Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

It’s around 14 years now since third level courses such as the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in UL was set up to deal with trad and many other courses then sprang up either entirely dedicated to trad or at least having a module concentrating on it. This can be seen as a major breakthrough in the development of the tradition, as the primary focus of most of these courses is on trad performance. And, after a person choosing to do their only degree in trad music, it better be commercially viable trad performance, otherwise, they’re going to struggle to make ends meet. It’s all good fun at the time but what after fourth year when reality kicks in?

So my question is; with all the hundreds of students studying this new third level idea, are we seeing the production of super-stars as promised? or is the current system simply not working and with ample evidence to prove it.

I am aware of musicians like Sean Og Grahm of Beoga fame but in fairness, he was on the path to greatness before UL so people who have it in them like that don’t really count! So outside of the production of teachers, what is your opinion on the current state of the degree and masters programmes? If you’re a student, do you feel confident about the course and your future as a professional musician? If you’re a past pupil, what have you got out of it and where are you now? (not meant in a bad way) And for everyone else, do you think that the courses are of value to the tradition? Or a source of disillusion and waste of money….

Looking forward to hearing your opinions and hope that I’ve conveyed my opinion as objectively as possible.

Martin.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

The prospecti for these folk degree courses don’t have a warning on them saying: “Only wannabe superstars need apply”, do they? Becoming a famous trad musician is not the only reason people go into these courses. probably most of them end up as session musicians or teachers (by “session musician” I don’t mean someone who plays in sessions for fun (although they probably do as well), but someone who plays on somebody else’s CD, or in a backing band, etc).

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Is traditional music commercially viable? Perhaps. Not in Australia, but there are plenty of professional traditional musicians in other parts of the world. Which raises the question, how many people can be professionals? Will hundreds of students a year find a place in the marketplace? I doubt the demand is large enough for growth of that scope. And if traditional music must be altered or at least performed in a particular style in order to be commercially viable or to become more sought after, is that necessarily good for the music as music? I don’t think so. I think part of the reason traditional music is how we see it today (or perhaps in yesteryears) because is wasn’t a commercial commodity, it was purely music for people to dance to and listen to and play, within their own communities.

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Not everyone does a degree just because they want to make money. I’m currently doing a degree (not trad-related) in the knowledge that the work I do after my degree may have nothing at all to do with what I’m studying. I’m studying because I’m interested in my subject and I want to learn as an adult rather than vegetate in front of the telly for the rest of my working life.

So what if these people off the trad courses don’t become famous musos. Maybe they wouldn’t want to be anyway. Perhaps all they want to do in life is join the police force or something. A trad degree isn’t going to stop them doing what they want to do. They’re certainly not going to be “struggling to make ends meet” whatever degree they have. Maybe if they’d flunked all their GCSE’s and turned to heroin, yeah, then they’d have a problem.

No, the *real* problem with these trad courses is that the students are encouraged to like and learn crap tunes, and I reckon they learn that a flirty smile and a flick of the hair is more valuable and rewarding than things like being able to get a decent tone out of your instrument. Anyway, in today’s commercialised, plastic world, that’s probably true, if all you value is money.

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Dow where did you get that information from about the crap tunes and flirty smiles? Are you sure they dont focus on things like a good tone?

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Well I know the Folkworks people are into crap tunes from reading their comments in the tunes section. Admittedly, we’re only talking about 2 or 3 people off one course, but that’s not the point. I like to generalise - you know that. And the bit about the hair flicks and flirty smiles came from my totally prejudiced imagination. Just to balance Martin’s objectivity 😉

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If you just wanted to play traditional music and not work as a professional musician, why wouldn’t you just play, instead of paying thousands of dollars to get a degree that proves nothing? That’s the situation I’m in, I’m not going to make any money from traditional music; I just play it because I want to. So I play in sessions and I learn tunes and I listen to good players. I don’t need a degree to do that.

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Ah sure, isn’t it all part of the great educational industry. Jobs for the boys you know - to set up, run and examine these courses. Just part and parcel of the great Irish music industry and who cares what people do after their four years - at least they haven’t been on the dole.
That’s a cynical view from the barstool but like any such view, it carries a fair grain of truth!!

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Very few people end up making their living doing whatever they studied as an undergraduate. Bachelor degrees (or “MAs” as they call them in Scotland but whatever) only get you into a career for a narrow range of subjects. It’s an even narrower range of subjects for Americans, as you don’t study medicine or law as an undergrad. You can major in absolutely anything and still go to law school if your grades and LSAT scores are good enough. In both the UK and the US, you can get onto a graduate course for most subjects regardless of your first degree. Insofar as getting a “real” job is concerned (something that I’ve been avoiding) an undergraduate degree in an arts or humanities subject will not get you a brilliant career. My first degree is in psychology. It might as well have been in traditional music. People who become psychologists either have PhDs or MDs in psychology or psychiatry or other professional training like a master’s in social work.

My point is that an Irish traditional music degree or a folk music degree of any sort isn’t any less, or more, useful than degrees in history, psychology, classical music (how many music majors are playing professionally in orchestras?), sociology, women’s studies, fine art, medieval studies, Greek, political science, and a zillion others offered by universities all over the world.

This post has been brought to you by Cynical Grad Students Anonymous.

P.S.

I must add that I was playing a session in Newcastle with a girl who went to Folkworks. During a gap between sets, I asked her more or less what Martin asked – does doing the course help her playing more than just playing and does she believe it will help her pursue a career as a musician. She replied, “I’m too drunk to answer that.”

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Hmm maybe the Newcastle people aren’t so bad after all …

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I think that the emergence of these courses reflects the increase in interest in folk music, generally, in recent years. In the case of Folkworks the push has been from the likes of Alistair Anderson, Katheryn Tickell and others who have a genuine concern for the continuance and development of traditional music, particularly Northumbrian music. If most graduates become teachers then so much the better - folk music in more and more schools and homes.

As for making money - some will but most won’t. Perhaps, though, more families will be involved in folk music and we may get back to it being much more of a community thing.

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“If most graduates become teachers then so much the better - folk music in more and more schools and homes.”

Yes, but it’s turning learning a trad music into a commodity - a consumer experience - maybe it’s already happened because the majority of kids are shipped off to trad. music lessons now along with the dancing and gymnastics, swimming lessons et al.

Yes, there has been a long tradition of travelling teachers etc., but this is formalising it and generating a stream of income, a business model, a modus operandi.

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In England anyway I think it’s a nasty trick because at the age people are starting these courses, how many actually realise what the student loan debt will actually mean?
If the Financial Services industry did it, it would be classed as gross mis-selling, but hey, it’s the government, so that’s okay.

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Good point Tom. How do they figure expected income from a Traditional Music Degree when paying back the student loan?

“I see you’ll be a professional traditional musicians after you graduate, which means, based on their average salary, you’ll be able to pay back your student loans for your Traditional Music degree by the time you’re 137…”

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If people realized what their student loan debt was going to be and then planned out a career, starting from their undergrad major, intended to pay it off relatively quickly, medical school and business school admissions would skyrocket and everything else would drop like a piano accordion off a cliff. No one would get degrees in subjects like history or music. In my mind that would make universities into sad, boring places.

The real question then is why do people go to university? Obviously there are lots of reasons ranging from “I didn’t know what else to do” to “this business degree is going to get me into a job that will make me millions” to merely the importance in modern society of having a university education. I would argue that the point of a university education is not to sort you out with a career in whatever your major was but rather to teach you how to think and how to process and consolidate information. A liberal arts education, which sadly they don’t do in the UK, ideally exposes you to a wide range of disciplines, increasing your general knowledge and widening your perspective, never a bad thing.

So if people learn something from a trad music course and get something out of it. At any rate, it increases the amount of unemployed musicians in the world, which should counterbalance the amount of unemployed historians. 🙂

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The words ‘super stars’…. ‘fame’……. ‘path to greatness’…….
simply don’t exist in my personal ITM world Martin t.
Maybe a useful course module would be to travel up to Gurteen, buy a bottle of jameson and talk and get rat arsed with Peter Horan for the day, then maybe they really would learn something worth learning rather than drawing a pie chart to show the ratio of jigs to reels to polkas on Liz Carrolls new album.

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In Edinburgh they have the school of Scottish studies—not the same thing, exactly, but it does promote an academic/intellectual approach to Scottish culture that has had some wonderful benefits—they’ve been able to catalogue and explore generations of literature and history in a way that they never would have without the school. Think of people like Hamish Henderson and how important he is to the Scottish tradition, and all the lectures and work from him that they fostered. Most importantly, I think, his work was not only historical in nature—he wrote himself and carried the tradition through to his own time, and influenced many current artists.

