When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

From here ~ Discussion: Why? ~ How not to play "The Butterfly"
# Posted on July 30th 2008 by ceolachan
https://thesession.org/discussions/18603

to here…

Are we being hijacked? Are we worrying about the wrong things, like foreign influences and jazz cross-overs and whether or not we should play crans on our instrument of choice? ~ while all this time other more insidious influences are at work globally and at home, flooding in and resurfacing this tradition, degrading the environments that nurture this thing we love, chopping down the forest to pave things over and build another WalMart? Here are some things I’ve noticed over time, and a few old tales retold…

The Irish Commission of Dance, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, not forgetting Cogal, those dull old farts and boring young upstarts, all about ribbons, medal and trophy winning, will ‘jump’ at any opportunity to adorn their mantels, shelves and walls. If there’s an opportunity to compete and win something, well, like flies to ~ , they will get involved… So, when that opportunity was made for what is collectively known as ‘set dances’, the old quadrilles, mostly for 4 couples in a square set and made up of figures ~ those high-steppin’ heavy-footed, fiberglass shoe happy, yahoos have for quite some time been very active there, and winning first places… This even when their ‘product’ bears very little similarity with the tradition that preceeded it… Even the manufactured histories fail to cover up the affectations and exaggerations that have mutated out of their very active and imaginative participation. It would not be a large stretch to call this a ‘classical’ influence, not with the heavy ballet and modern dance influences that have also entered there, and good ol’ American Federated Square Dancing too…

Here’s the first tale, and I will leave the county unspecified, to protect the misguided. Out and about, I came across a local competition, county, Comhaltas, and as they say and said, the winners were in the bag, no contest. Hardly a necessary comment, I was curious. I was also pretty upset with what I saw and what I’d further learned. I met their ‘choreographer’, a nice enough young lad. It seems they had won the "All-Ireland" a few times, as I was repeatedly reminded. I also learned that the set was never the same two years on the run, he was constantly ‘upgrading’ it, changing it. The state it was in at the time was full of stepping, step-crazy ~ or ‘battering’, something that has come to represent a style where the dancers seem more interested in what their feet sound like and do than the music, or the other dancers present…

Worse was discovered. This particular area used to have a lot of regular dancing, and they had, or used to, two basic sets, something along the lines of the usual, a version of the Lancers and another of what has a slew of other names, but was also known as the First Set of Quadrilles, The Quadrilles, or The Plains Set, and a few couple type dances too. The two sets were both lovely little sets, very welcoming and easy to be drawn into, no previous experience really needed, highly social, all ages and sorts present, maintained and nurtured by the lovely welcoming locals. However, as the influence of this An Coimisiun up-start and his cadre of ‘dancers’ grew, the local dances dried up, came to a complete halt. In fact, as I learned, the locals, aside from his select steppers, had lost all confidence that they could dance at all. If asked, well, the comparison was always drawn to the new cock and his hens, prancers, scratchers and peckers, the "All-Ireland Winners", the ‘Dancers’. "We can’t dance like that!" So, a whole dance and music tradition of a very large area, where many folks used to participate, and local musicians too, caput!, finished, replaced by a clique of pompous floor bashing twits. To be fare, this lot were that obsessed and exclusive that I don’t think they took any notice of anything outside of their own tightly defined world, aside from the competition. They really were that twisted by their own petty obsessive drives to win another ‘All Ireland’ ~ AT ALL COST!!!…

And what about the music? I offered up that recent discussion around the abuse of the slip-jig "The Butterfly"… Hasn’t anyone noticed that change, the obvious and growing classical influences, syrupy over vibratoed renditions being one symptom of this illness, and folks affected and affecting by that winning over trad at the "All Ireland"? Sweet, mechanically characeterless, perfect tone and execution, amazing techniques ~ winning over good dance music. Yes, I do believe you can have it all. But when my head is attentive but the feet don’t move, something is missing…and slapping your hands together isn’t the same thing… I been in that role, adjudicator, where someone told me "who should win", and it wasn’t the local soaked in trad players but, an example of one case, a young gun flash player emulating all the heavily classically influenced fiddlers based in Dublin. Some of these hot shots can’t really play dance music, but have impeccable technique, and can execute it at unbelievable speeds ~ and have won the "All-Ireland". Hell, I admit it, they impress me too, but not to the point of wanting to own their recordings… So, are there many out there who aren’t influenced and directed by such accolades? The ALL-IRELAND!!! WOW!!! I understand, honest I do, I too have been amazed to the point of jaw dropping, but, I also know when something’s missing, when my head is attentive but my feet don’t move, and my heart doesn’t quite register anything more than an adrenalin rush, and that quickly wears off like a sugar high… Sometimes, despite the amazement, it is accompanied with a sinking feeling, even to the point of feeling ill, the kind of illness you feel when you’ve lost something you care very much for…

