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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 7:42 am 
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I'm kind of fascinated and horrified by the whole idea of the session. It sometimes seems to me that Irish Traditional Music originated as a solo art, and the entire culture and evidence of the session points to the music's primal desire, like the instinct of a salmon swimming upriver, to return to its solo roots.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:09 am 
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Playing in with others is one skillset, it requires a degree of adaptability and an ability to have a fair number of tunes at the ready, or play them on the fly. It is one side of playing albeit not the be all, end all of music. A session is mostly a social occasion. Noisy pubs are not particularly conducive to great music but if you look at playing there as an opportunity to be with friends, replenish some dark corners of your repertoire and exercise your memory and your fingers in the process, it's not so bad.

The notion of a pubsession where every man and his dog can walk in and take a place, that's a fully artificial one. You see a lot of festivals that are mostly organised pubsessions (Ennis trad fest was on last week). That is something I wouldn't fancy at all but some people swear by it, think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I happened to be out last Saturdaynight, playing a few hours in Friel's. I don't play out all that much but I felt good coming home late in the night, after enjoying the company and digging around my brain for long forgotten tunes that came up. But I would never walk into a room of strangers and presume to play or join uninvited.

I can't help thinking of Bobby Casey, the ultimate solo fiddler whose music was bristling with ideas when playing on his own. In a larger group he'd go 'on automatic' but if he'd notice you paying attention he'd shake his head, wink and turn on the music. Session player and solo player united in one person. And so it should be I suppose, have the skill to hold a tune and own it playing on your own as well as having the repertoire and adaptability to play with others.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:24 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
Quote:
the snobs


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



Ooohhh I seem to have hit a raw nerve there!


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:32 am 
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Quote:
Ooohhh I seem to have hit a raw nerve there!


yeah, yeah, keep thinking that, whatever makes you feel good about yourself. :lol:

'Purists' is another one you should try. :poke:

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:48 pm 
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Let's put the kibosh on the name-calling, here.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:16 pm 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
'Purists' is another one you should try. :poke:


I don't do requests.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:44 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.



I agree with this, but I remember at least one character at a session I played at who had such a deadpan delivery for anything, he'd easily be mistaken for rude. He was also one of the folks that came early and would often be the one asked, "Is this chair empty" or the like. Those of us who knew him just accepted is taciturn demeanor, while a few strangers may have been put off.

...Devil's advocating here.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:09 pm 
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busterbill wrote:
...Devil's advocating here.

Yeah, there's always that. Sometimes you just have to second-guess.

Sometimes I prefer to ignore a bad turn; after all, I might have misjudged the situation - but if not, I like to think that a show of gallant imperviousness to slings and arrows would not go unnoticed. OTOH, I might instead be thought a thickheaded fool, but I hardly care about that; in the best of cases, being underestimated also has its advantages.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 8:51 am 
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Some people seem to think such responses are funny. I've a coworker relentlessly like that. The other day a coworker was surprised to see him at work and asked, "You're working today?" To which he replied, "No, I was bored so I came to work." He always has snippy remarks. They reflect his severely misplaced and wildly exaggerated sense of superiority.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 9:45 am 
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Not so much along the lines of the OP, but with the tension between "snobs" and "idiots" in mind, I found this interesting.

Mr.Gumby wrote:
Playing in with others is one skillset, it requires a degree of adaptability and an ability to have a fair number of tunes at the ready, or play them on the fly. It is one side of playing albeit not the be all, end all of music. A session is mostly a social occasion. Noisy pubs are not particularly conducive to great music but if you look at playing there as an opportunity to be with friends, replenish some dark corners of your repertoire and exercise your memory and your fingers in the process, it's not so bad.

The notion of a pubsession where every man and his dog can walk in and take a place, that's a fully artificial one. You see a lot of festivals that are mostly organised pubsessions (Ennis trad fest was on last week). That is something I wouldn't fancy at all but some people swear by it, think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I happened to be out last Saturdaynight, playing a few hours in Friel's. I don't play out all that much but I felt good coming home late in the night, after enjoying the company and digging around my brain for long forgotten tunes that came up. But I would never walk into a room of strangers and presume to play or join uninvited.


I think that this gets to something very important in this discussion, namely (apologies to Mr. Carver) What We Talk About When We Talk About Trad. Ultimately, I think the varying definitions of a session and tradition music in general are what causes these clashes.

There's a fairly broad spectrum of public pub sessions out there, but you can break them down into three rough categories (any given session may not fit exactly in, but most would).

Type 1 is an open free-for-all. Everyone gets to play, everyone gets to lead a few tunes or sing a song, few are discouraged from participating, and those are usually more on personal than musical grounds. The tune selection is broadly Irish or "Celtic," but anything that can reasonably be termed "folk" is usually welcomed, if not encouraged. Quebecois, Scottish, Cape Breton, old-time, you name it, someone will probably try to play it. Instrumentation is very flexible, but these sessions often attract lots of percussion, chordal, and non-traditional instruments. Most if not all players did not grow up playing Irish music, or dropped it at some stage. The level of play is variable, but it's rare to find a truly exceptional melody player in one of these sessions, unless they're a paid leader. For most players in these sessions, playing in a session is the primary, and often only, way they interact with trad music. The important thing to most is a sense of inclusion, and the "everyone working together" ethos of the modern folk movement.

