‘minimalistic treatment’

‘minimalistic treatment’

OK, there it is again, the ornamentation discussion in yet another disguise ;)

In a recent thread (https://thesession.org/discussions/15819) Doodle referred to ‘Yvonne Casey’s minimalistic treatment’.

I know her playing from the Ceili Bandits recording and it has puzzled me since. Another sessioneer recently talked about playing ‘with as little ornamentation as you can get away with’.

So: can Yvonne Casey get away with it? If so, how Irish trad is her playing in your opinion? Does she do enough other things to articulate and phrase so that her playing stays interesting?
Is she an exponent of some minimalistic tendency in fiddle playing I have missed or is her style just highly individualistic?

Questions, questions…….

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

My Father just retired and is living with me for a while. He hasn’t played in years, but now I’m egging him on and he’s picked his whistle back up. He even pulls up tunes on our mustard board here and toots away. We were playing the Blarney Pilgrim together and I was sitting at the table, he was in front of the laptop. He stopped and looked at me funny.

"What’s the matter, Pop?"

"Well, what you’re playing doesn’t really match he dots they have here on the websie…"

[sigh] It was then time to teach my Father the facts of life. :)

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

"…webSite…" that is, but later today I may be doing a little "websie" HTML coding.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

…and those are "…The dots…" not "he" dots.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Yvonne Casey plays on several tracks on Kitty Hayes’ first CD, which would strongly suggest that musicians who are firmly within the tradition believe that she can fit right in. I think her solo CD is a different kettle of fish, but there’s nothing to prevent people from playing in more than one style in different settings.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

ornamentation is a stylistic choice, Yvonne is from Clare and plays fiddle very well so the fact that she doesn’t use a lot of ornamentation doesn’t make her playing ‘less trad’. The true mark of a real ‘traditional’ player is that they develop an individual style. I know quite a few Clare players who use very little ornamentation, it’s not just Yvonne.

I think perhaps you are mistaking the highly ornamented North Connacht style for being the only approach to ornamentation.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

’ I know quite a few Clare players who use very little ornamentation, it’s not just Yvonne’.

Thanks frisbee, that was the kind of information I was eager to hear of.

Question: has anyone of you - during a session or after a gig -ever been criticized (whether justified or not) for using too little ornamentation?

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Henk, I often play without using many cuts, rolls, triplets, or double stops, etc., and no one’s ever even batted an eye at it.

My reasons for doing this are (1) my hands are sore and acting up (due to medical issues), so I give them as little to do as possible, (2) I want to listen to someone else’s ideas of interpreting the tune, and (3) I’m in the mood for simplicity.

The important thing is to keep the lift and pulse in your playing. True, the twiddley bits contribute to that. But a good player can get the lift without them as well.

That said, I don’t often strip them all out—I like them, for interest and variety. And some tunes seem to have been written with twiddley bits in mind.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Some of the older musicians in my area use little or no ornamentation, one box player in particular plays with great lift and bounce and the only ornamentation I ever hear him use is the occassional triplet when he plays a hornpipe.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

For what it’s worth, Yvonne Casey’s style strikes me as highly individualistic but completely and absolutely within the tradition. That’s why I used her playing as an example to counter those who say you _must_ play rolls etc. Like I said, I used to think this way until I heard the first couple of Ceili Bandits recordings. With her solo Cd she seems, to my ears anyway, to use more ornamental devices, though I still love it. What really fascinates me as a fiddle player is her amazing control over the pitch of the note during slides. I can’t think of anyone who does this as well as her. This for me is a large part of her individual style. As for her authenticity, well, that comes directly from the rhythm and phrasing given by her bowing.

As for the ‘criticism for too little ornamentation’ question, a couple of years after I started playing I was at a session, and had just come to the end of a set of tunes when I heard another fiddle player in the session say, "Well, it’s easy when you don’t use any ornaments!" The man was an experienced and advanced player, and his comments had the effect of bucking me up to practice the various ornaments hard over the years, and I look back now and am grateful I overheard the comment. But like I say, my perspective has now shifted again. You don’t _have_ to play rolls etc. to have ‘the sound’ - the rhythm and phrasing is way more integral, in my opinion, anyway.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Thanks for your contributions so far, keep them coming!

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Thanks for that clip, slainte. I’ve heard Yvonne only on a Ceili Bandits cd before, and I didn’t care much for her playing on that. But this clip shows a different style—she is using bowed triplets, cuts, and rolls, though sparingly.

What I notice most about her playing on this clip, however, is the pauses she leaves at the ends of many phrases. It’s okay, but not my cuppa tea. I prefer a more fllowing approach to phrasing. But that’s just my personal preference.

Ditto what Doodle says about Yvonn’es sliding into a note—that’s beautiful!

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion. If you like the sound of what’s being played then it’s good, ornaments or no. T h e r e a r e n o r u l e s !

