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PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2021 10:42 pm 
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And it's worth it to note that after reading enough threads and seeing who is often said to be worthwhile, one can probably read between the lines to notice who isn't mentioned, especially if you would think by their prolific Youtube or web presence that they'd be well known...

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 4:26 am 
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I agree there are a lot of terrible youtube tutorials out there: the word I would use is "tasteless." Slathered with reverb and played in a mechanical style: Executed rather than "played." lacking purpose.

For a while Francis O'Neill lived on the prairie in Edina, Missouri. 1870-1871. Real estate promoters had campaigned to get Catholics to settle there, and at the time about 1/3 of the farmers were Irish, and the rest French, German, and protestant American: he mentions "gigantic Kentuckians" specifically. He described going to weekly barn dances with as many as nine fiddlers taking turns playing--all coming from different folk traditions. There were probably a lot of minstrel show tunes mixed in there as well. I wish i could have heard the music.

But the different ethnic or national traditions were linked by the need to get those farmers up and dancing. The music had to have "swing" as O'Neil put it or "lift." It had to be played with rhythmic drive, and speak across national lines.

Your man on YouTube has a much more cosmopolitan environment, but no imperative to get people dancing. The purpose of the music is different. It's more "look at me" than "let's have a dance." Maybe he (or she) is out to show you virtuosity and speed, or wallow in celtoid romanticism: there's a mix of motives that wasn't present in the barn dances O'Neill was so enthusiastic about.

Personally I'm grateful for whatever people put up. I can listen or not. I'm not offering anything better and in that sense i have no room to criticize.

But the problem people are identifying here is music that's lost its original context--music made originally for dancing now presented without the imperative to dance. It seems to me that the goal should be to play with coherent purpose, and absent coherent purpose you get tasteless usic.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 5:09 am 
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IMO that's too harsh a statement. Music evolves. That doesn't mean it becomes tasteless taken from one context and put into another. But it's a development that can be seen in other styles as well. Take Blues for example, which developed out of work songs. Would you say that Blues becomes tasteless, when people are not picking cotton to the rhythm? I don't think so.
Same with some styles of Jazz.
Or another thought - some people say, when it's played too fast, you cannot dance to it. Nothing could be further from the truth when taking just one look at the audience at a Brian Finnegan concert. Obviously people don't think it's too fast to dance to.
I'm no dancer, so why would I prefer that the music I love needs to be aimed at a context I don't care about?
Nothing wrong with having great lift and rhythm of course. But will it be "tasteless" or less good somehow, when it's not for all eternity rooted in the context it evolved in?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 6:50 am 
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Music evolves.


But in which context and in which environment it evolves is much relevant. Irish music evolves in Ireland, within its context and against the background of its environment, taking into account what has gone before and what was passed on. Music cannot evolve without that context and background without loosing itself, without the culture and grounding it needs.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 6:55 am 
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Sedi wrote:
IMO that's too harsh a statement. Music evolves. That doesn't mean it becomes tasteless taken from one context and put into another. But it's a development that can be seen in other styles as well. Take Blues for example, which developed out of work songs. Would you say that Blues becomes tasteless, when people are not picking cotton to the rhythm? I don't think so.
Same with some styles of Jazz.
Or another thought - some people say, when it's played too fast, you cannot dance to it. Nothing could be further from the truth when taking just one look at the audience at a Brian Finnegan concert. Obviously people don't think it's too fast to dance to.
I'm no dancer, so why would I prefer that the music I love needs to be aimed at a context I don't care about?
Nothing wrong with having great lift and rhythm of course. But will it be "tasteless" or less good somehow, when it's not for all eternity rooted in the context it evolved in?


I don't mean it to be harsh. That people practice music is great, IMHO

Obviously taste is subjective, and people like different things. I'm using it to mean "music that's lost touch with its intended purpose," or instances where the player really doesn't have a solid grip on his intentions. Music evolves yes and that's great. But it usually involves in directions pioneered by players who have a solid grasp on their musical intentions.

"Blues" first appeared as a commercial genre, not as the music of people chopping cotton. Its roots are more in vaudeville and minstrel shows than field holler and work songs. One of the very first recorded tunes "blues," St. Louis Blues was by WC Handy: Handy toured for more than a decade in minstrel shows. It's played by a brass band and starts with a tango beat, because tango was a commercial fad. It was for dancing foxtrots. if you do a search for "blues" at the "national Jukebox" of the Library of Congress, and organize it by date, you can see blues originating in minstrel shows, not cotton fields. A great book on this is Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta. For an example of tasteless blues, see Bonammassa, Joe. I think my point will be clear if you listen to one of his videos.