I would think that the Irish academy might have a similar impact on Irish music—students there have the opportunity to study the tradition in depth and breadth, and learn from it in a way that they couldn’t if they just stayed in their local community. I’d have to think that that would influence their playing in a way that would enrich the music and help the tradition grow.

It’s only theorizing, of course, but it’s happened before—Seamus Ennis was a one-man music academy all to himself, for example.

Martin, you didn’t really state any opinion—do you have one?

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Hey. The reason I started this discussion is because I recently heard a head of school (not mentioning the college) say that we’re training these students to be professional musicians on the trad scene and I thought, there’s no way that’s going to happen. At the end of it, in comparison to a business degree, what will they achieve?

I then blamed the structure of the courses as none of them foster the one important factor that we should have, stylistic individuality. If they had that, and a business sense, they would have a much greater chance of achieving artistic fulfillment and possibly be able to get enough gigs to support that lifestyle.

I had the unfortunate experience then recently also of playing a new album, being enthralled by the playing and then being quite shocked when I found that it actually wasn’t Tommy or Siobhan Peoples. The problem with many of these colleges is that they have students with so much potential but with one tutor to each instrument, thus they all come out sounding relatively the same and if one is playing in someone else’s style, then I wonder to what extent they actually achieve artistic fulfillment. Is it just of the craic in a session, or the buzz of playing in front of a few hundred? These are all great experiences but ultimately nowhere near as good as finding oneself through the music, and then being able to channel it in any amount of ways.

I’m optimistic that stylistic individuality can be nurtured and developed but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case at the minute…. This discussion is for me hopefully to be proved wrong in some sense but by and large, I could be at the door of an awful truth…. At the minute, VocalDivasteed could indeed be the one with the best approach. Minus the full bottle of whiskey perhaps!!!

Martin.

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Can you imagine if the likes of Seamus Ennis, Peter Horan or even Seamus Tansey - or any of the true traditional musicians were running a course in UL! then i can imagine people would have a different opinion on the merits of such degree courses. Sadly many of these courses are run by people who do everything they can to produce mongrel trazz and nonsensical analysis projects in order to create a fan club for their own ‘music’. Hence packed gigs in Doh-lands to compliment the hefty lecturers salaries. In Lord of the Rings they call it Mordor so maybe we should throw Ennis’s Gold Ring in there to blazing inferno and return to Hobbit land (a metaphor for Gurteen when Kip Scanlan was looking over the young Jamesie Coleman and younger Micin in short pants, shoeless like a hobbit, leaping round dancing like a trout during Mayfly as they learn their first tunes. Can’t imagine any of these taking notes in lectures run by any course i know of judging by the junk i hear on a regular basis. However, i think these course can be enjoyable for people and this is in itself of merit but as to exciting the rest of us to listen to the fruits of their 4 years study…

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Martin i think you should bring the should bring the whiskey to Horan. He prefers whiskey than piano boxes! But seriously he’s very nice and a great character and an outstanding flute player. on another note, there are very few professional trad musicians. If you exclude those who end up teaching, lecturing or playing in commercial bands, there are very few can rely entirely on their individual playing. In fact most musicians end up doing bits and pieces of things that really don’t reflect any individuality but serve simply to pay the bills. Reliance on music for a living often compromises their individuality and creative freedom as often they resort to stuff that they wouldn’t be proud of but snatch the dollars/euros/pounds and cringe inside or take solace from the fact that so many others are doing it.

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I reread Martin’s initial question and yes, I see that I did not directly answer it.

I suppose a more relevant response reflects how the degree programs market themselves and what students believe they are going to get out of it. Someone taking one of the courses will be able to answer it better than I can (my anecdote about the drunk Newcastle student suggests it may be a complicated answer). Are students using the program as a method of achieving artistic fulfillment? Are they using it thinking it will propel them into a music career? Do the course administrators believe these programs will provide one or both of those things? No one running a history or medieval studies course believes for a second that more than a minute percentage of the undergrads taking the course will pursue careers as historians or medievalists.

This is something you could research, with all the arbitrariness and flaws of any social science research (give those unemployed humanities majors something to do) 🙂. You could conceivably run an empirical study by surveying where professional traditional musicians received (if they have any at all and not all of them do) their university degrees. Perhaps your study could also contain interviews of musicians who have received a music degree or haven’t and those would be nice analytical fodder. Obviously there are hosts of problems with selecting who you are going to ask but you could probably work out a reasonable study sample.

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I forgot to give credit to some of the research essays which are done in these courses. I’m aware of some interesting essays and interviews which are carried out. But there doesn’t seem to be much in the line of solo musicians with a style of their own and a knowledge of the tradition to support it. There are many really nice people on those courses and are generally very happy attending but like Martin says where does it leave them musically? Scarred

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I’m not at all familiar with the content or purpose of the current third level courses, so I’ll forbear on those.

’owever, Respectable People have often tried to make ITM Respectable. There used to be a programme on the then Radio Eireann in the 1960s, if I recall correctly, called “Music of the Nation” - emasculated orchestral renditions of ITM. The implied suggestion was that had it not been for the Wicked Colonialists, *this* is what ITM would have evolved to - See - Thoroughly Respectable. Neat and Clean and Civilised - whack fol the diddle…..

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Wasn’t Sean O’Riada involved in that school of ‘thought’? Ceol na nUasal - Music of the Gentry. I guess the college courses now on offer can be traced to the above folly. Well spotted Sean Lead Liath. A Seamus Ennis said “ rather silly“. Breathnach was a better scholar on Irish music than these university trazzle lecturers these days. The ironic thing is he was working for the department of Agriculture which one would assume would have more to do day-to-day with slurry, pig sh*t and foul smells than real traditonal music. Trad 3rd level courses should come under the auspices of the department of Agriculture due to the intoxicating levels of dung, silage (spoilage) and manure produced. Neat, clean and civilized smells like hiberno-trad slurry or criptus-lidium( an attempted spelling of the water disease in the Corrib in Galway which makes people sh** like a fluid Seamus Tansey series of high A-rolls). Prof O’Suilleabhain for Minister of Agriculture.

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That’d be ‘Cryptosporidium’ - lives in the intestine of infected humans or animals. (I’m in a helpful mood, snowflakes)

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“I then blamed the structure of the courses as none of them foster the one important factor that we should have, stylistic individuality.”

Interesting you say that - I didn’t realise you’d studied on every single degree in order to make an assertion like that? I’d also be interested to know what that CD that was so similar to the Peoples’s stuff was.

“No, the *real* problem with these trad courses is that the students are encouraged to like and learn crap tunes, and I reckon they learn that a flirty smile and a flick of the hair is more valuable and rewarding than things like being able to get a decent tone out of your instrument.’

As a student on one of the degrees I for one disagree entirely with both of yous. Yes, there are one or two musical clones emerging from these courses (I can’t think of anyone who would rather flick their hair than play well from my course) but they probably play in the same way if they’d not gone through the course anyway. The majority of the people I hear on the degree have styles uniquely their own.

Most of us don’t expect to become professional musicians once we finish - many will go into teaching, others like myself hope to go further into academia keeping on a bit of teaching and as much playing as possible, and others will do something completely unrelated… as someone pointed out, not dissimilarly to many other degrees such as history.

Like anything - it’s what you make it. However, I don’t think you can accurately judge this unless you’ve experienced it. From my experiences on my course in my uni, I love it and I see no reason why I can do something relevant and make a living from it.

“Yes, but it’s turning learning a trad music into a commodity - a consumer experience - maybe it’s already happened because the majority of kids are shipped off to trad. music lessons now along with the dancing and gymnastics, swimming lessons et al.”

And this is a bad thing? Yes there are areas where trad music is for the tourists but no-one’s forcing you to got there. There are ‘celtic’ CDs etc but no-one’s forcing you to buy them. Personally, I only play what I want to play and listen to what I want to listen to. I’d rather see kids going to classes alongside their swimming lessons etc with the chance that a few of them will go on to become fabulous musicians and develop a love for the ‘old shtuff’ to keep the tradition alive, than them being put off learning by an image of traditional music as full of opinionated purists. Don’t get me wrong, I am a purist in terms of my own music and what I listen to, but I like to think that I’m open minded enough to acknowledge that all music has a place, whether I like it or not. I wonder how many people have got into the ‘pure drop’ through first being exposed to one of the more ‘commercially viable’ forms of traditional music?

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Tize’s reasons for enrolling a trad music course sound like the same reasons people enroll in lots of courses that seem silly or irrelevant to a lucrative career, the one I implied but didn’t explicitly write in my last post. It’s fun and interesting, gives you a university degree and something to do for four years. What’s wrong with that?

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Thank you Wolfbird

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Well thesnowflakes, I have had the honor of a great session with Peter Horan. A wonderful character, and we seemed to get on great anyhow!

