Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Mark Evans

Dance tunes, tradition vs. inovation?

Recommended Posts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian's banjo with a sock in it!

 

Is that where the expression comes from I wonder?

 

Ian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...it's the lack of smoothness and the almost robotic and monotonous rhythm it imparts. It's in the nature of the instrument and I wouldn't blame the players for it, it's just an unsuitable instrument.

 

It's incredibly hard to describe...

 

 

 

As a banjoist of 5-strings, tenors, plectrum and ukes who plays bluegrass, old-time, ITM, and Dixie/ragtime, I concur with Zizi-'s statement "they make people happy." Yet, I fully appreciate Mayo-'s thesis (banjos suck in ITM); the rat-tat-tat, tat-tat-tat gets a little monotonous. I dislike most bluegrass for this same reason: yes, speed and volume are cool, but so was hard rock for the same reasons..now, it bores me.

 

Banjos and accordians are often indicted as two of the most unappealing instrument sounds known to mankind--likely, due to their respective associations with bluegrass and "oom-pah". Yet, I play both (albeit, styles other than BG and oompah)...largely because people like to hear them. :huh:

Edited by catty

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The tradition *isn't* wide enough to accommodate lots of things....

The
tradition
?
I'm quite sure there are more traditions than just one in the world... and even in Ireland.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm no great fan of the banjo myself, and I think a lot of the criticisms are valid. However, in the hands of a good player I know a champion banjoist) it can sound very good. A good player can make it sound almost legato, a rippling sound which does not impose a clunky rhythm and which flows well. Admittedly, there don't seem to be many players who can do this.

 

The point is that innovation does happen, even in a tradition. You may not care for it personally, it may not move the music in the direction you'd like, but a tradition is a democracy. Like it or not, banjos are now a part of Irish music, and I see far more of them in Irish sessions than I do anglo concertinas.

 

A tradition evolves. It borrows freely from other influences, and if it finds that something works it will use it, and even adapt to it. The entire flavour of ITM is now based around the fiddle, but what did it sound like before the fiddle was introduced? English morris used to be danced to pipe and tabor, then the fiddle came along and changed the music, then the melodeon and concertina came along and changed it again. Everything we now regard as traditional was at some point an innovation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The entire flavour of ITM is now based around the fiddle, but what did it sound like before the fiddle was introduced?

Ah, yes. I remember Tom Standeven -- piper, singer, Celtic scholar, and more -- grumbling about the noxious intrusion of that Italian import -- the violin -- into Irish music. He didn't seem to mind the concertina, though. Then again, 30 years ago the concertina itself wasn't as intrusive in Irish music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
i think the further you get from the dance element in the mind of the musician, the shakier it gets. if you truly understand the pulse and flow of the music, to me it doesnt matter what form your music takes, because you will not be able to divorce yourself from it.

 

it doesnt matter that tommy adds extra beats, dropps beats, changes time signature, slides off of the wrong note or plays as if he's falling down the stairs, because he's not doing it to innovate, he's doing it because he meant it. they say he used to cry as he played, and i believe it. from my ear, every scratch, missed beat, stumbled note is purely intentional, purely honest, and that is what makes it so brilliant. who cares that it is not danceable?

 

noel hill often speaks of the music as being deep inside. on an rte program, he is quoted as saying that the tradition will never disappear as long as people pull it from deep within themselves. i think it is allb about respect for the music, and respect for yourself. when you have both, danceable, undanceable, innovative or traditional doesnt matter.

 

well said. this music is here to make people happy, to share amongst ourselves, and to use as a mode of expression. i regularly play for dances, but if i could not somehow reflect myself (and EVERY musical influence i might have) in the music i wouldn't do it. anyone playing traditionally derived music is showing a respect for it in some form or another, and whether you approve or not, the tradition lives on...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian's banjo with a sock in it!

 

Is that where the expression comes from I wonder?