I’ve seen a classically trained warbler win the All-Ireland for sean nos singing, and I do mean warbler. The abuse and overuse of vibrato made me seasick. Worse, it angered me as again, another soaked in the tradition singer, a lovely young lady, and the superior for technique and presentation and performance, on all counts, and ‘cute’ too ~ was not only passed over, but had her traditions, the ‘North’, criticized for being a ‘bad influence’ on the ‘true’ tradition. This damnation was given by an a-hole full-of-his-own-importance ignorant Irish priest who had been party to training the warbler and giving his student the ‘All-Ireland’… Yeah, ‘European’ influences! In this case blessed by her priest… :-/

So, let’s just repeat, yes, I can be impressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it goes very deep. And, yes again, I know it takes a lot of work, not always the right sort, in my mind, to get to the level where you reach the ‘All-Irleand’ and win it. I also have found, through experience, that it seems that it helps to have connections to someone in power, whoever is sponsoring said competition, in this case, the All-Ireland, Comhaltas, who we know can and has been accused before of nepotism and favoritism ~ but, hey, who’s perfect? Not me… Impressed or not, the title "All-Ireland Champion" doesn’t really count for much to me, not anymore. When Vincent Broderick won it with a length of copper pipe they’d quickly turned to the service of being a flute and playing this music, his wooden one had gone two ways ~ YEAH!!! ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT!!! That impressed me big time and will stick with me. But all these yahoos, including the ignorant judges, filling up the roster of "All-Ireland Champions", no, it don’t mean much to me, aside from respecting the hard work and pyrotechnics necessary to win it.

What blame the adjudicators, and the movers and shakers, those that think it is their business to mold the identity of this tradition by defining and celebrating what they consider its best? Did I forget to mention a large presence of an old enemy ~ ‘ignorance’? Not forgetting myth feeding that at times as gospel. We know what tyranny lies that way. There are a good share of badly misguided folks out there, worse that they don’t know enough of what they don’t know to at least be striving to correct that failing, too often blinded by their own importance and power to know the damage they do. I’ve met and talked to a few folks who’ve taken that role, judging the tradition, and some are or were well informed on the main subject they covered, but in times of need would often be called to cover other things too. The problems with them judging someone they knew or had nurtured never seemed an issue to address. Loosely, I could describe adjudicators by illustrating two opposing differences in approach to valueing the product of competitors. Let’s say tradition is a pyramid, with the base being exactly that, the basics, the underlying tradition, firmly set on the ground, rooted, which for music also includes the dance, and vice-versa. Some judges are first drawn to those basics. Let’s say, for the sake of wanting a form, it’s the bodhran being judged. Those that start with the base, they’d be concerned and place greatest value on whether that bodhran player could play definable rhythms, that without a melody it would be clear, for example, that they were playing a slip jig, that rhythm, and the musical/dance phrase would also be important, both being valued and a help to the dancer, and this being ‘dance music’. From there they’d consider other things, and the smallest part of this would be at the peak, the flash and fancy bits. Yes, these were valued, but after everything else ~ the basis of it all, the source, the ‘identity’ being worth more than the fancy bits… Then there are judges on the other end that take it ass backwards, flip the pyramid around and put their first and greatest consideration on the flash and fancy bits, and lastly consider the base, the core and heart of it all. They give more count to the acrobatics, to acrobatics, that aspect of technique. In another way of looking at it, the former places the focus more on the tradition while the latter places the focus more on the performer. Niether necessarily ignores the whole, but one starts with the pyramid firmly on the earth, grounded, and the other flips it and balances it precariously on the tip, on personality and personal expression… As is usual, most are somewhere in between the two extremes. With this pyramid metaphor it doesn’t matter if we’re talking music or dance, the correlation is the same.

