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Session Snobbery!


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I find it ironic that a half a dozen guys who, if they wandered into a pub at the same time would doubtlessly produce a cracking good session together, always end up bashing each other over the head when discussing on a forum the mechanics of what makes a good session.

 

Hey Stephen,

 

If I'd known we were going to be doing that .... I'd have brought my heavy old Banjo! :D

 

But seriously, the important thing on this forum is, unlike other forums, nobody gets really upset here or starts getting abusive.

 

Cheers

Dick

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Well we can't play music on here... so we default to the other behavior that is traditional in Irish Pubs... Arguing :).

Bill

 

Hey Bill, this isn't arguing, this is just a gentle wee discussion, with a bunch of decent folk, sharing their honest opinions on the subject. 1.gif

 

It'd be unnatural & unhealthy if we all agreed on everything, don't you think. ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

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Finally there was a reasonable lull allowing for some Irish tunes to be played. It would have been polite to play two or three sets and then hand the focus back to the others. Is that what happened? No... when the ISFs had the bit between their teeth, they weren't going to let go of it. Most of the other musicians couldn't join in so they wandered off and left us.

 

Gosh, I hope it wasn't me, I was very eager to play back in the "old" days, before I became a snob ;-) It's funny though, the harsh reality is that no matter what, we'll always end up being the perpretator of some "bad" behaviour at times, it seems unavoidable. Our sensitivity regarding other people around us can change depending on our mood, lack of sleep, etc.

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Careful, Dick, they'll probably gather that traditional music is as much about chainsmoking, drinking so much you don't know where you are when you wake up and then recovering by eating enormous fried breakfasts (armed with detailed historical knowledge of regional variations in same) as it is about tunes. :P

Hmmm... Perhaps there's more in common between English and Irish sessions than I thought.

 

Chris

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Well we can't play music on here... so we default to the other behavior that is traditional in Irish Pubs... Arguing :).

Bill

 

Hey Bill, this isn't arguing, this is just a gentle wee discussion, with a bunch of decent folk, sharing their honest opinions on the subject. 1.gif

 

It'd be unnatural & unhealthy if we all agreed on everything, don't you think. ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

I agree

Al

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Well we can't play music on here... so we default to the other behavior that is traditional in Irish Pubs... Arguing :).

Bill

 

Hey Bill, this isn't arguing, this is just a gentle wee discussion, with a bunch of decent folk, sharing their honest opinions on the subject. 1.gif

 

It'd be unnatural & unhealthy if we all agreed on everything, don't you think. ;)

 

Cheers

Dick

I agree

Al

 

Is this a five-minute argument or the full half-hour?

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Shame on you all for having a polite, civilized discussion about session snobbery. Where I'm from, the discussion would have been locked already. Ahhh, those civilized people... <yawn>

Who're you calling Civilized? 2.gif

 

Do you wanna make somethin' of it ......... eh ... eh 4.gif

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I think I would be appalled if I were to be shown a list of rules when I turned up at a session. What would be nice would be if everyone understood these rules without having to be told.

 

I'd just like to point out that not all sessions have a "leader", and with these you have to be particularly sensitive to the ethos of the session, since there's no one there to put you right. In this type of session, it's better if everyone can be fairly relaxed about taking their turn, and not start up as soon as the last notes of the previous tune are dying away, otherwise you all end up in a frantic race to start a tune before somebody else jumps in. It should go without saying that having led a tune, you should allow someone else to start the next one, and not immediately start up again. (It should go without saying...)

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I think I would be appalled if I were to be shown a list of rules when I turned up at a session. What would be nice would be if everyone understood these rules without having to be told.

 

I'd just like to point out that not all sessions have a "leader", and with these you have to be particularly sensitive to the ethos of the session, since there's no one there to put you right. In this type of session, it's better if everyone can be fairly relaxed about taking their turn, and not start up as soon as the last notes of the previous tune are dying away, otherwise you all end up in a frantic race to start a tune before somebody else jumps in. It should go without saying that having led a tune, you should allow someone else to start the next one, and not immediately start up again. (It should go without saying...)

