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 Post subject: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:47 am 
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I'm curious; firstly, about the thing itself, and secondly, my reaction to it.

Here's the thing - and it's only ever happened to me twice - I enter a busyish session, and politely ask someone who happens to be sitting next to an empty chair, "Is this seat taken?" Their response is to ask, "Are you playing?"

Now, I find that incredibly rude. So it puzzles me why people say it. My reaction to it is, or has been on the two occasions that it's happened to me, extreme enough to also provoke curiosity. On the one occasion, I had driven about 40 miles to play in a session, and some oik of bodhràn player said it to me. I immediately turned and left the pub, got in the car and drove off.

Maybe someone can explain to me why these people see the need to insult someone they don't know; maybe also, that might help me develop a coping mechanism for it.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 11:26 am 
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Were you clutching an instrument case? If not maybe the question was in case you might take a seat that was better for an arriving player.

(if I hadn't used 'case' in the first sentence would I have used that phrase in the second :-? I'll leave it)


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 11:32 am 
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david_h wrote:
Were you clutching an instrument case? If not maybe the question was in case you might take a seat that was better for an arriving player.

(if I hadn't used 'case' in the first sentence would I have used that phrase in the second :-? I'll leave it)

On both occasions I was very obviously carrying a fiddle and a flute case.

One of them used to be a session I had at one time attended regularly. Said bodhràn player was new to me. I haven't been back. That was about 18 months ago.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:25 pm 
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As to the thing: I can't help but wonder if the speaker's use of the phrase "are you playing" was intended to be an invitation.

Your question "Is this seat taken" was obviously a polite inquiry about joining in.

Yes, taking his words "literally", in the same manner as a contract lawyer, might mean "Yes, if you're playing, the seat IS taken". That would be a rude, flippant "no" to your polite inquiry.

My guess is that it was simply a playful/clumsy/clever-but-not way of saying, "if you're playing, join in".

I think it's an instance of the old "words are imperfect" idea.

trill


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:29 pm 
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trill wrote:
As to the thing: I can't help but wonder if the speaker's use of the phrase "are you playing" was intended to be an invitation.

Your question "Is this seat taken" was obviously a polite inquiry about joining in.

Yes, taking his words "literally", in the same manner as a contract lawyer, might mean "Yes, if you're playing, the seat IS taken". That would be a rude, flippant "no" to your polite inquiry.

My guess is that it was simply a playful/clumsy/clever-but-not way of saying, "if you're playing, join in".

I think it's an instance of the old "words are imperfect" idea.

trill

I actually never thought of that. That would be sad. Especially as I've pretty much lost touch with my old session now. Ah well, it was a long drive for a session anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:39 pm 
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Trill beat me to it.

Demeanor and tone count loads for me in informing the real meaning behind the words.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 4:20 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Trill beat me to it.

Demeanor and tone count loads for me in informing the real meaning behind the words.

Well, there is that. And the demeanour and tone on each occasion has been insulting.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:16 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
Trill beat me to it.

Demeanor and tone count loads for me in informing the real meaning behind the words.

Well, there is that. And the demeanour and tone on each occasion has been insulting.

Then here's a possibility: If I were being challenged by a stranger but knew key players in the session (and of course was on good enough terms with them), I might take the opportunity to call out loudly, "[Name]! Should I play or not?" That's a salvo of craic on its own, because the reply's pretty much a foregone conclusion, and a show of support from the notables ought to squelch any further power plays from a would-be control freak. Tables well and truly turned, with a cherry on top. Your foe may safely be left to stew in his own juices.

It ought to work just as well if the challenger was someone you knew, so long as you pick the right allies. The thing is to make it a public matter, but in a way where although in appearance you're calling on your friends' sufferance, you're actually calling the shots, such as in the way I suggested. A spot of the old jūjutsu, as it were.

If they say no or equivocate - which would surprise me (unless it were obviously a joke, in which case you could play along by sitting yourself down in stubborn rudeness) - then the truth being out, at least you can be shed of that lot with a clear conscience.

If you don't know anyone at the session and you're still bent on playing, then being gracious in spite of all is probably best.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:12 pm 
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Reminds me of a story David Brenner (a comedian) told many years ago. He was sitting on a newspaper in the New York subway. Someone came up to him and asked if he was reading it. He said "Yes," and got up, turned the page, and sat back down again.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:07 am 
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I've never minded the question, since I think it's fairly common practice to reserve seats specifically for musicians. If you're not playing, the seat isn't available to you; if you are, it is. Obviously if the person was otherwise rude to you then I would understand being miffed, but to be honest I'd have been a bit puzzled by your reaction if I had seen it in real time (unless yer man was exceedingly rude).

As an anecdote, I walked into a very busy pub in Galway a couple years ago, listened a bit to the session taking place, and asked if I could join. The lady I asked immediately and brusquely said, "do you know the tunes?" I held up my flute case and said yes, mentioning the name of the one they just played. Her demeanor changed completely, and they welcomed me in. Had a wonderful time overall, and stayed and chatted long after closing.