Whilst I personally haven’t studied on every trad course, the one thing I noticed is that students generally had only one main teacher for the duration of their studies. This, I believe certainly doesn’t encourage stylistic independency or more than subtle individuality.

What I would hope to happen is that students would study and become very fluent with a multitude of styles pertaining to all trad instruments. I think that it is through an enlarged repertoire of stylistic language that musicians will then have the tools to pick and choose elements they like the most and hence development of the musicians personal style.

I’ve had so much fun listening to musicians who play is a really different style to myself and then trying to use some of their characteristics… A recent bit of fun was during a gig with a flute player who was, as they do, using vibrato on certain notes… when I tried it on the box, I got such a great buzz out of it. Then trying to adopt his phrasing also was very interesting and I can see myself using some of these shades in the future. This is what keeps trad interesting to me at the minute and I think could be a beneficial tool in the development of the genre…

Now dogs, Attack!!! (lol)

🙂

M.

p.s. cheers for your comments! Very interesting…

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I was having a look at these courses a couple of months ago (cork and Limerick) and they dont just teach you trad performance, they teach you;
sound engineering, bookkeeping, how to record CDs, CD cover design, how to manage trad bands and organise world tours - the lot.
It says on one of the websites that more often than not you cant be just a trad musician - so it gives you loads of tools to get you another job within that industry and others - you could then go on tour with a punk irish band or something. All in all I thought it sounded like a pretty good degree, and no less valid than one in any of those degrees previously mentioned.

For someone like me personally - I think its good because I’m not interested enough in anything else, I wouldnt waste 4 years of my time doing something I wasnt interested in, and as my friend in HR says. A degree is a degree is a degree - does not matter what it is in, as long as its a degree. So I’d rather spend 4 years doing something interesting to me like trad.

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Hmmm - and surely anyone who has the the littlest bit of cop on doesnt copy exactly the style of their teacher? If so it wouldnt matter if they were getting a degree or learning from the ole lad down the road - they would probably do it anyway.

Also cant we just be happy that people like Siobhan Peoples ARE actually making a living out of trad by teaching these courses?

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I think the courses who have modules on the business side of things are certainly the better ones… but having noticed that plus, if the initial package aint there to begin with, studying how to market it can seem a little funny… aside from managing a band perhaps… I’m not sure that a “degree is a degree is a degree”, it’s the difference between your future career, having the oportunity to do something you will be happy at, and being financially stable, in many cases…

The idea of people copying the teachers style isn’t something that people can always get away from. That is best proven with the idea of regional styles. That’s how they happened. Your second sentence, I sort of agree with bb.

Also, I’m delighted that Siobhan or anyone else is making a living out of trad. She’s an amazing musician and person doing an amazing job.. It’s not the teachers to blame anyhow, it’s the academics who probably should know better… But then, we can’t be too critical, it is early days for the idea anyhow.

over to the board again!

M.

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Oh - in terms of Degree is a degree I just meant - that girl in HR has a degree in Psychology, her husband (sirnose) is in Payroll and has a degree in Media or some such. Anyhow my point being that alot of employers just want to see a degree because it shows that you can stick at something. I mean - obviously if you want to be a doctor you’d have to have a medical degree, but in alot of other cases its just proof that youve got sticking power.

It always is the academics that have those kind of thoughts, but its the same in everything isnt it? Its all about politics.

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Ah, point accepted bb. It’s great to think that my own music degree might be of use outside of music - strangely that thought had never crossed my mind! Could be useful to remember!!!

🙂

Martin.

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Hmmm… not only is the idea of musicians copying their teachers not new, but it’s also not unrelated to many other kinds of musicians who don’t ‘find themselves through the music’. I know musicians who market themselves as ‘spontaneous’ kind of players, but in reality who like to dictate every single note played by them and others around them. That, to me, isn’t music, but obviously is the lifeblood of music to that particular musician. Also other musicians that like to think of themselves as ‘entirely individual’ kind of musicians often have entire stylistic spectrums is based purely on imitating different people in different contexts (one tune in the style of one musician, another in the style of another). Again, to them, this is their interpretation of personal style. So everything is perception based. Where you see people coming out with a useless degree, other people (especially those experience the degree) see themselves with having had a great four years in university, having learned a wealth about something they really love and having a great basis for whatever career they choose to go on with.

As was pointed out - as well as tuition with some of the best musicians in the world (that includes masterclasses with many great musicians) we study not only music business, but business in general, ethnomusicology, sound technology, other types of music and music theory. The instrument teachers I’ve had on the course have never encouraged playing like them - the emphasis from them has always been personal interpretation. Don’t you think it depends on the student, rather than the ‘academics’ or teachers to make the most of what they’re provided? University isn’t primary school - you don’t just get spoon fed information - you get one side of a story and you interpret it how you wish. As I said before, if a student comes out of the degree a musical clone, they were probably going to play that way anyway.

I, for one, see my future in research as well as performance/teaching. Not only is original style encouraged but original thinking is too - only in the last couple of weeks several students from my year have come up with fantastic and original concepts which could go on to become fascinating PhD topics.

How is doing a trad degree different to people doing a general music degree? I know many people who’ve been through ‘classical’ degrees and come out doing nothing to do with music professionally - they just continue it as a sideline. As with most university degrees, perhaps the most important skills you learn are social interactions, your strengths/weaknesses, and to have an open and broad mind. One of things I’ve enjoyed the most from the course is the variety of stuff we’re exposed to. I’m more sure than ever of what I like and dislike, but at the same time I’ll never have a closed mind to something - everything has it’s place and has some merit whether we approve or appease it or not. I may not like x musician, but that doesn’t stop me from acknowledging any points of brilliance x may have. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t make it crap, it just means I think it’s crap ;) Opinions should only be formed as far as possible on an experiential basis and I think that’s important to remember in these sorts of discussions too. Of course no-one can ever be completely objective because human nature means that we all come with our own preconceptions and perceptions, but if something isn’t doing any good and, in the case of a degree, if people aren’t getting something out of it, it wouldn’t continue to exist, let alone grow as most of the trad courses are.

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Yes Martin - you could get a job in the civil service (which is what I do). I find it great - because even though it is way boring - I can listen to tunes on my ipod the entire day, all day - everyday. I mean if you cant make a living playing tunes, then being able to listen to tunes all day is a pretty cool second.

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Sorry - forgot my smiley
🙂

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Interesting points. I suppose though, that as I thought, the proof of the pudding is yet to come with regard to what affect universities will have on the tradition and if indeed it will ever produce art that’ll touch and move people in the way that good art should and does.

Unfortunatley, with the droves flocking to do these courses, and with the incapacity of the world to employ the majority of them, the chain will eventually snap under its own weight. That’s in its current state.

Studying a trad degree has all the potential to be a fantastic thing but currently, I certainly wonder. I also have spoken to many expert musicians employed by the faculties in question and they all harbor similar doubts in the system.

It’s worth keeping an eye on though and will be interesting to see where it goes. What I’m looking forward to is the point where in a few years, after a downfall in registrations due to the realisation of this inevitable fact, the heads realise that it’s do something or loose it time, then we could be in business for something more than four years good craic.

M.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Dow:
“No, the *real* problem with these trad courses is that the students are encouraged to like and learn crap tunes, and I reckon they learn that a flirty smile and a flick of the hair is more valuable and rewarding than things like being able to get a decent tone out of your instrument.”

“Well I know the Folkworks people are into crap tunes from reading their comments in the tunes section.”

The “Folkworks people” of whom Dow speaks are three people on this site who attend Folkworks Summer School, aged 18, 18 and 16, who do all they can to annoy him. None of them have entered university yet, and, in fact, the two 18-year-olds have applied to do Maths and Law, and the 16-year-old wants to do Medicine.

Of course, a flirty smile and a flick of the hair will get you a long way, but you need to know exactly what you’re bluffing…
😉

https://thesession.org/tunes/7588
https://thesession.org/tunes/1026
https://thesession.org/tunes/346
https://thesession.org/tunes/2589
https://thesession.org/tunes/3817
and, of course:
https://thesession.org/tunes/885

Whoo! Crap tunes!!

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I wouldnt feel too badly about dow thinking those tunes are crap - he thinks the tunes I like are crap and tells me so all the time and he is one of my best friends. Imagine what he’d be saying if he hated me!

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

He’s gonna do medicine. Gawd! He’ll need a doctor after that. Might end up needing a lawyer too!
I’d rather do lunch.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

And a mathematician to tote up the damages!

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

NooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOOO

……oooooooooOOOOOOOOooooooo

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I think yous are all missing an important issue - the real impact of these courses is in this their role in the greater scheme of the commercialisation of trad music.