 

Yeah I agree 100%. I always felt that between friends, the "set starts" should be balanced and everyone should have a chance to start a few tunes without having some "hogger" starting everything all the time. As you're saying, you shouldn't have to race to start a set once a set finished. This behaviour should not have to be told. It's also very complex sometimes, as some people don't feel like starting tunes even when they have a chance to do so. But you usually know these people, if you're playing with friends, and know how to find a way to make them start something.

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In the Scandinavian music sessions that I go to, many of the musicians have been playing together a standard repertoire for many years. I play little of this repertoire, but still play a large number of great tunes. Frequently what happens is that I may start a tune, everyone will eventually join in, only to be asked to play another, then another. After maybe starting 2-3 tunes in row, I feel conscious of possibly hogging the session, so I will always then excuse myself for some else to start a tune - after all I want to learn the standards too so that I can play with everyone else! I always try though to squeeze (!) in a nice song.

 

I find though between tunes other musicians in the session will want to spend some time talking about the tunes, their names, provenance, rhythm complexity, playing style, or whatever. This provides a natural break before starting the next tune (and Scandi music is frequently not played as a set of tunes but rather one tune at a time).

 

Many new beginners to Scandi music may also feel the need for encouragement and and to feel welcomed - they should not be made to feel excluded from what may be a new musical genre to them - but rather be helped and advised by experienced musicians about the intricacies of say the different styles and rhythms that underpin say the polska family of tunes and dances. An encouraging atmosphere can only occur without any of the egoism that I found some musicians possessed when I used to play in ITM/Scottish sessions (could be different now - that was over 20 years ago)

 

Steve

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Surely a session, by definition, is for all comers and the expectation is that if a musician turns up they are there to play. If it isn't, then it's not a session, it's a concert, or perhaps a rehearsal.

 

I agree. A session ( or 'seisun' etc etc) just means a 'sit down' ( from the Latin Sedo = I sit) now usually leisurely and extended and devoted to an activity. It can be formal or informal and anyone who comes in should understand and accept the rules or be gently (or if necessarily, forcibly) informed of the protocol. I think it has become a relatively inclusive definition as opposed to a performance by rehearsed musicians. If they want that they can find or pay for a private space .

 

Local, democratically agreed rules should apply. Hijackers are just opportunists and therefore either ego trippers or plain ignorant.

 

Mike

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Mike said:

... [session] has become a relatively inclusive definition as opposed to a performance by rehearsed musicians. If they want that they can find or pay for a private space.

Just suppose, Mike, that you walked into a session in Ireland. Just a local pub. But Michael O'Raghallaigh, Kevin Crawford and James Cullinan happened to be playing there with a couple of their pals. This happens here. Would they be expected to stop to include you in their session? I don't think so. You can't say that outstanding musicians can't have a session on their own in a public place. Nor can you say that they have to accept all comers and gear down for those less accomplished.

I played at Matt Molloy's Pub, in Westport, a few years ago. Matt was there, along with four or five other musicians. The music was hot and fast. A few punters sat off to the side, one with a fiddle and another with a flute. They weren't able to play - either they didn't know the tunes or the tunes were played too fast for them. Finally one of the other musicians kindly asked if they'd like to play a tune of their own. One of them started The Sally Gardens- painfully slowly. Within seconds the other musicians ramped up the tempo. They didn't do this to piss off the people who started the tune. They just were doing what they did - which is to play fast - and it wasn't insanely fast, either. It was their session, after all. Were they wrong, or rude? Or were the slow players the potential hijackers here?

Sessions aren't any one thing- and that's what is so great about them. They are sometimes great and sometimes lousy - I went to a session south of Miltown Malbay not too long ago, to play with Tom Carey, one of the old-time greats. There were about six concertinas, three bodhrans, a young electric piano-player with a hearing problem, two guitars, many flutes, an accordion or two. Twenty musicians. You couldn't hear yourself play. And in between every couple of sets there was a country-western singer/comedian with his amp turned up to ear-splitting volume. This happens and it isn't the end of the world.

And then there is the sublime night when the music is effortless, when all the players mesh and you float home from that session knowing that there isn't anything better in the world. Or the nights when you get together for some tunes and spend hours talking with friends about the state of the world. Sometimes you have to make the most of a bad situation and try to make it positive. I'd rather do that than apply rules or say that a session is only the one thing.

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