Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

The idea of sets in Irish music… you know 2-3 tunes in a row…
sometimes more.

In my "studies" of early American fiddling I found that for dancing it was usually ONE tune traditionally (say pre 1900)—- it seems that in the early 1900s sometimes and only sometimes theyd play 2 tunes together…. but it wasnt common either. (all this based on my limited research.)

Is this similar with Irish music historically? Seems like it must be something relatively new?

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

obviously for dancing you would only play one maybe two tunes. you cant really expect a dancer to be dancing for THAT long, they’d probably keel over!lol!

the reason for longer sets is because playing in sessions you’re playing for your own personal pleasure and not for a dancer so then you have a greater license for set length. for the answer about people recording just one tune at a time maybe (wen there is no dancer) maybe musicians were not used to changing from one tune to another, maybe that was also a factor.

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Sometimes it takes quite a few times through a few tunes to get through all the various parts of a ceilidhe dance, tradmoosic. And if you are doing one of the dances where you cycle through all the different possible partners, it can take a while to get through everyone. So repeats are very much a part of playing for dancers.
I have heard that in the old days, players were more prone to play one tune throughout an entire dance, but that sounds pretty boring to me, not surprised that modern bands go from tune to tune.

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Could have originated in the tradition at the same time as Set Dancing maybe.

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

If you are going on early recordings, there are also the limitations of early recording technology to consider. On wax cylinders and the early 78s, you might only be able to fit a few minutes of music on the recording. This probably may have precluded playing more than one or two tunes, especially if a musician wanted to explore and flesh out variations on the tune(s).

This may or may not be a major contributing factor, but it jumped into my mind as something that may have made a difference.

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

ceolachan? where do you live and what time do you get up in the morning? well anyhow, he’ll be here shortly…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Anybody tried to play one slide through 512 bars? Get’s to you in a while….

S

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

"Is this similar with Irish music historically? Seems like it must be something relatively new?" ~ MH

Yeah, sorry, had to have my morning double espresso…

YES!!! ~ even for bloody long dances, like some of the old country dances ~ & EVERYWHERE in Ireland… & in the big halls and the kitchen and at bridges and crossroads. If you consider the ‘Grand March/Polonais’, even that, just one tune repeated over and over again… And, that includes the Irish in North America too…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

It was not so much the session that introduced ‘sets’ as the ceili bands…as I understand it… So, for dance again…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

512 = 16 x 32 + 8 for a start = 520
Yeah, what’s the problem? RSI?! 8-)

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

I’d love to get a slew of folks together and see if we could pull it off collectively. We might need a qualified nurse present and the proper equipment and lubrication…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

MH, the greater changes here tend to be post 40s, post World War II…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

7.) Sorry gang, the espresso was obviously strong this morning… :-/

8.) Generally, 2 or 3 in a row, at least early on with the ceili bands, would be max…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

It was largely the commercialisation of Irish music that led to tunes being put together. Before this they seemed to be played on their own.

Here’s an example of musicians whose music was learnt pre recording era -

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/mcdonagh.htm

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

9.) Probably also because I’m still cycling up ~

* Sets of Quadrilles / Square Sets ~ the same ‘was’ true, one tune per figure with a break between each figure…

* Early recordings ~ because of those very limitations there was also an attitude of wanting as much as possible within those limitations, so, in that math, the number of tunes was an issue ~ the more, as much as possible as defined by the media, the merrier, and possibly even including what was packed into that short moment of play. It made you feel like you were getting something extra if you got more than one tune per side. But also, those made for dance, often followed the convention of one tune for a dance, like for the Varsovienne, or the old 78 sets produced for the sets of quadrilles, like the various Lancers…

"that sounds pretty boring to me" ~ AlBrown

Nope! ~ I never heard that complaint from any of the old codgers. They loved the music and enjoyed playing it, together or on their own, and for listeners and dancers alike. Some were much more comfortable with dancers present though ~ AND ~ that includes the often maligned "Soldier’s Joy" and "Shoe the Donkey" (Varsovienne)…

Environments ~ In a kitchen or the room of a small house, there is a built in time limit to things. As venues changed, and especially after that damned ‘Dance Hall Act’, and things moved into church halls ~ well ~ some of the dances and the playing for them were extended in time, so facilitating more the welcome of ‘sets’ of tunes. And with the ‘official’ ceili dances, progressive dances like "The Walls of Limerick", "The Seige of Ennis", "Rakes of Mallow", things could go on an on if there was a hall full of couples dancing them all around the hall.

However, in the really large halls where the quadrilles and grand march/polonaise had thier early introduction, one tune per dance or figure was the norm… Some of the largest halls for Irish daning were in America, in New York and Boston as two examples of large populations of emigrant Irish.

