thesession.org’s influence

thesession.org’s influence

Another thread of what I call "meta-discussion" - a discussion about the discussions on this website 🙂

I was having a (somewhat drunken) conversation last night with another player, who is mostly just a lurker these days on the yellow pages here. <waving hi to him> He and I were talking about how some people that are in ITM voids tend to rely on the discussions on this website for learning things about the music, and how that can lead to people treating this website as being somewhat synonymous with "the tradition", or as an authoritative source of information somehow…

This website is far-reaching in scope, which is one of the cool things about it, but I wouldn’t say that it is particularly intimately connected with the tradition itself, at least as far as the discussion forum goes. (The tune archive might be a different matter). There are a lot of active posters on this site that *are* intimately connected with the session scene. There are also a lot of other regular posters who are really more on the fringe of ITM in general.

As we were talking about it last night, it occurred to me that almost none of the people I know that I play with are even members here. If I had to estimate it, I would make the breakdown something like this:

- 20% don’t use computers or the internet enough to even know that this site exists.

- 35% aren’t members, but use the tune archive as a reference

- 20% are members, but only so they can have a tune book, and have never looked at the discussions.

- 20% are members, and will often lurk in the discussion forums, but generally for entertainment purposes, because they find the general bickering to be kind of like a car accident, where you can’t help looking, but you’re glad it’s not you…

- 5% are members that actively read and post in the discussions. (And that number may be artificially high, because some of the people I know and play with are people that I met through this site…)

Nothing scientific here, just trying to estimate the percentages of people that I know that play, and whether they’re active on this website. There are probably a bunch of people that I know that are at least lurkers here, and I just don’t know it. About the last thing I think about when I’m meeting new people in sessions is asking them if they’re on thesession. From my own estimates there, 80% of the players I know use this website, at least occasionally, in some capacity. But *very* few of the players I know feel any need to discuss the stuff online.

So what percentage of people that you play with are active in the forums here, do you think? How much do you feel that you’ve learned from being active in the forums? Do you find the advice here to generally reflect the Irish music that you deal with in "real life"? Or is the discussion here just something you do to be social, but doesn’t relate that much to your music?

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I think thesession.org is massively influential, compared to music sites focusing on other genres of music. At what other music gathering would 5% of attendees be active members of the same forum?

None, methinks.

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Well, like I said, that 5% number may be artificially inflated. And I think other people might make that estimate much lower.

So is it a sign of our community being small and tightly knit, or is it really influential?

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Being unable/unwilling to learn ABC or to read music, I get a lot of stuff from some of the links people submit. Many of those are excellent, be it about the history of music or instruments, or advice about buying or maintaining instruments.

For the rest, I enjoy indulging in serious discussion.

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thesession is alot more active than many websites I have seen and used for other purposes. (My day job is in real estate and I work in a number of Cities around the US. Some of the community websites are a treasure trove of valuable information)

Many however have very few posters who seem to use the message board as people used the kitchen table many years ago though anonymously.

thesession has a few of those regulars, but there is a nice flow of new posters (I hope they aren’t rehashed old posters with new handles)

The other thing is, alot of the people here know what they are talking about. When I first started learing my box I was apprehensive. As it turned out much of the advice was pretty much on the mark and often repeated/confirmed by experienced players I have crossed paths with since.

The quality of the board is what really impresses me….even when Ilig gets on a roll 😉

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I think we need to give it more credit. By the time I got my hands on a copy of Barry Foyle’s "Field Guide to the Irish Music Session" I felt like I had read it already, just from sorting through all the various threads and arguments on here.

It’s only as good as each member makes it, so I encourage everyone I’ve read on here over the past few years to continue to post, argue, make jokes, especially those of you who stuck out the bad times, those that left and have come back, and so on. You know who you are, and even if it feels thankless sometimes, the more good you do for this website the better it is. It’s only as good as we make it. For me, it’s been great.

Also, nearly everyone I know and play with knows of this site, has an ID, and never posts. One or two lurk, but most never look unless I send them an email with a link to a Discussion I know they’d be interested in.

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Yeah, I’ve been surprised a couple of times when I’ve found out that someone I know lurks here, and tells me about things that they’ve seen me post, even without ever posting anything themselves.