Type 2 is a more "traditional" session, in the sense that traditional Irish music is the sole or overwhelming focus. It's still open, but only to those who play commonly accepted trad instruments. Backing instruments are limited; if there's already a bodhran player there, another may not be very welcome. It's still a very social event, but the players tend to be fairly serious about the music. Beyond personal disputes, a player might get gently talked to (or just looked at funny) if they're not up to the level of the rest, or if they try to play a lot of non-Irish music. There is often a leader or two, formal or informal, who are highly competent. Many of the players also listen to trad at home, play music among friends at private social gatherings, frequent concerts, go to festivals, and may play gigs outside the session scene. For others, sessions are the main way they interact with trad. The important thing to most is sharing Irish music with friends and fellow musicians, and drinking a few pints besides.

Type 3 is more or less closed, and highly focused on the music. The players are usually exceptional, or at least fairly high-level. These are often quasi-gigs, organized by the musicians and pub owner. It could, however, also be a gathering of friends who simply want to play in a pub rather than a kitchen. The group playing is focused on playing good music and socializing with each other. They may not want anyone to join in, and they certainly don't want everyone to. If they let someone join it's because they know them, they're great craic, or they are also highly competent and will add to the musical level of the session. It helps to have more than one of those points in your favor. Most players are deeply into trad, and sessions are a small part of their overall interaction with the music. There is little to no interesting in inclusion or socializing for the sake of it; what's important is the music and the bond between friends.

Many session-related issues seem to arise when people who are used to one type try joining another. Someone used to a type 1 session will think that players at a type 3 are snobs or jerks for not being more inclusive. A type 3 session might be appalled at the musical level of a type 1 session, and the din of a large type 2. Those used to type 2 will find type 3 sessions cold, but type 1 session unruly.

The issue is compounded by where you find these different sessions. The majority of posters on this forum and others like it live in areas outside of the main hotspots of trad (Ireland, many big British cities, a few US cities like NYC, Chicago, and Boston). There are probably a few type 1 sessions around them, maybe some type 2 as well. When they move or travel to one of those hotspots, they sudden come across a plethora of sessions, mostly types 2 and 3. These may seem unfriendly or downright rude, full of snobs and purists. Going by what they know from their sessions at home, they still try to join in, and are then seen as rude or presumptuous. This is especially true for bodhran, guitar, and bouzouki players, who suddenly find themselves very unwelcome. Hence, the stereotypes of the gawking idiot tourist and the snobby, disinterested local.

Ultimately, the "snobs" and the "idiots" are both right in their own spaces. It'd be just as rude to pop yourself down in a type 3 session and thump a bodhran as it would be to insult a well-meaning but untalented bodhran player at a type 1. Each has its uses, each attract its own crowd, and everyone can have a good time in their own session. The key is caution in any session not your own. I certainly wouldn't play a tune just to annoy the "snobs;" that's being a jerk. I also don't think that some of the gatekeeping that sometimes happens in trad is healthy, either. The "pure drop" is more than healthy enough to survive the hordes of "folkies" and dilettantes. But those more casual trad players are entitled to their fun as well. As with good neighbors and fences, simply keeping a respectful distance is better than flinging insults.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 7:31 pm 
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[/quote]


Type 1
Type 2
Type 3


[/quote]

Having found myself in all of the above, my favorite sessions are 2.5s.


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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:21 am 
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I agree with bigsciota's long analysis above. Out of interest, the one I described that I actually left would be classed as a "Type 3", and one where I know, and am friends with, almost all the players, and was being welcomed in, until yer dreadful bodhràn fool intervened. The other one that I mentioned would be classed as a 2.5, or 2 I suppose - at a festival, but a very good standard. People knew me.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 5:34 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
I agree with bigsciota's long analysis above. Out of interest, the one I described that I actually left would be classed as a "Type 3", and one where I know, and am friends with, almost all the players, and was being welcomed in, until yer dreadful bodhràn fool intervened. The other one that I mentioned would be classed as a 2.5, or 2 I suppose - at a festival, but a very good standard. People knew me.

See? You were in a strong position. Sometimes it's not wrong to establish rank and credentials when another practically asks for it.

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 Post subject: Re: "Are you playing?"
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 4:28 am 
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Nanohedron wrote:
benhall.1 wrote:
I agree with bigsciota's long analysis above. Out of interest, the one I described that I actually left would be classed as a "Type 3", and one where I know, and am friends with, almost all the players, and was being welcomed in, until yer dreadful bodhràn fool intervened. The other one that I mentioned would be classed as a 2.5, or 2 I suppose - at a festival, but a very good standard. People knew me.

See? You were in a strong position. Sometimes it's not wrong to establish rank and credentials when another practically asks for it.

Oh, I was indeed. I hope and believe that yer bodhràn man feels a degree of chagrin to this day.

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