"See You at the Hall: Boston’s Golden Era of Irish Music and Dance"
(1940s to the mid 1960s)
Susan Gedutis, with a forward by Mick Moloney
Northeastern University Press, Boston, 2004
ISBN: 1-55553-610-7

The North American influence, Canada & the USA, and not just through recordings, is also a consideration…

& Britain too ~ London, & Scotland….

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Even a 78 of just one tune would be pretty boring without some decent variations. It was possibly this need for a little light and shade to make a recording more interesting that prompted sets?

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

VocalDivaSteed ~ brilliant! ~ I hadn’t come across that recording before or read that review. I’ll have to chase it up if it is still available…

"The McDonaghs of Ballinafad and Friends Play Traditional Music of Sligo"
Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Éireann CL53
http://www.thesession.org/recordings/display/1976

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

There is, as we all must know, a huge difference between being an ‘audience’ (concert/recording) and being a ‘participant’ (musician/dancer)… Sitting on our ass it is easy to be critical, bored ~ and to demand more and more and more…

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Maybe the record producers and engineers had more say in this than we realise?

Posted by .

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Some responded in a way that I was questioning the use of sets… I understand the reasons why its done—- I was getting at when…

Not to ignore all the great posts but this quote by "c" really hits something on the head:

"There is, as we all must know, a huge difference between being an ‘audience’ (concert/recording) and being a ‘participant’ (musician/dancer)… Sitting on our ass it is easy to be critical, bored ~ and to demand more and more and more…"

Depending on the player, a single tune can be very moving even when repeated several times…. (even with no dancer/s) when done poorly, it can be boring, but that is that….

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

"Sitting on our ass" ?

"c" - It’s no wonder you don’t get to sessions often anymore - equestrians just aren’t catered for these days the way they used to be. Might I suggest you get a bicycle?

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

I think "c" has hit on something universal in the "arts"…

When you participate, the music takes on new life…

Even in a "performance setting" someone can be sitting on their ass, yet maybe they have picked up a fiddle at some point in their lives and appreciate what it takes and this leads to appreciation. So in that way they are a participant.

In relation to "sets", in the past a single tune was good enough for the participants and for those hanging around and sitting on their asses watching the music and dnace.., it was good enough or else they would’ve just left.

My view on sets is… I like sets, but I don’t think its always neccesary to play sets. Give me one tune thats well played with spirit and I’m happy just sitting on my ass listening!

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

I’ve got a lovely bicycle, thank you, and I leave the horse tied up outside when I go out…

There is also the ‘vicious circle’ ~ learning tunes from recordings, doing recordings with more than was in the recordings we learned from ~ and on and on… In a social setting, where it’s not just tune after tune and pint after pint, there’s less drive to try to outdo someone else or ourselves, or the keeping up with or trying to better the last recording we were mimicing…

Yes, there is bias, I prefer things more relaxed and with less of the ‘see what I can do’ ~ ‘see what I know’ ~ ‘I’ve got the latest CD full of new tunes and tricks’ about it… To be honest, that does tend to bore me, which is a hard thing to do, as I’m easily entertained, but egos wear away at that, and there are some recordings that get endless praist that grow tiring after a short while, becuase they are so packed with ‘what I can do’ that the music gets a little buried, and some other things I value in this music, like heart and humour, are lost somewhere in the mehanics…

Whew, the espresso must be wearing off… ;-)

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

I guess I was wrong about the old 78s. It doesn’t seem like they were trying to cram in as many tunes as they could, but perhaps that’s because I’m used to longer sets. In India the short recording times left a lot on the chopping block as you could only fit a very bare bones rendition of what you were singing or playing (which could normally go from 10 minutes to a hour or more with extensive improvisation) into 3 minutes or so.

Tune Sets ~ 2 to 3 or more in a row / one at a time

Patrick Kelly from Cree: Fiddle Music
The Family of Patrick Kelly PFKC 001

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/p_kelly.htm

"Patrick preferred to play tunes singly, a factor reinforced possibly perhaps by his resistance to the influence of recorded music (as Barry Taylor notes in another part of the liner). Whatever the case, his fiddle possessed the most beautifully plangent tone and his music has a wonderfully rolling gait. ~

Patrick Kelly from Cree is a glorious testimony to a fiddler who clearly possessed the draoícht. "

Geoff Wallis - 12.10.04

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Yet Kelly did play for example the two Pitchforks, Rambling and Sporting together.

There is a bit of him talking on one of the recordings about how tunes were played ‘single’. he mentions Johnny Doran as one who did, yet again Doran flows in and out of tunes int othe next and back on his only known set of recordings.

It’s not all black and white.

Posted .

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Nope!!!

Re: Pardon my ignorance, and enlighten me….

Personally, I prefer to participate instead of sitting there quietly and listening because I enjoy playing music so much.
Although I am a respectable married man, I am still not "sets" mad.
Merry Highlander, your ignorance is pardoned. Have we managed to enlighten you or do you still feel as if you are in the dark?