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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2001 1:39 pm 
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Subtitled - "The Long and Windy Road"

I noticed a theme in the ‘ears Not eyes’ thread. I’ve noticed the same theme in other threads as well. And that is:

"The only truly free music is traditional music. And if you really want to be free, make it Irish Traditional. (And it must be played on a whistle and it must have been learned by ear.)"

Now, I like traditional music. I enjoy Irish traditional music. Please don’t misunderstand my statement. Please don’t post and say, ‘Erik, you blasphemer; how can you say that you don’t like traditional music.’ What I am questioning is the freedom of the music.

Every session that I’ve been to had everyone of the musicians all tapping their feet at the same time and all playing the same notes. I don’t mean more-or-less the same notes. I mean exactly the same notes. Finely honed and precise. Every concert (or even informal gathering) that I’ve been to has been the same. Not a bunch of guys all going their own way, but each of the musicians knew what was going to be played.

Or maybe you’re not at a session. Maybe your sitting around the campfire and someone yells out, "Hey, let’s play Cooley’s" and off you all go playing the tune that is known as Cooley’s Reel. Sure you can do harmony and ornamentation but when all is said and done, you’re playing Cooley’s. If the group looses the melody/tempo/rhythm of Cooley’s then it’s not Cooley’s anymore. Then it’s just having fun ad-libbing in the traditional manner. Even so, you can’t just pick any note. We are constrained by the fundamental manner in which we are playing.

And I would propose that it is just this constraint that frees us. In any type of music. When we have a framework within which to work we can create. When there are no constraints, we get white noise. Ever played a slide whistle? You end up stopping on recognizable notes, don’t you? Even the didgeridoos play tones based upon it’s fundamental frequency.

And what is the primary focus of so many of the posts regarding the playing of proper Irish trad music. You must have proper and precise rhythm. Listen to the music over and over until you understand the Irish rhythm. It is non-negotiable. But what is the curse most often thrown, for example, at the classical genre? "There’s no life in the rhythm. It’s just the same thing over and over. We want freedom."

Here’s what I’m trying to say. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we’re special because of some supposed freedom in our music. We have the same amount - no more - no less - as any other type of music. As Lee was saying in the other post, it’s the life that we breathe into the music that creates the soul (or lack thereof) of the music.

Does anyone really have good reason to believe that traditional music is freer than others? And if so, define freedom. For that matter, define traditional.

Comments (he he he)?
Erik


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2001 2:33 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2001 6:00 pm
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Location: Fresno
All I can say Eric is AMEN!

My apologies if a lot of this is not tinwhistle specific.

This particular issue was a hot topic on the CalIrish list some time ago. I had mentioned my difficulties in getting a handle on the Irish Bouzouki and asked for advice. At some point someone said JUST listen to some real music and play what you hear (or something to that effect)and we were off and running pretty much the same race we just ran here.

As for myself, it is the instrument (mandolin, bouzouki,tinwhistle and now, flute) that I am interested in. I like the sounds they make; not all the sounds I can make with these instrument are appropriate to traditional Irish music. So I play other styles as well.

I actually came into Irish trad through two different doors. One of them was Afro-Celt; not the group, but a Putumayo CD entitled Dublin to Dakar. Celtic music ranging from Allen Stivell to Capercaillie to Cheb Mami and his fusion of North African RAI and highland bagpipes.

The other was though my web search for info on the bouzouki. One of my all time favorite songs is Zorba the Greek. I fell in love with Greek music, and the bouzouki is a prominent instrument in this tradition. As I was searching for info on this instrument, I came across a page on the Irish bouzouki (Hans' Irish Bouzouki Pages) and came across a reference to a band known as Planxty and some guy named Donal Lunny. I was hooked and now own an Irish bouzouki and a mountain of Irish CD's.

Anyway, I play music first of all because I LOVE to play, whether it is the blues, Rebetiki, or Irish. Not for others, for me. (This is not to say I do not also love to play with others. )

I have said this before, I learn primarily by ear because I do not read music. I wish, however, that I could read. I have friends who read very well,and can play a piece from a score with passion and fire. So, I do not buy the argument about soulless sightreaders. I believe that is essential to listen to traditional music if you want to play in that style - but once you have a feel for it, mechanical methods of learning are not going to inhabit you feel for it.

I can actually remember my father telling me that the Beatles' music was not really music, it was just noise. I love my father, but hope I never come to a place where I find myself saying something like that.

Anyway, we've had this discussion, and we have heard from both extremes, and found that most of us are somewhere in the middle on this issue.

So, let's boogie, or Ceili, or whatever it is you enjoy..... :smile:

Blaine


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2001 3:44 pm 
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A man's speech must needs exceed his grasp, else what's a metaphor? 'Ware: metaphor swamp here...

Economics types and some software publishers warn us to be careful in speaking of something as "free". They remind us of the distinction between "free speech" and "free beer". As much as Irish whistlers adore both speech and beer :smile:, the freedom Erik points out some musicians want is more like that of a "free-range chicken". Traditional music can be thattaway, if you're thinking of one folk musician. One folkie playing and singing by herself is a different situation from a session or jam. Solo, you can play Cooley's just like the tune your friends know, or you can play your own version. And if you play it differently enough, it becomes Bubba's Favorite instead of Cooley's -- so what? We're free to do that ("free-speech" -- freedom), though it is being nice to the audience to label it as "this is how me an' my mama play somethin' like Cooley's Reel". We've all heard tunes mislabeled in concerts, in song circles, on CDs - if you know something's a variant or a conglomeration, try to say so.

Erik is absolutely on target to point out the constraints on playing a known tune *together*. There you've got less freedom to wander, but (maybe) more freedom to excel. A train on a track is pretty constrained, but it sure gets further than when it's *off* a track :smile: . Maybe the freedom we long for is the free *feeling* that a lot of our Trad music gives us -- when it unlocks our spirits and we soar with the lilt (or get up and dance). Maybe that's what some of us label "free" in Irish or Trad music - if Bach does nothing for us personally, it feels stuffy, stupefying. If you have at least a bit of appreciation for the baroque (just think of the Bach as being slightly O'Carolan-like :smile: ) though, you can hear the difference in a piece played mechanically vs. one played -- here's that word again - *freely*.

The guys in tuxedos following the fella waving a stick don't have the category of freedom to improvise, jump an octave, harmonize as in a jam, but they *are* free to put passion, soul, lilt into a piece.

I do sometimes wish all this freedom to excel I have didn't mean I was so free to work my fingers off to attain that "excel" part. :smile: Ah, well ... no free lunch ....

-- Jake


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2001 4:37 pm 
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Erik,

I agree. See Lee's excellent (and beautiful!)comments in the "Use your ear" thread. Music's power is in the emotions expressed. Technical excellence will certainly help with that, but I'd challenge ol' Luciano himself to put more passion into a song than a room full of first graders with their hearts in it. (:

Freedom in music? I spend all those hours practicing (and teaching) because good technique gives us the freedom to put our hearts into the MUSIC, as opposed to just playing the notes. Classical, traditional, improv, formal, or somewhere in the middle, it's all the same--if it isn't from the heart, you're only getting half the song.

Tom


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2001 5:06 pm 
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Right on Tom!!
Sue


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