Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Irish Traditional Music was the music of ordinary, poorly educated working people, playing for their own pleasure and for dancing. Most of them learned either by simply picking up the instrument and experimenting or by ear. The traditional teaching method was for the master to play a phrase of a tune and the student memorised it, practised and came back several weeks later and played it to the teacher. When he had that phrase mastered he was given the next to learn. In other words, he learned by listening, and copying. Most of the old musicians didn’t know anything about musical theory. They didn’t know what key they were playing in. They didn’t write the music down.
The music came from within the musician – from the soul.

In the past I studied musical theory and when I started to play Irish music I tried to do it from ‘the dots’. But I learned the most important lesson one day when I was jotting down a phrase to help me to remember a new tune. P. Joe Hayes tore strips off me in the nicest possible way and told me that that was not the way to learn. The only way to learn is by ear – the music must come from the soul. I found this hard at first but now I am totally convinced that he was right.

As I said before, the majority of older Irish musicians didn’t know anything about theory. Some of these guys didn’t have perfect intonation or technique. Their music may have had a rough edge but it came from the heart and soul. It made people want to dance. Noel Hill once said “If the dancers’ feet are stuck to the floor [when you play] you can’t play”. A bit of a harsh comment but very true.

I accept that living music develops and moves on and that a lot of good music is now being played but is this at the risk of losing the true tradition to academics, technophiles and commercialism? As Peter Mackey says, traditional music is not accompanied/harmonised/arranged . Classical training may produce brilliant, polished performances which sound wonderful but anyone who thinks this is traditional music is fooling him/herself. Speed may ‘make it exciting’ but it isn’t necessarily authentically traditional. (Come back, Seamus Tansy – all is forgiven) Equally, the restrictions of copyright and licensing threaten the true tradition – how can we allow people to claim copyright for a tune we all know is hundreds of years old? Analysing the music to the nth degree isn’t what it’s about either and it certainly won’t help to produce soul. As Tommy Peoples said one time to a student at the Willy Clancy Summer School when he embarked on a technical explanation of the tune he was about to play “Look – just play the f***ing tune!”

Having read some of the comments on this board I would definitely be put off trying to join in a session outside Ireland since it appears that some contributors don’t see the music as something to be shared and enjoyed by everyone. I was encouraged by some of the most respected older musicians to learn a tune in the session by fingering it quietly and, when I’d got an idea of it, to put the bow to the fiddle and join in sensitively. (‘Sensitively’ being the key word). Siobhan Peoples was quite clear that the session was the place to learn and gain experience. I have played in some of the best sessions in Co. Clare and have always found the musicians encouraging, supportive, welcoming and accepting. I may not be a very good musician or even play authentically but I love the music and tradition dearly and had the good fortune to learn from players who were true bearers of the tradition. I would much rather help others to learn, improve and play from the soul than put people off by suggesting that they must have perfect technique and intonation and know all the tunes perfectly before they can join in.

Sessions are not about a few experts putting on a perfect performance and shutting everyone else out or even about entertaining an audience. Sessions are about exchanging tunes and enjoying playing the music. I accept that there are few real sessions left now in this area. They are being killed by commercialism and personal greed. A few dedicated people are striving to hang on to the tradition I have outlined above by organising gatherings for learners, improvers and more experienced players of all ages – but I fear that we are fighting a losing battle.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Here! Here! Bernie.

I would add though that because the standard of performance is rising at sessions generally there is a requirement for musicians to play the "rolls and cranns etc" to perfection.
Trad. music is by its very nature changing and ever-evolving.

I was at a workshop recently and the teacher (who shall remain nameless) did not know how to do the crann in isolation (but when she played the piece it was clearer). And the rhythm she played with was perfectly in keeping with the piece.

Last night I was at a session where experienced professional musicians were killing their music with speed (as someone once said to me "speed kills"). And I agree.

I could go on but I would like to see what others say.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

i agree 100% with everyone here!

sessions are my favourite places to play, esspecially when there are no eegits who think they’re running the show

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Music to my ears Bernie ! Dots are OK. in their (subordinate) place when you need to check whether you remembered it right.. You can generally tell when a player has been raised on and is addicted to, the dots—I call it Mechanical Music., not from the soul. Noel Hill was exactly right, as was Peter Kennedy who said Folk Dancing was the vertical expression of something you would prefer to do horizontally. Maybe there’s a link there somewhere .

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I also agree, one goes to a session to join in and play and have the craic, experience and experiment. It is also a way of showing off talent, thats my opinion on it anyway!

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Bernie, I mostly agree with you, but not entirely.

First, you dropped too many names! :-) And what you tell us is mostly about Clare musicians. I need to tell you that all the musicians, including those very famous, have quite different opinions about the music they play. Only in Clare I’ve actually met some very old-fashioned players who always teach this music in very systematic ways. Some others, on the contrary, insist that learning techniques in workshops is just bullsh!te.

Second, you can actually enjoy quality sessions in many parts of the world. I’ve joined many sessions in Clare, both in the west and the east, and found they were great. But I’ve also joined countless fantastic, friendly sessions with no eegits in Fermanagh, Antrim, Sligo, Edinburgh, Leeds (West Yorkshire), London, and Tokyo. So don’t be so pessimistic.

But it’s true that people tend to pay too much attention to the techniques (especially rolls) though all those techniques never make you sound traditional. And as you write, people tend to worship some limited number of talented players like gods. I always think that "traditional Irish music is music of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Bernie,
Don’t swear off of sessions outside of Ireland just because of what you hear on this board! Many of us who talk a blue streak about this that and the other thing on the internet are just plain folks, that, when we get together, just want to have fun playing tunes. And I will bet that many of those who rant on the web are meek and mild in person. From what I see where I hang out, the tradition is in no danger of dying.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Sorry I’m back again for another very important point.

This music is still being played in private houses with no black pints and in ceilis with loads of amateur dancers. So I always wonder why many of you try to confine it to pub sessions and gigs (or concerts).

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Music is a metaphor for life.

Folk music (which ITM is) is music of the people. I don’t believe that folk music is exclusively "the music of ordinary, poorly educated working people" - this kind of inverted class snobbery is nothing more than misguided nostalgia.

In the folk tradition I was brought up in, for example, the main players were and are far from poorly educated paupers - they were clockmakers, graduates, teachers, engineers and many were in the favour of the ruling classes of their respective times. No one will convince me this tradition is illigitimate, or in any fatal way inferior to others.

This idea of "losing the tradition to academics and commercialism" is absolutely absurd! To me it conjurs images of bespectacled robe-wearers creeping up on a bothy session to steal the instruments a la Indiana Jones.

The realm of academia is like any other (including that of folk music) in that a person’s endeavor’s will be viewed selectively and subjectively. There are many academics whose work in recording, interpretting and describing various traditions of folk music has been shown to be very useful, not merely by giving others an insight into a fascinating myriad culture of exchange and evolution, but can also be of use to contemporary players.

As for the issue of commerciality, you barely mention it outside you’re title so I can only assume its inclusion is due to the nice, populistic ring it has.

To be honest, your entire post reads as a party political broadcast for the "I remeber when….s". It is not the content itself of your post that irks me, rather the pretense that you actually had a point to make about the negative effects of "academics and commercialism". If that was indeed the case, I’m afraid I’ve missed it (although your anecdotes are lovely).

FMF

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I do respect what Bernie wrote above, but I have to agree with FMF in that it includes some nostalgic bits. And if folk/trad music is "the music of ordinary, poorly educated working people," why do you have to cite authoritative figures or "experts" to support your idea, Bernie. But, otherwise, I mostly agree with you.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Of course nothing can replace the value of growing up in an Irish musical family or community, but I don’t think the tradition is really in any danger. The tools for learning are always evolving, and some of them, i.e. recording devices, are quite helpful. Learning from sheet music has obvious flaws, and anyone who truly understands ITM will point it out, but the people who are using this method are usually far removed from the base where the music was established and they present no threat to the tradition.

Commercialization on the other hand threatens just about everything in a similar way. In the case of ITM it’s a double-edged sword in that it can serve as an ambassador for the music, but at the same time be vulnerable to exploitation and could become the music’s assassin as well. But having said that you’ll always find legions of aficionados who collect the best examples on whatever the current media is and help to disseminate the music to interested individuals wherever they might be.

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“I accept that living music develops and moves on and that a lot of good music is now being played but is this at the risk of losing the true tradition to academics, technophiles and commercialism?”

Well, there’s always that risk in any tradition that has commercial possibilities, but history suggests that a tradition may be bent, but probably not broken by those influences.

I’ve observed and participated in the American folk music revival for about fifty years and I sincerely believe that the present vitality of so many strands of American trad music owes a lot to the academics, technophiles and commercializers as well as to the folks who kept playing and singing the stuff for the same reasons folks did in the past. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of crap tossed around over the years, just that I wouldn’t worry too much about losing the true religion to those forces. I think, in the long run, they enable the core tradition more than they hurt it. Besides, they’re inevitable.

But I won’t stop rolling my eyes at crass commercialism, or throwing rocks at elitism, or laughing at absurd academic imperialism.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I agree Bob.

Music is tougher than you think. If ITM survived British suppression in 1800s and 1900s, do you think "Riverdance" is going to do it in?

The worst danger IMHO opinion is that new players will think you need to go to some "Quiet Man" Irish village to learn to the play this stuff at the foot of some grizzled master… oh wait. That’s exactly the kind of picture-postcard ideal being espoused by the thread author, who apparently discounts Ceol Rince/O’Neills and CDs as sources of learning. Well, Good on You if you have those cats in your neighborhood, but they’re kind of in short supply where I live.

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"that’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of crap tossed around".. exactly. And I think that’s what some people are overreacting to. It doesn’t mean the whole genre is being ruined ( e.g. the "Celtic" label ). I just wish everyone who approached this music did it with respect for the tradition- even when they plan to thwart that norm.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I hope you’re not suggesting that all commercialism is bad for the music. Otherwise we’ll have to ditch all the great old recordings by Coleman, Killoran, etc., which were and are commercially produced.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

In 1996, this is what Tony MacMahon, the renown traditional musician from Clare, had to say about commercialism and tradition: http://www.thepuredrop.info/passion.html

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

What?!!? said "Was going to add: in the absence of an audience based on a community, in much of Ireland as well as further afield, everything we do is dislocated and in a sense false."

I’ve also been bothered by this for a long time. We have completely lost the context in which this music was formed. The world and people’s lives have changed so much. And whenever I’m sitting around in a pub playing with people I’ve only known for a few years and have nothing in common with but the music, this very though comes to mind. Not that it isn’t fun to do, but it does make me feel like I’m in a "period drama" or something. Doesn’t make me stop going to sessions but it can be…uncomfortable. Add to this the incredulous people who sometimes stop to listen and ask questions about the instruments and what sort of music we’re playing and it can get to feeling surreal ;-)

Will I stop playing because of this? No. I’ve been obsessed with this music for too long and enjoy it far too much.

As to the idea that learning only by ear from the older players is the only "authentic" way to learn tunes, I have to say that I’ve read enough interviews with people from that era to know that many of them used and learned from sheet music and recordings. So, I don’t worry about using those types of sources being "inauthentic". I think the attitude then was to learn the tunes however you could! If it was good enough for the likes of these people it’s good enough for me.