And a couple of times, I have run across some rather well known players (besides bodhran bliss, of course) have been known to lurk around these parts for entertainment purposes. Scary! 😉

But I think a vast majority of people that are well-entrenched in the tradition don’t see a particular need to be active here. And some others that were very valuable contributors have been driven away, as you mentioned, SWFL. (Come to think of it… Will CPT hasn’t been seen in a while… oh wait, he’s teaching at a fiddle camp this week… whew!)

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Started out as a lurker ferreting out tunes, and after benefiting immensely from threads on everything from technique (big nod to Will CPT) to "what’s the deal with…?" , I joined and contribute from time to time, in which I endeavour to be non-judgemental and helpful (failing which, I defer to irony). This site has been a real insight-bringing destination, and certainly is a fine adjunct to the players I know. Cheers.

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I find the tune archive to be useful sometimes. Also, I like to read all of the differing viewpoints and comments about this music which I enjoy playing without having to travel out-of-state. In addition, at least three other musicians who participate in the local session are members of this web site.

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zippydw wrote: "The quality of the board is what really impresses me….even when Ilig gets on a roll"

Zippydw — your typo is forgiven. We all know you meant to say "*especially* when llig gets on a roll" 😉

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Reverend, it’s funny that you came up with a final figure of about 5% for people who actively contribute to discussions/comments. I’d say that, of the total membership count of The Session, about 5% actively contribute. That sounds like a low number but when I’ve talked to friends of mine who work on other community sites (Last.fm, Digg, etc.), that 5%number crops up again and again.

I have to say, I’m actually really pleased that you reckon more of your friends come to The Session for the tunes rather than the discussions. I find that reassuring. I’ve always felt that the tunes section is the real heart of this site even though it’s the discussions section that sees more activity.

Agree/disagree, anyone?

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This site has been one of the most influential element of my tune experience. I know several folks who post from time to time. We share laughs, when we get together, about what we’ve read or posted. We talk about other posters as if they were old and mutual friends.

I have gotten insight that I don’t think I would have otherwise by coming here often. I wish I knew more so that I could offer better contributions.

Thanks all and especially Jeremy.

I highly value the tunes section, too. Its the first place I come when looking for a tune. I find the commentary on the tunes fun and informative.

In fine, this site is a treasure.

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Agree - your database of tunes, names and recordings is pure gold.

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This site rocks. It is a spectacular resource for anybody who wants to learn more about Irish music.

As for the occasional dust-up in the discussions—well, that’s just like a real session, innit? All part of the flavor. Some BS, but lots of good information too.

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I weep at the mere thought of this corner of cyberspace being in any way influential. The vast majority of the discussion section is people spouting really really awfull and detrimental advice. The session section is mostly woefully out of date. And the tunes section is riddled with errors.

(Not to mention the fact that you shouldn’t be sharing tunes with strangers via notation anyway)

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Agreed - the Tunes Database is the star, the action hero and main character of this site. The Discussions Page is merely the humorous side kick, who sometimes says something helpful, profound and vital to the storyline, but mostly just plays the fool.

I love the fool.

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I have gotten lots of hints and ideas and music theory explainations from the discussion section, and some good laughs too. I have gotten a lot of good transcriptions of tunes that have helped the learning process. Yes, sometimes you have to filter out some of the loopy inputs to discussions, or odd versions of tunes, but the good far outweighs the bad.
Rev’s five percent figure sounds about right to me, there are about fifty to a hundred people who play in sessions in the state of Rhode Island (it is a small state), and I know of six at least who contribute to this site at least occasionally.

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Am I really well known Rev? A legend in my own home?

I may have played/play with many famous people but that doesn’t make me well known. Indeed I would be surprised if many people knew me.

Worship and adore now, that’s a different matter 🙂

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Of course we should not be learning tunes from the dots Michael but for those who have not got the access to other musicians it is a way of helping access tunes whether its the right way or not.
More importantly it is a useful database of information about the tunes, their origins, possible variations and settings and a link through to the recordings of those tunes.

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The vast majority of people I know come for the tunes. They use it in conjunction with other musicians and recordings.