Yes, I’m the first to say there is alway something we can learn from other sources, like ways and techniques to help give us better technique so we can play this music longer, or dance longer, reducing injury and pain ~ but, we still need to keep rooted to something, to keep touch with the heart of this thing we draw strength from. But, I also know there will always be those that will draw strength from different things than I do, that place more value on that tip of the pyramid of trad than the base of it. I don’t so much want to deny folks their distractions, fetishes and perversions, but it does worry me that many seem to mistake them for something else and far too many folks are drawn into the cults of personality and pretense… Leave "Lord of the Dance" and the like to those that get their vicarious pleasures watching and listening to such things, but please, let’s not confuse it with other things, or value such commercial and political fripperies above the social craic and welcome this music and dance has supported a lot longer than the Flatlies have pranced or the Commissions have diddled and dictated…

Sorry gang… :-/ Can I blame it on the rum?

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

I’d lay off the rum if I were you, Ceol.



Oh, and I agree. Yes.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Rum-di-dye-diddlee-rye… Maybe I should stick to single malts?
Nice to see a friend at the end of my tirade… Best of health to you and yours Joe…

I particularly love those aged Cuban rums, mmmmmm…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Come on gang, the least you can do is list your favourite all time foot-tapping All-Ireland winner, and add a link to their playing…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

don’t worry c - if there were no institutions, how would the young people know what to rebel against?

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

I know of places where simple social dances got pushed out of the way when set dancers, with their highly energetic and athletic sets, came in and took over the proceedings. At first, people enjoyed the energy, but then the old folks and ‘civilians’ began staying home, and pretty soon it was just the set dancing core remaining.
Myself, I would prefer the simple, welcoming dances any day, the ones where kids and grandparents can all join in and enjoy the fun.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

I’ve been at recent set dance ceilis here in these islands, both sides of the Irish sea, where pretty much everyone present is from a basic block of ages, roughly a couple of decades worth. There are no really old folks, as they’d risk injury at some of these dances, and no young folks ~ meaning anyone under a certain middle age… It seems the exhuberance that swept through in the 80s and took hold of these people, leading to them claiming it all for themselves and redirecting things, has lead to the set dance mad painting themselves into a corner. As they all get older their numbers reduce with injury or a growing inability to keep up with their wants… It seems it is burning itself out, literally. That, in my mind, isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Nice foot tappin’ links airport… :-)

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

This was a rant of epic scale and intensity, if a bit disjointed by pirates’ favorite libation. I wish knowledgeable enough to stake out contrary positions to what you’re saying, just for the heck of it, to hear more, or see some debate. Where are all you people? All this grandly heretical stuff about competition, modern ways crushing local traditions, technical dazzle messing with the rhythmic feel of the music, etc?

Mr. C, I hope someone comes along and gives you a hard time, not because I disagree with you, and not because I don’t like what you wrote, but I just want to see some debate. Isn’t anyone with more going to pile on here and tell ya you’re a so-and-so, you-got-it-all-wrong?

Then again, maybe we all agree with you… ;-)

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

All is not lost ceolachan in that I’ve been at a few sessions lately with some recent Munster champions who played their competition tunes but then joined the rest of us playing the old standards (Joe Cooley sets, etc) as they were played back in the fifties. As for the dancing the immortal Siege of Ennis was included along with the sets (Caledonian, I think). There will always be "competition freaks" around but I think the tradition is strong enough to survive.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

…and speaking of dancing, in Florida we have quite a few senior citizens, obviously. The dancing here is nearly all old ones and it’s quite comfortably-paced. There’s always been that steady supply of Northerners retiring to keep the dances going.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

When i was about 16 I came across Riverdance on the TV and jokingly said to mum… "If you find me lessons in that… i’ll give it a go". So she did.

I LOVE dancing… but i can completely understand where you are coming from ceolachan. I never liked competing… it was a chance for me to get better… but the personalities & politics in the ID competitive scene were really hard to bear. Even the music they use is lifeless and depressing… most of the time it was CDs being used with ‘Plastic paddy’ keyboards or Scottish piano Accordian playing scottish tunes. (don’t get me wrong… they are great musos… i just couldn’t work out what was ‘irish’ about it) I was ready to give up after about 4 years but I competed for about 8 before i retired.