Somebody observed once that if a country wished to boost their GNP, all they had to do was to get each householder to mow their neighbours grass and get paid and taxed for it. i.e. turn lots of things that communities and individuals do for free and in a voluntary capacity into businesses.

Look at where childcare has gone in modern Ireland if you want a perfect example.

In the case of ITM, these are the pressures - turn a community music into a stream of revenue. Have people employed and selling services to each other that they once did for free.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I dont wish to criticise anyone else.
I would like to say that I am happy with the way I have learned my music.
Ihave never been forced to learn,
Idid it because Iwanted to,
I am self taught,Ihave had the pleasure of listening ,playing with,many good musicians both revival and traditional,and for me, I would have had it no other way,and If I had my time over again,I would do the same,but I would have taken up the offer to learn the fiddle from Julia Clifford.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Interesting.. FIrstly, I’m relatively convinced that bad tunes don’t really exist. A tune is a tune, it’s this piece of dough. Even the best tune is as useless as the worst when not being played. I think that in those aweful musical terms, a tune is really only pretty much the structural tones of the melody anyhow. It doesn’t have to be a jig or reel, or even a dance tune. The Kerry polka for example is really beautiful played loosley in at a slow tempo with loads of rubato.

I think that the wounded hussar hit on something really interesting by the idea of turning a community music into a stream of revenue. By that statement, it looks as if two opposites of good and bad were implied.

I think the music becoming hugely commercially successful will only ever happen to a small extent because many musicians still view it as just a bit of craic, by which I mean that it’s not taken that seriously and that the artistic experience is secondry to the on stage buzz and general craic of the pub with a few drinks.

I tried the example once of playing a concert with trad musicians and what I thought to be artistically very interesting and emotive music, and well, by the fact that there was no inclination to learn it and one telling the festival organiser ah don’t worry about missing the gig, - you’re not missing anything! I thought that it would indeed be a long time before the wounded hussars dread would become a reality!

By the way, may I also add that Peter Horan, Michael Coleman and Joe Burke as much as we love them all made money from music, hence are/were commercial musicians. Also, making money from music, and loving your job, isn’t as bad as we make it out on the mustard board surely….?

While I never want to see music loosing its fun element, I also do want to see it becoming a more artistic genre on a par with the other great musics of the world. Sometimes in sessions, I think this can be lost…

It’s a big world; we can have both.

Martin.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

“It’s a big world; we can have both.”

Maybe we can, Martin .. for a while. But I suspect in these matters it’s hard to keep a balance. You can kill off something in the pursuit of supposedly improving it.

You have to have people taking up the music. If the bulk of that learning is done through private classes and partic. if exams and grades start coming into it (they already have), it could easily end up like the ridiculous moneygoround that is classical music where there seems to be endless jumping through the hoops.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

“it could easily end up like the ridiculous moneygoround that is classical music where there seems to be endless jumping through the hoops.”

That’s already happened, where certain musicians, who would like to consider themselves among the traditional elite, treat the music in the common Western Art aesthetic, where everything is prescribed - especially when playing in groups where they attempt to dictate other people’s individual style rather than allowing them an intepretation of tunes. Surely this is as damaging to the performance aesthetic as people simply learning to play in their teacher’s style? At least then the people have had a choice of what style they play in! There are also ‘traditional’ musicians who actually have a horrendously small repertoire of traditional tunes, no matter what style they’re playing in. For me the beauty of traditional music lives in the spontaneity and interaction of the musicians playing it - even within arrangements there should always be space for interpretation. The fact is that it’s only ever people from outside of third level institutions who have tried to impose an overly strict approach onto the music. There’s a fine line in these cases between music and robotics, and robotics completely turns me off.

There’s also, i feel, a temptation for many musicians to feel a constant need to prove themselves by showboating. Either they feel the need to play ‘party pieces’ and tunes for the sake of showcasing technical virtuosity instead of tunes simply for the merit of those tunes. Also on numerous occasions I’ve seen musicians walk into a lovely session, sit down into the middle of it and instantly change the dynamic - the session then becomes the ‘x musician show’.

Unfortunately, if not approached properly this happens on degree courses as well where obviously you’re being examined on your performance - many people see this as about technical virtuosity rather than music that they love playing and playing it well. Still, thankfully realise that there’s a time and a place for such indulgences.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

It seems to me that teaching some commercial / business / production stuff makes a lot of sense.

Love him or loathe him - Flatley trousered the better part of 50 mill. Astute & canny hoor, & fair play to him. He got to the hard-nosed guts of packaging, selling & marketing.

Conversely, one hears of v talented musicians who got blinded by public adulation & cut *bad* deals for themselves, & hence never made any real money.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Jesus, Mary and Joe Burke, This discussion is about (See the title and initial post Tize).

On my maybe we can have both comment, there are thousands of trad musicians playing today. With the range of opinions and aesthetics out there, and seen in this small discussion, I don’t see any chance of killing of any particular modus operandi.

Also, I’d like to state that Classical Music is less about money than is trad. Classical musicians spend on average a good six hours a day practicing, doing what they love. Most trad musicians of a reasonable standard will only play for a gig. Also, the amount of gigs a classical musician will do in his lifetime is so minute in comparison to the trad genre, even if the performer is at a very high standard.

Of tize’s comment on one in a group dictating the others style. If one thought it damaging, then one simply wouldn’t get involved. Unless it was for the money, in which case it is a bad reflection on the musician arguably. What teacher is assigned to you, particularly in a university, is often something one can’t change.

Moving temporarily off the topic to humor Tize, what way other people play is entirely normal and natural to them. Let them at it. To one who can’t play at all, any out-of- tune rubbish will seem a technical charm, and non-musicians are often heard saying that they wish they could play an instrument. The above point and and x musicians show, is however, how others perceive something but if one is to retain ones individuality and truth, then they try not let what other people think influence them in per suit of it. There are so many musicians who try to sound like something safe for superficial praise but essentially, that’s not where true folk music is at.

Finally, the commonly held opinion that technical ability and soul are polar opposites is very incorrect. One is no good without the other. I personally see technical vocabulary as the means of communicating the soul. You can never have enough of both.

Ok now, back to the original topic and cheers for all the comments.

M.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Well, we’ll see Martin - in years to come. If “most trad musicians of a reasonable standard will only play for a gig” and we have a cohort of graduates going into teaching and the like and particularly if the Education people in Ireland get the idea that trad in schools would be great - you can forget it.

I don’t know if you have kids but there’s a whole changing value system going on out there.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

“I also do want to see it becoming a more artistic genre on a par with the other great musics of the world.”

DO you believe ITM is not on an artistic genre on a par with th ither great musics of the world?

Sounds like post-colonialist mindset and typical inferiority complex about things Irish to me. This can be rampant in many of our universities and would perhaps explain the need for lecturer and students to “push the boundaries” of the tradition “elevating” it to a higher level when they can’t even recognise what it is they are trying to elevate. O’Riada’s orchestations while he insisted on playing the harpsichord while trying to convince us it sounds like a harp. If one feels so passionate about an instrument then surely they’d learn that instrument? Heard all that crap about reaching for an artistic level in trad. Wake up, ITM has been on an artistic level for centuries so why are some clowns spoofing and ‘harping’ on about the quest for the elevation of the music? Sprinting down a cul-de-sac.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I guess I must suck because I’ll play for just about any old reason. Also, if someone will only play for a gig I’m fairly sure it’s someone I wouldn’t want to play any music with anyway, let alone sit in the same room with. I’m happy to say that all the friends I play with do play gigs, but are happy to play for fun just about anytime, and play regularly at sessions, for nothing more than sheer joy and a free beer or three.

If someone is only playing for gigs, they should go find themselves a rock or country & western band and make some real money.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

“What teacher is assigned to you, particularly in a university, is often something one can’t change.”

Again, wrong. Yes there are certain limits on the teacher you can have (e.g. obviously you can’t be taught, for instance, in limerick by a teacher who lives in England) but we’re certainly allowed to at least request a certain teacher. A friend of mine in college has had four different tutors in five semesters, another has had three different fiddle tutors, I myself have this semester had a different piano teacher to normal and am changing again next semester. The same applies for dance (which is an area which has been neglected totally in this discussion) and song - there are currently four or five teachers available for both regular dance and song classes at Limerick.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Didn’t O’Carolan earn grub with his music?? Not sure I will ever understand why earning a wage by playing this or any other genre of music is so wrong.

Studying anything requires the student to stand on his/her own merit eventually. An instructor merely points the way, it’s the student who makes a success of the studies, whether that is earning a living or just for fun.

