The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I’m feeling in a can-of-worms sort of mood. On a day away, not too long ago, we fell in with a group of friendly natives learning a bit of dance from a visiting luminary. The When, Where and Who aren’t important to this seed, but one of the items presented is. We had fun, it was a good time, but amongst it all one dance stuck in my craw. It wasn’t hard for us to realize immediately that it was a ‘new’ choreography. So I did ask who had created it, and in asking found that this is new ground now for the choreographers, something else to add to the growing list of manufactured sets (& tunes too). This was a ‘bad’ dance, and that could be judged objectively, I think. No, not a subjective measure of whether anyone enjoyed dancing it. We enjoyed ourselves, as we liked the teacher. It was just an awful dance as compared to those that had come before it and survived to be included in the traditions of the Irish countryside. No, not limited there, compared to couple dance traditions in the West overall, from Russia to Johannesburg to Hobart, from St. Petersburg to Paris, to London, to New York, to Vancouver, and back to St. Petersburg again. Its faults were measurable and could be itemized. That it showed a poor understanding of the traditions of couple dancing worldwide, was clear to me, and to my wife as well, who immediately commented on how unbalanced and clumsy it felt.

From my wife’s point of view, if it were a patchwork quilt, it neither fitted the symmetry of traditional patchwork, or much modern patchwork, or the story or images of other traditions in needlework. It seemed thrown together, without consideration for ‘tradition’ of any sort. Well, as a dance, maybe something akin to contact improv? ;-)

I don’t want to go there yet. This is about whether or not there are clear ways to pass judgement, as near to objective as we might get, based on a history, on tradition, clear ways to judge the success or failure, the beauty or ugliness, the good or the bad, of a single element professing some kind of connection to a given tradition, tune or dance? Yes, there are some things I’ve enjoyed myself, if sometimes only for the moment, but if asked to give an account, well, I could give you the pros and cons of why it does or doesn’t ‘fit’ a definition of a decent ‘dance tune’. And there are other things to judge such things on besides ‘dance tune?’ While here, are good measure of a ‘dance tune’ is whether or not it is any good, or cr*p, for dancing to?

I know there are clear examples on site here of the best and worst of tunecraft, and I personally don’t see a problem in using those as examples, with links. This is not about the source, those claiming authorship, but about the music, the tradition, which stands outside of any individual person or personal history or involvement.

So, can we come to some idea of objective measures with regards to tradition, to music and dance? What are they? What makes for a p*ss poor tune, whether or not it is ‘interesting’, what are the ‘faults’ of poor tunes, some akin to Frankenstein’s monster, cobbled together, some not holding together at all? And, what makes for the gems? By gems I’m definitely not meaning those cute modern excesses that tingle the fancy of those who favour the ‘challenging’ and the ‘bizarre’, or the overtly melodramatic. I mean things like "Miss McLeod’s", something that holds a long history and sinks in and persists because it is that damned good. What are the qualities that keeps a tune in tradition, as an old standard, like a well worn and comfortable pair of blue jeans.

One measure to me has to do with it being memorable. When I hear a group of dancers leave the floor after a good sweat and they’re humming or lilting a tune they’d just moved to. I know with little doubt that is a good melody, one that takes hold, inspires good playing and good dancing. But it is much more than that, and those elements that make it a moving treat, those, I believe, can be listed, discussed, and their presence or absence can be measured…

I do realize others will want to be contradictory here, and some will claim it is all subjective. Whatever your own personal stance, try to give it some body, with examples of why you feel the way you do about this, whatever your personal belief(s), please. Add your own bait here. Such is the nature of a can of worms, or whatever bait you prefer… Worms can’t occupy the same space at the same time, or move in the exact same direction…

Anybody up for a bit of fishing?


P.S. I’ll bring that ‘bad’ dance back into the discussion later, with specifics…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I don’t think that there can be an objective measure of these things. Rather what you have is the summation of many people’s subjective assessments, sometimes referred to as the wisdom of crowds. Over time that will decide whether a newly composed tune, dance or song gets assimilated into the tradition or, in the vast majority of cases, gets consigned to the dustbin of history.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

For some reason Mr. C, the ‘it’s cr*p!’ idea always reminds me of this classic Saturday Night Live skit:

http://snltranscripts.jt.org/91/91escottish.phtml

"can we come to some idea of objective measures with regards to tradition, to music and dance"

Yes we can, and we do!

