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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 11:56 am 
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kenny wrote:

Thanks, I had never heard that before.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:03 pm 
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bwat wrote:
You just can’t get under the superficial without dropping the political boundaries.
The quote is from the end of a page introducing the idea of traditional music to those who may not be familiar with it. The general message of what goes before is one of borrowings and interchange between places and people and he argues against 'national claims' on tunes (though most tune sin the book are given a 'national origin'). So I read that final part as a broad description for people who are not familar with traditional music.

I don't think it was supposed to be a comprehensive summary - especially as the first tune in the book, on the facing page, is described a being from Wales.

Broadly speaking I can see what he means, but then his was the first book I bought and I learned most of the tunes. Am I right that the the book was written at a time when there was a "there is traditional music other than Irish you know" 'movement' amongst trad players in Scotland and England?


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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 1:12 pm 
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I don't know much about English trad, but I dare say I do hear a stylistic difference, generally speaking, between Irish and Scottish playing. After so many years of playing in a highly Irish-informed milieu, I finally made my own foray into Scottish trad with Scottish players, and I found myself even more confronted with this difference, so I tried to change my style to fit the new situation. Old habits are hard to break, though.

I think any issues to be had with Williamson's description lie in its subjective lyricality. Well, I'll do him one better and say that for me, Irish trad is sky blue, and Scottish trad is dark red.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:04 pm 
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I suspect Williamson is engaging in some whimsical nostalgia, much like parents who insist to their children they, the parents, were more respectful, better behaved and such in their childhood than kids are in the current generation, when ever that is. A case of, "It was so much better when..."

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:47 pm 
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DrPhill wrote:
kenny wrote:

Thanks, I had never heard that before.
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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:42 pm 
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That quote reminds me of many of the memes people post on Facebook: they're cool and catchy, and sound like they contain a kernel of wisdom and significance until upon examination you realise they're so vague as to be meaningless, or they're implying things which are either untrue or baseless.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 1:04 am 
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I had the very great pleasure of taking part in a week long workshop with Robin Williamson in 1987. I won't attempt to speak for the man but I could see him having a good larf over this. Has anyone besides me witnessed him in concert? He gets my vote for favorite living performer. He plays many instruments, none at a virtuoso level, although he's certainly not lacking in dexterity. His melodic ability is uncanny and he manages to conjure up emotion from anything he can get his hands on, sometimes crossing over traditions but with deep respect and a very personal touch. First and foremost he's a poet, and his statements here should be taken as intended, with great affection. On the other hand, several times I've heard him say "Since I'm a Scotch Irish mongrel, that gives me an excuse to be both vague and mean".

Some interesting points in this discussion though.


Last edited by Derek Blackwell on Wed Sep 25, 2019 4:35 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 4:44 pm 
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@ Derek - You mention Williamson is a poet. I have seen online several books on Celtic ballads and tales, one I recently purchased. Might this be the same person?

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:39 pm 
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More than likely the books of poetry are him. Never had the privilege of seeing him preform but I've been a fan of his music for a decade or so. Those of you who know who he is know whimsy is definitely on brand for him. I would take what he says more as myth rather than fact as that is, presumably, how it is intended.

Anyway, Robin is best known as one of the founding members of The Incredible String Band who were one of the first psychedelic folk bands way back in the 1960s, perhaps second only to The Holy Modal Rounders who first used the term psychedelic folk, and has released numerous albums and books since then in various contexts. He has had a very prolific career, even if he is not particularly well known among the general public (despite the fact that ISB influenced a lot of bands of that era; Led Zeppelin to name but one). Having known him for his original music, both in and outside of ISB, I was pleasantly surprised a few years back when I discovered he had written a whistle book.