 

Ian

 

Or maybe stuffed down a trumpet as a mute?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On this topic of tradition versus innovation, I believe there is no "one" version of any tune. This was pointed out to me at a fiddle workshop when jazz violinist Micheal Gray asked individual participants in the workshop to play St. Anne's Reel. While all the versions were definitely related, each person had a slightly different take on the tune with a slight difference in phrase here and a triplet there. In my experience, in a band setting everyone needs to play the same version of a tune when they are playing in unison. However when someone takes a solo, they have the option of playing the agreed on version, or taking off in an innovative solo that stays within the chordal structure of the tune. This inevitably makes the music more interesting in my opinion. I describe fiddle tunes to my mandolin students as similar to Leitmotif in classical music. The tunes are frameworks or themes for regional and personal settings and musicians need to be open minded when they run into these differences. That is my take on this discussion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On this topic of tradition versus innovation, I believe there is no "one" version of any tune. (snip)

The tunes are frameworks or themes for regional and personal settings and musicians need to be open minded when they run into these differences. That is my take on this discussion.

 

Yes, I think everyone realises that. The problem is when those differences are outside a particular tradition. I think that's what we're discussing here. Otherwise they aren't innovations, they're just variations. How do you recognise a glaring or not-so-glaring departure from a tradition? That's the underlying theme of this thread I suppose, and subject to the aesthetics mooted by Peter Laban.

Edited by Mayofiddler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's my perspective on Tradition vs Innovation from Indiana, not an area that is known for a strong Irish music tradition. I'm only throwing out these thoughts because I'm so impressed that this thread has not turned harsh. Really folks, kudos to all.

 

I'm the informal leader of a fairly new 'Irish' session at a local pub here in central Indana. I've come from years of playing for contra dances, where live music is the rule. When it comes to choosing tunes, sets and arrangements, well, the dance rules. If it doesn't fit the dance, it gets the boot, if it makes the dancers clap and whoop and stop and flirt, it stays. Period. We've tossed hundreds of tunes that we loved, after we saw it takes the wind out of the dancer's sails. It means you can play straight up traditional Irish tunes, Old Timey American tunes, or, as we did once, theme songs to old television shows, Christmas carols, or Klezmer tunes, as long as it generates smiles and sweat.

 

Here at our little session, we orbit around a bright distant star that keeps us warm, and sheds some light for us. The light is traditional Irish music. We're grateful for the generations of folks that keep that fire burning, and we pray our our ability to truly appreciate it grows every time we attempt to play. We also know we're too far away, to ever really get there.

 

We're lucky to have two sessions in town. The other session is a first class traditional session at one of the oldest Irish pubs in town. Ours is a motley crew of guitars, a few filddles, me on English concertina, 2 bodrhans, an upright bass, an occasional cello, a ukelele, a tenor banjo, 2 mandolins, 2 flutes, (and some of those whistles made out of PVC pipe) and probably anything else that might walk through the door. I don't really care. We also don't call ourselves

traditional anything, or if we do, we mean it in the sense that . We're musically and emotionally and skill wise too far from the mothership not to be influenced by absolutely everything nearby. What I can say however, is that we all figuratively turn our chairs toward Ireland and bend our ears to the tradition, warm our feet by the fire. This doesn't stop us discovering that we could play the Liberty Bell March and make Monty Python jokes between attempts at Lady Ann Montgomery or Jackie Coleman's. Probably 1/3 of our tunes would be considered 'standard' American fiddle tunes like Whiskey Before Breakfast, St. Annes Reel etc. We play them because the people that come through the door with an instrument know them, and smile like kids when they get to play them in a group, and it turns out our hostess is happy to give us a few free rounds to keep up the racket. If it 'works' we keep doing it. If I want things to be really traditional, then I tell 80% of the musicians to stay home.

 

So, I'm feeling like my place is at the front door, or possibly out on the street, making sure passers by feel welcome, holding the door open, helping them find a chair, feed their curiosity and desire to learn more, and make sure they understand enough that someday when they hear some of the exceptional traditional musicians out there, that they really do 'get' it. Oh, and make sure everyone keeps their foot tapping.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm glad there folks with strong feelings on both sides, but there are folks like us that are far enough away to just

enjoy the light :-)

Share this post


Link to post
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.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...