightly mischievous) intention in asking the original question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I voted "Something other" The reason, you should have added, provocative. I do realise this was accidental, very easy to do on a forum with some slight wrong wording.

 

Just a quicky on the "Boring" question. I have for the past couple of months been learning some Irish tunes, on my English. Do I find it boring? Yes. I would just like to say, that I love Irish music and still do, so much so, I wish I was Irish! I think the problem I have, is that I find a lot of instruments played solo can be boring, so to overcome my problem, I have found a couple of tracks on a Warblefly album that I can play, I put it on and play along, no longer bored, in fact, I am in heaven.

 

Richard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which made the whole discussion pointless and I too glazed over completely once M3838 joined the fray.

 

Fair enough, as I remember similar attitude of yours some time back, when you defended a stand, that if some people find some Irish players not up to it, it's the fault of the listeners, not being able to like those Irish players, who are definitely very good, because Peter Laban likes them. Since Peter is Irish(probably), and the music is Irish(definitely), then the outsiders are not welcome to join in a discussion with anything, but admiration. Noted, when these outsiders offer admiration, they are OK, they understand, otherwise they are shown the door.

This is ethno-centric approach and has little value in the field of Irish music today, familiar to many more than their own music due to wide spread popularity of Irish.

It could have been the case if we discussed Mongolian or Tibetan music.

But we are at home, basically. We even speak the same language, play the same instrument and listen to the same CDs. We are submerged.

There was no need to bring my name in such a condescending way, I'm quite able to defend my position or accept it's flaw. (at least partially, hey :o )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I learnt things from the discussion; I learnt that it is not politically correct to find ITM boring.

 

I have also learnt why I might possibly once, in the bad old days, have thought ITM boring, something I had never really considered before. I now understand that it's the Irish tradition to play in unison and despise chords, and I lack training in appreciating such music as finished. Also I'm too Gorblimey to detect or understand the vast subtlety* I'm assured is involved.

 

The next time I receive an invitation to listen to some Irish music I shall have the satisfaction of giving a really succinct reply, thanks to Cnet.

 

 

*Could someone just confirm my understanding that no other forms of music have quite this depth of subtlety, please?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I learnt things from the discussion; I learnt that it is not politically correct to find ITM boring.

 

... I now understand that it's the Irish tradition to play in unison and despise chords, and I lack training in appreciating such music as finished.

 

Dirge,

Your first lesson seems to have been well learnt. But who cares about Political Correctness?

 

As to the tradition of unison playing and despising of chords:

 

This is what the modern "ITM" movement looks like at present. But Irish music did not start with the "ITM" craze. Irish music has always been there, and has developed, as have classical music, jazz, blues, what have you.

But none of these musics developed in a vacuum. Apart from the aesthetic aspects, there are sociological, technological, economic - even climatic - aspects involved.

 

The dance tunes that form the basis for the modern "ITM" musician - jigs, reels, hornpipes, slides, polkas - took shape in the decades around 1900. At that time, the population of Ireland was sparse (considerably smaller than before the Famine), and the old Celtic settlement pattern of outlying farms rather than continental-style villages was prevalent. Also, the Irish country areas were economically weak and pretty isolated from the towns.

For the country music, this meant that:

 

a) Audiences were small

B) Musicians were few and far between

c) Few could afford an instrument

d) There were no "exotic" instruments like guitars or banjos around. The harp had died out, and it had never been a contryman's instrument, anyway, and the bodhran was still a ritual instrument.

 

So any music that was made would usually be made by a fiddler or a fluter - who had probably got their instruments as cast-offs from orchestra players who were upgrading (especially the flutes).

 

Often, one of these "purely melodic" instruments had to make the dance music all on its own. This meant that the rhythm had to be composed into the melody, and that the style of playing had to gloss over the fact that the fiddle or flute could only play one note at a time (a purely melodic music with neither harmony, drone nor percussion would be hard to find - and probably boring!). Hence the rich decorations, which are, in fact, a way of suggesting underlying harmonies - if done right! Unaccompanied solo singing is also richly decorated, for the same reason.