I should also add that in Clare, I imagine things are very different and much closer to the original situation than in other places. So academics and commercialism may seem like a bigger threat than inauthenticity.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

So, why don’t you stop quoting a limited number of "masters" or "experts" of this music? If you really think this is the music of the humble people, why do you quote those "authoritative"? It’s just Tony McMahon’s very personal opinion. Just think about this topic yourself and put your own thoughts here.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Does this "worship of authority" come from academics, or something religious?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Go Slainte ;-)

"P. Joe Hayes tore strips off me in the nicest possible way and told me…"

"Noel Hill once said…"

"As Peter Mackey says…"

"Speed may ‘make it exciting’ but it isn’t necessarily authentically traditional. (Come back, Seamus Tansy – all is forgiven)" [I especially like that one]

"As Tommy Peoples said one time to a student at the Willy Clancy Summer School…"

"Siobhan Peoples was quite clear that…"

Bernie, I award you the Dow Prize for Pathetic Name-dropping 2006. I’m giving it to you now because I think it’s unlikely that anyone could beat you before 2007 comes around.

I love the irony in the fact that you criticize academics for ruining the music and then you write a post that reads like an academic essay.

I also love the condescending classist bits of your post, which are even funnier given that I’m sure you didn’t mean them to be condescending and classist.

I also love the bit about the poorly educated master and pupil and their traditional methods - very kung fu. Oh what innocent times and what beautiful imaginary people! Can you write us something a bit more nostalgic and romantic next time? Maybe you could drop in some quotes about swirling celtic mists and low caste shepherds teasing plaintive melodies from their fiddles whilst watching their herd of cattle grazing fields of vivid green. Lovely stuff - keep it coming!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Christine says: "I should also add that in Clare, I imagine things are very different and much closer to the original situation than in other places."

I disagree with this. The fact is, many musicians residing and playing in Clare originally come from different counties or entirely different countries. For example, read Bernie’s profile. County Clare is generally regarded as an icon of "traditional" Irish music, but it’s no "purer" than anywhere else. The scene there is supported by those from many other places. Don’t be so nostalgic.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

herdsmen! Heh, I wouldn’t make much of an academic would I? :-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Come on, Ptarmigan, Ceolachan, and Mr. Gill! I believe you share similar views with me.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

But Slainte, I only just started quoting.

I quoted Tony Mac Mahon because I thought some people would be interested to know what he thought. That you would choose trying to use the quote as a bludgeon is just a bonus.

If anyone would know about the worship of authority coming from academics it would be you, Slainte, or maybe Dow. So I’ll defer to your opinions.

My opinion is that if I could learn the music without writing it down, but instead by just hearing it, feeling it, remembering it and then expressing it, that’s what I’d like.

What other people do and what their opinions are is up to them.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"What other people do and what their opinions are is up to them."

Why did you just slam ceolachan’s tune submission if what he does is up to him? ‘,: - /

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Laitch, you’re right. The criticism of academics comes from academics. But I don’t think your quote of Tony Mac Mahon (accidentally from Co. Clare) was really necessary, simply because that’s what Bernie has already done. As you Dow says, you can’t beat Bernie.

Needless to say, many thanks to Dow, FMF, Jack, KC Gross, Bob, and all the others for your clarification. Now, I’m off.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I was asked for my opinion and gave it, Dow, you know, like you do.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Hmm, yeah, how about you post us a tune one of these days so I can give you my opinion.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I’ve posted three. Fire away.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Okay, here it is. Ceolachan has posted 144 tunes from a wide variety of sources. Why don’t you have a look at each one and read the huge volume of information he’s written about his source, the dances that go with the tunes, ideas for variations, and gain an understanding of the way he views the tradition and his own place in it. Read all of it and absorb it and understand it, and appreciate his generosity in sharing everything he’s learnt over the years with people he doesn’t even know. Then read what you wrote to him on his and understand how it comes across. That’s all.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

You’re right Slainte. I am nostalgic, though I’m working on being less so. See, that’s what comes from reading books about Ireland but never actually *going* to Ireland ;-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

OK, here it is, Dow.
Save the lecturing for your awestruck undergrads.
I’m not moved by your righteousness either. I was commenting on the tune, not the contributor.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I could have had respect for your comment if it *had* been just about the tune, but it had nothing to do with the tune. But you can go ahead and kid yourself otherwise if it pleases you.

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Your inferences are your own, Dow, and I can’t think of anything for which I need your "go ahead."

I admire your loyalty though.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

It’s nothing to do with loyalty, it’s this thing called "respect".

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You are sooo dramatic. Thanks. I only get one television channel up here.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

You’re welcome. Anything to make your life less miserable.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Coffee anyone… tea?

Re: Are we losing it??????????

Do you have an espresso, maybe with a shot of something knee wobbling… Ah, thanks you cute little button you…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Well, coffee is an adult beverage you realize. ;-)

Re: Are we losing it??????????

Whoa! ~ you really do blush bright don’t you. Come ‘ere an less havuh ‘ug ~

Re: Are we losing it??????????

Yuck!, a sloppy kiss and beard burn… No thanks button, no matter how cute you might be…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Get away from me with your beery kisses. yek! :¬P

Re: Are we losing it??????????

How’d I get in this room, I was looking for the loo… Hey you, where’s the jacks?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Hardy har har…

Re: Are we losing it??????????

At least a kiss from me means you get beard burn in return yurself… ;-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Whu?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I ain’t no baby bear!

Losing it completely ~

Heh, heh, heh!!! Come ere ye cutey… Gi us a smooch ~

Re: we lost it…

Ok… g’night sports fans… this beard’s going to sleep.

Sawdust on the floor ~ and blood and vomit ~ they leave the room ~

Wait up…

The ‘Phantom’ turned before leaving,

~ gave the buxom bar maid a smile, and in a pre-quake rumble, "Sorry ~ about the mess miss." He walked over to one of the bodies near the bar, stopped a fist just before contact, and reached down and pulled out a wallet. The owner just kept mumbling on and shouting out obscenities in between heaves on an already empty stomach… ‘Button’ then took out two twenties and a tenner and slid them under one of the mayo jars serving as beer steins. "Danke!", the maid smiled back. "Bitte!" replied the ‘Phantom’…

There was movement from one of the tables in the far corner of the pub, and a groan. "Hey button, wait", Ceol turned him around. "What about that little Mexican dude in the corner. They’ve laid into him really bad."

"Yeah, but from the looks of it he put up a damned good fight."

"Maybe we should take him with us?"

The two made their way carefully over to the bundle in the corner, doing their best not to slide on the slick slime of sick and sawdust and beer covering the floor. Ceol reached out to comfort the man, but he started flailing about and shouting what must have been obscenities.

"That’s not Spanish!", Button pulled Ceol back.

"No, but the intent is definitely international." Ceol approached the man again, took a whack upside the head by a swinging flute. "Hey, that hurt. We’re friends." He said very slowly in a raised voice, holding his hands out to ward off any more swings.

They each took either side of the man and hoisted him up, most of the stink having been drained in the fray, and carried him out through the swinging doors of the bar.

"That’s the last time I join a session in a country-western strip club."

"Yeah, me too." said Button, "But there was some damned fine ass in there."

"Cool it with that, we’re both married." whispered Ceol, as if anyone but the three of them could hear it… The little Mexican dude had passed out anyway…

"What was that lingo he was speaking?" Ceol asked Button. I thought they only spoke Spanish in Mexico.

The sun was rising and the birds began to sing as the three of them disappeared down the road looking for Button’s semi…

There was a shout, some skinny dude in a baseball cap with what was obviously a concertina and some oversized guitar like box came running out of the bar after them, "Wait for me!"

"Damn!", exhaled Button, not an English concertina. The Mexican was awake and heard that and started laughing quietly and deeply to himself. The other two considered picking up the pace and running…

"Ah, what the hell." They both said simultaneously with a wry grin…

;-)

"Ce sera tout?"

Re: Are we losing the tradition to fiction, mythology and multi-nationals?

Vous avez la etendement pour nous, s’il vous plait?

(Yeah, I know, my French is awful, but at least I give it a try once in awhile…)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to fiction, mythology and multi-nationals?

Sorry gang, I know, I strayed, and it was a bit short of respect. So, in order to make amends, and followed by a quote, if I can find one somewhere, here goes ~

Illiterate
Rolls and other twiddles

To start ~ ‘traditions’ with a plural ~ so as not to take away from others…and as slainte so wisely added, not all pub bound, in that ‘box’ that post ‘Dance Hall Act’ (‘30’s) and post-WW II Ireland seemed to have force the music into. And not forgetting those other commercially lead ‘traditions’ of concert, exhibition and competition…and not neglecting those other very influential mediums…

Music ‘of the people’, yes, but increasingly what was once more open has in some instances tended to become more exclusive ~ under the guidance and dominance of that ever growing ‘class’ of folk, the ‘middle class’. Sometimes I’ve even see the old bearers, the ‘sources’, being forced to the sidelines. Sometimes that’s because their way with it is just not polished enough for the new elite, or they play too slow, or they don’t play tunes in sets… I did say, and intending to emphasize with repetition ~ ‘sometimes’…
Not every flame generated from the frictions and fantasies of the 60’s (and other times too, including the present) burns for the good…for light and warmth… Some of those passions consume the object of their attention, but not always with intent or with awareness of the damage being done. I enjoyed the read ‘folkmasterflex’… Any ‘academics’ I’ve known beyond just a hello or a book or article, carrying a ‘flame’ ~ they all had a passion to see their love for it grow in others, a passion to pass on the flame. Now I could get all California on you and paint a picture of a bunch of folks with candles, and only one with a flame, and they light those near them, and the light spreads. Damn it, I’ve dropped mine… Those academics appreciated the thing alive and the last thing they want is to see it pinned to a board in a drawer in a mouldy ol’ museum, or scribbled out with the highest accuracy, Laban for movement, gotta get that bow arm angle and speed just right, every nuance made into a squiggle or dot on a page ~ hardly, far from it. All I’ve know were also musicians and very good listeners… Most were open and sharing and promoting of the thing they loved and had chosen for their life’s focus.

The only stingy basturds I ever came across were the ill informed, those caught up in myths and their own narrow view on the world and the music that possessed them and that they wanted to possess, those who had cultivated a strong and exclusive dogma based on ignorance… Now they definitely put folks off, especially beginners. No ‘folklorist’ I’ve had the pleasure of knowing would do that. They know the value to their studies of an open mind… Though we all slip there at times and foget to open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in… If by some chance they did fail in this way and put off a beginner or anothers passion, well, they usually felt like shight from the guilt, sometimes for a long time afterwards… One truism in this realm, is you at least know the concept intimately of learning from one’s mistakes. ‘Academics’ / ‘Folklorists, work hard to keep us connected to the roots of our traditions, whichever path we choose to follow. But they are also about raising questions and stimulating discussion, as is the case here… If anyone questions their profession and motives, well, it is the academic, the respected norm of that tag…though not all follow the creed. I suppose they make other uncomfortable when they are responsible, in part or in whole, in shattering myths ~ no shortage there. This is the nature of inquiry. Even the ‘academic’ can feel a bit of a painful twinge when such revelations cause them to reconsider preconceptions, or long held and affectionately held beliefs…but their nature is to inquire, to question, to challenge those things in order to test their mettle… For those so posessed, it never deadens the life found in the subject, in only animates it more, and the intent, for most, is to see it alive, to see that animation take hold in others, in making and appreciating the life of this shared passion…

‘folkmasterflex’ ~ Bernie did get this discussion going, and that does take some bravery, putting oneself on the line. Sometimes, bravery can be bolstered with qoutes… What better way to work to dissipate a fog than to disperse it with discussion… Just so long as it is ‘discussion’… But, Bernie, all of your ‘sources’ are very literate where music is concerned…

What academics and even the commercial distribution of a ‘tradition’ do is give it value where sometimes the sources might even have felt threatened or inadequate previously. Fads are not a new thing, and when jitterbug and swing came to Eire, it was embraced, as was Texas style line-dancing, whether some of you like that or not… These didn’t change those traditional musicians that dipped their toes in, quite a few actually. The ones who were present at the time, especially before the great changes that came after the World Wars…in waves, didn’t have a problem with the ‘new’, at least most of them didn’t… The few who did, as complainers tend to do when in the minority, made a big stink about it all. When a bloke, a ‘folklorist’/’academic’, with a funny accent and dressed possibly odd, with quirky ways about him, and I’m including Seamus Ennis here, comes in and shows a passion for what you’re doing and have been doing for ages, well, I can tell you from experience, it is generally smiles all around, and laughter, and of course some pain and tears too. Suddenly some alien visitor has increased the value and worth or who you are and what you do, and it does a great thing for the heart and soul.

