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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2003 10:04 pm 
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Since my ear learning is coming into being I was thinking the other day. Would somebody ever get mad if I played a tune the same exact way that they did/do because I learned the tune off them and all the same ornaments? Is that what the tradition of irish music is all about; generations passing the same style of playing, the same ornaments, the same feel down to the next? Or would Matt Molloy (for example) get mad (or some other negative reaction) if I sat down in his pub and played out Kitty in the lane/Captain Kelly/ The Green Mountain just like he did on the Contentment is Wealth cd with him and Sean Keane (theoretically if I ever got good enough that is)? Or if Willie Clancy was still alive, would he be upset if I sat down next to him and laid out Over the Moor to Maggie or the Legacy Jig just like he did on the Minstrel from Clare cd? Or would I piss Paddy Keenan off because I record on my cd (theoretically that is) the Bucks of Oranmore and play it just like he did on that live Bothy Band album? It seems to me that as I get better, I seem to mimic more closely the versions of tunes I learn from people. And I was wondering if this is somehow wrong or will I get into trouble for it? Because (for instance) since I'm learning Speed the Plough/The Abbey Reel/The Primrose Lass off Paul Mcgratten, I'd like to know if some day down the road should me and Mr. McGratten be in the same pub would he get offended if he heard me play those tunes just like he played them.

And yes, I do add my own variations from time to time and take out or put in more ornaments to put a slight twist on things but it feels like I'm copying from someone. BTW, for those who doubt it, learning by ear is way easier and way better but that's not what this thread is about.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 02, 2003 10:57 pm 
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Some quotes I have heard:

Ordinary musicians borrow. Great musicians steal.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

If it sounds good, it is good.

After a tune gets under your fingers and you don't do any thinking while you are playing, sometimes you will wonder, "How would this sound with a tight triplet here?", or "I wonder if I could invert this run, what would it sound like".

After a while, you forget what is copying and what you just throw in on the spur of the moment.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 12:17 am 
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I doubt that you'll ever have this problem Murph because you are aware enough of the dangers to work quickly past the stage you describe.

In all folk traditions, good students go through a stage of copying the masters and some of the things you learn that way you retain forever. If you become, and remain, a carbon copy of someone, you'll quickly become a joke to anybody who recognises this and not just the musician him/herself. You'd still be a joke who received grudging respect at some level though; people would acknowledge the skill that went into becoming that good but wonder at why your development stalled where it did.

The best way to avoid being a joke at all is to blend in some stylistic element that works well but is not a part of the style you are copying. Better still, a synthesis of two different but compatible styles would be your own style .. the people you started by copying would become 'influences.'

That's the way it works in folk traditions I'm more actively familiar with and more competent at playing. Ultimately, traditional musicians love the music and want it passed on and preserved, so those worth their salt will help and encourage you. That doesn't mean that some of the advise you get might not be gruff, blunt or sarcastic; not every good teacher has a gentle personality.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 1:09 am 
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Good Q. That's a good Q.

It's probably good to copy the style of old masters, probably more than you already do---the logic being that any activity that provides educational value is always something we could be doing more.

As for plagiarism, I suppose the fine line is somewhere in the gray area between, "Gosh, you sound just like Tony MacMahon" and "Gosh, you sound exactly like track 5 on Tony MacMahon's self-titled CD." If you imitate one specific recording all the way down to the ornaments, you're probably not imitating the musician's style anymore.

Caj


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 5:35 am 
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Caj wrote:
Good Q. That's a good Q.

It's probably good to copy the style of old masters, probably more than you already do---the logic being that any activity that provides educational value is always something we could be doing more.

As for plagiarism, I suppose the fine line is somewhere in the gray area between, "Gosh, you sound just like Tony MacMahon" and "Gosh, you sound exactly like track 5 on Tony MacMahon's self-titled CD." If you imitate one specific recording all the way down to the ornaments, you're probably not imitating the musician's style anymore.