Handling it, working it, molding it is what any artist/musician/writer, etc. does with any medium. And has/have been doing since we discovered banging rocks and grunting sometimes sounded pleasant. Haven’t lost anything yet.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I’m hoping to apply for one of these courses next year and the reason I’m applying definately isn’t so I can become a “professional” musician at the end of it. That’s not why you go to uni! I want to go and learn about the music! I want to be able to tell my pupils [since I think I maybe want to teach] that Nathaniel Gow is Niel Gow’s son unlike my teacher who didn’t have a clue. But I’m now being told I apparently have to learn about classical music at the same which to be honest isn’t really the reason for going.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Ha! I should really stay at the computer when talking to ye lot!!
Firstly to thewoundedhussar. Where as I love the idea of trad being introduced as a course for the second level system, I can’t see it happening. Firstly, because it is already included under the junior and leaving cert courses, and secondly, it’d take a wide reform of the second level system to introduce more specific subjects, and the most important bit, it’d take alot of funding and that’ll be the day when that happens! I do see where you’re coming from though with the whole gael-scoil craze which has sprang up in the last ten years…

That leads me onto snowflakes point, I’m Irish myself, relatively fluent in the language and fairly pro-Ireland so your initial comment isn’t really true. I think that ITM still hasn’t reached it’s artistic apotheosis yet. There was a huge artistic movement from Ceoltoiri Chuallan till Riverdance but not much since. We’ve been in a bit of a lull period since, hence my initial question on weather the third level courses were having an affect on re-igniting that boom.

These days we rarely ask ourselves, what’s if I try change the phrasing on this tune, experiment with tempos and placing the tune in different keys, what different tones can I get out of my instrument or what’s the high point of this tune, how can I get the best out of it. Most of the time, we sit in a session or gig, relax and are just happy to be there. - and that’s grand but that’s why I don’t think its largely on an artistic par, and yes, as with every rule there are exceptions.

Thanks to Trize for answering my question on teachers. I had thought that there was one main teacher and that all requested were on a guest basis. I’m very open to being wrong here as I don’t study at U.L.

To throw petrol on the fire, that brings me to my next point and this is a genuine question; are the classes a structured mix between repertoire and style? 50/50 maybe? I know that in some courses, it’s all tunes but perhaps in Limerick, and I’d imagine so, that it’s different. Oh and perhaps you’d like to talk about dance in relation to this topic Trize?

Finally SWFL, you’d actually be really very surprised at the number of well known musicians who only play for gigs. I think the real reason for this though is because they find it hard to get a great session. I know that in Dublin that can sometimes be hard. But not unheard of…

The root reason for these questions is that I’m hoping to do some research on trad at third level so that’s that explained! Thanks for all the feedback!

Martin.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

That leads me onto snowflakes point, I’m Irish myself, relatively fluent in the language and fairly pro-Ireland so your initial comment isn’t really true. I think that ITM still hasn’t reached it’s artistic apotheosis yet. There was a huge artistic movement from Ceoltoiri Chuallan till Riverdance but not much since. We’ve been in a bit of a lull period since, hence my initial question on weather the third level courses were having an affect on re-igniting that boom.

Are you for real?Riverdance artistic in a musical sense? YOur a joke. Ceoltoiri Chuallain had excellent individual musicians of artistic quality but were steamrolled together for the purposes of dumbing-down the music for the masses. I’d rather hear John Kelly play alone or with Johny Doran than with a platter of bodhran and a harpsichord. Your way of the mark Martin. Whats artistic about riverdance musically? Hair-flicking birds shaping in leather kasks while playing the fiddle? Is this a windup? Riverdance is a very far distant relation of Irish music. In fact your comments are indicative of the failure of these colleges if you elect to chose Riverdance as your artistic trad example.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Are these your own original thoughts that theres been nothing much since Riverdance artistically in Irish music. Reminds me of Caoimhin O’Raghalaigh’s comments recently. Any connection Martin? Just curious.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

If Trad courses go down the path of classical courses then the individuality will be lost. Classical courses in the main don’t foster individuality, the main aim of a lot of these courses seems to be to train musicians to be orchestral musicians so in this situation there is no individuality, everyone ends up sounding relatively the same. The same sound, articulation, vibrato etc. etc., the same also applies to singers. Even many guitarists end up sounding the same, despite the fact that they aren’t being trained to be orchestral musicians.

In classical competitions technical mastery almost always triumphs over individual expression, the same is happening in Trad.

The danger of Trad being institutionalised is that much of the original spirit of the music will be lost through a mountain of paperwork, analysis and political maneuvering.

I studied classical guitar formally in college for five years and reached a high enough level but now I rarely play any classical guitar, the formality of classical music in its performance and learning can make it more stressful than enjoyable. That’s why I mainly play trad these days, I enjoy it, I find it very artistically stimulating, it’s more relaxing and there are far more opportunities to play it, it is a much more sociable world and so on. I do disagree with you Martin about other music traditions being more developed, they may seem more obviously complex but that doesn’t mean they are better and on a higher level. The complexity of trad reveals itself more and more as you play it, as you listen to great players, as you encounter new styles.

So people can benefit by studying all sorts of different players and styles and many people who are learning trad actually do that through attending festivals and master-classes throughout the country.

I don’t think festivals get enough credit for their educational value. I think I’ve learnt more about music in general from the many trad festivals I’ve attended over the years than I ever did in classical college.

So I’m sure people take great enjoyment out of 3rd Level Trad Courses but I’m not sure they are the way forward for teaching the music because as soon as the administrative people get hold of these courses (if they haven’t already) they are going to be set in stone and the only important thing about them to the college will be the pass rate, this will then transfer to the students who will end up being more interested in knowing how to pass their exams than how to play good music. This is what happens in classical college, as soon as it happens in trad college individuality and creativity will suffer.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

College isn’t just vocational training. Not everyone needs (or wants) to be on track to be a breadwinner at 22 years old anyway.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

“The danger of Trad being institutionalised is that much of the original spirit of the music will be lost through a mountain of paperwork, analysis and political maneuvering.”

Exactly, that’s the way the education system works .. ‘the murder machine’ was it called by Pearse - a mountain of paperwork, analysis and political manouvreing.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Can you really make qualitative comparisons between Irish Traditional Music and Western (or any other form of) Art Music?
Traditional music is already a highly developed art form - and continues to develop of its own accord. Whether it is more or less highly developed than any other kind of music iseems to me to be irrelevant.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Would that be “discern-i-ble e-ffect” by any chance?

FWIW, I’ve heard some great young musicians who’ve come through Newcastle, Glasgow or the Irish tertiary courses and who I’d say are finding their own voices as much as any talented young performer in any genre has to. Calum Stewart is the one I’ve come across most recently. There has always (well, ever since the C17th) been an academic or pseudo academic antiquarian/enlightenment research/collecting element to the survival of tradtional material and performance style. The development of university courses and departments to specifically house and continue that work (rather than leaving it to e.g. the Min Ag or Cecil Sharp House) is surely not a bad thing. Having an academic formalisation of the entire transmission of a (genuinely living, ongoing) folk tradition in a general sense is both undesirable and unlikely, but there has long been a formal element, in Ireland at least, in such things as Comholtas and fleadh competitions etc. Just as in the Classical musical field, many children learn an instrument to quite a decent standard and do the comps etc. but then drop it altogether. Those who carry on will eventually develop their own artistic take on what they do, be that consciously so or not. In the classical field, which has far higher participation than any genre of folk, among those who study at tertiary level only a minority achieve professional performing standards, and of those, only a handful truly develop a distinctive artistic voice allied with sufficient virtuosity to become soloists: that is not solely a result of “The System” which we folkies so often fondly imagine (with partial but not complete justification) stifles all originality. Why should the upper echelons of talent and dedication in traditional music be any different? Sure, in all fields of performance there are people who succeed by dint of personal drive rather than real talent, who have the ambition to push themselves (or get themselves pushed commercially) to the forefront, but that is just a “human nature” phenomenon that is unlikely to change. I’m equally sure we can all think of stunningly talented and capable individuals whose personalities either preclude them achieving what their technical or artistic abilities would allow or direct them away from desiring that kind of prominence.

Part of this thread of course reflects the eternal dichotomy between the simple utilitarian and the humanistic views of the purpose and worth of education. In the British education system at present the utilitarian is rather dominant. Oh, and BTW, getting a degree, however good in whatever subject is no guarantee of even a job, let alone a good one, whether or not in a filed related to one’s training. Personality and drive have a lot to do with how that works too! I speak with feeling, as one affected by a lack of vision, drive and ambition to use my undoubted (!!!;-(!!!) talents to optimum effect or any discernible good purpose. I hope the effect of my affectations will not affect the effectiveness of the debate on this thread. 🙂

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I’m slightly dubious of the claim that university trad music courses will substantially effect, for good or bad, the “tradition.” First of all, what on earth is the “tradition?” That seems to assume that there is some a priori musical entity out there that all players are trying to grasp. But the music exists only when people play it and if it follows enough of the conventions specific to this genre of music, then it is generally considered Irish music.