Both interestst, academic and commercial, can give a thing a boost. That isn’t taking away from the threat either can also pose, of making something ‘academic’, or ‘commercial’. I don’t worry too much about that because of the basic nature of us humans. We are varied. The loss for some of us is that we become focused on the music or dance and the technique, sometimes to the loss of the soul behind it all ~ the humour, the hospitality, the open and welcome nature that has mostly been the content of how I’ve had it shared with me over time, that ‘lighted’ candle. I keep saying it, but I’ll say it again, it was never about music or dance ~ that was rarely the main draw. It was about people and community, and I will say, amongst the most welcomed seasonings to be added were music and dance, but also story telling, song, and most especially ~ chat and a good laugh. It is this context that really gives one strength in hard times, whatever hard times might catch us out, collectively or singly, whatever our backgrounds or professions…

That well fertilized earth, that healthy brew underlying it all, that is the ‘soul’ that academics might threaten, out of context, and the ‘commercial’ bolstering of the ‘hot shots’ and the ‘new’ might be even more capable of colouring that out of the picture? Again, by ‘commercial’ I don’t just mean the recordings, I mean all the hype that surrounds that idea ~ including performance, exhibition, competition, organization, adrenalin… Hey, nowadays there are ‘folk’ recordings done and doctored digitally that result in something that can never be emulated by the recording artist in a live situation. Hell, even their instrument of choice, acoustically speaking, is incapable of some of those digital creations… Now that can be scary, but it is fun too. I prefer though to keep with the Cape Breton ideal, it has to have ‘dirt’ in it… I think it comes down to your ‘reasons’, your ‘choices’, with regards to being involved in one of the various niches of this music (and/or dance)… You’ve a lot to choose from, part of the signs of a healthy and living thing, it adapts… I personally prefer a good mix, all sorts, meaning a lot of different characters, so there is more to communicate and share and understand than just the music…

How you learn a thing is important, I would worry if it is just ‘technique’ and tunes you’re focusing on accumulating. That’s where the teacher or source is very important. I’d be wary of someone who doesn’t have their heart and humour in it, and patience, and an openness and welcome about them… I know from experience that there are a lot of those sorts out there, passing on more than just a line of notes and acrobatic twiddles, folks giving a bit of their heart in the transfer, their empathy and understanding. I’ve seen a class full of people learn impatience and it ain’t pretty, especially when you see it surface in their interactions with themselves or others, but especially turned on themselves. I’ve mostly had the pleasure of seeing the exchange when the heart is transferred along with the music, with humour, seeing patience and understanding passing on to others, like a flu, but a very appreciated and healthy sort of virus…good for the music, good and nurturing for the soul…

I like the ref to Neillie Boyle, someone who also like the dance band music…and was a damned good musician and had a stock of the unusual in his repertoire, though not necessarily unusual to Donegal…like the ‘Germans’ (= barndance / schottische)… He had a wide appreciation of the musics of the world…including America…

So, the quote to finish with, from someone I respect, also a good teacher, but someone for whom depression took hold and quashed his music making for a time, but he has his own slant on that. I see it as being all the work he was doing ‘commercially’, for example through Comhaltas and RTE ~ he lost heart for a spell ~ he lost connection. I’m glad he’s back to making music again, and I hope he has found balance and can relax into it and enjoy it outside of any other possible responsibilities or concerns. Anyway, to steal a quote from Laitch’s link:



"I’d also like to say that opinions I express on this subject are my own and are based on my many years apprenticeship as a listener to musicians and singers whose paths I was fortunate to cross in my life. Much of what I have to say is based on what I have observed and learned from them. They were people of artistic modesty and generosity of spirit, larger-than-life characters who inspired us, taught us and lit up our lives."

"THE LANGUAGE OF PASSION" ~ A Paper by Tony Mac Mahon
Crossroads Conference, Temple Bar, Dublin, 19 April 1996
http://www.thepuredrop.info/passion.html

:-p

It’s Hiro’s fault. He waved the flag and made me do this. Besidee, after stomping around here like a donkey in a flute workshop ~ like I said, I had to make amends, with respect for the earlier contributions…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Wow, Record setting name dropping, bickering, romance, and a highjack that became epic fiction. Not to mention some very heartfelt and meaningful discussion of a serious topic. This thread has it all!!!!!

Where yuh been Al? Let’s hear your take on it, just to soften my blow… ;-)

"I am a firm believer in the fact that traditional music is the people’s music (that’s why they call it folk music), and it is all about participation—we should be welcoming and encouraging to all (although also not be afraid to politely encourage beginners toward listening and lessons)."

~ AlBrown

Damn, another quotation and name dropping…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I agree with Bernie. The Irish Tradition is going, slowly but surely. For example, Classical training and learning Irish Traditional Music can cause "habits" to make the slighest change without the player or listener realising, it’s like evolution. When I personally think of Irish Traditional Music, I can see a big open fire, every one having a "few pints", a few songs and one person teaching and educating the other with how they play and master their piece in a group. not by going into a work shop and being taught a simple song on the Whistle or what ever instrument it may be.

4 years ago when I was studying Irish Traditional Music, I studied Sean Nós, now i’m not going off the topic but stating my point. For aural and oral examinations we have to listen and sing in this beautiful and original style, but where does one hear it now, it’s not Sean Nos we hear, its trained voices, no nasalisation, ornamentation. Maybe the styles do vary around Ireland conforming near to the different dialects of Irish in different regions which is acceptable, but not some Tom Dick or Harry with a classically trained voice sitting down to sing an "Irish Song" in English, French or Latin when it’s IRISH!!! Purists insist that Irish song written in foreign cannot be regarded. Even years ago, people who could not read or write, how did they learnmusic and song but through ear, not by sheet music.

As for Co. Clare, it has to be the most beautiful county in Ireland. It’s natural and the people keep it that way as well as holding on to the Irish Tradition of how Irish music is sang and played, only when you have travelled and lived in Ireland all your life you see that, now I’m not knocking people who are Irish, living in Ireland or abroad saying they don’t know or appreciate their own country but that is my opinion on how we are losing our tradition.

You’ve just reminded me of experiences I’ve suppressed, for sanity’s sake ~ ‘classically trained’ folks professing to sing ‘sean nos’ and warbling it ~ meaing vibrato ~ A~A~A~A~A~A~A~A~AAAAAA!!!
(Good, got rid of that damned warble…)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

‘The music of ordinary, poorly educated working people’ eh? I doubt if that epithet could apply to Turlough O’Carolan in the early 18th century [see http://www.contemplator.com/carolan/complt.html#top] and certainly doesn’t apply to some of our current composers of the music - Charlie Lennon for one. [Isn’t he a nuclear physicist or something?]

And theses poor oafs, of course, couldn’t read or write music. But sure wasn’t O’Neill a cop? Hardly what one would describe as an academic. Have a look here at an article by Donal O’Connor http://www.comhaltas.com/education/Treoir/2001Tr1/Collectors.htm as this details the fact that the recording of the tunes in manuscript is about 300 years old!

Sharontheflute could probably cast some light on the subject too given that she transcribed the Gunn collection of tunes, collected in the 19th century, for the Hidden Fermanagh collection.

And as for commercialism being the ruination of the music - there are probably more tunes to be had in Belfast now than anytime since the mid 70’s and bloody good luck to them too. This means that many musicians can actually make a living out of their music!

Nuff said :-)

Ola Breandan! ~ not forgetting the Roche collection of course…or that other Breandan who was a fine appreciative audience to all…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Donal does mention the Roche collection in his article but the most imressive has to be Breandan Breathnach with over 7000 tunes collected!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

By the way, earlier in the thread, did anyone but me notice when Dow talked about the simple shepherds watching over their cattle?????? That sure tickled me.

Regarding the topic, all musical traditions are constantly in motion, and for the last century, all "folk" music has been both undermined and propogated by recorded music. Many have warned that recorded music will kill live music. But despite this, people still get together to sing and play.

What we call ITM is a relatively recent development, with many of the ‘traditional’ instruments (tin whistles, button boxes, banjos) arriving in the 19th Century. Much of the seminal recorded and notated ITM came from America (Michael Coleman recordings, O’Neill’s massive book). Around the world, many people have adopted (sometimes loosely) the trappings and tunes of the Irish session. So things have been, and will be, changing.

What amazes me is, despite all these pushes and pulls, that the music survives, and is shared, and is enjoyed, around the world. And as it survives, it changes—because the only things that do not change are dead.

So instead of cowering with fear at the evil forces of the academy, and the marketplace, let’s get together, draw a few pints, get out our instruments, kick up our heels, and have some fun!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"So instead of cowering with fear at the evil forces of the academy, and the marketplace, let’s get together, draw a few pints, get out our instruments, kick up our heels, and have some fun!"

We would but it’s a closed session! Advanced players only.

Recipe: 1 thriving Irish American city (Boston)
1 thriving Jazz college
Just add water

Yuk!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I give up, I think I’ll start a good debate off.

Is it tomato (tom-at-o) or tomato (tom-ay-to)?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I just have to say ….

"BERNIE LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE STARTED!!!"

It will be a mighty discussion for Thursday night!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

saltcast,
I hate closed sessions too—they shouldn’t even advertise them as sessions.
But there are alternatives:
There is a great open session at Patrick’s pub in Providence, RI, less than an hour down the road from Boston, Tuesday nights at 8PM—see the Session listing for more details.
And there are plenty of gatherings for musicians at all levels at the Greenbriar and CCE lessons and events, where you could get to know people to play with.
And certainly, you must have a kitchen, or know someone else who has one.
The glass is half full!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

To answer the question in one word— NO !
Academics being what they are will always look for (and occasionally find )hidden qualities in their dissection—this adds nothing to the inherent satisfaction and fulfillment obtained by the musician absorbed in learning and improving knowledge and skill in ITM. Mammon alas is,like the poor,always with us. How do we turn it to our advantage?
PS. This thread is proof, if needed, that no-one need worry about the future "ownership" of the tradition.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

There is no "ownership" of any tradition, music has developed thousands of years ago and broken into many different forms. No one will ever claim they "own" ITM, the same as no one will ever say they "own" African music.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Something that keeps coming up in these threads is the concept of ‘learning from sheet music’, as though it’s some sort of evil practice that has infiltrated from those rigid and stuffy classical people. Looking at most classical scores, I can’t imagine ‘learning’ anything from them, they are much too complicated. And as for Jazz, well, the written score is a fairly pale crib-sheet at best. You can, however, learn traditional tunes from sheet music, provided you understand the idiom. As in jazz, it’s a crib sheet.
Bernie says, "The only way to learn is by ear – the music must come from the soul." But surely how the music gets INTO the soul is of less import(?)
His rant against ‘progess’ (losing the true tradition to academics, technophiles and commercialism) is in many ways laudable. The idea that progress per se is in itself a desirable thing is highly debatable. As Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto: "The Bourgeousie has stripped of it’s halo every activity hithero honoured and looked up to in reverent awe. It has transformed the doctor, the lawyer, the priest, the poet (The Musician?), the man of science, into it’s paid wage-laborers". As such, Bernie’s rant could be construed as a tirade against alienation.
However, at the end of the day, it is patently flawed. Traditional music, rather than being a set of ancient tunes and techniques that need guarding, is a jumping and lively scene full of young people and new tunes building on the foundations laid down by the old guys.
That’s good, isn’t it?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Al’s response to Saltcast illustrates an interesting point. We may not be losing the tradition, but we may not have access to it in the same way that we did in the recent past. Some of us came to rely on sessions as a place to learn music, to share music. With paid sessions and session-performances, the interaction between musicians changes. Perhaps this is what Bernie means by commercialism.