Caj


Yop. I like to get tunes from more than one source if possible, it avoids the carbon copy problem.

Remember also that though XYZ may play a tune one way on a recording, s/he may play it totally differently another time. Recording is both proliferating & killing the tradition.

Remember what happened with Michael Coleman's recordings? People played his records rather than playing themselves, and many gave up altogether because they couldn't or didn't play in his Sligo style, which was wrongly thought of for a while as the only way to play. In later life were some of these players coaxed into playing again, by which time of course many had passed their prime & weren't very good anymore. Unfortunately these are the recordings that then got bandied about.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 7:04 am 
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Martin Milner wrote:
Remember also that though XYZ may play a tune one way on a recording, s/he may play it totally differently another time. Recording is both proliferating & killing the tradition.

In fact, it occurs to me that, say, Paddy Keenan might be one of the least likely people to realize you've just ripped off his exact version of a tune from some recording, as he probably plays it different every time AND never listens to his own recordings.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 7:30 am 
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colomon wrote:
Martin Milner wrote:
Remember also that though XYZ may play a tune one way on a recording, s/he may play it totally differently another time. Recording is both proliferating & killing the tradition.

In fact, it occurs to me that, say, Paddy Keenan might be one of the least likely people to realize you've just ripped off his exact version of a tune from some recording, as he probably plays it different every time AND never listens to his own recordings.

Amen to both of you.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 9:42 am 
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Would any of those players get mad? I doubt it. They might be flattered. They might smile indulgently at the enthusiasm of youth. Or they might groan a deep inner groan.

More to the point, what will your peers think when they hear you playing _exactly_ like XYZ? Chances are you won't win much respect from them. I will never forget a session at Willie Week in the early 1990s. I was sitting next to a fine fiddle player from Dublin when an enthusiastic young player from abroad started up a tune. "Oh God, not another Martin Hayes clone!" she sighed.

Give yourself time. There's every chance that a point will come when you know the music well enough and you've lived with a tune for enough years that you will start to play it the way you want to play it, totally (or practically totally) independently of the way you've heard it played on any record. In the meantime, don't worry, just get on with the job. And maybe, when you meet those recording heroes at a session, don't be in a hurry to let them hear your clonings of their work!


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 10:01 am 
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I thought Stevie would also repeat what he has said before, which would guarantee no charge of plagiarism: make up your own tunesets by lots of listening and playing. I feel that its part of the challenge to do so and am proud that the WhiskyTones are playing medleys I came up with. Lots of trial and error though. Sometimes,you think tunes work together but when the whole band tries em, they don't.

But having learned those same McGrattan sets right off the record as Stout, sometimes its harder to separate em after so much listening and groovin' along. You really do expect Tune B to follow Tune A.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 10:08 am 
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StevieJ wrote:
More to the point, what will your peers think when they hear you playing _exactly_ like XYZ? Chances are you won't win much respect from them. I will never forget a session at Willie Week in the early 1990s. I was sitting next to a fine fiddle player from Dublin when an enthusiastic young player from abroad started up a tune. "Oh God, not another Martin Hayes clone!" she sighed.

But how much of this is a function of the popular-flavor-of-the-month? It's one thing to sound like Martin Hayes -- young, popular, very distinctive, and, if I've gathered correctly, perhaps not so traditional. Seems like it would be quite another to sound like, say, Peter Horan, Dennis Murphy, or Micho Russell, no?

And for a constrasting quote:
In Last Night's Fun, Ciaran Carson wrote:
I am so taken by this doppelganger vision that I go up and whisper 'James Kelly' in his ear just as the set is coming to a close. 'You have James to a T', I say. Fred is pleased as a jug of punch, and so am I, for it turns out that hearing James play was what started him off, and we both love James' playing.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 10:14 am 
colomon wrote:
And for a constrasting quote:
In Last Night's Fun, Ciaran Carson wrote:
I am so taken by this doppelganger vision that I go up and whisper 'James Kelly' in his ear just as the set is coming to a close. 'You have James to a T', I say. Fred is pleased as a jug of punch, and so am I, for it turns out that hearing James play was what started him off, and we both love James' playing.