Secondly, it’s folk music. Does it need to be elevated to “great art” (again, whatever that means)? Maybe this isn’t quite what you mean, Martin, but that seems totally alien to the identity of folk music. If individual musicians like Martin here or Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh want to push boundaries, fair play to them. But most bog standard musicians, or even most upper tier musicians, probably don’t care and would, if they even thought about it, find themselves more or less in agreement with granama.

My last point is that the unis probably don’t substantially effect the way music is played or understood. First of all, out of all the people in the world playing Irish or Scottish music only a statistically insignificant amount of them are taking trad music courses. An even more insignificant percentage of those students will pursue music careers, make loads of albums, teach etc.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I should also add that whatever the students at UL, Newcastle, RSAMD, and other folk music courses are taught will not be etched permanently into their brains, immobile, stuck with them their whole lives and forever defining their musicianship. That’s daft. Hopefully people do this their whole lives, but in my experience most twenty-somethings are exploring, trying new things, trying to figure out who they are, changing their opinions and life plans every ten minutes (or maybe that’s just me 🙂). I don’t know myself what they teach on the courses, but if they’re good courses, they will give the students the analytical and musical tools to explore the music and find their own identity within it.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Oh, that caused a bit of a stir! Lets start on the riverdance bit. Snowflake said: “Hair-flicking birds shaping in leather kasks while playing the fiddle?” When referring to riverdance, I was referring to the musical element, not how it was marketed. What puts people of riverdance and others like Carlos Nunez is how it is marketed. If we can somehow put aside the visual element and just listen to the music, played wonderfully by Mairtin O Connor, Maire Breathnach etc… then I think it is something wonderful, original, and very artistic.

Dave, You’re probably largely correct with the comments of classical music at college neglecting individuality. It does depend on teacher. My classical teacher, Dermot Dunne always makes me think about how I hear the piece and places personal interpretation on a pedestal. Also, as examples Nigel Kennedy, Maxim Vengerov and Glen Gould show, the best classical artists all do have incredible individuality. I think it’s the reason for their success.

When I spoke about trad not being on an artistic par, I’m really talking about the period from 1995(year after riverdance)- present roughly. I don’t think anything significant has been achieved in that time frame, with the possible exception of your new concerto. From say Planxty, the Bothys to supergroups up to around 95, I think there was much originality but currently that’s sort of dried up. Hence I wonder on the role of third level institutions in starting that buzz again; the ingredients are all there. I’m looking for evidence.

I would in a way agree with Pearses sentiment thewounded hussar. Primary, second level and some third level doesn’t promote independent thinking, and are a bit damaging but largely at third level we are encouraged to think for ourselves which based on some acquired knowledge is where it’s at.

Jemtheflute; Apologies for my alternate spelling of discern-i-ble. Apparently both are acceptable, but yeah, yours is the most common… For yourself, it’s comh-a-ltas. 🙂 I’m being cheeky now! 🙂 That was a fantastic post though…

Silverspear, Personally, I never use the terms traditional, irish music or otherwise. I prefer to use the word Trad, to which I’ve attached my own meaning: The playing of tunes. And if you want to define Trad, then define a tune. Traditional as a term to describe the genre is technically wrong because living people write new tunes.

Trad doesn’t need to be lifted or dropped to anything. Myself and Caoimhin just happen to be interested in that. No harm sure. Your last sentence silverspear is what this thread is all about; finding out what the courses give to students and how it might affect our genre.

It’ll be an interesting journey.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I wasn’t talking about how riverdance is being marketed. I was referring to the music. to my ears its rubbish. To call it artistic is a joke. Its crap. You mentioned that Michael Coleman earned money from playing. Fair enough. I have no problem with people earning a living. However it Michael Coleman never recorded anything but the music he inherited and played so well. Opposing these morals are the musicians who play crap music with the likes of Riverdance to get the cash and fool the likes of you and Caoimhin to call it artistic. Its unbelievable.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

On a most basic level, I would sum the question up as follows:

Until ‘the genre’ becomes an entity, moreover a university student, Third Level Trad Courses will have no affect whatsoever on it. The courses do, however, have an affect on the musicians/dancers who participate in them. Whether or not those musicians/dancers have an affect on ‘the genre’ is entirely up to those individuals and the people who choose to be influenced by them.

A simple but, I think, vital distinction to make. There is an overwhelming tendency to attribute ‘trad’ with personified attributes but, essentially, it’s an abstract concept which is defined by those who practice it. Therefore, third level courses will only affect it if people instigate the effects.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

There’s one thing I agree with thesnowflakes and disagree with you about Martin, Riverdance is muck! Have you listened to it lately? I didn’t like it in the beginning, but now it really hasn’t dated well, I mean listen to the broadway song at the end, it’s soooooo cheesy. Riverdance is a broadway show and has more to do with Bulgarian music than Irish music, although it’s a bit of an insult to Bulgarian music.

The main theme is very catchy and cleverly done but I wouldn’t consider it an addition, advancement or benefit to the tradition. Sure it helped make Irish music more popular and marketable around the world but I wonder is it the reason that nothing much interesting has developed over the past ten to fifteen years. Everyone saw how much money could be made out of it and tried to jump on the bandwagon.

Saying that I think the commercial side of trad is really dying out and a few very interesting musicians have become prominent in the past 15 or so years such as yourself, Caoimhín and Hayes & Cahill who we mustn’t forget only released their first album in the late 90’s, so while there is a lot of sh*te around there’s also some very interesting stuff going on. It just takes time for it to catch on and even longer to be accepted in the tradition.

For instance only now are people beginning to widely acknowledge Tommy Potts as a genius, when he was alive many in the traditional music community just didn’t understand him.

So give it time, I think the music is bubbling underground at the moment getting ready for a new phase of experimentation that’ll make the Bothy Band’s innovations seem tame!

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

!@£$%^&*().Its quite obvious that riverdance is crap, Fair point about Potts whose fans included Joe Ryan, Paddy Canny, Peadar O’Loughlin and a nucleus of musicians in Dublin but outside of that during his lifetime there wasn’t the recognition given or sought. However Martin T, Caoimhin, Martin Hayes and Cahill will never in my mind or ears exist in the same artistic level based on what i’v heard of them.

What connection have you to Martin as i notice in your history that you have posted Tourish Trip around the Box which i believe was composed by Martin? Are you Martin?

Things are bubbling underneath but the likes of Potts, Ryan and other masters will not be replaced by people who do not respect what it is their experimenting with. Experimenting with introducing those new zealand flat worms in Irish soil which is having a detrimental effect on the native worms. They come ashore in cheap shallow
potts from alien territories and disrupt, destroy and derail.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Firstly, to be put in the same category as Hayes, Caoimhin is an honour, so cheers for that! 🙂 One thing that is striking about the number of opinions, all of which I’m happy to hear, is that they are without anything past the actual statement to show that it was given more than a sporadic emotional thought such as, well I thought the drums in riverdance didn’t work, or I didn’t like the short phrase structure in parts. Why is blank statements the order of the day… and they can be gotten away with when not negative!

Essentially I’m fine with anybody stating anything they want, but unless there is any backup evidence to show that they actually think of their own opinions, it’s hopelessly void.

Also, I’d better clarify that the riverdance I’m talking about is the original one. I’m very much against any of the shows such as lord of the dance which have come after… I’m a big fan of Bill Whealan and think it sad that we don’t hear more output from him.

I should also maybe state that my own aesthetic view point is that folk music is neither good nor bad; it’s relevent. So perhaps that will aid an understanding of where I’m coming from. Also thesnowflakes, do you mind me asking where you’re from?

All the best,

Martin.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

“What connection have you to Martin as i notice in your history that you have posted Tourish Trip around the Box which i believe was composed by Martin? Are you Martin?”

You believe wrongly, Tourish’s Tour Around The Box was written by me for Mr. Tourish who is a friend of mine. You may remember the discussion a few weeks ago relating to it. I’m trying to forget it!!!!

‘Things are bubbling underneath but the likes of Potts, Ryan and other masters will not be replaced by people who do not respect what it is they’re experimenting with’

I agree but what makes you think Martin, Caoimhin and Hayes and Cahill don’t respect what they’re experimenting with? They have nothing but respect for it and have the music in their bones. No one may ever reach the mind-boggling invention of Tommy Potts but they are certainly on the right path as far as I’m concerned. It’s your right to disagree snowflakes but maybe you are more like those who didn’t get Potts when he was around, you may be blinded by your perception of what traditional music shoud be to recognise when new artists are taking it in interesting new directions.

Who are you anyway snowflakes, you remind me of a certain Flute player who posts on here from time to time………

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Martin T,

Here are five reasons why third level ‘trad’ courses are useless.