All of this does not mean that traditional music dies.

Posted by .

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"I give up, I think I’ll start a good debate off.

Is it tomato (tom-at-o) or tomato (tom-ay-to)?"

Don’t be silly. It’s t’mayter.

Not to be ‘academic’ about this, but ~

"I say tomayto, you say tomahto" ~ Sam Cox
http://lamar.colostate.edu/~samcox/Tomato.html

I say tomatillo ~ best thing for salsas and moles…but I love the rest of the family as well, however you might say it…
http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/vegetables/tomatill.html

Agisim is killing traditional music and musicians ~
Well, the later we can’t doubt, but damn you Ottery, I was glad to see you jump in, until you said it was full of "young people and new tunes"… Don’t we oldies count? ~ And some of us are still jumping and lively, if guarded about it a little, oh me back ~ and some things ‘new’ are still being generated by the older set too… You aren’t that young yourself are you?

Hold off on repeating poor Dow’s comment about the shepherds of ITM, poor lad, he was raised up by wolves and then nuns… That’s a bad mix, so don’t embarrass the lad, he might change, and isn’t it the time of the full moon round about now?

I’m glad the sanity of "Yuk!" followed your recipe Saltcast…but, I like Boston…and I have on occassion heard a few folk combine those two elements of Irish music and jazz with soul… So, is your name telling, to you actually do salt casting?

Considering the quick aside with regards to African music, well, now we are into a huge and varied canvas, best to leave that one alone for the future African music site… If you know one, share it with us…

Damn Sarfly, is it Thursday already, I must have fallen asleep…

That’s all just to let you know, I’m ‘lurking’… :-P

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I’m old, ‘tis true.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Remote Threats to ITM:

1) Productions like “Riverdance” being very popular and introducing or altering people’s perception of what "traditional Irish music and dance" is.

The result: people approaching musicians who are actually playing ITM very nicely and asking them if they know any of the "real Irish music" like what they heard at Riverdance.


2) Bands in areas far removed from the source that do cheap imitations of experimental Irish trad bands and have success playing to an audience that is uneducated about ITM.

The result: people who have no previous exposure to ITM will be convinced that this is ITM and when they hear the actual music will think it’s not the "real Irish music." (I’ve seen this too)


3) Musicians inventing their own technique before ever bothering to learn the established technique.

