The REAL tune?
Apropos of the discussion in the Comments section of https://thesession.org/tunes/1285, on whether a submitted version of Staten Island is traditional enough for The Session:
First, two disclaimers:
1) It’s nice being naive; it’s harder to get upset about things. I don’t know enough to be a purist, and ignorance seems like bliss. If you think I haven’t got the right end of the stick in anything I say, do, or post, by all means I welcome the correction or clarification or opinion.
2) I believe that the authenticity or traditionalness quotient of The Session is what we say it is, with Jeremy being the most important part of We. Ultimately, what goes on the site is what we put there and what he promotes, or approves, or tolerates. I applaud We and Jeremy for everything that We or Jeremy do to spread this stuff around in all of its forms. (Just in case that’s not perfectly clear, THANK YOU, JEREMY.)
Now, back to Staten Island.
I think the version that Will has provided is certainly more interesting and more complex. The version that Trevor provided is more spare and perhaps open to one’s own interpretation and ornamentation (and it’s a lot more like we-the-duffers play at a local house session, BTW).
What interests me is that, at the core, they’re both definitely the same tune. Will’s version sounds like the version played by a seasoned vet; Trevor’s gets the fundamental nature of the tune, sort of a like a canvas on which said seasoned vet could (re)interpret in whatever manner he or she chose. Those of you geeky enough to have read Douglas Hofstadter and to have considered what makes a mark on paper an A versus some other letter might share my baffled perspective: when is a traditional tune a traditional tune?
I think the answer is that neither version, and both versions, should be considered. In fact, the disagreement is more education than I would have got had either version been posted without the other. I would be quite happy if I could make more, similar comparisons between versions. Keep ‘em coming, and let a thousand flowers bloom, so far as I’m concerned.
I am lucky enough to have a copy of a book that records the settings of Chris Langan, a piper who was considered to have kept the tradition alive in Toronto until his death in 1993. I never met the man, but he clearly had a profound influence on the people here. His settings are extremely dense, with lots of quintuplets in reels and quadruplets in jigs and weird rolls and cranns and all. They’re interesting, but for a beginner, not easy to read and to learn. There’s also a fair bit of his philosophy in the book. There are a few passages that are relevant here, I think. Chris said…
"There’s a lot of people and if it’s in the book that’s the way it’s got to be and they think because the thing is once printed that it acquires a certain sacredness… that must not be tampered with, because "that’s the way it’s in the book"… and in many cases the feller that wrote the book and arranged the tune didn’t actually play it."
And on another occasion, he said
"everybody who’s a half-decent player will develop willy-nilly a style of their own and then they play a tune, maybe your tune or a tune out of a book their own individual way of playing and their own individual preferences for playing things in a certain way of putting a roll in in at a certain particular place or something like that, you know, is going to come through and you can’t stop them, they’ll play their own way, and I think, as you say, there’s absolutely no point in getting uptight about it"
So I would like to suggest that Trevor has done us a service by posting the skeleton of a tune and that Will has done us a service by providing us with one way (albeit not his way, but the nameless piper’s way) of playing it. Good on you both.