 

So the tradition is not based on "unison" - it's solo-based. And it's not based on "despising" chords - it's based on the unavailability of chording instruments during the period when it was developing.

We now live in densely-populated cities and have the opportunity and relative wealth to buy any instrument we fancy from an incredible range of instrument types. So what appears to be unison playing is, in fact, an atttempt by several people to play solo at the same time. In any kind of music, the principle of "the more, the muddier" holds, and since no two players decorate alike, the decorations are the first thing to get plastered over.

 

The fact that we Irish do not despise chords is witnessed by the typically Irish form of the bagpipe, the uillean pipes, which are one of the very few types of bagpipe that are built to play chords.

 

Speaking of which: in my German-Irish group, the fiddler and I have found a very nice way of combining fiddle and concertina in dance tunes. I leave the melody and rhythm up to him, and play 3-note chords on the left hand, taking the chording of uillean pipers as a "role model". We sort of "simulate" the uillean pipes. :-)

This gives the Central European audience the harmonies they need, but it also lets the melody and rhythm of the jigs and reels stand out for themselves - it's so easy for a guitarist to fall back into "rhythm guitar mode", which I regard as deadly to this music :-(

We do, of course, play fiddle and Anglo in unison as well, because it's expected - but two`s company, three's a crowd, as they say!

;-)

Cheers,

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Which made the whole discussion pointless and I too glazed over completely once M3838 joined the fray.

 

Fair enough, as I remember similar attitude of yours some time back, when you defended a stand, that if some people find some Irish players not up to it, it's the fault of the listeners, not being able to like those Irish players, who are definitely very good, because Peter Laban likes them. Since Peter is Irish(probably), and the music is Irish(definitely), then the outsiders are not welcome to join in a discussion with anything, but admiration. Noted, when these outsiders offer admiration, they are OK, they understand, otherwise they are shown the door.

This is ethno-centric approach and has little value in the field of Irish music today, familiar to many more than their own music due to wide spread popularity of Irish.

It could have been the case if we discussed Mongolian or Tibetan music.

But we are at home, basically. We even speak the same language, play the same instrument and listen to the same CDs. We are submerged.

There was no need to bring my name in such a condescending way, I'm quite able to defend my position or accept it's flaw. (at least partially, hey :o )

 

Well, without seeing Peter's original post, to which you refer, I can only speculate on what he really meant, however, what I would suspect he was talking about, and it is something I agree with is that outsiders to a musical tradition generally are not equipped to really critique music played within that tradition. An outsider can certainly decide for themselves whether or not they like the music produced, but they couldn't, realistically determine if the person playing the music was actually particularly gifted or not; what might seem to be mistakes could in fact be ornaments or variations that are well recognized and regarded in the tradition. Granted, there is a natural bias in all musicians, probably in all people, to believe that those who agree with our tastes in music must then of course understand the music the same way we do.

 

--

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, without seeing Peter's original post... I can only speculate ...An outsider ... couldn't, realistically determine if the person playing the music was actually particularly gifted or not; what might seem to be mistakes could in fact be ornaments or variations that are well recognized and regarded in the tradition.

 

Ever guessed why music is considered an international language?

An outsider, who is mature enough to wipe his a...ss, can usually detect whether the musician is gifted or not to a certain degree. Since music is sequence of sounds, that by some weird chemistry perceived as harmonic by our brain, said outsider can usually detect if the played sequence is, indeed, harmonic or jarring, and therefore conclude if he detected a mistake.

A good mistake is never considered to be a "mistake" by anyone, listener or player.

There is no musical tradition where playing C and D together would be considered cherished tradition, at least among europeoids.

Topic of the past discussion was "variations". Peter defended point of view, that any deviation, no matter how small or irrelevant it is, would be valid variation, and such deviations, abundant in Irish music, make it unique and beautiful. But whoever considers them banal, un-asked for and over-the-forehead - is simply untrained and unable to grasp the true marvel of Irish music, that is, again, solely in endless variations and ornamentations.