Now i am playing the music… and loving in even more. There is much more enjoyment to be had at a local session with frinds than competing on stage with someone who is practically your enemy. I still dance occasionally… but mostly for fun. :o)

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Yes, yes and yes. I dance with friends. No competitions, no,no, no. No music examinations either. The point of comps and exams is to force everyone to conform to ta set of arbitrary standards set by a bunch of old farts, thus ironing out all the quirks and foibles that make all folk music and dance traditions diverse and intriguing. And that’s what people like Celtic Women are doing as well - reducing a rich tradition down to the lowest common denominator so that they can flog the product to daytime television. God help us.

Posted by .

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Nice ones Bannerman, davydd (expecting and hoping you haven’t retired completely), clogstepping, Joe, Al, airport ~ ~ ~ & SWFL, nice to see someone trying to stir it up.

Just so you know the seed to this rant, rum aside, is pain, tendonitis, and awful stuff, which is why, in part, I’ve had a considerable amount of loose time to do other work, and break from that to visit here with the characters that populate this region of digital space. You’re a great lot, and thanks for your patience with my madness…

On the purification of trad toward becoming ‘Irish Classical’, that is part of what concerned me. I’d taken to listening to a slew of very clean, what some could and have said was ‘perfect’ renditions, almost machine like in their executions, not a bow hair out of place, not a hair out of place, and the strong classical presence in it was clear, obvious. No, I’m not saying that is necessarily bad, but that the outcome seems to have become, for many, the expected goal. With some of this stuff, for me, it seems to lack soul, heart. It has no relaxation or humour in it. It is far too serious, intense. As the title suggests, it definitely takes my head, but does nothing for my heart of feet.

Another tale, short I promise, just two sides of the same person ~ Sean Keane, fiddler, of Chieftains fame. I’d heard him in concerts doing a solo, not a sound in the audience, all of us intently listening, not a foot stirred. My mind was attentive, listening carefully. Then I caught him in a pub in Clare with some other great fiddlers and musicians, older folks of the tradition, including dear Junior Crehan. I heard a different side to Sean Keane, one I now appreciated with my heart and feet. It was not showy, it wasn’t out to prove anything, it was relaxed and full of dance and humour, as was Sean. He also got up and joined us for some dancing too, just the same old set over and over again, "The Caledonian", with some couple dances thrown in as well… That Sean Keane, that way with the fiddle ~ I fell in love with. If I could get a recording of him playing that way, that would be with my favourites list. Some folks try so hard they lose the heart and humour of it.

So, I don’t necessarily see the huge influence classical music has had on trad is bad, but some aspects of it, and of competition, I do see as unhealthy, at least for those things I personally have always valued about this tradition, something I’ve gleaned from the older sources I’d had the pleasure of sharing time with. It isn’t so much free choice, but I feel that to some extent I’m left needing to try to speak for them in some way, in their absence, a kind of battle for balance. I suppose that probably sounds crazy. It is a passion that makes me step outside myself, however foolish that may be or seem at times. They left me with a lot more than just tunes, steps and figures, and I am beholding to them for that, feel a responsibility that sometimes makes a fool of me, I suspect…

Thanks for your patience and comments, appreciated…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Whew, sorry, that went on again… :-/

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Right now I can’t play anything, as my right forearm, wrist and hand are a mess ~ on fire and painful… So I have been distracting myself with work and going la-la…

“Note on Irish Dancing” ~ complete, pages v - vii ~ Frank Roche

Proinsias de Roiste / Frank Roche ~ Nodlag / December , 1927
"The Roche Collection of Traditional Irish Music, Volume III", 1927

https://thesession.org/members/11705

For an older perspective on related issues… ;-)

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

sorry to hear about the tendonitis C - I’m not playing much on account of the busted thumb, so I understand the frustration. I’m out of the pain stage though - hope you are too soon…

btw, have you heard Monks of the Screw?
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/1001

it’s a good one - very toe-tappy

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Hey ceolachan. Sorry to hear about your tendonitis. Rum probably won’t help. I can relate to anyone’s having to endure a bout of tendonitis. I can relate to anyone’s praising rum, especially Cuban rum. Your larger problem though is beyond my ken. Where I live, Irish music is anything but at home. It’s rare appearences are tightly controled, and a bit in-authentic. There just isn’t a whole lot of Trad music and dance from which to choose. Hope you’re not sidelined by tendonitis for too long. All the best.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Thanks you lot, a little goes a long way ~ meaning rum, with me anyway ~ and the understanding and consideration of others… It is a little better today, but my hand still feels quite stiff. I have been reducing music making to mostly lilting…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Sorry to hear that C, I hope these typed dissertations aren’t making your hand even worse! What is it you normally play when you’re on form? Just realised I’ve no idea what your instrument(s) is/are.