The result: these musicians might gain an audience and enjoy some success for playing what is essentially their own made up version of ITM and then be asked to give workshops and such thus disseminating their made up technique that masquerades as the real thing to clueless people who might be sincerely interested in learning ITM.


~~~

These threats only happen in remote locations far away from Ireland. The Irish music phenomenon is spreading the music around the globe, but there are limited threats along the way. Thank God the music is being well looked after in places like Clare so that people will still be able to trace ITM back to its source and appreciate the distinction that has given this music it’s ageless depth and beauty.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Yes to ceolachan’s question: I cast flies into the saltwiter. We have a world class striper fishery here in Massachusetts. I tie my own too. You fish?

As for Boston trad: we just finished our big fest here known as Boston Connections. They try hard, they had a great list of the top performers from Ireland and elsewhere. Problem was: every tent I went to I heard jazz (well mostly). It seems very few want to do good solid trad with a lively feel. "New" doesn’t have to mean swingy synchopated rythems all the time. I can handle progressive wings of any tradition, but the sychopated rythem is big YUK , to me anyways. To each his own. I mean the states is the birthplacce of jazz-we didn’t mean for it to be fused with every gosh darn form of music on the planet.
You should here the bluegrass swing here too. You have to go out to the country to learn how NOT to swing . I’m dead serious.
I say can the jazz and let Irish music evolve without it. ;)

Salt

So, can you play “Riverdance”? And where the hell are the big drums?

Hey Button, your awake!!! Damn, that beard burn has gone a bit scabby. Sorry about that…

About Clare, you wouldn’t believe how popular linedancing became. It’s been awhile, but last time I was there I must hav seen a dozen classes, something for every night of the week…

YEEHA!!! Where’s my snakeskin boots and that pearly buttoned shirt…

(It’s the asthma and hay fever medication… I’m probably not supposed to mix it with alcohol?)

So, can you play “Riverdance”? And where the hell are the big drums?

Wow Saltcast, that sound dire. The only ones I’ve known who did good fusion of any sort were already really good at the Irish from the start. They mostly played solid, but they liked to light the occassional fuse as well. The ones, and I will agree they are in the majority of those-who-fuse, who haven’t a hold on the Irish anyway and then try fusing with other things, mabye to cover up inadequacies, are as expected ~ XXXX!!!! They give it all a bad name.

I miss fishing. I used to do it, but that was to eat what I caught. Every place is different. I haven’t done much fishing for awhile now, just look longingly when something jumps or touches the surface or someone else has a rod and bucket… My favourite places are high lakes, where the fish is never from a fishery, and that cold raised flesh is superb… I never got into making my own flies, but had a few short experiences there. I’m sure I would have caught the bug under the guidance of the right folks… I mostly used hooks and traps…bait and lures…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Ya but would you tie the "traditional" flies? or those new progressive types of flies with chartreuse in them. I think we are loosing the tradition in fly fishing too. Ever since the movie"A River Runs Through it" (A River-dancer runs through it) every one wants to sign up for an Orvis class and look good waiving the big stick.
We should close the sessions…, er I mean rivers to only those who fly cast the right way.

Salt

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Salt, I was at the Irish Connections fest myself (on Sunday, after the Great Rains ended), and I know what you mean. You can hear a lot of funky accompaniment, and a lot of groups that only have one foot inside the tradition, at a gathering like that. But I thought this year’s Irish Connections festival did a good job of picking musicians—I have been to previous incarnations of that festival, and other festivals in New England, that had a much less palatable mix of music.

And along with the more contemporary stuff, we also heard a group of 12-16 year old kids playing together in one tent, and spent some time at the CCE dance tent, listening to the good old fashioned ceilidhe bands. [Although some of the newcomers probably wondered why the CCE band was playing with a drum set, instead of the "more authentic" bodhran (ha ha).] And we went to see Liz Carroll in the "Burren" tent, and found her in fine form, and as usual, sharing the spotlight with others more than taking the lead herself (she is as modest as she is brilliant).

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I’m just back from a bath after work. I actually disagree with what "Phantom" wrote above: "These threats only happen in remote locations far away from Ireland. The Irish music phenomenon is spreading the music around the globe, but there are limited threats along the way. Thank God the music is being well looked after in places like Clare so that people will still be able to trace ITM back to its source and appreciate the distinction that has given this music it’s ageless depth and beauty."

The fact is, loads of Irish people, including those in Co. Clare, have come to know the traditional music of their own country only through the shows like "Riverdance" and the recordings like "Popular Irish Pub Songs." I’ve met not a few native Irishmen who haven’t had any access to their music. How shocking this is….

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Ah, come back, Bernie. You set this big table, and we all flocked here waiting for you. Why not join us for a lovely chat over some pints?

I’m going to bed now. G’Night!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Al: I disagree (just my opinion, take it or leave it but) I saw Liz Carrol and John Doyle. I like both of them but it was sh*te. John was pushing the envelope too far, overplaying to death. Usually I like him. Liz may as well have been Bela Fleck. Too much, too fast, too swingy (I feel like Simon on Idol now thanks) . Then it took them 45 mins to set up the mighty Solas for another round of oversynchopated sh*te. Over to the Burren tent then to hear Angeline the Baker done in full swing beat. Appalacian Jazz- nice. The one thing I enjoyed was Sean Doyle sean nos songs on friday night. Nice guy too. Oh and I always love Larry Reynolds and company at CCE, who else has done more for the trad in this city?
I think the kids you refered to were the New Boston Ceili Band. They were very enjoyable.

Salt

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

“About Clare, you wouldn’t believe how popular linedancing became. It’s been awhile, but last time I was there I must hav seen a dozen classes, something for every night of the week…”

Wow, ceol, where I live we only have seven nights in a week! :-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

When I said the music is being well looked after in places like Clare I never implied that Clare isn’t influenced by things other than ITM the way any other country or region in the world is. But I think it’s a known fact that ITM originated in Ireland… is it not?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

All the irritating results that Phantom enumerated are true. But despite that I still believe that more people are being exposed to real ITM than would have been without Riverdance, et al. It’s a net gain. It doesn’t really bother me (well, not a lot) that large masses of people now have a misperception about Irish music. Large masses of people will always have misperceptions about such things. These people may have a warped idea of what ITM is, but it’s still an improvement over having no knowledge of it at all.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I’d wager that for most people, it’s not necessarily just a "warped idea" of what Irish trad music is—more likely a genuine *preference* for Riverdance, the Corrs, Lunasa, and their ilk. Doesn’t matter where you live—Kinvara or Cape Town or Kumamoto.

What percentage of the people who hear Lunasa also play music themselves or get inspired to learn? 10 or 15 percent? (I’m being generous) And what percentage of them will ever try to learn a few tunes? And what percentage of them will actually stick to it? And what percentage of them will go on to become influential on the trad scene?

Since the music is no where on the radar for 99.999998 percent of the planet, it won’t be overly polluted or diluted as long as the other 0.000002 percent of us keep it alive in some more informed, deliberate, slowly evolving, "traditional" way. As it’s always been.

And I’d not give *all* the credit to Ireland and Irish culture as the origin and only model for Irish music. It’s not like aboriginal didge music from Oz, inspired and created in splendid isolation. What we think of as Irish trad is a blend of many musics and influences from beyond the island, over many hundreds or even thousands of years. The roughly 300 years worth of tunes we typically limit ourselves to is just a snapshot of the music’s life. To say that this one bookended time is The Tradition and that it is solely "Irish" misrepresents the music’s (and the people’s) real history.

Ultimately, it’s not up to the masses to decide where this music goes. That’s the business of the players, the people who the tunes live through. Yes, professionalism and commercialism have brought some odd perspectives to bear on the music and how it’s played in some corners, but most of the people I’ve met over the years—professionals, paid session leaders, contest competitors, recording artists, hobbyists, kitchen maestros, and pub rakes alike—still play mostly for the sheer joy of it. So I’m not worried.

Posted .

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"The roughly 300 years worth of tunes we typically limit ourselves to is just a snapshot of the music’s life."

But is it not distinctly Irish? Granted it has evolved through a variety of influences, but it has become very distinct. What gives it that distinction is a product of Irish culture and not its influences.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Omigod, I’ve learned all the tunes back to 1707. I can’t believe there’s more? Though I suppose "The Diplodocus" might be a really, really, really old one…

Posted by .

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I dunno Jack, you tell me. Is Miss McLeod’s or Lord McDonald’s or Drowsy Maggie "distinctly Irish?" Does Michael Coleman’s playing (and in turn the playing of so many fiddlers back in Ireland who copied his recordings) show no influences of his travels abroad? Are the rolls and cranns and cuts and triplets exclusive to Irish styles, not to be also found in Scotland, Breton, Galicia, Scandanavia, Greece, etc.?

All I’m suggesting is that Irish music, like Irish culture, has been woven from many disparate threads, few if any of them truly native to the island. Saying that the music is Irish is like saying that jazz is American, as though it’s devoid of any forebears or "foreign" influences. (I’ve always wondered if the Lakota Sioux or Arapahoe or Tlingit think of jazz as a native genre….)

What is distinctly Irish is in fact a peculiar ragout of imported ingredients.

Posted .

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Then why does it have such a clear distinction if it is so blurred as you suggest? I understand it’s part of Celtic music, but Irish music enjoys it’s own unmistakable distinction. There are crossover tunes of course, but I can tell what style they’re being played in. And these crossover tunes just make up a fraction of the over-all Irish repertoire. If Irish music is so deceptive, why is it called “Irish music”? Was it the Irish music from Galicia or Scandanavia etc., that has become so popular around the world?

Also

Why aren’t the Galicians and Scandanavians crying foul and saying, "Hey… you stole our Irish music!"

Squeek

Your objection seems like academic nitpicking to me, Phantom. I don’t think whoosis was implying that there was no such thing as “Irish” culture and music. What I read is that Irish culture has a tradition of incorporating elements from outside – and evolving.

Course, you know things went to hell when the firbolgs pushed out the fomorians, anyway.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

It has been said that a lot, if not most, of Irish music came from Scotland.
But did it originate there ? Or could it have come from Sweden where, I believe, fiddle playing is a large part of their folk music ?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

PB, I was repsonding to the claim above that "it’s a known fact that ITM originated in Ireland…is it not?"

"Originated" strikes me as a mischaracterization and oversimplification of how this body of music got to where it is today.

Posted .

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

My overall point being that Bernie’s nostalgia for P.J. Hayes’ era Clare sessions is a bit like the fiddler who once told me that John Doherty was the epitome of "untainted" pure drop Irish fiddle playing, notwithstanding Mr. Doherty’s penchant for and sizeable repertoire of continental show tunes and Scottish melodies.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with Bernie’s lament for the vanishing notion of sessions as a time and place to learn and share, not solely to present polished musical pieces. I’m glad that some people, even many professional musicians, still do consider sessions as a place to play *with* music, enjoying the rough edges and *process* of playing as much or more than the prospect of a flawless, well-rehearsed product.

Posted .

Are we losing the context to technicians and obsessives?

It isn’t really about the music or whether or not it is intrinsically Irish, hell, it just is… What makes it live is us, and the process of sharing it. What is ‘Irish’, at least to me, is the context and the spirit that carries it. Again, that is us. If you’re a shmuck, no matter how good a player you are, if you are more concerned with yourself and what you can do to the music, well, somehow that isn’t there, and it isn’t quite ‘Irish’, not in the community sense, it is ‘YOU’ ~ doing your thang… yeah, so maybe with what technically can be called Irish music, but somehow absent of those elements that to me give it a fuller meaning, that ‘gang’ element… ;-) If on the other hand you are really into it for the companionship, slagging and all, the comradery, the community ~ and the music and/or dance are just a part of that context, not the be all and end all ~ well, then I think we’re getting to the heart of the matter. It’s that from the past that needs care and nurturing, and if done right, I just think the tradition will flourish and the music and dance will follow on in good health…

It’s OK if we’re just chewin’ the fat. Any discussion that shares ideas and concerns is a good one, even through disagreement, so long as we don’t write anyone off ~ but it isn’t the subject that rules, it is us sharing the time and the ideas. It’s that process…. So too with the music, it is the sharing, it is the small talk and the chat, the laughter, the empathy ~ that’s the substance that give the music context. Somehow if we become so obsessed with being a ‘musicians’ or ‘dancer’, we lose ourselves, we lose the humanity of what works best (my bias) as a social event…and I think we lose touch with the music that way too…

‘Ol ‘Salt’, have you a spare rod, reel and line? I’d be up for learning to tie flies the old copy-the-bug way… I like Pheasant and Grouse feathers, beautiful stuff… Maybe I still remember how to tie a jigging line for herring, and the ‘technique’… Those flourescent things and the ones with the lights run off of mini-batteries, and the gue some folks rub on their flies and bait that are supposed to ‘guarantee’ a ‘kill’, well, I just can’t get my head around those…

‘Bob’sYourUncle’, the craziest place in the world for linedancing, well, maybe not so crazy, was Cymru, West Wales in particular, along the coast from Aberystwyth to Cardigan. I counted more than 15 classes one season, and in the same area only one for Welsh dance. In the village of Aberaeron there was a shop specializing in the costume for linedancing, boots and all…

Actually, that cowboy gear is more comfortable than the togs they wear for Welsh dancing…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Yes, and that spirit of people sharing time and tales and tunes together can be re-created anywhere—no Irish monopoly on that.

I can sympathize with Bernie’s wistfulness for a session with P.J. Hayes—must’ve been some mighty sessions. But when the old guard passes on, it’s time for the next generation to make their own crack. Similarly, when someone breathes life into the tunes in some hole-in-wall 10,000 miles from Ballyforan, the point isn’t to re-create a night in Ballyforan, but to find your own community around the tunes.