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The tunes database is priceless for those of us outside of
Ireland and the UK without a captive Irish muso around to be
your mentor

-a written out tune is neither right nor wrong - it’s a version;
The version can be out of range, on the fringe or in the
middle somewhere of the universe of variations —
like in physics where you know the range
of possible locations of a particle, but you can’t know exactly
-you can discuss it with the submitter
-you’ve seen the name of the tune popping up here and
there but don’t know if you’ve heard it before
-you get an idea if a tune you heard locally is well known
generally, or hackneyed or trendy or ….
-who recorded it
-what’s the name of that cool, crooked jig you recorded
last week? Nobody knew what it was at the time
-clarifies bits of the tune you can’t pick out of the cacophany
of a live session
-alternate names of tunes
-sometimes alternate versions
-the content and commentary comes from many sources;
overall, you’re not getting an eccentric view of the repertoire
-you know who submitted a particular tune and you can get
an idea of their credibility after a while

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‘but I wouldn’t say that it is particularly intimately connected with the tradition itself, […] There are a lot of active posters on this site that *are* intimately connected with the session scene’

In this quote you equate ‘the tradition’ with ‘session-scene’ which is already a mistake of a magnitude .

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The tradition resides within those who play the music, wherever they happen to be. Certainly the session scene is part of the tradition— an important part.

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‘The tradition resides within those who play the music, wherever they happen to be. Certainly the session scene is part of the tradition— an important part.’

I think that will need some qualifying, there are a lot of people playing Irish music that I wouldn’t consider ‘traditional’ musicians.
Just lifting a few tunes off the internet and a bunch of CDs doesn’t make you a traditional musician. Traditional music is part of a wider culture and doesn’t stand on it’s own.

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I know a lot of non-ITM players who use this site as a tune resource but never read the discussions or post.
Most of the ITM players I know do not use the site as a resource nor read the discussions.
Odd isn’t it?

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You guys want a microscope to split that hair even further?

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Is that the hair of one of the angels on the pinhead?
*Focuses microscope*
Good lord, they’re doing Riverdance.

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Kilfarboy

Yes, the music exists within a larger cultural context and I suppose there may be are as many qualifications as players.

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Over the past year I have often mentioned this website to other musicians I’ve played with only to be greeted with a blank look. Consequently I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a whole generation of older musicians, where the word’ Computer’ is not in their vocabulary, and the only ‘net’ they will ever be familiar with is in the local football ground. I am in my seventies and I often wonder who is the oldest member on here ????????

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Free Reed already has seniority on me. I like to think of myself as 29 and holding, but Herself reminds me that 57 is more like it.

I was a very much pre-computer guy. Started engineering school with a trusty bamboo slide rule, and the first computer I worked on need a small airplane hangar to keep it dry. Oh and the boxes and bunches of punch cards. One typo (everyone knows what a bsad typist I amm) and everything crashed.

It was nice when my wife was able to make christmas wreaths on of no longer needed Hollerith Cards when the world went direct entry.

Anyway.. After that experience, it is a wonder that anyone of a ‘certain age’ would tolerate computers.

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"Hollerith cards" - had a very disturbing flash-back, there…

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and for some reason, I just keep fixating on the word "pinhead…"

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Jeremy, that’s interesting about the active members being about 5% of the total membership. I’ve always wondered what that number was… I’ve always thought a little data mining on your database would be fascinating 🙂

I will finally address my own questions, as I was leaving it open for the rest of you to do that first.

>> How much do you feel that you’ve learned from being active in the forums?

I have learned a lot, or at least had my eyes opened a bit wider by some of the discussions here. Llig has spit out a couple of things that really helped shape the way I feel about my playing and playing in sessions. Will CPT has taught me a lot, both on the forums, and in person (thanks in part to this website getting us introduced). And I have some far-ranging friends from my activities here, and that has a huge impact on my playing, because I can trade recordings with people I admire, and I have friends to stay with all over the world now

>> Do you find the advice here to generally reflect the Irish music that you deal with in "real life"?

I would say that I see both good and bad advice on this board. A lot of times, when there is disagreement about a topic, you can learn some really good things by watching the disagreement (until it boils down into arguing semantics, or name calling, which seems to happen a lot).

Personally, I think the most *valuable* asset of this site is actually in the tune discussion pages, where people post different settings, ask questions, and give background information for the tunes. The regular discussion pages are more interesting in the general sense, but the ability to discuss the tunes is more valuable in the specific sense.