Can it be qualified, counted, measured, etc. Test tubes, beakers, slide rulers,etc? I don’t think so, but I’m always happy to learn something new!

I think it just sort of happens like learning by ear does, or some of the other amorphous concepts we talk about on here.

Over time, with exposure to the music , traditional community preferences and regular use, we develop a sense of what’s cr*p and what’s not cr*p. You can just tell a good auld moldy tune from some newfangled thang some hotshot just cooked up in his kitchen.

The new tunes that stick around seem to be the ones that fool you into thinking they are auld and moldy when they really just fell off the turnip truck last week.

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Your wife got it: "…how unbalanced and clumsy it felt." You can try to analyse these things, but it is all subjective. I worry when people try to lay down rules . Leave things alone, I say. If it is good it will get played, if it is bad it will die out. Or rather, it will get resurrected periodically by ethnomusicology students and re-forgotten. People will add things, some good and some bad. Let them get on with it, and enjoy the good bits.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

A nice start, the ‘casts’ are being made, like good worm compost… I will remain shtrum for now…bite my tongue ~ OW! I think I’m bleeding…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Having done a bit of dance calling in my earlier years, being mainly squares and contras, the dance figures should ideally ‘flow’ from one figure to the next without stopping the movement to change directions abruptly.
An example of this would be two couples circle left into a star right (same two couples). The direction (in this case clockwise) is maintained from one figure to the next, thus maintaining the flow established from the first call.
While not an absolute, this ideal of maintaining flow of direction from call to call makes for a nearly effortless dance experience because economy of direction (once in motion) is maintained.
Dance choreographies without this kind of smooth economy of motion, seem to dancers at least, to be more jerky, stop-start, and harder to get into a groove/flow.
Perhaps the dance you experienced ~c~ was of this nature, and therefore not as kinetically satisfying compared to the other dances you danced that evening!
Just my two cents worth.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

A point of measure! On that I’ll raise you another ~ the complement that dance and music can have, the agreement not just to beat, but to measure and phrase, like putting lyrics to a song, they complement one another. When someone gets cute with a choreography, or approaches creating a new dance without a decent basic understanding of this ~ creates a dance tune out of such ignorance ~ then ‘usually’ the results are "unbalanced and clumsy".

Having points of judgement that are clear does not necessarily mean they are inflexible, or that they threaten some kind of straight jacket standardization. Is there really something wrong with standards that insure our food is acceptable and won’t poison us? And cannot there be clearly defined faults to when something does not fit an open definition for tradition. Sometimes really awful mutations can be enjoyed for a spell by some, such as those, along the lines of Federated Square Dancing, who are particularly fond of complication and challenge. Are there not things that just make more sense and which better accomplish a more open and welcoming experience for most, rather than say a small clique, things that better accomplish community and good social craic, like and old shoe of a dance or tune?

Are there not certain things bad tunes/dances share, as also that good tunes/dances share?

We have now begun to suggest some possibilities…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Good subject, even though it has been touched upon many times before here.

Firstly, I will share that my wife, the experienced quilter (and lover of dance and music), posed the question:
"Perhaps the dance was more of a crazy quilt?"
;-)

Firstly: you are quite right - all measures of the values you referring to could be classed as "subjective", or relative to taste and point of view. That was a given.

Speaking as, myself, a very very novice dancer:
It seems to me that, from a dancer’s POV, for an all-ready existant and established dance, a tune will either work or not work. For that reason many dances have specific tunes already associated with them.

The reverse would be true of a dance one wished to do to any given tune. Is it compatible or not, is the question.

So any standard IS practical and measurable by that standard, but will be affected by local tastes and habits (Do they like it fast? Slow? Ab vs. AABB?).

On judging a tune - I love dance music, to dance and to listen. The lift and drive of it always moves me inside or out, and I have deplored before here my suspicion that one of the factors contributing to a lot of "progressive" elements being incorporated into ITM music is the distancing of some of it from the dancing which helped to create and shape much of it.
My prejudice is likely inspired by my teacher - I cannot recall him playing a tune for me that did not make me want to move my feet (even the marches). He had a great gift for the dance music, and I wish i could have known whether he was ever a dancer himself. I expect he might have been a good one.
I strive to emulate him in these respects.

