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I don't understand phrasing
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Author:  Roger O'Keeffe [ Wed Aug 07, 2002 3:11 pm ]
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To John Kerr's comment on a point which I didn't make sufficiently clear. I agree entirely with you about listening plenty and absorbing the flavour of the music. what I meant was that it isn't always realistic to expect someone who is new to the music and gets twenty minutes' tuition per week to learn an _individual tune_ entirely by ear, especially if they've come from a classical background and are used to relying on sheet music.

Author:  Blackbird [ Sat Aug 10, 2002 2:55 am ]
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A brief word in defense of classically trained musicians (I don't really count myself as one), but any musician who can read music understands that a phrase crosses bar lines. Classical music phrases in very different ways from Irish trad: for instance, varying the volume over a phrase. But wind players phrase with their breathing and string players phrase with bowing in both styles, just in different ways. In classical music, it tends to be more prescribed and less free, unless you are playing (or singing) a solo. Irish trad musicians don't use volume variations much (at all?) but use ornamentation to emphasize key notes in a phrase. In both styles, the goal is expression, even if we IrTrad lovers think that ours is the most expressive. :smile:

Author:  Roger O'Keeffe [ Tue Aug 13, 2002 4:09 pm ]
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Don't mind me slagging classical musicians, blackbird, my relationship to stave notation gives me some insight into the mindset of an illiterate person.

But more seriously, you pick up an important issue when you mention the absence of volume variation in ITM. I'll stick my neck out and say that it has as good as no part to play in this particular music. With pipes you simplyu don't even have the option of volume variation, and this is precisely why the subtle deviation from nominal note values is so important as a way of marking the rhythm.

Author:  Blackbird [ Wed Aug 14, 2002 1:07 am ]
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Roger, thanks for the reply. I'm not really worried about the classical musicians, most of them have confidence to spare. I'll also admit that as a music reader, I experienced problems with being able to relate the notes on a page with the rhythms and phrasing I was hearing. The volume question is interesting to me because, as a singer, I use both volume and breathing to phrase a tune, but as a whistle player, variations in volume aren't available. I think this is one reason that Irish tunes can be very hard to distinguish from each other until your ear becomes accustomed to the style. I still have trouble being able to name tunes that I am familiar with, but don't really know well.

Author:  Roger O'Keeffe [ Wed Aug 14, 2002 5:18 pm ]
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Basically Irish music is really a lot simpler than we let on, and much of the pleasure is in what each individual performer does to the tune, even one that we've heard a thousand times before.

My recommendation is "mental lilting": whenever you hear a tune, try to anticipate where it's going and note where it diverges from your expectation. This is a guide both to learning and identifying new or half-known tunes and to appreciating what the performer is doing to them.

Unfortunately, the ten-man blaze-away session is not the most congenial environment for this, but you can do it while listening to records.

My personal epiphany about this came when I tried to learn "Farewell to Govan" from a Liam O'Flynn album and discovered that he plays what I thought was exactly the same phrase four different ways.

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