As for the All-Ireland etc, I’m a bit removed from all that here, so any opinions I have are probably misinformed!

Posted by .

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

All winners work hard to get as far as they do, fair play, but sometimes certain things of the heart, humour and soul of the music seems to get lost in the mechanical and acrobatic…

Several things Swift, from reasonable to just starting out and pretty dire… ;-) I believe that if you’re going to be teaching others you need to be reminded of what it is to begin yourself… I also find that understanding one instrument and coming to some agreement with it benefits everything, the dance included, and vice versa…

What is the sound of one hand typing ~ well, approximately half as noisy…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Ah! Another discussion has been going on in my absence! Too long to answer in detail. But - no, no, no and yes, yes, yes to most of it. Once again - Irish competition dances, intimidating and ruining Irish traditions, pushing the old folks off the floor, are still so-o-o-o-o much fun to do and a challenge. I’ve been dancing and teaching all kinds of folk for some 40 years and am very fussy when it comes to not contaminating the traditional sound and dance. I’m also fussier than most about the choice of music and musicians. World music? NO!!! So in that sense I find this discussion interesting. And it’s true - when it comes right down to enjoying a dance evening: I’ve made my choice: New England contra is the best. All jigs and reels too but swings and constant motion. On the other hand Irish set dances, when performed with the precision that the competitions require, is invigorating. And there’s this about trying to achieve a perfect style - it makes you work. Folk dancers are lazy, don’t want to make an effort, don’t like a dance if it’s difficult. And as for old folks. They’re as bad or worse unless they’ve been practicing on a regular basis in one of those artifical settings for learning dances that aren’t your own tradition - the dance lesson. And when it comes to spry and a good condition - are the modern Irish dancing on weekends like they used to? Hasn’t affluence hit them too? 200 Irish came to Germany for the European Championships (W.I.D.A., not comisiun), children and their parents, and not one of the parents looked as if they would be willing to dance any more. If I remember correctly at least half of them were too fat. The worst were the adjudicators.
C. Nicolas

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Hey "c" Ive been absent from the Sesh… good to come back to some good reading!

Its always been interesting to me in Irish as well as American fiddling to listen to what is currently popular and go back and listen to field recordings and notice the huge differences. I understand that tradition has to do with change and change has always been a part of the process, but when essential elements of the tradition are ironed out of the music then I wonder what is left? People might think from this that I am "against" modern tunes or "against" good musicianship or classical training…. against rock or against jazz… but Im not against anything…. Im FOR the music.

Contests have a way of sucking the soul out of music, I challenge anyone to go to whatever Irish music contest and listen to the hours of fiddling… then go listen to Tommy Peoples… for 60 seconds… you will hear more music in 60 seconds… for me the difference is obvious.

Some dont want to tap into the unseen elements of the music. Its all about technique, tricks, licks, speed, lots of tune, sets, the latest hot recording… etc.

But there is more there and no one can tell me that there isn’t more to music than the physical.

Not to say that it’s all dark and mysterious… its multifaceted.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

I go away to France for a few days and look what happens …..
well as you I am sure you can guess I am in agreement with all your statements Mr C but I can see a change coming in that the ‘tappy lappy lets get ribons set ’ will die out and the sets will go back to basics I am sure.
I taught the Clare Mazurkas at Batz this year for a very mixed age group a great fun dance and not a ribon in sight but laughter and fun for all wish you could have been there .
Sorry to hear about the tendonitis.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

So do I… Bless you Baz…

Me too MH, while folks keep accusing me of being a purist, I have to laugh, hardly. I like some of the new, but a lot of it is so blatently egomaniacal and self obsessed and that is something neither of us in this house is fond of. Competitions put the focus on the wrong things, always, and some of that is illustrated in the comments preceding yours…

It is burning itself out, always the sign of something moving toward derailment…

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

‘Derailment’ is a kind of ‘getting back to basics’, to base, returning to earth…

"Ground control to Major Tom?"