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

"What I notice most about her playing on this clip, however, is the pauses she leaves at the ends of many phrases. It’s okay, but not my cuppa tea."

So I guess you mustn’t like Tommy Peoples then……..

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

No, Tommy doesn’t do this as much.

And I’m not saying it deeply bothers me. In fact, on second listen to Yvonne on that clip, there are only a few times where she leaves a phrase hanging that just strikes my ear as wanting something else.

But I admit that I lean toward being overly notey and filling in (probably to a fault).

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

"T h e r e a r e n o r u l e s !"

Except, of course, for when there are.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

I disagree chesire puddy tat, Tommy Peoples has a great knack of leaving gaps that sound just right and he does it quite a bit, certainly when I’ve seen him play recently anyway. He’s changed his style quite a bit since his Bothy Band days.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Connaught flute players often use short phrases, too. James Carty’s solo album is a great example of this, and I was told that it’s a very Connaught thing.

One thing I noticed about Tommy is that his style in sessions is completely different when he’s playing in sessions from when he’s playing solo.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

On the Custy’s clip, she’s letting the music breathe, like a flute player (has to). Very nice playing, I think.
Just because the instrument can play a steady stream of notes doesn’t mean it should.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

oops. Sorry, drank a bit at dinner. :)

One thing I noticed about Tommy is that his style in sessions is completely different from when he’s playing solo.

;)

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

That’s just it—Yvonne isn’t getting the pauses where I would hear (and put) them on flute. Tommy does.

I love putting pauses in, as a fluter would. Which to me means not at the ends of phrases, but in between, so the phrasing stays knitted together.

Please don’t make a court case out of this—I don’t mean to sound critical of Yvonn’es playing. I’m enjoying that clip very much. And Eoin’s backing as well. As I said, it’s just my 2p.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

I think it’s a pity to leave out almost all ornamentation when you have the ability to use it and it really lifts the tune an extra bit. Yvonne’s playing still leaves me wondering why leave it out if it’s fun to do, within the tradition and really adds something to the tune.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

In disucssing this thread with my mother (and listening to Yvonne’s clip) she sagely advised that the best art is also minimalist: "These is a vast beauty in simplicity", the auld art teacher piped up. I think she was offended because Yvonne’s lovely playing made her shimmy while she got some coffee and then I told her some folk found the playing too ‘minimalist’. Ah, retired auld ones, nice to have them puttering around. :)

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Ornamentation is there to enhance the tune, to bring out the best in it. Doing it for it’s own sake is self indulgent at best and will easily overpower the tune. WIth good rhythm and lift, as I see it, minimal well placed embellishment adds colour. Over time I have come to cut out and do far less than I could. Much more enjoyable.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

I agree with that, Peter. I have to admit that some of the worst offenders in over-use (or maybe I should be saying over-emphasis) of ornamentation are ~some~ free-reed players (and some of the young low-whistle bucks!). Reversing the slide of a chromatic harmonica to make ornamentation more idiomatic is one thing, but stripping and rebuilding harps purely with ornamentation in mind seems like the tail wagging the dog to me. I love the fact that my 10-hole harps are full of limitations (as indeed am I!) and part of the fun of it all is to work round them and compensate with other means of expression. I’d much rather be granted the gift of being able to play tunes with grace, spirit and lift than to have every possible ornament to hand with which to annoy everyone within earshot at every potential ornamentatable (ornamentable?) point in the tune (coin-a-word-a-month, that’s me! ;-) )

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

A sign of maturity so. When you compare Kevin Burke’s recordings through the years you hear that kind of development.

Younger players tend to overdo speed and ornamentation.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Less is more in my book, you’re serving the tune, not your ego.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

London Banjo player Mick O’Connor (he of the multiple youtube videos) is a lovely example of banjo playing with very few ornaments - however, his playing hardly suffers for it. For an intermediate banjo player like me, his style reminds me not to get too wrapped up in the pursuit of the perfect triplet, but to simply strive to play the tune well. Angelina Carberry is another good example of tasteful banjo ornaments that add to the tunes rather than undermine or overwhelm them needlessly.

This a good topic Henk Bos - thanks for posting

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

I’ve just added my transcription of Yvonne’s playing of Garrett Barry’s (based on the video clip) to the comments for that tune here: https://thesession.org/tunes/3434/comments

I agree that some players do over embellish tunes, at the expense of the tune. And that the articulations are best used to serve the tune, not our egos.

It’s also important to realize how many articulations Yvonne actually uses when she plays this tune—cuts, bowed triplets, and several rolls (as you can see (if you’re having trouble hearing them) in my transcription of just one pass through the tune). Credit to Yvonne—her bowed triplets are so clean and full of space that they do not sound like an "ornament" at all but simply part of the melody. That’s beautiful.