Adding this for context as knowing a bit about the man may shed some light on the way he has presented things in his book.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:30 am 
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There's a lot more to Robin than whimsy, although yes he's got that in spades. His range is almost Shakespearean; high bardic poetry one moment, toilet humor the next; on stage anyway. The discs from the psychedelic era are admittedly a bit odd, but also capture moments of tear inducing beauty. A reviewer wrote that he has a feud with the microphone, I must say he was born to be on a stage, especially in a smaller, folksy setting. I cajoled a skeptical friend (who loved Pentangle, Fairport, others of that era) to come hear his solo show. He left saying "I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or drop dead". In his middle age Robin was a fireball of energy; a song would suddenly stop and lead into a story, this into another song, some poetry, another story, him switching between guitar, fiddle, harp, squeezebox, jaw harp, smallpipes, and yes, whistle. An hour would go by with no space to applaud. We were transported to both a mythical and historical past. I still don't know how much of this was improvised, he's the closest I've seen to what I would imagine a medieval minstrel to be.

Yes, he has several books of poetry and a fiddle book and a harp book too. In his workshop he spoke some about the art of storytelling, and read from his then in progress book, "The Wise and Foolish Tongue" (in the States "the Craneskin Bag") including some of his own translations from the Mabinogion. He taught us some Welsh, sang us songs, and was glad to answer musical questions or go off on whatever digression someone requested.


Last edited by Derek Blackwell on Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:02 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:39 am 
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MODERATOR - Might we add "Robin Williamson's Penny Whistle Book" to the subject of this thread? I'm curious to see how many more among us love this book; as it stands this item will likely get passed over. IMHO Robin's whistle book is a welcoming, not too technical (but not dumbed down) introduction for young and old alike. It contains an interesting variety of tunes from the British Iles with both historical and funny commentary, some of this obviously the author's opinion. Earlier I praised his way with melody, but his suggested chord accompaniments here are also (IMHO) stellar, and sometimes atypical. He's certainly not a folk purist (can one be with chords?), but his choices are often informed by earlier times. He also recorded two entire discs of Scottish renaissance era music on the harp (written for lute) so he's delved deep.


Last edited by Derek Blackwell on Wed Sep 25, 2019 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:54 am 
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@ Derek - My copy of, "Wise and Foolish..." arrived yesterday. It is good to know the same book is published as, "Caneskin.." I had considered purchasing both and would have been sore displeased to get to copies of the same book under different titles.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:19 am 
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Better still, Robin recorded many of those stories and poems with harp accompaniment which he sold at shows on cassette, there are quite a few of these and mine have disappeared. Some are included as bonus tracks on CD re releases of his records. May I humbly recommend "a Glint at the Kindling" for this, and more.


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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 6:05 am 
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Derek Blackwell wrote:
Has anyone besides me witnessed him in concert?


Yes.

The thing I was most interested in was none of the things you mention: his playing a reproduction set of Lowland pipes.

This was the 1970s and the massive explosion in popularity of the Lowland pipes (nowadays called Border pipes) had yet to happen.

I'd ever seen a set in person. I was fascinated.

I then ordered a set from the same maker, an eccentric named Richard Maheu, who left pipemaking decades ago, to build race cars.

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 Post subject: Re: Music Quote
PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:12 am 
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kenny wrote:
"In the old days in Scotland 80% of the population could play some instrument or sing".
When exactly were these "old days", and where is the evidence ? Who counted them ?
I don't know about Scotland but in the 1800s in rural England and Wales there were roughly as many churches and chapels as there were pubs. Most denominations used song in worship so I wouldn't be surprised if 80% of the population could manage a few hymns. Where is the evidence that they couldn't?

The evidence for secular song may be more shakey. At the time Williamson wrote a popular narrative of the 'folk revival' was that we had become consumers of recorded music rather than participants whearas 'in the old days' when people made their own entertainment there were more people playing and singing. So I don't think it wasn't a surprising thing for him to write.

I think I recall one Scottish musician saying in a interview something like 'in those days in Shetland there was a fiddle in every other house'


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