:-D

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

What concerns me about these sorts of discussions is the bad press that classic music/training often gets, and as someone with a love for both traditions I feel it is important not to confuse the issue. Or at least, to be careful not to insinuate that classical musicians somehow invade the ITM scene with their values and techniques and continue a campaign to obliterate non-classical aspects. Perhaps this is the wrong discussion for my two cents, as I can see it has not been completely slated here, but I may as well continue!

It seems to me that the competition environment is far more to blame. Judging a musical performance is such a subjective matter that I suppose the criteria for assessment have to be reduced to the most objective elements possible, to allow for moderation of marks and opinions. In this way, simple technical aspects - ‘Can they do this?’ ‘How cleanly do they do it?’ ‘Is it better than how the other players did it?’ - become what is looked for in competition, and so a competitive player will naturally work on acquiring the most ‘clean’ and impressive technique, potentially at the expense of those hard-to-identify qualities of the true traditional [dance] music.

I would posit that the idea that classical musicians trying their hand at ITM risk infecting the tradition with their style is fair nonsense. Unless they acquire the real spirit of the music, and therefore approach it less classically, not enough people are going to enjoy their music-making - no matter how ‘clean’ or flashy - for it to have any real influence on the wider tradition. I would say it works backwards; in the interests of acquiring a prizewinning technique, traditional players seek qualities that are perhaps foreign to the tradition in an effort to dazzle the judges, and classical violin technique is just one resource for such additional sounds and devices.

It is probably timely to explain myself a bit here. I came to the fiddle, my only instrument, seven years ago when aged 16, and in the classical world (perhaps in ITM too?) that’s relatively late, or at least as I’m just finishing a music degree and most other people on my course picked up their first instrument in primary school. A couple of years after starting on violin I began to get interested in fiddle music, and that interest and knowledge has increased to the point now where I feel ready to hang up my classical playing, which will probably never get much further, and devote my energies fully to fiddle music, which I find more fulfilling and approachable - not necessarily easier. I had started out simply playing from tune books and assuming I must be doing it right - wrong, of course! So, over the last year especially, I have been working on playing with the proper ornamentation, lilt, overall sound, understanding the dance aspect etc… Though my competence on the instrument is not bad, I am still at a very early stage in developing a true fiddle technique, as you can imagine, and am gradually acquiring more and more fantastic recordings from which to learn the style(s), as well as working on being able to reliably learn by ear rather than sheet music. There are various things I have not yet tasted which I realise will probably benefit me enormously - playing for dancers, or even simply at a session, which I have not yet done because frankly I am a fairly shy young man and I hope you’ll understand that the session scene can seem rather strict and intimidating to a relative newcomer. I’m sure I’ll get there in the end.

So. I have fidelities to both of these great traditions, and simply feel it a shame that the dichotomy between the two can seem rather over-emphasised a lot of the time, especially when the proverbial chip on the shoulder is prominent. I understand that someone with any fair measure of classical training has a lot to learn (and indeed, un-learn) to play traditional music with any faithfulness to the style, and I am aware of still having too many thoughts about ‘the notes’ rather than ‘the music’, but I am seeing the benefits of wholly endeavouring to embrace the style, and was lucky recently to have a lesson with Kevin Burke too - one of the most informative hours of my life!

Coming back to the original point of this thread, the acquisition of any aspect of classical technique in fiddling is probably mostly due to the relatively recent competition scene itself, rather than there being a ‘competitional aesthetic’ of classical music that has somehow penetrated ITM. The easy cross-pollination of culture due to such resources as the internet is also an important factor, making the interchange between folk and classical easier for anyone interested in one or the other. If neither formalised competition nor a panel of judges are truly traditional or part of a socio-cultural history, how can one expect the associated music to be traditional or continuing that socio-cultural history? I should think the more familiar tradition is nonetheless in safe hands.

Re: When my mind is attentive but the feet don’t move

Oh and also, I love the comparison between music for the mind and music that compels you to move/dance - I certainly know what you mean!