Still, if I were playing this tune three times through, I would add a roll on one of the G3s now and then, or play it GFG. Similarly, on the g2s and a2s in the 2nd part of the tune, I would occasionally do a slurred triplet: (3gag or (3aba because this could add lift and a small, pleasant surprise. My ear hears those sorts of small additions from years of listening to other players put them in—not every time through a tune, but on occasion.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

I really like the way this thread has worked out - and thanks for your support Jusa Nutter Eejit ! Apart from being very informative this thread has been very civil as well. No joking, I really mean that. Through the years we’ve been through various stages with The Session and if it works this good with such a large community like it does now that’s wonderful.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

To me this debate is really about settings, and as such I would be quoting authors such as Breathneach, Roche and O’Niell.

Yes embellishment is to some extent personal taste, but there are tunes in which central phrases demand them. eg Dog’s In The Bushes, ( O Niell ) The Old Bush ( Breathneach ) and The Pretty Maids Of Bulgaden ( which is in Co Limerick, the tune today usually called The Temple House ) Roche.

Which ever, this video seems to me to be an attempt by the player to out do others in the minimalist strain - notably Cork/Kerry/E Limerick etc where that type of playing is almost common place see for example Johnny Mc Carthy ( one of Ireland’s top fiddlers today IMHO) and such as Mr Harrington.

Is Clare fiddling all like that? Certainly not!

In their splurge on RTE about styles the presenter there insists that the Clare style is in perfect health and not undone by CCE competition and foreign influence. She goes on the name the greatest Clare musicians whom says she most exemplify MusicaClarica.

She names Willie Clancy and Bobby Casey as well as OC Noel Hill and others, but not much about Mrs Grotty ( Scarriff ).

Well here is the news phoaks. Clancy got his music from the tInkers Johnny Doran and his brother - most certainly NOT Clare style and much more likely to have been that of O Meally of Co Meath as well as the Ennis family of Co Kildare,

Mr Bobby Casey by his own admission learned all he knew from trying to copy Michael Coleman, and the latter learned his craft from the Piping of a barely know Co Roscommon Piper Mr Gorman.

Neoll Hill, yup he has a unique style but I would differ about that being the model of ‘the’ Clare style.

I think Mrs Crotty had some of the real old all Ireland Melodionist’s to her playing but again that was copied from where ever she could get it.

Finally Mr Gardiner explains to me best what makes the Clare sound different, and that is the Concertina way of phrasing be it double buttoning or pushing ( huffing ) on the bellows.

None of which seems to be of any consequence at all if you are talking about embellishments, and as Mr Steve quite sensibly says above, it is the limitation of your chosen instrument that most of all determines what you CAN do.

So if Martin Hayes over does the embellishments and Miss Casey under does them it does not matter a hoot as long as you don’t assume that such errors are ‘the Clare style’

My experience of great performance is certainly not rooted in the berberiszed piffle such as some younger Itrad bands today do, but on the striking and lasting aural imagery left to us by such as Cormac Breatnach today, Joe Cooley yesterday and before him Mr Coleman.

Embellish all you like but remember that the basic tune needs perfectly expressed first. On a fiddle that would mean the player has perfect Bow control - very rare among the sessions I have seen in the last 20 years - and for a wind player it would mean perfect breath control.

IOW play the Sailor’s Hornpipe well and you will sound better than the fool trying to play the Dogs In The Bushes with bad bowing or breathing etc etc etc.

My 50 cents

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Henk, thanks to your lead, this has been one of the more useful threads (at least to me) to arise here in a long time. Highly enjoyable. Thanks for that.

PMW, I didn’t realize this was a "debate" at all. In fact, most of us seem to be in basic agreement on the main topics. And you’re right—it’s usually misleading to cite any one player as the epitome of a regional style.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

‘She names Willie Clancy and Bobby Casey as well as OC Noel Hill and others, but not much about Mrs Grotty ( Scarriff ).

Well here is the news phoaks. Clancy got his music from the tInkers Johnny Doran and his brother - most certainly NOT Clare style and much more likely to have been that of O Meally of Co Meath as well as the Ennis family of Co Kildare,

Mr Bobby Casey by his own admission learned all he knew from trying to copy Michael Coleman, and the latter learned his craft from the Piping of a barely know Co Roscommon Piper Mr Gorman.

Neoll Hill, yup he has a unique style but I would differ about that being the model of ‘the’ Clare style.


Sorry Will but there’s such a load of nonsense there you’re asking for comment.

Mrs Crotty (Scariff)? or Mrs Crotty (Kilrush)? your differing spellings are confusing.

Willie Clancy learned his music from his father and was well grounded in the local style years before he ever met Johnny Doran. The Dorans were only one example of many that influenced WIllie over time. He had an inquisitive mind and incorporated over time many things. He stayed true to the local style though, incorporating his influences seamlessly into it.