I can see why they did it, though. The pub was packed to the gills and I'm sure plenty of people wanted in who maybe shouldn't have. One guy came by with one of those painted tourist bodhrans, another a little later wanted to play his party piece on the harmonica. It was one of those quasi-gig sessions and the staff card was very high, so I can imagine they didn't want to stop or slow down for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to play their little ditty. Nor would they want someone blindly thumping along.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:53 am 
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bigsciota wrote:
I've never minded the question, since I think it's fairly common practice to reserve seats specifically for musicians. If you're not playing, the seat isn't available to you; if you are, it is. Obviously if the person was otherwise rude to you then I would understand being miffed, but to be honest I'd have been a bit puzzled by your reaction if I had seen it in real time (unless yer man was exceedingly rude).

The thing is, it's only ever happened to me twice, in those exact same words, in all the years I've been going to sessions, throughout these islands and across continental Europe. On both occasions it's been asked by an Englishman. I can't imagine an Irish or Scottish or Welsh person asking this. Sure, seats are reserved for musicians, but when you're carrying two instrument cases, I would take that as a given. If the seat is being kept for someone specific, that too is OK. But, "Are you playing?" with that suspicious look towards the cases, is a bit much. For me, anyway.

A bit more detail, on each of those occasions:

On the first occasion, what eventually happened was that I actually did get to my car and drove away, but one of the session regulars, who knows me well, ran out of the pub and literally ran out into the road and stood in front of my accelerating car, and persuaded me back into the session. Yer man who had asked me the question turned out to be an execrable 'percussionist' and recorder player ( :o ), who took up a whole small table with his various things that he banged, shook or squawked into. (One of them was a bodhràn, but it didn't make it any better, in his hands.) I ended up staying and playing for the evening, but I won't be going back any time soon, and that was, as I said, something like 18 months ago. The session organiser, a very good musician, is a good friend of mine, and he said to let him know when I was coming next time and he'd make sure there was a seat for me at the centre of the session. The 'percussionist' apologised profusely at the end of the evening, and appeared mortified. I still don't feel like going back. Is this why people say things like, "Oh, there's plenty of good musicians round here, but you can't get them to come out" ?

On the second occasion, the guy was a technically brilliant flutist, who only seemed to play tunes nobody knew (I'm talking about very, very experienced players here, and they didn't know them) and who played them a lot.

As I say, both Englishmen.

bigsciota wrote:
As an anecdote, I walked into a very busy pub in Galway a couple years ago, listened a bit to the session taking place, and asked if I could join. The lady I asked immediately and brusquely said, "do you know the tunes?"

Yeah, I've been asked that, right enough. I don't mind that one. It seems reasonable given the drongos who sometimes do barge their way into otherwise perfectly lovely sessions.

Maybe the whole thing's in my head. Then again, maybe not.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:23 am 
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This confirms my sense that “the session” is a social minefield of epic proportions. Occasionally over at the session.org somebody will post yet another “bad behavior at sessions” thread and the offenses include

Playing familiar tunes
Playing unfamiliar tunes
Starting tunes
Not starting tunes
Siting in the wrong seat
Bringing the wrong instrument
Bringing the right instrument
Talking between tunes
Not talking between tunes

I sat in with my first session last week, speaking little and politely and treading with extreme care. I’m pretty sure I offended every single person in the room, each for a different reason.

I don’t see his question as massively offensive: I showed up with a flute case but mostly didn’t play, and sat outside the main circle. I assume people like me occasionally show up and join the main circle but then don’t play?

Storming out in a huff seems like a totally session thing to do? :)


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:52 am 
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PB+J wrote:
This confirms my sense that “the session” is a social minefield of epic proportions. Occasionally over at the session.org somebody will post yet another “bad behavior at sessions” thread and the offenses include

Playing familiar tunes
Playing unfamiliar tunes
Starting tunes
Not starting tunes
Siting in the wrong seat
Bringing the wrong instrument
Bringing the right instrument
Talking between tunes
Not talking between tunes

I sat in with my first session last week, speaking little and politely and treading with extreme care. I’m pretty sure I offended every single person in the room, each for a different reason.

I don’t see his question as massively offensive: I showed up with a flute case but mostly didn’t play, and sat outside the main circle. I assume people like me occasionally show up and join the main circle but then don’t play?

Storming out in a huff seems like a totally session thing to do? :)


There’s a book in this. Is November not the month everybody writes the first draft of their novels? If any budding writer is reading this then you’ve got a blockbuster on your hands right there, film rights as well. The book would pretty much write itself. As a thanks for the idea, you can base a tall good looking and musically talented character on me. I’d like a scene where I play the Irish Washerwoman, playing it faster and faster on each repeat, just to piss off the snobs.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:58 am 
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Quote:
the snobs


People who invoke the 'snobs' usually give themselves away as clueless idiots. Well done.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 7:23 am 
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bwat wrote:
I’d like a scene where I play the Irish Washerwoman, playing it faster and faster on each repeat, just to piss off the snobs.

I play The Irish Washerwoman quite a bit. Admittedly, I don't play it faster and faster - it's too good a tune for that.

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