I think a lot of youtubers--and again, I'm grateful that anyone posts their stuff --have managed to execute tunes at speed or dress them in the costume of authenticity in some way, but haven't got a solid musical foundation for the performance. I'm not actually arguing for note for note fidelity to some original: quite the opposite. But I'll agree with Mr. Gumby that if you are working in a tradition you should have a solid grasp of that tradition before doing your evolving.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 7:20 am 
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I know that blues didn't evolve directly out of the worksongs. I played it for a long time myself but thanks for the history lesson. It was to emphasize a point. Once it's out there, it's out there. You can't call it back and hedge it in. One could argue if "Irish" traditional music is still Irish once an American plays it. But unfortunately, music genres don't evolve according to the nice little rules people make for it.
I'll take another example as to not offend. If someone in Japan decides to put together a German "Volksmusik" group playing polkas and marches - who am I (a german) to tell him that it's not German Volksmusik? If he decides to write new songs and tunes in the tradition - one could argue if it's still "German" of course. But as long as they are playing all the traditional stuff but maybe adding some local color - as long as I could still recognize it, to me that would be a natural evolution. Sure, there might come a point where it's no longer German. Same with Irish music. One might even say it's no longer Irish at all if someone outside Ireland plays it. But then maybe we might have to find a new name for it. "Music in the Irish tradition" maybe. Like the difference in Germany between "Volksmusik" (folk music) and "volkstümliche Musik" (folksy music - music in the same style but not rooted in tradition).
Wether that new style is tasteless or "has lost itself" is not at all clear to me from the start. It might just become something completely new and different with as much value as the thing it evolved out of.
But that wasn't even the question. That was whether you can play dance music without being aimed at dancing.
A whole new question is whether someone can teach "traditional" music when not being rooted in that tradition. In that case you might have to decide how close it comes to the "real thing". I certainly can't be the judge of that. But I don't think it's a bad thing if anyone anywhere can play music of a certain tradition and make it "his own". Isn't that regularly heard advice? Make the tune your own? "But please, don't take it too far away from the tradition", one might add.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 8:14 am 
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This is a discussion that was had here more than a few times over the years and I am not sure I am up for making the argument once again.

AsThade Carthy said to Peter O'Loughlin : 'There's nothing more like the thing than the thing itself'.


And it will be different if you put it in a different context.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 8:42 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Irish music evolves in Ireland, within its context and against the background of its environment, taking into account what has gone before and what was passed on. Music cannot evolve without that context and background without loosing itself, without the culture and grounding it needs.


I think this is a critical point, and one that I've been on both sides of.

In Irish music I've always been conscious of the fact that I'm an outsider. When teaching workshops I wouldn't say "do this because I do it" but rather "this is what you'll hear them do" the them being Irish players. I'm an outsider teaching other outsiders as an outsider, and careful to make sure that everyone is aware of it.

When I dabbled in Bolivian and Bulgarian music the wall between myself and the native practitioners was greater, there being both a cultural and linguistic barrier. With both musics this led me to step back and eventually abandon them.

An old friend and band-mate, who was very good at Irish music, stepped away from it for that very reason, never to return. He felt an unbridgeable cultural separation, and turned instead to traditional American music.

I'm on the other side of the equation with Appalachian music, which was played in my family. I look upon Bluegrass as being the utterly irrelevant commercial product of a foreign place.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 8:43 am 
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I think you've got me arguing something I'm not actually arguing. But I enjoy the discussion and thank you.

A few years ago I was teaching a course on "The music of the African Diaspora.' I taught it with a Latin American historian and we focused on the music of Cuba, the US, Argentina, and Brazil. All had mixed European and west African populations: what did their national musics have in common and in what ways did they differ, and why?

At one point we were preparing a class on "latin jazz" in the US and we were listening to versions of an Afro Cuban classic song "El Manisero" (the peanut vendor). We listened to Louis Armstrong's version, and we laughed and agreed it was it was great, even though it was extremely inauthentic: Armstrong even sang "marie" instead of "mani" and he scatted away in a kind of mock Spanish. But his version was playful, joyful and had that mastery of form and intent that a great musician is capable of. Armstrong surely grew up hearing the close connection of New Orleans to Cuba, and so he grew up "authentic," but he wasn't interested in being authentically anyone but himself, and he knew himself and he had fully integrated himself and his music. You might call his version bad taste, but it's so likeable, and his mastery of time and tone is so confident and assured. He knows where he's coming from and where he's going.

There's lots of stuff on Youtube where your man has barely managed to get through the tune at 100 bpm, and I speak as someone who can barely get through a tune at 100 bpm! That's why I'm not posting YouTube videos--I've got nothing to say, musically

BTW if you ask me why US music is different from Brazil, Cuba, and Argentina I'm tempted to suggest that its because the US has way more Irish people, early on: it has the Ulster crowd in the hills and then the post famine millions. I think it's where the US "swing beat" comes from: the swing beat is itself a variation of the displaced second beat you hear in all music from the African diaspora, the 1,2, AND 3, 4


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 8:54 am 
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pancelticpiper wrote:
Mr.Gumby wrote:
Irish music evolves in Ireland, within its context and against the background of its environment, taking into account what has gone before and what was passed on. Music cannot evolve without that context and background without loosing itself, without the culture and grounding it needs.