Bobby Casey was taught first by Junior Crehan who in turn had learned from Scully Casey, Bobby’s father. Again they fit in seamlessly with the local, West Clare , style. Bobby was a highly ornamented player who like WIllie Clancy incorporated many influences over time but stayed true to his received local music.

Noel Hill pretty much started off on the style of Paddy Murphy, who worked it out himself and built further on that. Nothing ‘unique’ about it in that sense.

I don’t think Martin Hayes over ornaments, he uses whatever he does to create the mood he wants at a given time. His playing is very strongly rooted in local players, Canny, Rochford, Grifin, Bane, Malley etc etc. wit hat tiems a strong dose of Potts

So, there is a distinct pocket of West Clare style, Clancy, Casey, Crehan, JC Talty, Patrick Galvin, Michael Downes, Josie Hayes, Martin Talty, Sean Talty, Michael Falsey and many more.

You have only to move a few miles to get to a far more minimalist style that is associated wit hNorth Clare, through Jimmy Hogan, Pappy Looney up to the Shannons Killourhys and teh Russells around Doolin and the group around the Kilfenora band a bit further up, this continues on northward to the Droneys etc etc.

A similar story could be told going south spotting the old Kerry West Limerick influences brought in by Whelan that came out in the playing of Patrick Kelly and Ellen Galvin.

Outside influences? Certainly. Based on those and nothing rooted in the local tradition? Wouldn’t think so.

This is not about settings, but how the tune is approached, rhythmically, tonally and embellishment wise. You can go at one setting and approach it in different ways and that’s what this is about.

If you go back to Yvonne, I think her style was formed by playing sessions day after day year after year around Doolin. Absorbing whatever influence (you can hear directly or indirectly, the influences of Frank Custy’s teaching there) but staying rooted in the simple (by way of ornamentation) North Clare style.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

As it happens Willies father and mother both played the concertina, His father taught Willie the Flute from a young age. He learnt the fiddle from Thady Casey.
Garret Barry ‘s influence on many of Willies teachers is undoubted.
Willie Sung in the west Clare style , picked up mostly from his father. So he had been playing for 12 years before he met Johnny Doran. He was also influenced by a number of other pipers, including Seamus Ennis, John potts, and Andy Conroy.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Gilbert Clancy was first and foremost a fluteplayer ( I don’t actually think he played the concertina) and I happen to know someone who grew up next door from the Clancys and who grew up listening to Gilbert play music with her father.

I was actually quoting Willie directly when I said his father gave him a thorough grounding in music so he was already a fully formed musician when he first encountered the pipes, when he was in his early twenties I may add.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Well Kilfarboy, AS far as i am aware, Willie met Johny Doran at the Milltown Races in 1936, born in1918 that makes him 18 i think. I , however am no authority on the subject just relating 3rd hand information. Gilbert is remembered as a flute player, however he also played the concertina. This was related to my source by Willie Clancy personally.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Martin Talty told me the story how he and WIllie walked up to the White Strand where Johnny was camped and how WIllie ran when they heard the pipes in the distance.
Despite that, WIllie only got his practice chanter and bag some two years later, from Felix, which made him in his early twenties when he started the pipes. It’ all quibble about detail though isn’t it, the gist of what I said, that WIllie was already a musician well grounded in the local style when he me the Dorans and became influenced by them, still stands.

If you listen to Clancy’s playing over the years you’ll notice that the period where his playing was influenced by Johnny’s most was that from 1958-1965, after Breandan Breathnach gave him the tape of Johnny’s recordings. Willie had an inquisitive and experimental mind and went through quite some distinct phases over time. Never loosing his grounding in the local idiom though.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

By the way, my apologies to Will for attributing Paddymoloneyswig’s comments to him earlier.

I think this thread is a good example how a decent discussion of a subject gets railroaded into submission by some loud people with more volume than insight. It’s all too common off late on forums discussing Irish music. It’s a pain and the positive sides of talking about these things on the internet are now outweighed by far by the negative, the hassle and all that some bring to it.
Enough for me. Good luck.

Posted .

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Come on, kilfarboy, reconsider, we need people like you as a counterweight. No kidding.

Re: ‘minimalistic treatment’

Absolutely kilfarboy and i wouldn’t disagree for a moment with the thrust of your argument. I was merely pointing out some small details that might have been missed in the general conversation.
I for one, appreciate you taking the time to broaden our knowledge base on any subject within this field, and without, for that matter.
Thanks . As a general plea to anyone and everyone here, lets keep our minds open, however knowledgeable we might be there is plenty more we don’t know. One of the beauties of any deep field is we have life long learning within it.

Disagreement is to be expected, but surely between us we can arrive at an approximation of the truth. I make a habit of learning every day. Some lessons aren’t so palatable but thats life.