1. ITM degrees increase your chances of employment by 0%. This is sad but true. Employers simply don’t take degrees such as ITM seriously. In fact, such CVs are thrown in the bin by the HR department before the employer will have a chance to look at them. I work for a large American corporation based in Dublin and have had a lot of experience interviewing/looking through CVs. ITM degrees/sociology/beauty therapy/gender studies degrees keep the shredder busy on a Monday morning.

2. Nothing is gained on an ITM degree that could not be gained outside the course. An analogy can be made to Premiership football. I enjoy football and could think of few things more enjoyable than 3 years ‘studying’ the Premiership with particular emphasis on improving my football ‘performance’. However, the chances of me becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo after 3 years on a football studies degree course (http://www.solent.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/football_studies_ba/course_details.aspx) are about the same as you becoming the next Jackie Daly.

3. ITM/Football studies/beauty therapy degrees do not give candidates the necessary academic foundation which employers look for in graduates. With the risk of sounding pedantic, I couldn’t help but notice the following errors in your posts Martin. You spelt ‘affect’ when you meant ‘effect’, ‘loose’ when you meant ‘lose’, ‘aweful’ when you meant ‘awful’, ‘relevent’ when you meant ‘relevant’, ‘weather’ when you meant ‘whether’, ‘oportunity’ instead of opportunity, ‘per suit’ instead of ‘pursuit’, ‘secondry’ instead of ‘secondary’ etc. etc. And is it a Donegal thing to use American spelling as in ‘harbor’, ‘honor’, and ‘practicing’? Ok I know I definitely do seem pedantic, but remember Martin, employers are far harsher than some schmuck posting here on the Mustard board. Perhaps if you studied for a degree in English, History or Law, you may not be as prone to making basic errors in English spelling, grammar and punctuation (I left your grammar and punctuation mistakes out).

4. ITM/football studies/basket-weaving degrees diminish the value of real degrees like Medicine, Engineering, Dentistry, Teaching, Geography, Science etc. Of course everyone would like a degree. Of course everyone would love to spend 4 years rally-car driving or mud-wrestling. But should you be conferred with a degree for such pursuits? Most of us have worked hard, slaving over complex subjects like quantum theory, Maslow’s pyramid, EC Competition Law or the anatomy of the archicerebellum in order to gain that precious piece of parchment called a degree. Then the boyos down in Limerick come along, go on the p*ss for 4 years, study diagrams of McGoldrick’s rectum to see how much the sun shines out of it and try and tell the rest of us that their ‘degree’ is equivalent to our hard-fought ones.

5. ITM degrees appear to instil a certain arrogance in their graduates. I’m sorry to say I have noticed this in you Martin. Your comment, “I think that ITM still hasn’t reached it’s [sic] artistic apotheosis yet” is one of monumental arrogance. Apotheosis? (Word of advice: don’t use terminology you don’t fully understand). Was the golden era of Coleman/Killoran/Morrison not the apotheosis of ITM? Have you not listened to the sublime way in which Coleman begins Lord McDonald’s? What about Gillespie playing the Mullingar Lee? Heard of Tuohey? Ennis? (Clue: I’m not talking about a town in the west of Ireland). Even if Coleman was not the apotheosis of ITM (I believe he was), the exalted heights of traditional music are not about to be scaled by the warbling nonsense of Slieveen O’Reilly or the kitsch Muzak of Riverprance. And another thing. You say that you’re ‘relatively fluent’ in the Irish Language. Now surely someone approaching fluency in Irish would be able to muster a couple of words as Gaeilge for the TG4 Gradam Ceoil? Yet you were curiously silent when accepting the award, denying us the chance to hear your mastery of Irish.

People, I smell a spoofer.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

don’t touch the green linnet, it’s very easy to be so rude and condescending when you remain anonymous on this site. Perhaps you’d like to tell us who you are so we can all bow down to your absolute wisdom, sounds like you’re a bit jealous that Martin won the TG4 award.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I am the reincarnated spirit of Kip Scanlon. And yes, I’m VERY jealous of Martin’s award. I had a section on my mantlepiece just waiting for it.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

don’t touch the green with envy linnet

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

I like the use of word play there.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Ha! Calm down. You may want to know also that I don’t study a trad degree and never did…. I don’t know where people get that out of. Oh and with the Gradam thing, alot of people watching, and my family and friends don’t speak Irish so I wasn’t going to address them in a language they don’t understand…

That’s simply a matter of manners….

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

what are subtitles for then?

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Look, I will freely admit that I don’t speak Irish (although I would love to). I wouldn’t boast about speaking Irish when I don’t. I just think saying you’re ‘relatively fluent’ in Irish, and then going on TG4 with an audience full of gaeilgoirí where the whole ceremony is conducted in Irish and speaking entirely in English seems a tad strange for an ‘Irish-speaker’ such as yourself.

I know many of the previous recipients of the awards are not even ‘relatively’ fluent Irish-speakers like yourself, but at least they came up with an cúpla focal.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Green Linnett does have a point about the degrees not being worth much, even though its a bit off-topic. I havent heard any arguements to refute this. However seems a bit harsh.

Martin T, care to tackle Green Linnett’s arguements?

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Green Linnet - look at the type of academic study we do on the degrees before you make assertions and judgements such as “the boyos down in Limerick come along, go on the p*ss for 4 years, study diagrams of McGoldrick’s rectum to see how much the sun shines out of it and try and tell the rest of us that their ‘degree’ is equivalent to our hard-fought ones.”

If you for a second think that is true then you are sorely mistaken. Yes, we have great craic together as a course, but we don’t go any more mental than any students do in general! In fact, we have more hours than almost all other courses in the college, when everyone else is finished lectures we’re still in college doing practical exams and I don’t think I’ve heard McGoldrick or his rectum mentioned once in a single lecture there.

Most of us work extremely hard at what we do - that’s the academics as well as the performance/playing side of things. So we don’t cover quantum physics (but do historians, classical musicians, architects, physiotherapists, business graduates etc.?) but we do cover other extremely challenging subjects - go away and read some of the papers on perceptions/definitions of identity, metaphor in language in traditional music etc and come back and tell me we’re all just p*ssheads. Just because something is based in abstract concepts rather than formulae and mathematics doesn’t make it any less challenging or intellectually worthwhile. In fact, some might even argue that the former are more challenging.

As someone who comes from a family of scientists, doctors, linguists and lecturers as far back as we can trace, I haven’t heard such a narrow minded (and uninformed) opinion of any degree in a long time - certainly no-one I know has ever told me that they feel the value of their degree is diminished because of what I study. In fact, they all recognise the amount of work and thought that I put into what I do. If what you say is true and our degree is worthless to employers then your other point of a degree in ITM decreasing the value of what you may term ‘proper’ qualifications holds no weight whatsoever.

Get properly informed about something before you write it off.
There’s a really very basic concept which your “degree” obviously didn’t teach you.

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Oh come on Tize are you telling us that ‘metaphor in language in traditional music’ is a subject worthy of studdy?

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Sorry to barge in on the middle of an argument, but…

Is this third level course similar to the Scottish Traditional Music & Piping program at RSAMD?

http://www.rsamd.ac.uk/music/scottish.htm

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Don’t touch the green linnet;
I’m afraid I must disagree with you. Firstly, as a student of traditional music at Newcastle, I feel that your opinions and particularly your statements of fact leave a little to be desired. I honestly can’t comment upon your experiences of other graduates and I’m sure that, in much the same manner of any performer, some do exhibit outwards signs of arrogance. And some may actually be internally arrogant. But that isn’t really the point.

Regarding the usefulness of these degrees, I feel you make a moot point. Realistically, how many graduates leave university with a vocational degree and enter immediately into their field of study? Certainly, degrees in an engineering subject, (completed) medical degrees, architectural degrees and some others. I honestly feel that a first is a first, and if you undertake major dissertation work in your final year, particularly in light of the fact that there is relatively little academic work in compared with other subjects, an employer will look positively upon it. A critical analysis of a text is what it is, no matter whether it’s work by E.P Thompson, Hobsbawm or Harker. Whilst I’m under no illusions that my degree won’t be as highly regarded as another person’s from the same institution, I’m studying at a red-brick university. That the degree field is of a slightly more peculiar nature does not, as far as I am concerned, diminish the value of a degree with an academic focus significantly. And at least I can say that I studied something I was passionate about. But, the proof the the matter is whether or not I’m able to get into law school after I graduate, perhaps I’ll be better placed to answer objectively in a few years.