I think he was actually saying your man had caught the spirit of Kelly's playing rather than cloned his recorded tunes and that is quite a different thing.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 11:51 am 
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Well, yes, it's the spirit...
In Last Night's Fun, Ciaran Carson wrote:
...but he is playing this graceful bouncy irish music and I'm trying to put my finger on it -- the set of tunes, the way he bows them and the way he holds himself -- till it strikes me that he mentioned he knew the playing of James Kelly, the Irish fiddler now resident in Miami. And now I can see James in the way Fred sits, how he leans into the tune at some crucial point with a gesture of the shoulder and head, how he signals the onset of the next tune in the series with a dainty semi-pirouette of the foot raised off the ground, as if he made a bracket or a comma.

Given that he moves like James Kelly when he plays, I assume he must have spent some time playing with James, and so probably he doesn't just imitate some recording -- but in the end he's more of a clone than the person who has merely studied the recordings. The difference is that he's a proper clone, playing like James does, rather than a cheap clone who just thoughtlessly repeats something that James did once.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's how "not another Martin Hayes clone" sounds to me -- someone who has spent a lot of time listening and watching Martin Hayes and mimics his style, not necessarily his exact stream of notes.

Actually, really, are there any people out there who mimic exactly a given recording of some tune? I mean, there are lots of recordings I've listened to again and again, and worked to play "like that" -- but I don't think there's a single recording out there that I could play note-for-note all the way through. Heck, I'd be surprised if there were any eight bar passages I could play exactly, though I suppose it might happen by chance occasionally.

Believe me, if someone referred to me as a "Peter Horan clone", I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven... (Not that anyone is going to mistake my playing for his anytime soon!)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 12:58 pm 
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colomon wrote:
The difference is that he's a proper clone, playing like James does, rather than a cheap clone who just thoughtlessly repeats something that James did once.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's how "not another Martin Hayes clone" sounds to me -- someone who has spent a lot of time listening and watching Martin Hayes and mimics his style, not necessarily his exact stream of notes...

Actually, really, are there any people out there who mimic exactly a given recording of some tune? I mean, there are lots of recordings I've listened to again and again, and worked to play "like that" -- but I don't think there's a single recording out there that I could play note-for-note all the way through. Heck, I'd be surprised if there were any eight bar passages I could play exactly, though I suppose it might happen by chance occasionally.


This first is an interesting statement! I think that the word 'clone' implies a level of conscious copying that is not really in the spirit of the tradition. For example, it is obvious from the Carson anecdote that the fiddler in question, while undeniably influenced strongly by James Kelly, was nonetheless not overtly announcing this influence. There is no mention in that instance of ornamentation or note-pattern 'copying'. However, a lot of the time, when people talk about a 'clone' in Ireland, there is an overt, obvious link between the musician in question and the person being 'copied'. (I don't like to use that word, since it is possible - and encouraged, often - to take elements from a variety of musicians and combine them to create one's own style, but I can't think of another right now). For example, I've been to sessions where people have sat down and played all the tracks from a Michael McGoldrick cd, exactly as they occur on the cd, complete with variation and (sometimes) ornamentation. And, while there's nothing wrong with that, and I'm sure McGoldrick wouldn't actually object, I personally feel that, if I make the effort to leave the confines of my room/house and find other musicians, I'd like to play something other than what I've been listening to on cd. :D A variation that sounds wonderful and exciting on the cd will tend to lose its appeal quite quickly when you know that it's coming in the next part, next time 'round, and that it'll be played by people who are more than capable of thinking up and playing their own versions. At least that's my opinion.
I have learned versions of tunes by heart from cds - there's a version of the Cork Hornpipe on 'I Won't Be Afraid Any More' by the now sadly-disbanded Nomos: it's a wonderful track, with so much crazy stuff happening that I just had to figure it out. I can play it along with the cd, perfectly. However, if I know that someone else has done x and y - and z, too! -with this (or any) tune, I won't play it (publicly, that is, and/or solo) unless I can find something to do with it myself, that isn't copying the Nomos version. I can't explain it, really; I've just always felt really uncomfortable about taking other peoples' variations and playing them as my own. Even when I've combined a number of musicians' versions within a tune, I still can't do it. I'm probably crazy. But doing just that is important, not only to learn how to combine variants of tunes, and styles, but also as a way of experimenting with your own variations.