You asked, Can we come to some idea of objective measures with regards to tradition, to music and dance?

I would say yes, perhaps to a certain extent, but as a matter of structure and how tunes twist and then resolve themselves. And only so long as you are not judging apples as oranges. They are not the same, and a different set of standards must be applied.

Thought: perhaps the idea of "balance" crosses over from a balanced tune to the dancing - can a poor, or poorly played, tune leave the dancers feeling "unbalanced"?

Random disjointed musings,

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Lots of threads to pull on there.

Starting with the attempt to set up a subjective v objective dichotomy, my sense is that it’s a false premise. Surely the subjective, the personal, response is all that matters in any art form, outside of those forms where an establishment attempts to establish a hierarchy of value e.g. warrants inclusion in a public owned art gallery. It seems to me trad doesn’t work that way.

My ear for trad is the product of being brought up in a family that’s played trad for generations, I’ve never had, and can’t imagine, a life without it. I undoubtedly heard it in the womb, it was played to celebrate my birth, my birthdays, first communion, confirmation, marriage, the birth of my children, their birthdays, the deaths of family and friends. It’s marked and permeated my life unlike anything other than family relationships. I don’t think a day has gone by when I haven’t heard/played/lilted/whistled a tune or in some way thought about trad. So it’s not surprising that my "ear" hears, and wants to hear, different things from someone who say came to trad as an adult, loves it with a passion, and who has played in pub seisiúns for ten years. Now that doesn’t make my "ear", my taste as it were, "better" or more true than the relative newcomer. It certainly doesn’t make me "right", and them "wrong", they "hear" what they hear and they think of it based on their life experience. The most one might say is that my "ear" is perhaps more informed, more nuanced.

What is, I think important, is that though informed by the natural evolution of trad over the last forty to fifty years, I probably have a similar taste to my parents and their parents, as well as the thousands of people that have had a similar upbringing to myself. So for me, it’s more a case of subjective v shared. My taste, on its own is of consequence only in that it’s largely shared by other trad musicians as opposed to (and this’ll no doubt start a wave of disagreement) say musicians who only play trad music, perhaps love it with a passion, but haven’t been as immersed in it.

I have a feeling I haven’t explained that terribly well. Perhaps the comments of others will prompt me into being more articulate.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

johndsamuels, sorry cross post there. Much more concise than my own ramblings and I agree with you completely.

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Yes, subjectivity is valued. It isn’t my intent to devalue it, and often it is a feeling that can be followed back to objective reasons for it. But I in now way am wanting to devalue it. For some of us that subjective response is informed with history, however long and connected, and the response becomes automatic, like a reflex. That doesn’t mean that it can’t also be found to have an objective basis too.

If you can give a thing a name and an association, then there can be a measure of how well it fits that definition, or not. That’s not to say that someone might enjoy a tune or dance that may be very distant from fitting any idea of say ‘Irish tradiiton’ in respect to the tradition this site is primarily about. It might make a cr*p Irish reel, or Irish barndance, but it might be OK for say modern sequence dancing or it might make a passable Greek Kalamatianos? That we have such comparisions that can be made must suggest ways of measurement? Not all tunes in 3/4 time make for a decent waltz…

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I don’t know about ya’ll but usually I just try to count four measures at a time and pray I’m in the right spot.

;)

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Testing an art form - or much else - to destruction is a widespread human urge and can produce salutary information. But - to put it baldly - it’s best done by those who know their subject from the inside and are seeking some particular gain in doing this, not by those who lack this understanding and just want to impose on it something alien and bonkers.

I’d have thought that anyone who was genuinely interested in how a new dance - or indeed new tunes - would work at a given event, would take the trouble to put it past an experienced caller, if he wasn’t knowledgeable about dance himself, and accept that person’s verdict as to whether to play it or not.

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When I play for dances, I generally get with the caller and ask him/her what types of tunes he/she might require and how they need to be played to compliment the dance.
For example (and this is a gross simplification, but bear with me)
I’ll ask him/her do you want jigs or reels, and do you want the tunes to be smooth (lilting) or bouncy (a la Joe Cooley’s take on The Wise Maid).
Thus unless the caller requests a specific tune to go with the dance of same name (Haste To The Wedding, La Bastringue, for examples), I can craft a set of tunes to go with the types of movements in the dance.
For instance, a dance with lots of balance and swings I will play a ‘bouncier’ type of reel. A smoother dance with lots of flow will warrant ‘lilting’ jigs.
This is to say, that for the most part, just about any jig or reel (or march, barndance, two-step, and in some cases rags for that ‘swingy’ feel) properly played, can be used to accompany a dance.
A good dance musician knows where and how to put ‘dance time’, lift, and bounce into the tunes to make them irresistibly complement the dances.