Further to the issues raised above, I’m afraid you’ve made a rather dubious a priori assumption that does not hold. That, because much traditional music making occurs in establishments with a licence to purvey intoxicating liquor, does not therefore automatically mean that those who study the subject must have a fondness for alcohol above and beyond that of any other student and overriding of their studies. In fact, living with two politics finalists, a history finalist and a business masters student, I can easily state that they are far heavier and more persistent drinkers that anyone from my course. So I’m afraid that your suggestion that trad. students are p*ssheads doesn’t reflect reality.

Nonetheless, I respect your right to your opinions. Given that you’re able to express these opinions coherently, I actually welcome them. I do feel though, that your opinions might do better in the form of a letter to the relevant institutions or indeed the specialist musical press. Perhaps then we might see some changes in the way that traditional music interacts with higher education, and hopefully changes for the better.

Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

Well there seems to be a lively discussion going on here!

I personally don’t have a problem with people studying the courses, if thats what they choose fair enough. However, you’ would want to be doing a HDip in teaching afterwards because that is really the only thing it is useful for. Otherwise I think people are wasting their time.

I’ve talked to numerous people studying the course and not studying the course to get a fair idea of what the whole thing is about. The main problem I have is that there seems to be this whole belief that after you study the course you are a ‘better’ musician because you have a ‘greater’ understanding of the music. Notice how I use quotation marks there.

People might disagree and say that they are studying because they want to know more about the music. Unfortunately the understanding of the music on the course is rather like fool’s gold because you may aswell be studying a classical course because they are built on very similar foundations. I am not saying they are alike, I mean that there are basic subjects that link both but in the end go off in different directions.

Music courses generally dont offer a very many jobs afterwards. In fact I would say virtually none. Maybe a job in the NPU but they would be far better off, and actually are, in employing top quality musicians who have a far more in depth knowledge of the music without a degree in it than their UL counterparts. I am only 21 but I would put my musical knowledge of living it my whole life up against someone with a degree in it anyday. I spent my early childhood summers in Miltown, sitting on the stairs in Clearys listening to Bobby Casey, John kelly jnr, junior crehan, pj hayes, joe ryan, etc. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting true greats in the music like andy mcgann, felic dolan, peter horan, patsy hanley, etc. and I am sorry but for the people studying the courses, you would learn so much more about the music in these guys’ presence for half an hour than you would in four years in UL or wherever.

I know that a lot of people from countries other than Ireland study courses abroad, ie. boston college, etc. and come over here to study the course and thats great. But afterwards what next? Basically it is just applying for a job as a music lecturer, im sorry to tell you.

And you cannot teach someone to become a professional musician. People are either good enough or they are not, and they either have a nose and a good idea of how to sell it or they don’t. You can’t teach these things. If you are talking about being able to handle you’re money, then study business or accounting because that is what you really want, and at least there are other jobs out there for them aswell. Frankie Gavin didnt make a cent from De Danann because he hasn’t a clue about money. Whereas Alec Finn did…and he lives in a castle in Galway. Do the math.

Also I agree with the statement that the Coleman era was the Golden Era of the music, or whatever term martin used there. I disagree with the statement that the apotheosis of the music hasn’t come yet. The reason why we play the way we do today is because of them. They were the first to use the style of ornamentation and phrasing and what not we do today. You might say, oh i never really listen to them, but that doesn’t matter because everyone since them, I really do mean EVERYONE has been influenced by them. There was another golden era as such in the 70s with Frankie, Molloy, Peoples, and the super groups but all of these were based on the Coleman era, they just ‘refined’ it more i suppose, thats not to say however that Coleman and them weren’t refined, they cetainly were.

The actual real problem i have with the courses thought is the attempt to mathematise the music. The whole idea of explaining the music through an obscure and overly complicated way is totally unecessary. People just play, they dont think in their head when playing ‘okay if I do this and divide this note and cut from the remainder here i’ll get this phrase blah blah blah’! Thats not right. It doesn’t make things simpler, you can either do it or you can’t. The music evolved into what it is today without the help of maths, and i think using maths or whatever to explain it will hinder a further development because people will do more thinking than doing. The only way you can develop is by playing and experimenting.

Also having more hours for a course doesn’t mean it is a really in depth or even a good course. Law in Trinity have 8 - 9 hours a week, but im sorry that is a much better course. And i see talk of definitions of identity. Thats meaningless, what weight does that have? If this is about individual players than just listen to them and you’ll be able to tell And the same with regional styles. It doesn;t take a college course to know the differences and if it does for you than maybe you should not be playing or you should be playing more and listening more! You can write for hours on end about lad O’beirne and you still will not, i guarantee it, find out what he did that made him so brilliant. There is no point in trying to find out things like this, we will never no and you can speculate as much as you want. Peopl like this just played, they didn;t think about it, it was natural. And another note the amount of drinking on a course doesn’t really make a difference to the course itself, all students drink heavily, i should know! haha!

I also disagree with saying that people like Caoimhin O’R are taking the music in a new direction. As much as he is a nice fella, i dont really put him in the same category as gavin or coleman or the like. He is in my mind Martin Hayes on valium. Its not that big a deal to play sliabh luachra music if you are from dublin, just listen to lots of recordings and learn the style. If you go to sliabh luachra you will hear more of it, probably even played better. But thats really a different discussion. But i read a point about having one lecturer for a lot of the course and not really hearing lots of styles, i have to say in UL they make and effort to bring in guest teachers, a relation of mine, i wont say what relation, has been down twice to tech flute and they do the same for other instruments.

But one thing that he (maybe she! hah!) said was that the standard of musician ship was pretty poor. There would be one or two decent players but overall they were not great. So it seems that the course is made up of substandard musicians seeking redemption through so called ‘knowledge’.

Its all about having letters after your name. Take someone like Gary Shannon, who has umpteen letter after his name, but can you say he knows more about the music than Peter Horan or that he is a better musician? Personally i don’t think so, however shannon is good in his own right.

Also about newly compsed tunes. I have to say Martin that not all tunes are good, yes i understand where you’re coming from, it is how they are played! but there is a bar that decides how good a tune is! you can;t compare tunes styled like those awful emer mayock tunes or those sorry excuse for bulgarian tunes by Mcgoldrick or those other pop tunes that he does, you can’t compare them to Lord Gordons or the College Groves or the like, even an O’Carolan tune who really was taking the music in a new direction. Of course there are some great newly compsed tunes, of note Mike Rafferty’s ‘Feeding the Birds’ , Frankie’s ‘Paddy Canny’s Toast’ or Charlie Lennon’s ‘Kilty Town’ and ‘Ril an Spideal’. Thats just a handful. John Carty had a good explanation of newly composed tunes that i think is true. He said of J McEvoy’s ‘Kilglass Lakes’ that ‘it sounds like its been around for ages’. That is what differentiates a good newly composed tune from a bad one.

I thinks its a bit unfair aswell to be discussing martins TG4 award, that doesn’t really have a bearing on the discussion. My own opinion is I don’t really like the piano accordion anyway, its just a bit characterless and harsh, thats not a relfection on you tho’ martin!

Someone earlier said they teach you sound engineering, book keeping, how to record cds, cd design, band arrangements andorganising tours. I have to laugh at these! Anyone can learn sound engineering for a start! that is another pretty useless degree, i know a guy retired fomr RTE he worked there for over forty years, and he said he just bought a book on engineering and read it and thats how he learnt, just through reading books and I for one can vouch for how knowledgeable the man is. And hwo to record a cd!!! Thats the problem with trad nowadays, everyone feels like they have to record a cd no matter how bad they are! Think about whether it is a good idea depending on your profile and ability not just doing it for the sake of it! And cd design, i study journalism and we do newspaper desig and layout which is extremely useful not just for newspapers but for all design forms. Ive already had a my own cd design published for one under Clo Iar Chonnachta so anyone with an ounce of knowledge can do that its not that hard, trust me!

Bookkeeping again business degree is better, bands arrangements or whatever, if you don;t know how to do this anyway you may aswell not bother! de danann, my favourite ever trad group ( they are as tight as a ducks arse, even playing at full speed!) didnt need a course on badn arrangement! haha! listen to some of their stuff and how good it is, it is not that flashy its just brilliant for example O’Carolans Draught, The Cuckoo’s Nest, Queen of Sheba, Hey Jude!!!! I’m sorry you can have your Beoga crap and put it.. you know! and organising tours, well that would be best served by doing and event management course or something along those lines. there are not too many world tours to organise in trad music.

Phew! now that ive got that off my chest! haha!…

…back to the point, as much as people would like to disagree music courses don’t make any real sense. There is only so much you can teach on a course and the rest is only learnt by living the music life so to speak. Of course having any degree isn’t a guarantee of a job of course but there are those that look better on CV lets face it!

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Re: Third Level Trad Courses: Do they have any discernable affect on the genre?

So I’m bumping this thread what do all of you think now 12 years on??