I’m fond myself of the kind of sessions Bernie describes, but they’re not the only kind of Irish sessions, and some of the qualities he champions weren’t the norm at other sessions from the same era. It’s up to us to choose which type of session to foster or participate in. And if you don’t like where you’re local is headed, steer it your way for a while and see if anyone else prefers your approach.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

By saying, "ITM originated in Ireland" I’m referring to the distinction we recognize and admire as the Irish style. Perhaps most western musical instruments originated in Egypt, and western musical concepts evolved out of liturgical music, but what happened when they found each other and made their way to Ireland is unique. That’s the music I’m in pursuit of – IRISH traditional music.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Oh, the style or approach to music, not the music itself. Okay.

Not that there’s any single national style (contrast the fiddling, say, of Con Cassidy and Paddy Killoran and Denis Murphy), or an abrupt and unambiguously clear distinction between Irish, Scottish, and Breton flute playing, say.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I can recognize a clear difference between Scottish, Breton, and Irish music. The Scots are basically Irish, and that would account for the close similarities, but the music is still different.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

You’re on shaky ground here with flute-playing, whoosis. After hearing Jean-Michel Veillon and several prominent Irish flute players in Ballyvourney 2 months ago, [ no names – wouldn’t want to be accused of “name-dropping” ] - I can tell you that there IS an “unambiguously clear distinction” between Irish and Breton flute playing. And Scottish flute-playing – what’s that ?
The answer to the original question is "no".

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Are academics and fashion losing it for us?

Environment and context! Yeah, I’m still on about the attitude and heart we bring to the thing ~ along the lines of what ‘whoosis’ has mentioned just previously, and something of what I’ve tried to find words for ~ we make of it what we will, and that responsibility exists whether we actively foster a nurturing envirnoment for it, or we passively leave it to those more passionate and obsessed than us…that later of which can, placed in the wrong hands, equate to dogma, standardization, cliques and self-promotion ~ aspects of commercialism?

The importance of roots is seeing how damned far things have come, evolved, like the addition of the bozouki and the bodhran and the German flute and the guitar and ~ the list is endless and those histories of association are relatively short… This element in the music is a basic proof of ‘life’ ~ that it can adapt, or we can adapt it ~ to just about any circumstance.

As said by others earlier and already repeated by me in a previous tirade, the idea that it is confined to pub sessions, or some box of that nature, well, we need to look outside that box and beyond. Hell, if you want ‘NEW’, pub sessions, as they currently stand are a relatively recent development with regards to Irish music. Yes, in the old days with minstrel galleries and the like and ~ things go through phases. My experience is that the music before pubs was mostly in the homes and largely for dancing to. It tended to be more inclusive than your average pub session. For one, you didn’t have to be a ‘musician’ to participate… I’ve had the pleasure of experienceing and organizing music gathering in homes, and that is my preferred context for the music, or playing it for dancers. I can’t deny that things move on, they ‘adapt’ to circumstances and needs, and I wouldn’t disavow the more recent tendency to pub session. How could I? I’ve enjoyed a few of those too. I’ve shared the music on an old airfield, in cars, on ferries and various other boats, in Eastern Europe…and generally it has been good, or I’ve had pleasure from it and the rest of the folks present seemed to as well, whether playing, dancing or just listening in… Personally, back to context, I have tended to enjoy it most in other places and venues than pubs…but each to their own… I’d just like that to be shared generally, for us collectively to be less pub-centric… Irish music exists and flourishes in many places…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

To my way of thinking ceolachan has hit on what anchors the tradition in “Traditional Irish Music”. It is the gathering of folks, not necessarily or exclusively musicians, for the purpose of camaraderie, social commentary, and entertainment. A time of community fellowship. The passing of the style of play and the tunes to the next generation to me is the same as the passing of the folklore that so often accompanied such gatherings.

Over here in the U.S. community is in grave danger as our social structure evolves to that of individualism. Now this is not to say that community sprit does not exist at all. It is however to say that the pressures of every day commercial (economic) life work to thwart community. At the end of the day capitalism is really the antithesis of community as it pits us against one another in competition for economic benefit.

As academics have clearly demonstrated through out history the power to change culture and therefore traditions I can’t see how the music tradition would have escaped any and all influences brought forth as a result of academic pursuits. I also don’t see how it will in the future either. As to commercialism influencing the music I would suggest it too on a broad scale has and will continue to have an effect.

Is any of this to say that traditional Irish music as we know it currently, and as we believe it to be historically, is a dying form of folk art? Not that I can see, however as it has over history, it will continue to be influenced by the culture of the time and that culture is dynamic. One need only to look at the social effects of the economic boom that Ireland has been experiencing in recent history to see how the culture has changed as a result.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a fellow in a pub in Limerick City back in 2002. He was part of a local hurling club celebrating their victory. He was on about how Ireland was catching up to America in terms of economic development. My council to him, albeit tempered with the notion of how brilliant it must be to not have to send Ireland’s sons and daughters away from the island to secure a living, was to be careful of how far America’s example is followed as culture and therefore traditions may suffer. There have been many traditional events that have gone by the wayside over here as a result of the “What’s in it for me?” attitude that has so permeated our society. This is not to say that all celebrations of traditions have gone just that it seems most, not all thankfully, celebrations these days are really commercial events disguised as cultural.

There are thankfully grass roots organizations that keep a great deal of traditions of all cultures here alive however I would guess most find it difficult to celebrate to the extent they would like to as a result of economics. These are the times we live in and indeed it is up to each of us individually as well as collectively to insure that our heritage and traditions, what ever they may be, are kept alive.

Peace,
Ed

Re: Are we losing the tradition to suburban sprawl and city slickers?

Sadly, the bit about not having to send our sons and daughters of Eire elsewhere does not quite hold up. I’ve seen, and recently received notice, of people moving out of the cities into the ‘countryside’. With the prosperity a lot of what used to be the summer bungalows of folks from ‘elsewhere’, are now owned increasingly by the Irish themselves, but in particular, the city folk, from Dublin and Cork and so forth… The most recent missive we recieved was from a friend complaining how Eire was being overrun by foreigners, and in the main they meant and did specify ‘of other skin colours’… They were bewailing how you didn’t know whether you were in Ireland anymore, all the foreigners everywhere you turn. So, they uped sticks and moved to the countryside, to the ratios of skin colour and accent were in their favour, in their mind. Some of that economic pressure. Where the pressing is occuring is in that ‘countryside’. It isn’t new, but he prices for bungalows is soaring and the locals really are getting to where, with insufficient jobs in that contryside, their children are less able to buy into the ‘dream’ that drives it all.

I also notice a distinct difference in attitudes coming from the city, and I have seen them at work in little country sessions and dances, or what used to be ‘community’… Too often there’s a kind of shouldering in, rather than adapting to the situation, the impatience nurtured in cities tends to want things to adapt to its needs… Other affects are to do with the distribution of ages and capabilities in music and dance enents, when it is not so much driven by the spirit of community as by the spirit of personal gain and quantity ~ more is better, especially more for ‘me’…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

So long as people still want to gather together to play the music for their own pleasure, the tradition will survive.
I’m sorry to read ceolachan’s account of his friends, but this is not unknown in people who suddenly find they’re in a global village, and try to stem or deny the tide of change.
But change is part of the definition of tradition, you cannot pickle it in aspic or it will shrivel and die.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Hey, "Phantom," "Whoosis," and even a man like "Kenny"! Stop name dropping! And you talked about music in ancient times and music in Scotland, Brittany, Galicia, Scandinavia, and Greece? No more academic nitpicking! I mean it! :-) :-)

Seriously, from the previous discussions a few months back, we already knew the sessions in Ennis are not in a very healthy condition, so you can’t say "the music is being well looked after in places like Clare." But, thankfully, we know both you "Phantom" and Bernie regularly contribute to the scene there, so we have no reason to be hopeless.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

GOD !!! How’s that or name-dropping ?
[ Danny Kyle - circa 1980 ].

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Ed and ‘C’, I’m delighted to find you both still focus on the main points. Every time I go back to Ireland, I find it keeps changing in both cities and countryside, as you pointed out. And so I often feel insecure and become reluctant to be back there again. So where do I visit for Irish music more often? The dull, industrialised cities in England! I personally hate any kind of big cities, but I feel relieved the first, second, and third generation Irish still keep the tradition of music, dancing, and singing alive far from home. So maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic about the "scenes" in Ireland.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to pessimism and globalization?

Don’t do that slainte. It is healthy if we air our concerns so we know basically what we, whoever ‘we’ are, want to promote and preserve, to remind us of what it is we value in this alive and ever adapting thing, in a sense to find our place in it. Part of that essence I keep harping on about is the opposite of pessimism, it is an optimism, the sort that leaves the doors either unlocked or wide open, inviting. You can carry that with you, to an extent. If you find that in your heart it will always be there to centre on.

Damn, I’m starting to have old Disney songs floating in my head ~ there’s one now, "If you wish upon a star ~"

So, my dear friend, do not fall in any of the holes in this discussion. It woudn’t be happening if there wasn’t health in the subject. Not much to say over a corpse, eh? You say the few words and throw your fist of soil, you let the sins of the departed remain in the casket, in the past. But this thing is alive, so we can air its dirty laundry all we want, and that airing can only be good, ‘refreshing’…just so long as there isn’t someone flinging silage on nearby fields…

Along the lines of G.Petie, so long as we care, there is hope… Things ITM have changed for the worst in the past, but little pockets of soul kept it moving along so it could rise up again. But as always, not all fad is good for the thing it promotes. However, again in the fashion of those who came before ~ the constant proofs being aired here and amongst us ~ the little pockets persist and are varied. In that variety alone there is hope for survival ~ that it will continue to adapt and outlive us all…

It is good to talk about our passions and to help us and each other to find some focus, and to see the bits of the tradition we can so easily take for granted, that we might not fully understand is important, or how important. It is when you do take something for granted that you sometimes don’t realize it until it is absent. So, in a sense, all this chat, is about keeping us on our toes, on guard, not in a militant way, but in a way to make sure the doors are at least ajar ~ that there is a welcome in the house…and a warm fire to share ~

figuratively speaking of course… :-P

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Sláinte,

I haven’t been back to Ireland since 2002 and I really miss it. All I know is four years ago I was made to feel welcome wherever we went, my “round backpack” not withstanding.

If ever you find yourself in the NYC (how’s that for a big city?) area let me know. We’ll make a house party in your honor! I promise we’ll not drop any names other than to introduce you to all in attendance.

Ceolachan,

"~ that there is a welcome in the house…and a warm fire to share ~
figuratively speaking of course… :-P"

I hope literally and not just figuratively speaking!

Peace,
Ed

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Ah, yes. All this kind of discussion about "degeneration" of music is a bit like all the rubbish talk about "degeneration" of language. There’s nothing new in this kind of discussion: the Romans used to argue their language was inferior to Greek; and the Greek people in B.C. eras regretted their language had no beauty Homer’s poetry represented. As an undergrad student, I actually wrote a thesis about how the Nazis persecuted "Degenerate Art." Ah, yes. Any kind of good art and language have always survived.

Catch of the Day:
http://www.myspace.com/lizzydoe (https://thesession.org/members/1924)

Well-done, Lizzy!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Cheers, Ed. I’ve never been to the U.S., but I know where to go: Montana to see "Whoosis", SF to see "Phantom", NJ to see Mr. Rafferty, Mr. W. Kelly, and you.

A Warm Welcome is a good way of keeping the tradition fresh and safe ~

Of course, well, sort of literal, it doesn’t require either a ‘house’ or a ‘hearth with fire’ in the literal sense, but the heart is there, and that’s the poetic sense in it, cityscapes included… ;-)

Hey slainte, the folks I met in the big apple, Irish musicians that is, were a great bunch… I wouldn’t pass that opened door and the welcome…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Good lord, what’s all this about slainte …!
Anyway before I scrolled down to the part with my name on it I was just about to reply to this topic with something along the lines of this….

I agree with slainte - can we really be so sure of ourselves to think that we’re the first generation to worry about a tradition changing or ‘dying out’?! What a ridiculous thought.

The tradition is NOT static, never has been and never will be. Would we really want it to be still, like a stagnant pool? It has always been developing and changing…Many of the musicians we look back on as the ‘great masters’ would have been ground-breaking or even controversial in their day, and yet we elevate them to the position of representing the "pure" form of the music, or the unadulterated style, or whatever.

Of course there will always be the people who are unaware the Riverdance soundtrack is not traditional Irish music (on a side note I have a great deal of respect for Bill Whelan and his composition) but I think it’s fair to say there’s enough of us with awareness to mean it’s never going to pose a serious ‘threat’ to the tradition…rather, perhaps even *controversial* a source of enrichment to the tradition. If not that then at least a source of debate and discussion, which can’t be a bad thing.

Which leads on to my last point, academia - studying on the BA in Traditional Irish Music and Dance at UL (and having the time of my life), I assure you that all the academics I have come across are there as a result of a deep-rooted passion and understanding for the music and an interest in researching the history, social context, (etc) related to it. Traditional Irish music seems to me to be pretty ‘safe’…well, as safe as it’s ever been really. Strong is probably a better word.

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Are we confusing academia and commercialism with tradition?