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As with tunes, over time the good ones will survive and continue to be enjoyed. The less good, boring etc. will just fade away.

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Exactly!
And likewise, over time, the good dances, the ‘chestnuts’ will be around long after the passing fad dances are forgotten.

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"Testing an art form - or much else - to destruction" ~ is subjective, and judgemental. It assumes that people who look close at the objects of their passion are ‘looking too close’, and that they aim or result is somehow ‘destructive’. The same arguments are raised for other areas of interest, from poetry to swimming. I have NEVER found anyone who explored their passions indepth who either did it "to destruction", or found they appreciated it less. The contrary was always the result ~ a greater understanding and appreciation. Speaking for myself, the one I’m best able to give a response for ~ it HAS NEVER lessened my love and appreciation of those things I value, including my friends. The more I know the more I have to value and appreciate. Understanding is a wonderful thing, something that for me is priceless, worth more than trinkets of gold or precious stones… I love poetry too, and of those poems that have moved me on first hearing or reading, they continue to do so, even after I know the history behind them, the writer, the times, and the traditions it rises from…

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The folk evolutionary process doesn’t always leave us with the good tunes. There are some naff tunes out there which everyone seems to play. I’d say generally speaking, that indescribable quality which makes a tune good leads to its survival, but there is more to it than that.

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Yes, and over time we get a growing understanding of what is needed, and what generally fails or succeeds. That doesn’t, as with a knowledge of history, prevent us from repeating the same mistakes…

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Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat the same tunes at sessions… 8-)

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Sadly, I think some songs and tunes have a greater following not because they are neccessarily better, but because there was better exposure for one reason or another.

I’ve read some stuff on how the modern take on ITM is dominated by Sligo and Donegal style, just because of the nature of who made audio recordings and tune books in the early 1900’s. So I’m sure there were many excellent tunes and stylings that have been lost, not because they were bad, but because they weren’t heard or passed on.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

WheI hear some of the tunes dug out from old books, I can see why they were lost! Old tune does not equal good tune.

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Good points VlaMike & the disillusioned…

Objective measure of …

imho c. you long to be the adjudicator again, though I rarely follow your line(s) of thought. ;)

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On the other hand

the comments of your wife are coming in clearly. please thank her for me.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

‘I’ve read some stuff on how the modern take on ITM is dominated by Sligo and Donegal style, just because of the nature of who made audio recordings and tune books in the early 1900’s.’

I’m not sure what you’ve read, VlaMike, but you’ve seriously misunderstood its meaning.

‘The modern take on ITM’ (whatever that means - nobody calls it such in Ireland) remains to this day influenced by the 78rpm recordings made by Sligo-born fiddlers such as Coleman, Killoran and Morrison in the 20s, 30s and 40s. However, there was no such similar Donegal influence.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Take an art form (such as this music) and give it a long cultural history—a tradition—and you’ll constantly bump into "new" elements that seem to push the boundaries of the tradition. Some of these elements eventually end up being incorporated, some don’t.

What I hear "c" asking is, can we identify and name those elements that are already accepted as benchmarks in this tradition, and in turn use that understanding to inform our acceptance or dismissal of new ideas?

I suspect we can, collectively, by airing our personal senses of what those accepted traditional elements are and seeing where the traditional community agrees. That would be the core or the bull’s eye of what it means to be "traditional." The further you go from the bull’s eye, the less agreement there will be.

Most of us already "know it when we hear it." For example, we can listen to John Carty’s playing on Pathway to the Well and "get" that it’s traditional, even where it’s innovative. But most of us would not put his playing with At the Racket in the same "traditional" category.

Then again, it might be easier to identify what elements are NOT traditional…..

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Report card on the objective evaluation of tradition.