To some extent, my initial thought in posting this thread, though, was more along the lines of Llig’s sentiments, wondering whether it was a good thing that some people rely almost solely upon this site for learning, if they’re isolated from other players (to which some people might respond with "if they’re isolated from this music, why would they want to play it?" But that’s another topic altogether…)

I have learned a lot more from other players than I have from this site, and certainly couldn’t have learned everything I know from here. When I meet someone in person, I can see and hear them play, and make up my mind whether I want to listen to their advice or not… On a semi-anonymous forum like this, there is no such credentials. I was on this site for a couple of years before it really dawned on me that the most prolific posters aren’t necessarily the most experienced musicians. Compounded by the fact that when I was starting out, *everybody* was more experienced than me, which is why it took some time to make that distinction. So it took me a while, and a certain amount of maturity in my own musicianship, to learn how to weed through the discussions here, and figure out who I wanted to actually pay a lot of attention to… The rest of it is just social interaction that I find entertaining and fun.

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> (Not to mention the fact that you shouldn’t be sharing tunes with strangers via notation anyway)
Why on earth not? While it’s not my preferred means, I see nothing wrong with it. Any musician with a good awareness of the style of the music and sufficient imagination should have no trouble taking the bare bones of a tune and turning it into music on his/her own instrument.

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Ed, I think about 48% of the 5% of members who post their thoughts to the board agree with you. The remaining 52% agree with Michael (llig)

But to discuss it again will be like the movie Groundog Day…

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61.5% of me agrees with the purveyor of the Camberwell Carrot

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‘"Hollerith cards" - had a very disturbing flash-back, there…’

Do Not Fold, Spindle Or Mutilate

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grego: I’m not one of the 5%, and I only occasionally survey the discussions; so fair enough, the question’s been done to death. It just struck me as a remarkably silly rule to assert.

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How to upset 200 engineering students and the staff in the computer centre: slip your deck of cards into the reader (during the dinnerhour) with the JCL card accidentally placed backwards.

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Grego: Stop it! Been there, done that. I read once that back in the early days, when programmers changed jobs, they carried along shoe boxes full of cards containing their favorite subroutines; their "accumulated wisdom", as it were. And I remember the folks that could tell what was on the card just by looking at the holes…but yup, you’re right about pishing people off.

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Yes, I once saw a PhD student (in perhaps his 10th year) coming towards me, trip and spill his shoebox of maybe 600 or 700 cards all over the corridor. If I remember correctly, you could index your cards 00100, 000200, etc. when you were typing them so something called a "Radix Sorter" could put the deck back in order again. But many didn’t bother.

And yes, there were some people who could read the holes.

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Grego: Awww, now I’m having some "Senior Moments" about dropping my deck (so to speak) and inept long-term PhD candidates (I live in a college town and the place is CRAWLING with ‘em, but we’re getting WAY off topic).
The tune database is an absolute treasure, especially the comments and variations. It’s the first place that I go (second to what I hear talking with people at my local sessions, recordings, etc.) when I’m looking to get started on a tune that I haven’t heard before. The discussions are usually informative, always fun, but often seem to go off-track (as my previous two posts demonstrate, so I’m as guilty as the rest of us…).
I ALWAYS learn something new when I’m here.
I’ll get my coat. Cheers!

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No one I know comes here, or they wont admit it!

52% 48% ? a guess I suppose . but what possible relevance could it have? after all what is the percentage of master of the tradition that post here? and the percentage of newbies? say 1% masters and 99% newbies’? whatever , its completely irrelevant. If that 99% disagree with the 1% that doesnt make the 1% wrong now does it?!! We only need to follow the advice and methods of the masters to know we are on the right path. What qualifies a person as a master? 40 +yrs dedication in my book. We got any masters out there?

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52% 28%. It wasn’t even a guess. I was being flippant.

I just got tired of the sheet music topic coming up for the 933rd time - or was it 934th: did I miss one? (That’s being flippant again, btw)

"We only need to follow the advice and methods of the masters to know we are on the right path." Sounds kind of Kung-Fu. Or is it the Moonies?

I haven’t had a master since primary school.

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I’m a master - in dog years