Cheers! Except, at least for me, it isn’t their technique I elevate and present as the most important part about those musicians I’d been lucky to share time with and to hope some of who they were and are might make me better ~ again, not as a musician, though that would be nice too. I raise them up as just damned fine folk, great characters, generous souls, and a humour, and great smiles and laughter ~ not forgetting pathos too… Yeah, they were fine repositories of great tunes and their particular way with the music, but they were just damn fine folk all around. It is similar to equating Irish music with pubs and forgetting the wider world of choice it occurs in. So too with these bearers of tradition, they are more than just ‘musicians’…

I knew a few that would be just as happy to fish for mackerel as to play music, or to just chat and laugh…

Hey salt, where’d you go. I’ve a druther right now, I really would love to be out on a rocky promontory or jetty fishing for sea bass… Are you game? Are there any other takers? We’ll have a barbie afterwards, I’ll gut the fish, and maybe, just maybe we’ll find time for some tunes… ;-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Right, Lizzy… Like I said — it’s being well looked after. I don’t know what Slainte’s experience was in Clare, but I had the time of my life and enjoyed the way the music was thriving there. I can see how someone like Bernie, who lives there, might find areas to criticize or ponder over, but all in all it’s still a great place to visit if you enjoy the music.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I need to correct myself, "Phantom". My experience in Clare is very positive. I won’t drop any name, but have met and made friends with great musicians regularly playing in Lisdoonvarna, Ennistymon, and Corofin. But I saw some changes happening there in these four years, so I feel anxious for no obvious reason. My thoughts are even more contradictory than Bernie’s, you see.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

LOL, this discussion reminds me of the debate here in Montana over our trout streams. Thousands of people come here from all over the world to experience fly fishing at its best in "pristine solitude" under the Big Sky. And the long-time locals complain that they’re being crowded off the rivers and the experience just isn’t as good as it once was. They say the pristine solitude is gone.

Jack’s view of the music in Clare is as an outsider, finding a snapshot of the music and culture he loves. Bernie’s is of an outsider who’s moved in and can now lament the "progress" he’s seen over several years. Imagine how an elderly Clare native might feel, witnessing the changes over a lifetime. Jack’s "time of his life" might well be (through no fault of his own, and no matter how much deference and respect Jack brings with him) the old-timer’s bane.

Newcomers to my small town see a slower, simpler way of life, reminiscent of rural American life from 60 years ago. I mostly see all the new subdivisions on the edge of town, the shopping mall where the wheat fields used to be, traffic congestion where there once wasn’t even a traffic light.

One person’s trip back to better times is too often another’s high g-force ride into an unpleasant present.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"Whoosis" wrote "Newcomers to my small town see a slower, simpler way of life, reminiscent of rural American life from 60 years ago." How old are you now?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Slainte… why the big campaign against "name dropping"? Can you show me where on this thread you think it was exploited and why?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"Jack’s view of the music in Clare is as an outsider, finding a snapshot of the music and culture he loves. Bernie’s is of an outsider who’s moved in and can now lament the "progress" he’s seen over several years. Imagine how an elderly Clare native might feel, witnessing the changes over a lifetime. Jack’s "time of his life" might well be (through no fault of his own, and no matter how much deference and respect Jack brings with him) the old-timer’s bane."

Great parallel, Will; you said what I was trying to say only much clearer with this perspective. The bottom line, of course, is that the music thrives nonetheless.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

It’s not how old I am that matters, but how far my town lags behind the pace of growth and change people are accustomed to in places like Las Vegas and Reno Nevada, and Phoenix Arizona. They come here and think we’re stuck in the past and barely crawling into the future (most of them like it, until they find out that wages are also stuck in the past).

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Yes, Jack, it’s good that out of the hordes of tourists who visit Ireland every year, there are handfuls of people like yourself who come with an understanding and sensitivity to the music and the local culture, eager to learn and immerse themselves. It can’t help but change the local flavor a bit, but in return, the music and the traditional approach to it get carried on.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

If the answer is YES—who or what is to blame and (more importantly ) what needs to be done-and by who ?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Well, this will be my last post on this thread. It’s almost 4:00 am here.

I think name-dropping often pushes away people who are not familiar with those names and makes many discussions closed. That’s what I think. In England I’ve met many skilled musicians, both young and old, who have never heard of Solas, Lunasa, and Joannie Madden. With N. Connaught ancestry, they are much more familiar with Teada, Carmel Gunning, June McCormack, etc. There are always knowledge gaps, you know.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"Well, this will be my last post on this thread."

Do you mean for today, or will you answer my question tomorrow when you wake up?

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Whoosis retorts:
"LOL, this discussion reminds me of the debate here in Montana over our trout streams. Thousands of people come here from all over the world to experience fly fishing at its best in "pristine solitude" under the Big Sky. And the long-time locals complain that they’re being crowded off the rivers and the experience just isn’t as good as it once was. They say the pristine solitude is gone."

Ah yes, back to flyfishing. ceolachan, all I can say is South County Rhode Island in Sep- Oct. Great fall run of stripers, the odd bonito for the grill and a campground to play chunes at night. I’ve been known to strip off the waders leave them in the truck and grab the fiddle and guitar and hit a sesh. That;’s livin!

Seriously ceolachan, I personally enjoyed your positions in this thread. The human factor is so important to me. Soul, but playing good music too. Tough balancing act somtimes.

Saltcast

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

No

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"To my way of thinking ceolachan has hit on what anchors the tradition in “Traditional Irish Music”. It is the gathering of folks, not necessarily or exclusively musicians, for the purpose of camaraderie, social commentary, and entertainment. A time of community fellowship. The passing of the style of play and the tunes to the next generation to me is the same as the passing of the folklore that so often accompanied such gatherings."

I don’t think so. My Hungarian folk musician friends say the same about their folk music, and I suspect other musical folk traditions would also say the same. Surely defining the "tradition" in such terms is the very philosophical undermining of it?

Doesn’t there have to be something that is actually "traditional" going on? Isn’t the very nature of "tradition" itself the dissemination of custom, a special knowledge or action over generations? In the case of ITM, that special knowledge is, what most of us I would hope think, a very special music. Isn’t it?

I also think there is a temptation to confuse tradition with style. They really aren’t the same. To think it only about style is to deny its "traditional" nature, which is to believe that it can be simulated and played without reference or respect for "what has gone before". This is where I think there is a grain of truth in the original posters lament. The commercial popularisation of Irish traditional folk music is definitely increasing, and I believe, rightly or wrongly, that this has a dilutary effect as more and more people are learning tunes.

While I would have to say "no" to the op’s original question, I do so because I believe that there is a growing core of people, sometimes because of academic elitism and maybe indirectly because of commercialisation, who are really learning, playing, and propagating Irish Traditional Music. For others, myself included, I suspect the term is a misnomer for what they actually do in the sense that it is a) Not Irish, b) Not Traditional and c) another combination such as "Irish Style Music" or even "Celtic Style Music".

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

To add an addendum:

I do think that, if the latter is true then we should have the honesty to call it something other than Irish Traditional Music. No?

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Whoosis?

Your vehicle awaits you ~

Saltcast, whoosis, what about you Hiro?, and what?!!?, so with me that’s four of five of us at least. That’s a good number. I’ll see if Dow is interested. The offer remains open if anyone else wants to come along. I’ll bring a mixed selection of English and Belgian brews, oh yeah, and for the lager louts I’ll gather up some Czech bubbles, anything else, crisps/chips? So what will the rest of you be bringing aside from instruments and fishing tackle? Will it be fresh or saltwiter fishing? Who’s the designated driver? Hell, what?!!?, since you’re possessed you better not drive… ;-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

No, just an old bone picker! ;)

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"And Scottish flute-playing – what’s that ?"

A Scotsman playing the flute in Scotland?!

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Bernie, I see from your bio you are English (of Irish decent, you made sure we should know), now living in Clare. Some of your points I can see where you’re coming from, but you sound like you’ve finally found your contact to the soil, by being more Irish than the "indigenous" Irish, and, surrounded and impressed by great musicians and characters, have mouthed on here what some may have been expressed to you confidentially. That’s my reading between the lines, and apols if wrong.

Your thread has sparked off rants from both conservatives and liberals. Spread fears of xenophobia amongst the hordes of non-Irish, Irish-music players. Possibly expressed what some "true" old-style Ireland-based players feel. I respect your expression of those opinions as well as your right to do so. Because it opens a certain window for some of us to view what truly IS in the heart and soul of certain jealous guardians of *their* tradition, with no intention to share it with any non-poor, non-illiterate, or vaguely academic or commercially minded individual.

As much as I personally detest anyone making loads of money out of The Music, lets get things in perspective.
The World Cup? There’s enough billions being made out of something that started out as a village kik-around with a pig’s bladder…so has football improved or died? No, it has morphed into a global phenomenon, not what the village lads hanker after.
Curries? Every town and village from Lerwick to Gibraltar has an indian restaurant or take away. So you can eat what is what people in India have always et. They don’t do it for nothing.

The charge against academia is more arcane, but no more difficult, to contest.
First of all, WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM? Let people navel-gaze all they want, it’s legal and harmless.
But also their navel gazing and grokking about a certain tune may actually bring them closer to the soul (or is that a different one of which you speak?) of the composer…and what greater form of human communication could you have than to be touched by the soul of someone departed but through music? There’s something special about James (or is it Davey?) Hill’s The Scholar, that reaches through several centuries and still sounds fresh.
If academics get wet round the crotch over a few slides then let them. At least they are being human about how they analyse something they are not planning new ways to rip off some developing country or invent a new nuclear bomb.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Just play the damn stuff…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

I agree with Dave (What?!?)—there’s a wildness gone missing, that wind-against-the-cliffs wail Junior Crehan had in his playing that made your neck hairs stand at attention.

But it’s not entirely gone. It’s been handed down by players who cared more about living in the tunes than technique, who played with pulse, not in time, who played the tunes as memories, as old friends and good crack alive again.

So learning the tunes this way isn’t about fingering the notes or sussing out where to put the triplets or amassing an impressive repertoire or polishing an arrangement to a mirror finish. It’s about knowing the people before you and the stories and ghosts they brought to the music, and adding your own.

It’s personal.

And as much as that might be diluted by cds and sheet music and Riverdance and paid session hosts and the sheer number of players and distances between them, I think enough of us keep it personal to outweigh all that.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"Academics? Who cares about their ivory towers. There’s precious little communion betwixt them and the real world at the best of times."

What?!!?, what evidence do you have for this?! One of the most exciting, enriching and important parts, and this is just my humble opinion, of the work of academics in the field of Irish Music is the research and publication of material which would not otherwise have been made available to the general public - for example on the MA course in Traditional Irish Music Performance at the University of Limerick, students undertake a major research project on a musician. A friend of mine decided to take Des Mulkare as his subject matter - a very fine flute and banjo player and singer. How important it is to record these people, to hear what they have to say about their music and the wider tradition, and to make the information accessible to the community. Like it or not, academia gives a foundation from which to do this.

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Lizzy, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned you on this thread. But you’re such a gorgeous player, so I couldn’t help….

Don’t stop everyone! But I’ll escape to drop many names in the tunes section to my heart’s content.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Lizzy - you said what I meant to say in my post above, but it was late last night and I was tired! I agree - academics who are searching and collecting and then distributing are arguably doing more to keep the music fresh, not to kill it as, as many older players will assure us, it nearly died in the 40s and 50s.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

GOTCHA … 150 plus posts. My oh my and nobody twigged it.

Re: Are we losing the tradition to curry furry and competition angling?

I like you ‘Key Maniac Lad’, metaphor! ~ and well chosen and illustrated… I’m glad there is curry in the world, and I quite like fish curry too. You’re welcome to the fish-sesh-barbie if you’re game.

You want ‘wild’ whoosis, I know some places in Clare for Mackerel fishing that should get your heart racing… I think we might add a good spicy curry to that barbecue…any requests?

Hey Lizzy, are you interested in this gathering? I take it that Hiro’s comment of ‘gorgeous’ is to do with your tone and technique, I need some help with my bowing, but later. Maybe when things wind down we can trade stories, the lot of us.
On the point or claim that ‘academics’ are trapped in or self-raised above the rest of us, up in ‘ivory towers’, most so-called academics in the field of folklore studies, the one in discussion here, those I’ve known, were and are ‘practicing’ musicians or dancers or both, and sometimes ‘then some’… They don’t make enough money from their passions to buy ivory towers, and some still rent flats on busy roads… They tend to like being down to earth and getting their hands into it, including helping with any chores that might be needed doing with regards to their ‘sources’, and they are interested in MORE than just collecting tunes and techniques, they tend to be deeply interested in the character of the people they meet and gather information from, interested in their sources as a whole, and not just a jukebox you feed coins into for tunes. I will admit there is a tendency for them, like their sources, to be eccentric, but hey, such is the general character of their subject ~ and the bearers or tradition, academicians or not… Now we’re back to whoosis’ ‘wild’, that mad passionate seasoning that seemed part of the elbow grease and intoxicant, that life gas that makes the music lift, whiz, laugh and cry… ;-)

