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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:05 am 
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I'm interested to know which people first started playing reels (and other dance tunes) with a low degree of swing and more of a straight driving rhythm, (if its possible to to identify names) and when did this happen? Who further popularised this playing style of dance tunes?

I'm a little puzzled because when I listen to my collection of older players, all of them seem to have some extent of a certain swing in their rhythm. This is often not the case with quite a lot of contemporary Irish musicians, who play dance tunes (reels, hornpipes, jigs, etc) a lot "straighter". A reel played by Kevin Crawford and his contemporaries seems to me to have a lot less swing compared to one played by Paddy Canny, Patsy Hanly, Noel Hill and other older styled players. When I was in Ireland I find that a lot of people play with a style that was less swingy too. There seemed to be a turning point where people decided that they favoured a straighter playing style over the formerly dominant swingier playing style.

So who, how and when did this style of rather straight playing of dance tunes begin, and get popularised? The definitions of contemporary Irish musicians and old styled players may be a bit narrow in this posting but I hope you guys get the gist of what I'm asking.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2003 5:04 am 
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One old 78 I've on a tape, of a group called McConnell's Four Leaf Shamrocks, is like that-really straight ahead and driving. Shanachie's original Wheels of the World had a record by a fiddler, James Swift, included perhaps as an antidote or reposte to the tracks of Coleman and Morrison-the liner notes speak of his drive but lack of swing, perhaps due to his being raised in London!
Donegal fiddlers have been noted for their emphasis on drive. Caoimhín MacAoidh’s book Between the Jigs and Reels will tell you everything and more about their playing; the usual theory about it is due to Scottish influences. Other than that, maybe ceili bands, sessions, and super fast playing have rubbed out much swing too. It's something a player has to cultivate, perhaps.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2003 11:36 am 
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I'll second what Kevin had to say. I'm not so knowledgeable, but I recall the association of "drive" with traditional northern playing; more of a regional thing than just a modern fad.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2003 7:00 pm 
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Hi guys thanks for your replies. Is to swing less a northern thing too? I probably wasn't as clear as I ought to be but I meant a decreased swing, rhythmically-straight playing style, not exactly drive as in the quality that is present in the music like lift, bounce etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2003 7:46 pm 
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I think of that driving style as having started with the Bothy Band, though I'm probably wrong. But the Bothy Band sound certainly had a big influence, and there's not a lot of lift in most of the Bothy Band sets; it's more of a forward driving momentum, much of that generated by Molloy and Keenan, and by the guitar of Micheal O'Dhomnaill. The Bothy Band inspired a lot of younger players to play in that style, who subsequently influenced a younger generation and so on.

I think what you're describing as "swing" is what I would call "lift." It's more of an upward motion in the music, a bubbling up; when I hear music played with lift it feels like a boiling pot of water to me, with the bubbles rising to the surface.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 6:01 am 
There are different ways you can look at this. There’s style for one. But there are other things at work too I believe.

Personally I think that to an extent sessions are to blame, you mention Kevin Crawford, he was playing sessions eight nights a week for a living. And holding gig sessions together you can’t really afford a personal style with an intricate swing. You have to average something that will hold the punters together, if you don’t the publican will get someone else for the gig, he’s only there for selling drinks, not to promote good music. So there’s demand from that corner.
[by the way a great session CAN have an intricate swing, I have sat in on several occasions with Conor Keane, Eamonn Cotter and others where the group had an beautiful lyrical swing. To prove my point above, on occasion we were joined by players who could not go through the tune in a curved distinctly phrased way as we did and tried to do their session approach of linear playing, going in a straight line from the start to the end of the tune. Without noticing that did not in fact fit in with the rest of the music. You can see the point so of adapting a linear approach doing gigs in pubs, most people can follow that.]
Similarly you could point at the ‘comhaltas style’, the ultimate in the Comhaltas book seems an as large as possible group of players playing like one, again in that corner you see a style developing that has little time for personal expression but is very much into a driven sort of music, often combined with a certain emphasis towards the back beat which seems to make it easier to hold a larger group together.

Last Thursdaynight I spent in the company of Caoimhin O Raghallaigh and Gerry Harrington, the lovely sort of session that is more about exchanging ideas and discussing details in the music. Gerry made a very good point talking about the lovely swing and little intricacies in the playing of Denis Murphy, Julia Clifford and Padraig O Keeffe. There’s great detail in that music, little wicked things and, as Gerry put it ‘great craic’ [you could say the music has both great heart and great humour]. People of that generation had nothing else, no radio, television, little means of travelling around but they had the music and they got great entertainment out of the detailed music they played, quite a different approach to the instant gratification of the big tear away session.
It seems as good an explanation as any, essentially again I think it boils down to the ‘playing music to please yourself or playing music to please the others’ i.e. taking your own fun and satisfaction from the lovely little things you can do with a tune rather than compromising to the demands of the sessionscene.

I like the use of ‘lift’ but there’s some ambiguity in the use of it, last night we were playing and Tomas O Nialainn did a bit of step dancing. At some point he tried to dance to Ita and Angela Crehan playing whistles, lovely stuff with what I would call great ‘lift’. Nevertheless Tomas said after he preferred more ‘lift’ while in fact he meant more speed, the step dancer always likes a bit of speed.

And come on, ‘older players’, Noel Hill is two years younger than myself.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 8:37 am 
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Peter Laban wrote:
And come on, ‘older players’, Noel Hill is two years younger than myself.