I think this is a critical point, and one that I've been on both sides of.

In Irish music I've always been conscious of the fact that I'm an outsider. When teaching workshops I wouldn't say "do this because I do it" but rather "this is what you'll hear them do" the them being Irish players. I'm an outsider teaching other outsiders as an outsider, and careful to make sure that everyone is aware of it.

When I dabbled in Bolivian and Bulgarian music the wall between myself and the native practitioners was greater, there being both a cultural and linguistic barrier. With both musics this led me to step back and eventually abandon them.

An old friend and band-mate, who was very good at Irish music, stepped away from it for that very reason, never to return. He felt an unbridgeable cultural separation, and turned instead to traditional American music.

I'm on the other side of the equation with Appalachian music, which was played in my family. I look upon Bluegrass as being the utterly irrelevant commercial product of a foreign place.


Bluegrass! It's so problematic.

This is an interesting question to me. I'm an American of thoroughly Irish descent, but I'm not Irish, and it's foolish to try to construct myself as something I'm not. At the same time, all musical practice requires devotion to tradition, and grasping the logic of tradition. I don;t know what to make of O'Neill's cohort of musicians, most of whom spent far more of their lives in the US than in Ireland. Patsy Touhey left Ireland at three and grew up in vaudeville. He's got a statue over there, although he's holding the pipes like a right hander.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 9:03 am 
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He's got a statue over there, although he's holding the pipes like a right hander.


I am not even sure it was ever meant to be him, to be honest. I have always taken it as a generic piper, perhaps a travelling man. It doesn't say it's Touhey on the statue but there are plaques on the surrounding wall depicting local musicians, the Brodericks etc, Touhey among them if I recall correctly.

I quite like it as a statue but if it ever was meant to be Touhey, they certainly didn't bother looking at a photo of him.

For the one of Willie Clancy they were fairly meticulous, even took casts of his pipes and pipes case to have them as close as possible to the 'real thing'.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 9:20 am 
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Definitely an interesting discussion so far. But one question - who's "your man"?
I'm a big fan of the intrinsic value of music. There are some similarities in literary theory (which I studied for some time). But of course, I myself would probably never teach anyone, no matter how good I should ever get. Not that I'm any good now.
But it raises the question how music is given from one generation to the next. Which is what tradition means. When reading or listening to interviews with well regarded players. Quite a few learned mostly from recordings, at least in the beginning. Some never had a teacher themselves, like Brendan Mullholland.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 9:24 am 
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I'm not Irish-American, but any who are should take heart in the fact that a lot of those classic recordings that true-blue Irish players hav been referring back to for almost a century now were made over on these shores. John McKenna, Michael Coleman, Paddy KIlloran, James Morrison, and others, not to mention the work of O'Neill and Tuohy a generation before. The diaspora has had a strong influence on the development of the music, even back in Ireland. I'd go so far as to say that Irish music would not be much like it is today without the diaspora.

But to the point of the thread, you still have to be willing to engage with the tradition in some way if you're going to purport to teach it, something many unfortunately do not do.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 9:56 am 
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But it raises the question how music is given from one generation to the next. Which is what tradition means. When reading or listening to interviews with well regarded players. Quite a few learned mostly from recordings, at least in the beginning. Some never had a teacher themselves, like Brendan Mullholland.



Through family, neighbours and the general environment. That stuff is well documented. Assimilation, soaking it up and paying attention to older players. A lot of older players were never formally taught. I sometimes quietly think they were better off too, perhaps a whole other discussion.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2021 10:02 am 
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When you look at responses to the Coleman records in Ireland, they say two contradictory things:

1. He played exactly like that back when he was growing up in Sligo, and his brother was better

2. His playing was a revelation, we had never herd anyone so good and he made many people give up playing altogether


It's really striking in the booklet that accompanies the michael coleman 2-cd set. He's both the very embodiment of traditional Sligo fiddling and completely novel and startling.

These seem to me to be contradictory positions. My own conclusion is that Coleman played in a traditional style powerfully inflected by the performative demands of the US stage. You could argue he re-invented tradition, or presented it with a fresh face. It was "performative" in a different way: Coleman had to learn to "sell it" to audiences from all over Ireland but also from all over Europe and the rest of the world.

If anyone is interested, a classic book on Tradition is Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition. it's a set of essays that argues that "tradition" was an idea invented in the late 18th and 19th centuries, often on the flimsiest of evidence. There's a great essay in there on "traditional" scottish kilts and the idea of clan tartans.


Last edited by PB+J on Tue Feb 02, 2021 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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