Back to ‘academics’, it doesn’t surprise me, but it might some of you, that many of the musicians we know and appreciate, nowadays, who are out there playing in public and teaching workshops and promoting the music and dance and technique ~ and ATTITUDE in context ~ well, they are ‘academics’, and some are even published… I am using that term ‘widely’, as words also evolve and take on connotations. In the Irish music setting the involvement in its study and understanding and dissemination is more often than not ‘practical’… Let’s see, despite the front and the evil pookah in them, there’s Ennis, Burke, Hill, Rowsome, Cranitch, Lennon, Tunney, McConnell, Vallely, Lynch, Crehan ~ hell, the list is endless… One illiterate friend was an expert on the history of the potato and his local area, a historian in the oral history way of it, and really, because of his unbelievable memory and his passion to gather information ~ he too is an ‘academician’, no need to be a prof at a university to qualify his intelligence and understanding, not by me anyway. He was a ‘source’… Well, at least now if you like you can call me sloppy with definitions. That’s OK, I just don’t like things too tightly boxed up, they tend to suffocate and lose life, if you know what I mean.

I still want to know who the designated driver is going to be? Alright, I’ll do it. I don’t want to be tipsy if I’m going to be hanging off of some rocky promontory fishing for mackerel. Hey, if any of you have never tasted fresh mackerel, you have missed a wonderous delicacy and treat, and barbecued ~ heaven…whether or not you break it up over a curry. I’ll bring a nice Cuban 7 year old rum I’d like you all to sample, since I won’t be able too. It is one of my favourite tipples. Oh yeah, I’ll see if I can chase up a bottle of Moskovskaja too…mmm, mmmm, good… Now I’m starting to be sorry I volunteered to drive… Nay, it will be kick, besides, someone is going to have to take care of Dow when he over indulges, as he sometimes has a tendency to… You’ll have to watch his intake Hiro…

Bring your camera Lizzy, if you like, to document some of our foolishness? ~ history! Are you coming Bernie? It’s now in your neck of the woods, but definitely not during Willie Week…

Damn, that was longer than I’d thought. Almost forgot, ‘key maniac lad’, I know what you Glaswegians can be like, mind your p’s and q’s and try to be considerate of others, just to avoid any major skirmishes. You can bring a football if you want a skirmish… I’m sure we can find a flat space for you to kick the pigskin around… :-P

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Nah, I’m not trying to have a go at Bernie, or anyone. I was just speaking my mind.
BTW it’s hard to imagine Reg Hall, one of the London ans SE England’s best known and loved "academics" being stuck up in an Ivory Tower….unless that’s the name of a session pub………

;-)

I’ll have to ‘adjust’ my preconceptions of Glaswegians… (That never really were…)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

"To my way of thinking ceolachan has hit on what anchors the tradition in “Traditional Irish Music”. It is the gathering of folks, not necessarily or exclusively musicians, for the purpose of camaraderie, social commentary, and entertainment. A time of community fellowship. The passing of the style of play and the tunes to the next generation to me is the same as the passing of the folklore that so often accompanied such gatherings."

”I don’t think so. My Hungarian folk musician friends say the same about their folk music, and I suspect other musical folk traditions would also say the same.”

“Surely defining the "tradition" in such terms is the very philosophical undermining of it?”

Jamie,

I’m not certain what you mean by this. Isn’t the music one part of a tradition that served(s) as its inspiration and continued purpose? Or does it, did it, the music that is, stand alone outside the community?

Peace,
Ed

“Ceolachan”, Saltcaster, and everyone else,

Put me on that list for the Rhode Island Fall Striper Run. It has been years! Nothing beats freshly caught striper steaks hot off the grill right on the beach.

Peace,
Ed

And welcome you are ejsant, to both events in our international fish feast ~ stripers in Rhode Island, and I’ll set some traps too, and mackerel in Clare… Hey, can you bring an old favourite tipple I haven’t dad in years, Tokajai 5?

Oops! ~ you are already in New Jersey… Anyway, anyone coming over from Hungary, you have my wish list…

Bring the group esjant… Oh yeah, and I like the glass, lovely stuff…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

There’s been something fishy about this thread all along!

Ah, Ceolachan, I would love to be in Clare for the mackerel fest however I think Rhode Island may be a more realistic goal economically speaking (damn, there’s that commercialism thing again). I’ll pick up some home brew for the gathering.

Can I impose upon you to smoke some of that mackerel and ship it over here? That’s smoke as in a means of preserving, not to be confused with cramming a bit of fishy flesh into a pipe. Now there’s a tune name; “A Bit of Fishy Flesh for the Pipe”. Actually cramming it into your pipe may be a good thing to do with your frog after banging it on the sofa (Thanks Will, a brilliant tune to be sure).

Thanks for the kind words about the glass. We love it and have near two thousand pieces displayed in our apartment. Look out Collier Brothers!

Peace,
Ed

Re: Are we losing the transitions to academies and commercials?

That’s because they hide their laurels ‘what?!!?, including yurself… ;-) But some of us can see them stickin’ outside of your back pocket…

Yes ejsant, ‘cold smoked’ in the Alaskan way. Now they really know how to smoke fish… I’ve not had mackerel that way yet, but it works beautifully with the likes of wild salmon…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

slainte - thanks for your kind words..!! shucks.
:)

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Jeez. Guess I fell for this little wind-up hook, line and sinker, eh?

Lizzy, I just went over and listened to you stuff. It *is* gorgeous. I love how you play Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie and the one that comes after :-) What is the name of the second one? I bookmarked your site in case you ever decide to make a cd I can buy

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m hooked ~ HOT DAMN!!! That I have never done ~ surf casting, and that is one hell of a beautiful fish. Do they taste as nice as they look? Damn, I’m feeling flush and all goose bumpy viewing those temptations… ;-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

All on the fly rod! (traditional)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

“Do they taste as nice as they look?”

There’s nothing better in the Atlantic waters as far as I am concerned and Rhode Island and the Cape are about the best waters one can find! A nice thick steak grilled to perfection on the beach seasoned with the right herbs is beyond words.

Peace,
Ed

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

That DOES look like more fun than a person should be allowed to have! I’ll admit to being spoiled by surf casting in Florida, where the water is 85 F., but I bet in October the Atlantic is still warmer than my favorite Montana alpine lake in mid July.

Count me in. Striper and tunes! I’ll start saving my pennies. :o)

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Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

i think there is a lot of mythology out there when it comes to the storied past that never existed—-in irish trad as well as elsewhere. to take one example, the myth of the dot-less age when the music was always passed on orally and by ear. i remember a lovely story on mary macnamara’s web site of the legendary east clare fiddler & piper martin rochford, who used to feverishly transcribe new tunes he loved in music notation, and would slip them into her mailbox. many of today’s fine east clare musicians took lessons, yes, music lessons! from vincent griffen, another venerable traditiona-bearer. a master musician in feakle has given me his own musical tune transcriptions, and solemnly advised me a year ago that now that i was beginning to be able to play my instrument, my clare repertoire would get on better if i had access to written music. noel hill, to take a name cited in the opening post, is himself a great teacher of technique & ornament. seamus ennis was an "academic." the late paddy o’brien of tipperary, i’m told, sometimes used written music and a music stand at performances. a teacher out in west clare farm country near coore told me that the master fiddlers used written music to think about ornamentation. while bernie’s larger point is well taken and a good springboard for discussion, none of his specific bugaboos per se represents a threat to tradition. tradition is threatened by change, changing values and the passing of time. but change plays out in surprising ways. i’m remembering an interview with some auteur filmmaker who pointed out that our deplorable era of the hollywood mega-blockbuster is also seeing, and perhaps financing, diverse indie cinema like never before. and the era of the flashy rock-star trad band is also the era of what earle hitchner has called the "neo-trad" movement, with young players doing lovely pure-drop stuff in the older styles. so you just never know. it will be fun to see how it all, er, plays out.

“The Bank of Turf” ~

And the tale variously told, but the basics remain the same ~ of the young Denis Murphy chasing Padraig O’Keefe for tunes, and during turf cutting times. Padraig would be cutting and putting up turf and along comes that young pest Denis Murphy on his bike ~ wanting more guidance…

So, and these details are constant, this tune was on Padraig, evidently this situation was not uncommon. Padraig found a good long slab of black turf, an area already cut smooth and forming a solid strip of bittersweet chocolate brown bank, and with the slade he first made the stave, and then, moving from left to right along that bank, with the corner of his slade, he cut out bits of turf to show the notes. While Padraig went back to the work, Denis took the fiddle and went back and forth the length of the bank playing the notes until he had the tune…

I don’t have my notes at hand, so that is just off the top of my head… So that covers Kerry I think…as being in general ‘literate’…

Sorry ‘ceemonster’ for furthering another side of myths and legends… ;-) I had heard the tale from several sources….any problem with it will be my fault, a faulty memory…

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Bernie!!!!!!!!!!!! You’ve managed to put into words the very depth and breadth of the struggle within my soul to explain why I’ve never gotten around to learning to read music. And it answers the ever so widely asked question of how I can know so many tunes without being able to read music. I was taught Traditional Irish Drumming by my father lilting out the beat and the tune to me then showing me how it was played on the Bodhran. I’ve never had the desire to learn to read or to understand why the music is played as such, but am rather more comfortable to learn by listening. Technological advances be damned I’ll still be playing the same way when the school taught musicians are struggling to find the sheet music. Bravo to you and I’d love the chance to sit in on a session with you and your mates. If I ever make it over I’ll be looking for some good craic and tunes you can bet.!!!!

Re: Are we losing the tradition to academics and commercialism?

Uh oh, another illiterate banger… On your guard Bernie… That’s the problem ‘newfie percussionist’. You might be great, even the exception to the norm, but you have put it into words so beautifully here, aired what many of us suspected about folks with sticks and a skin ~ that maxim banged out here like a motto for a banner and a march ~ what many of us have had to deal with, that drummers ‘think they know’ a lot of different tunes… ;-) ~ one size fits all…

Bangin’ away ~

I am always said I must confess my sins ~ i have a skin and tippers and bones and ~ … :-(

‘told’ not ‘said’ ~ it’s those toxins in my system, and lack of sleep…

~ and rosewood poisoning…

GULP! ~ Sorry… Now, don’t take me wrong, put that stick down will yuh ~

‘NEWFIE-PERCUSSIONIST’ ~ I guess I should have read the fine print first ~

"I currently work as a hard rock miner. I’m 6 feet 6 inches tall and check in at around the 270 lb mark. I’m bald by choice (hot work environment) profusley tattooed and look like the guy your mother warned you about. I play percussion instruments as tendon problem in my wrists has robbed me of the manual dexterity to play stringed instruments. I play on a semi professional level and am serious about the music but not about the music industry. I’ve been known to frequent several bars of ill repute just to get my kicks. I have a penchant for mischief and when you see that sparkle in my wildly mis-aligned blue eyes, you can bet I’m scheming something up so watch closely. I hate it when people look down their nose at me because I’m a percussionist instead of what they call a "real musician". I’ve been playing music of all varieties for well over 20 years and I’ve paid my dues. So you lot who look down your nose at percussionists had best not look down your nose at me because I’ll out play you and leave you looking like a fool when I pull out any of the 250 or so tunes that I can play off the top of my head or the other 100 or so that I know the words to. I can understand the loathing held for the tub thumpers as I can’t stand them meself when they try to play along with tunes they don’t know or with totally unrefined skills. It takes time to learn these things and maybe if some of you would get down off your high bloody horse and think back to when you first started out playing whatever instrument(s) you play, you’d remember being in the same boat. I’ve never met a piper who didn’t sound like he was doing a cross between strangling a cat and molesting a goat the first time he tried to squeeze sound out of the bag and reeds. Lighten up a little ya bunch of overgrown nancies and stop picking on those who are less experienced than you. It’ll make a better person of you, the one your mother tried to make of you but you went and ruined on her."

I enjoyed reading this so much and felt it deserved a repeat performance… I told you guys to watch my back… So, Hoss, my name’s ‘Nancy’, what’s yours, really? About the tendonitis, yeah, absolute hell. I know a few musicians who have been burdened with that pain, some who’ve had to either give up completely, or for a spell. But as you plea with us Nancies to give over and show a bit more consideration, I personally love a good ‘percussionist’ if not a ‘drummer’, seeing a difference between accompaniment and just bangin’ away, and thinking your job is to ‘drive’ the music as opposed to accompany it ~ I would equally ask that just because you can’t read music is no reason to damn everyone who can, whatever form they read. That’s a hell of a lot of people. As you would ask us not to tar every percussionist/drummer with the same brush, don’t tag all of us with your preconceptions ~ that we’re all judgemental ‘Nancies’ who don’t know the ‘TRUTH’ as you see it…

So are you agreeing with Bernie and saying that the tradition is in threat of being lost to academics and commercialism? He asks as he slowly packs up his instrument and backs away… ;-)

Re: Are we losing the tradition to Rock?

Hey, maybe we have something more than pecussion in common, now that I’m fearing others may disown me after admitting I’ve tools at hand. I have been deep into rock, and still like rock, in a number of ways. I’ve mined the mother lode, and many of the off-shoot veins. I’ve blasted it apart, I’ve smelted it, I’ve scattered it about ~ but, I’m talking music still. My granpa was a farmer, and as a hobby he was into spelunking or rock hounding. That man could spot a good stone in a river bed a mile away, and it always surprised everyone the treasures of semi-precious stones he’d find, the majority being agates. I took that up with him for a spell. I still love rock, as I said above, all sorts, music and the Stones… ;-)

This is when I’d be better off if my beloved wife were around doing her thing ~ kicking me under the table and making faces to get me to shut up…

So, I know you’ve got the upper hand, because no amount of platform shoes are going to make me tall enough to reach higher than you can, and I suspect my hands are garden shovels to your spades ~ can we have a truce anyway? ~ at least for the time being? Hey, I know, I got my first pair of specs in St. John, Newfoundland, another place I love dearly… DAMN! ~ You know, rock and roll and specs and garden shovel small hands, I guess that just makes me more of a Nancy… I guess I’m just going to have to live with that… :-)

Tommy Hayes, a great character with a unique style with the bodhran, he had problems with tendonitis too and had to give up music for a spell. Now there’s somebody that is a kick to have around…the devil in him and all…