I defended the position, that music doesn't depend on endless diddling, that a good Irish player can be as understood by Russian as by fellow Irishman. I also pointed that a "variation" is not just varying the tune uncontrollably, but is an art form, that has it's own arrangers, composers and theory, and that simply playing a different note from expected doesn't make it a variation, unless we lower the level of discussion to primitive banalities.

In the end though, the dominant idea was that Irish is good, whoever dislikes it is bad, and offering opinion is offensive.

(I have to stress again the simple fact, often deliberately overlooked or trumpled: that we all more or less belong to the same musical tradition, Irish or Belurussian, and often the tunes are identical or very close in their core. There is no mistery in popularity of Irish music in, say, Voronezh county, Russia, or Crimean port-city of Alooshtah, Ukraine)

 

Here is a nice sample of Irish music not been based on diddling, having no variations of any sort, one-two not pronounced ornaments, yet haunting, beautiful and clearly belonging to Medieval European musical tradition.

Edited by m3838
Link to comment
Share on other sites

simply playing a different note from expected doesn't make it a variation

 

Playing a wrong note once is a mistake, play it twice and it's a variation.

 

Three times is an arrangement

 

:)

 

Yea, yea, that sort of thing.

But I thought it's pan-Global, not just Irish.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I learnt things from the discussion; I learnt that it is not politically correct to find ITM boring.

 

... I now understand that it's the Irish tradition to play in unison and despise chords, and I lack training in appreciating such music as finished.

 

Dirge,

Your first lesson seems to have been well learnt. But who cares about Political Correctness?

 

As to the tradition of unison playing and despising of chords:

 

This is what the modern "ITM" movement looks like at present. But Irish music did not start with the "ITM" craze. Irish music has always been there, and has developed, as have classical music, jazz, blues, what have you.

But none of these musics developed in a vacuum. Apart from the aesthetic aspects, there are sociological, technological, economic - even climatic - aspects involved.

 

The dance tunes that form the basis for the modern "ITM" musician - jigs, reels, hornpipes, slides, polkas - took shape in the decades around 1900. At that time, the population of Ireland was sparse (considerably smaller than before the Famine), and the old Celtic settlement pattern of outlying farms rather than continental-style villages was prevalent. Also, the Irish country areas were economically weak and pretty isolated from the towns.

For the country music, this meant that:

 

a) Audiences were small

B) Musicians were few and far between

c) Few could afford an instrument

d) There were no "exotic" instruments like guitars or banjos around. The harp had died out, and it had never been a contryman's instrument, anyway, and the bodhran was still a ritual instrument.

 

So any music that was made would usually be made by a fiddler or a fluter - who had probably got their instruments as cast-offs from orchestra players who were upgrading (especially the flutes).

 

Often, one of these "purely melodic" instruments had to make the dance music all on its own. This meant that the rhythm had to be composed into the melody, and that the style of playing had to gloss over the fact that the fiddle or flute could only play one note at a time (a purely melodic music with neither harmony, drone nor percussion would be hard to find - and probably boring!). Hence the rich decorations, which are, in fact, a way of suggesting underlying harmonies - if done right! Unaccompanied solo singing is also richly decorated, for the same reason.

 

So the tradition is not based on "unison" - it's solo-based. And it's not based on "despising" chords - it's based on the unavailability of chording instruments during the period when it was developing.

We now live in densely-populated cities and have the opportunity and relative wealth to buy any instrument we fancy from an incredible range of instrument types. So what appears to be unison playing is, in fact, an atttempt by several people to play solo at the same time. In any kind of music, the principle of "the more, the muddier" holds, and since no two players decorate alike, the decorations are the first thing to get plastered over.

 

The fact that we Irish do not despise chords is witnessed by the typically Irish form of the bagpipe, the uillean pipes, which are one of the very few types of bagpipe that are built to play chords.