Wait wait you're not paying attention!
I said "older styled players" in that Noel Hill sentence! :D


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 8:46 am 
:roll: OK fair enough, still have a quibble though, you can say anything about Noel Hill but his style is not 'old', in fact his [well, he got it to a large extent from Paddy Murphy] style, for better ofr for worse, replaced most of the 'older' styles of concertinaplaying within the space of some twenty years.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 12:41 pm 
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bradhurley wrote:
I think what you're describing as "swing" is what I would call "lift." It's more of an upward motion in the music, a bubbling up; when I hear music played with lift it feels like a boiling pot of water to me, with the bubbles rising to the surface.


I'm pretty sure what Eld means by "swing" is the literal syncopation of every pair of notes in a reel, or dwelling a little longer on the first note of every "triplet" in a jig.

As I see it, there are two ways to achieve the "swing" effect; one is to hold the swung note out a little longer, the other is to use breath emphasis. The two approaches produce a somewhat different effect, but I think the goal with both is fundamentally the same.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2003 2:32 pm 
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Most good stuff already said but the addition of more harmony instruments, guitar, zouks etc have had the "de-subtling" effect on reel structure. Groups are bigger. Some want the lushness of fuller sound but there is a price to be paid.

I had asked this question a year ago (no answers) but referred specifically to Liam O'Flynn's "Piper's Call." His rendering of Drunken Landlady and succeeding medley is nearly martial tho I suppose it showcases his playing style. He also harmonized that one differently than all other versions I have heard, making it into a G Major feel rather than A minor.

Donal Lunny does Man of the House/Glentown also straighter, it facilitates the nearly Hollywood drama of the orchestral sounding arrangement. (On his Journey record.) I think he would be the first to disclaim trad intent on those, btw.

I sound like a broken record here, but Star Above the Garter cd (D. Murphy/Julia Clifford) always reminds me of how trad can sound absolutely complete with very few instruments, lots of subtlety and great atmosphere.

I also said this before: I believe that playing with a lift or swing, predates straight-style in Western Euro and Brit Isles folk musical history (I don't know about other places). For example, in Spanish vihuela and Italian lute music (16th century), runs were often played with thumb first finger combo, causing the odd numbered notes to sound heavier. Its an unpleasant place for classical guitarists to go when they play it, having worked so hard to play evenly yet wanting to be "correct" and you do hear other authentic-y players use lift as well. When you physically try that technique, as I have, its hard NOT to swing and you start to wonder....

I think that the age of Science and Enlightenment brought tempered scales and more regulated rhythmic values, eventually into the villages. And, there is the whole issue of whether the music was for dancing or singing...I reckon its more fun to dance and clap to swinging rhythms than not. And increasingly, we often listen more than dance to the newer bands....


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:15 am 
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Y'all should listen to Peter's clips playing the pipes on this here website. He's the swingingest sonovabitch you've ever heard on the chanter. Tim Britton also swings on the pipes, so much so that a friend of mine just up and chucked all of his Tim tapes into the garbage, it was "too much bebop!"
I used to really bash the steering wheel listening to old time piper Liam Walsh play Dunphy's and Alexander's hornpipes. Part of what he did involved what they call the "Scots Snap," lurching forward for a couple notes, then holding back; Walsh syncopated everything with the regulators as well. His best records, on Decca, will have you falling out of your chair. Or James Morrison on the fiddle. You'll need to practice everything pretty heavily before getting that kind of bounce out of your playing.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2003 10:37 am 
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Kevin L. Rietmann wrote:
involved what they call the "Scots Snap," lurching forward for a couple notes, then holding back; Walsh syncopated everything with the regulators as well. His best records, on Decca, will have you falling out of your chair. Or James Morrison on the fiddle. You'll need to practice everything pretty heavily before getting that kind of bounce out of your playing.


The differences in style are mostly regional and with a little listening you will hear the influences that helped to shape the regional styles. The bouncy Scottish Snap is a southern thing I think. Now try listening to some Nordic gigs and other dance tunes on hardenger fiddle. You will hear drive and pulse close to the northern style. These differences in style evolved long ago and looking for a modern point of divide is pointless. Getting a handle on the different styles will add depth to your own chops so it's a good thing to do.

Get ahold of some Swap sounds. This group explores the similarities between Nordic and Irish music. Their sets that change from one tradition to the other are real kicken.

BL

PS Ian Carr is the guitarist in Swap and he plays standard tuneing Nano. :oops: Would you say this is a cross post from another thread? :o


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:08 pm 
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BL, I am nothing if not flexible. Thanks!

*takes a second thought, shakes finger at BL anyway just on principle*


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 9:07 am 
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I've learned most all my music "straight". Mike Rafferty plays mostly
straight and not swingy, but I think he has a lot of lift (pulse). To throw
the regional-style point around, his neighbour Joe Burke plays with swing
most all of the time, so its not always regional. Even though both have
what I've heard called the East Galway Flow.

I also play sometimes with a great box player from Longford, who mostly
uses swing in his hornpipes and reels. One time playing at home, I noticed
he played a hornpipe straight as a pin, the style I was used to. The
reason he gave was that the dancers at the ceili (who were not there with
us!) dance it that way.

All the players I've referred to are of the older generation. So I'm still
mystified by this straight vs swingy myself. I'd like to hear more opinions
about why this is.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2003 11:03 am 
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Interesting you noted that Rafferty plays with no swing. My brother recenty got the Paddy Carty CD and I've noticed he plays with seemingly no swing at all.

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