‘Cerebral’ = When my mind is attentive but ~ :-D

Interesting that this has had some attention. The last couple of weeks I’d been spending a lot of time with what I have been choosing to call ‘cerebral’ music, music that tries to hard to impress, that draws the listener repeatedly away from the music and to what the musician is doing to it. This was one particular piper, and the first to be added to my list of such payers, not a large one, but the kind of listening where I initially have that "WOW!", amazed at what they can do and are doing, but then soon tire of the excess. With this kind of approach and these few musicians I can only really take one track at a time. To me they seem more obsessed with the doing that actually finding the music and complementing it. Their approach to dance music doesn’t make me want to dance, no involuntary toe tapping, and with airs there’s little of the song left in it, with their twiddling pushing things in many directions other than ‘dance’ or ‘song’. Some might find it odd I’ve never added a piper to that list, but no, I haven’t, until this month. Why two weeks with it? Well, it was a respected friend’s favourite. It isn’t the first time I’ve disagreed with a respected friend. These overly cerebral approaches to anything just aren’t for me, don’t move me. I appreciated the skill and what must have taken great dedication, but the appreciation ends there.

Back to the reopening of this thread by ‘thelightisahead’ - June 23rd, 2013. Here’s my ramble of a response ~

The problems with ‘competition’ still remain, a bit like what happened to the Baroque, a growing obsession with the twiddling bits ~ and the writing down of it as gospel. ‘More’ seems to naturally creep in to swamp ‘quality’ of execution. But, the more refined the expectations the more tradition is driven toward ‘professionalism’, certification and the ‘industry & business’ of the ‘F’ word.

> thelightisahead: "a competitive player will naturally work on acquiring the most ‘clean’ and impressive technique, potentially at the expense of those hard-to-identify qualities of the true traditional [dance] music."

c: There’s a term for something of value in this respect in Cape Breton tradition - ‘dirt’!

> thelightisahead: "in the interests of acquiring a prizewinning technique, traditional players seek qualities that are perhaps foreign to the tradition in an effort to dazzle the judges, and classical violin technique is just one resource for such additional sounds and devices."

c: Yes! And, as previously said, this in itself is not necessarily bad.

> thelightisahead: "There are various things I have not yet tasted which I realise will probably benefit me enormously - playing for dancers, or even simply at a session"

c: Yup! Also chase up and take every opportunity you can to learn from others ~ workshops, camps, festivals, or just sitting down with someone whose way with the bow you’re drawn to and appreciate… Follow your heart, and be brave…

> thelightisahead: "I understand that someone with any fair measure of classical training has a lot to learn (and indeed, un-learn) to play traditional music with any faithfulness to the (any) style"

c: Anyone with a ‘little’ classical training can sometimes have an even greater difficulty at overcoming any preconceptions or half baked notions and techniques. I’ve found that people with a reasonable depth of musical knowledge and appreciation generally do not have a problem respecting something outside their area(s) of focus, whatever that tradition, or however different.

> thelightisahead: "The easy cross-pollination of culture due to such resources as the internet is also an important factor"

c: All mass media, from the earliest to the present… The problem is not the growing variety of crossings and intermixes, but how that presses in and takes the fore, becomes the expectation and the percieved norm - false gods. :-D

c: Repeating something I’d said earlier in the youth of this thread, I too value a decent tone and a clean twiddle, and I don’t believe that a so-called ‘classical’ technique influences are necessarily bad. It isn’t in the elements, it is in the combination of these and the spirit behind the doing, and the results. My first and most highly valued responses to music are involuntary, and two examples would be finding my foot tapping or myself ‘mindlessly’ humming, singing, lilting, smiling along…

c: ~ quoting myself ;-) ~ "I too have been amazed to the point of jaw dropping, but, I also know when something’s missing, when my head is attentive but my feet don’t move, and my heart doesn’t quite register anything more than an adrenalin rush, and that quickly wears off like a sugar high… Sometimes, despite the amazement, it is accompanied with a sinking feeling, even to the point of feeling ill, the kind of illness you feel when you’ve lost something you care very much for…"

& "~ there is alway something we can learn from other sources, like ways and techniques to help give us better technique so we can play this music longer, or dance longer, reducing injury and pain ~ but, we still need to keep rooted to something, to keep touch with the heart of this thing we draw strength from."



Interesting rereading this. I’m glad to say that the tendonitis is absent for the moment, and the back is better, some. :-D

* When I got to dear Bannerman I started welling up and a few tears escaped. You are missed dear friend.