There is a fine line between copying (in the best sense: kind of like :) becoming ;)), and 'cloning' (:) -> :)). In Ireland, trad musicians don't copyright sets or tunes (unless they're the composers), but rather 'arrangements'. While it'd be pretty hard (I would imagine) to claim that someone has exactly copied your arrangement, and very few musicians would take emulation as a bad thing, taking all of tune A from x fiddler, and all of tune B from y piper, and making them your own set, well, that's not so kosher. Sets aren't the issue; consciously copying a tune, phrase for phrase, is where issues of copyright and plagiarism become cloudy - and I don't just mean in the legal sense.

Within Ireland, also, there are issues of regional style. For examply, I'm from Sliabh Luachra, broadly speaking. And I can play quite well in that style. However, if I decided that I wanted to play like Martin Hayes, who plays in a very West Clare style (I hope it's not East, or I'll be shot :o ! ), well, that would raise serious issues for some people, about identity and music. I think that this relates to the 'Martin Hayes clone' comment. There is definitely a sense of choice in terms of how any musician plays. I choose not to play like Brian Finnegan, for example, although he is a wonderful flute player. So choosing to play like probably the most internationally high-profile Irish fiddler may imply for some people that finding the less popular/famous musicians, and more regional styles, and lesser-known tunes, is too much trouble for this player. This is a big assumption, but it is made. So, in short, play like Martin Hayes if you want, but be aware that this may be an issue, and have tunes that (a) you play like someone else, or (b) that MH has never recorded, on hand!

My novel will be out later this week... :oops:

Hope anyone who trawls through this gets something out of it!

Deirdre

Edited to fix slelpnig matskie... :roll:


Last edited by fluter_d on Fri Oct 03, 2003 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 3:10 pm 
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Plenty to get, Deirdre, but paragraph breaks help! :D

I think in large paragraphs and huge parenthetical breaks but it tends to leave the world mystified and sore-eyed when written out. The return key is yer friend.

PS: Mebbe on other Forum, tell us someday how you have found livin in America and MO in particular. I remember when you were wondering about whether to come or not.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2003 7:12 pm 
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The Weekenders wrote:
Plenty to get, Deirdre, but paragraph breaks help! :D

I think in large paragraphs and huge parenthetical breaks but it tends to leave the world mystified and sore-eyed when written out. The return key is yer friend.

PS: Mebbe on other Forum, tell us someday how you have found livin in America and MO in particular. I remember when you were wondering about whether to come or not.


*Intones repeatedly, "The return key is my friend. The return key is my friend. The return key is my friend."*

Yes, I know. I've learned never to count the number of words in any sentence that I ever write. Like that one :P .

To be honest, I probably should have waited to write that post. I was on the way to a session, via dinner out with my family, and there were 5 people (all family members, to make matters worse) sitting behind me making comments about having to leave NOW. I blame that! So, yeah. Anyone who makes it to the end deserves congratulations. I'd offer a prize, but... Nah.

I finally bit the bullet on the 'location' section and stuck MO in there as well as Cork, since I'll be there til next summer! Obviously it was a terrible experience for me. :P :lol:

Hope I haven't offended anyone in that last post - the terminally confused, however, I take no liability for. The lack of paragraph breaks should have acted as sufficient warning! :twisted:

Deirdre


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