 

Speaking of which: in my German-Irish group, the fiddler and I have found a very nice way of combining fiddle and concertina in dance tunes. I leave the melody and rhythm up to him, and play 3-note chords on the left hand, taking the chording of uillean pipers as a "role model". We sort of "simulate" the uillean pipes. :-)

This gives the Central European audience the harmonies they need, but it also lets the melody and rhythm of the jigs and reels stand out for themselves - it's so easy for a guitarist to fall back into "rhythm guitar mode", which I regard as deadly to this music :-(

We do, of course, play fiddle and Anglo in unison as well, because it's expected - but two`s company, three's a crowd, as they say!

;-)

Cheers,

John

 

This all seems completely reasonable John; so why are we getting all this iron rule 'chords spoil it' stuff? It's been put forward in a way that left me thinking there was an inviolable command running back to plain chant days. ('Lots of people all playing a solo' sounds like scratch music all over the world, incidentally!)

 

To explain why I'm so puzzled by the 'melody only' bit; my view is that the Anglo concertina's primary virtue is the ability to play chords. It is not the subtlest single melody line instrument; you can't do much about the tuning, and the bellows reversal stuff won't help; it seems like almost exactly the wrong instrument for the job, or giving it a role that emphasises its weaknesses if you prefer. To hint at harmonies with ornaments to mimic an instrument that can't play harmonies on an instrument that could just play the harmonies is, well, slightly round the houses isn't it? Even allowing for the fact that it is being done with a subtlety so vast that I can't comprehend it, of course. There's probably no answer to this except 'Well that's what we like to do.' but it is why I look in through the windows with a rather baffled expression on my face.

 

Thanks for the explanation. Interesting, and food for thought.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's always very touching to hear the heart warming explanation of uniqueness of somebody's own culture.

It seems yout story can be translated to all languages and held true.

But it's not.

Here are some common knowledge points:

1.Fiddle is not melody only.

2.Musical instruments don't have to be expencive or factory made.

3.Percussion has multi-millenia history in every culture and on it's own enough for dancing, singing, backing up other instruments, so they don't have to rely on solo.

4.Singing voice is free, about the richest instrument one can find, and perfectly suitable for harmonies.

So why Irish don't play chords? Those pipes of theirs - they play chords. How come Irish don't?

I guess they do. So why not play chords on able instrument, but instead faithfully imitate the pipes? Personal taste, probably. I respect that taste, by the way. I think Oompa is great, but panflute with clogging is good too.

Contrapunctial "rackett" is my favorite, a-capella singing is something I can live with too. Just don't tell me you inherently undesrstand it better, because you feel like saying that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So the tradition is not based on "unison" - it's solo-based. And it's not based on "despising" chords - it's based on the unavailability of chording instruments during the period when it was developing.

 

Okay, how do we explain away the harp during this period (for that matter. which period are we talking about)? The harp does play melody and if experience serves me....harmony.

 

If O'Carolan had any influence from the early 1700's would not his interest in counterpoint and harmony have influenced a percentage of harpists who followed even if some contemporary critics discounted his work?

 

The word unision troubles me. Yes, some groups play in perfect unison after a good deal of association and perhaps it is the lofty goal of all, but practice is another matter I think and opens a door into a texture that is very rich and ancient; Heterophany: single melody, with diversions as to ornamentation and melody fragment variation resulting in unexpected counterpoint and harmony. Musicologists define what we refer to as Traditional Irish Music with that afore mentioned ten dollar word. This load and a dollar still won't buy you a cup of coffee, but it makes you think.

 

Say at session, a new to the group but obviously accomplished player comes to their turn to start off a set and cranks into the The Flowing Tide and some of the ornamentation is a bit different than yours; what does one do? Stop and lecture them on your assumed proper learned version, or do you all play it together and see what comes of it? Hopefully the good manners of the latter choice prevails. The result will not be unison.

Edited by Mark Evans
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's probably no answer to this except 'Well that's what we like to do.' but it is why I look in through the windows with a rather baffled expression on my face.
Looking out through the windows at people in this condition is one of the bonuses of playing concertina in the good ole Irish heterophonous (B)) style. :lol: Edited by Laitch
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


Make a Donation


×
×
  • Create New...