P J Doherty brought up the false premise bit. Cheers PJ ;)
Fair play though, I’ve gone back to the premise as presented in the OP. Here are the explanatory & objective bits I am able to extract at this point ~

This is about whether or not there are clear ways to pass judgement … clear ways to judge … a single element professing some kind of connection to a given tradition, tune or dance?
One measure to me has to do with it being memorable… those elements that make it a moving treat, those, I believe, can be listed, discussed, and their presence or absence can be measured… Posted by ceolachan

the dance figures should ideally ‘flow’ from one figure to the next … Posted by fiddlerdan

A point of measure! … the complement that dance and music can have, the agreement … to beat, . . to measure and phrase … Posted by ceolachan

Not exactly earth shaking.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Can I suggest a random tune & ask which of us think it fits *the tradition* or not? Willafjord. Each time we play this one in session someone will typically say it is not a traditional tune. To me it is though.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

This may help, an excerpt from track notes on Mairtin O’Connor’s album Perpetual Motion:

"A friend of mine was visiting one day and I asked him to guess where The Ebra Polka came from. ‘Germany’. says he. ‘No, I’ll tell you what…maybe France….no, it’s definitely, yes, it must be an Irish tune!’ ‘Well believe it or not,’ says I, ‘This tune actually comes from the Ukraine in the Soviet Union.’ To which he replied, ‘Isn’t it amazing the places you find Irish music these days!’"

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

One of my favourite via Kevin Burke, et.al. ~ "Frailach" (Itzikel)

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

"Willafjord"
https://thesession.org/tunes/292

"Frailach"
https://thesession.org/tunes/445

There’s nothing preventing a melody from being fun to give air to. The ‘frailach’ is the fruit of a different tradition.

While you’re raising this Random, it isn’t my place to question it but yours to defend your bringing these tunes up. So, why do you think they fit ‘Irish tradition’, or not. That you simply enjoy playing them is not what this thread was started for. But there’s always room for another thread if you have the motivation to word things in a way that better suits your notion of things.

The soap box is yours…

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I’ll continue to sit on the dance example till later. For the moment I’m enjoying what others have to contribute here.

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Remember ceolachan you are the one suggesting a tune can be objectively quantified. I agree with PJ that this is based on a faulty (false) premise. The burden of proof (objective analysis) is squarely on your shoulders.

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Besides

you didn’t bring up Miss L’s Irish polka from the Ukraine (which is why I mentioned the Frailach)

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Both of those tunes Random brought up seem to have been embraced by the tradition, regardless of whether I, or anyone else, thinks they fit it or not. They are relatively common session tunes. In the case of Willafjord, it has become one of those tunes that every beginner, ever, seems to know.

But they’re obviously not "new" tunes or modern. They are just tunes from other traditions that have joined the Irish session repertoire. I suspect that the playing of Kevin Burke and Lunasa is responsible for Frailach’s populatrity. I can’t explain Willfjord. In my subjective experience there are Shetland tunes which are loads better, but there it is, played at sessions nightly.

Shetland tunes

I love them emily. If you have a moment could you email me some you enjoy playing.
Cheers,
Ben

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Willafjord is popular because it is relatively easy and gets people into playing Shetland tunes. In terms of Irish musicians who have recorded it you can include both Sharon Shannon and Liz Doherty. It is an interesting tune with plenty of synchoption. Pesonally I am fed up to the back teeth of it but that is because I have heard it far too much. In terms of whether it is a traditional tune or not what a stupid question.

As far as Frailach goes it is just a really fun tune. I love it.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

You’re probably right, Ali, but still, doesn’t mean I like the tune. That said, I admit *whispering* I enjoyed playing it with you guys the other week in the pub and I thought we played it really well.

No one heard that. :)

But my opinion doesn’t matter. It’s a standard session tune, more standard than a lot of Irish tunes, at least in these parts. I’ve started Irish tunes I thought everyone knew, like the Earl’s Chair, and found myself playing a solo to blank stares. But start Willafjord, everyone will join in.

I don’t think this is what ceolachan was getting at, though, in his OP.

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There’s nothing new with traditional musicians trying other things on for size, that doesn’t mean they consider them within the definition of ‘dance tune’ or ‘Irish tradition’. We do a lot of things just for the hell of it, for the craic, including show tunes and the theme tune from Star Wars… The question that started this was for others to express their views on ways of possibly looking at things in an objective way, or at least leaning in the direction of ‘objective’, that being in most cases all we can do, ruled by emotions and fashion and fancy as we tend to be.

There are a lot of things I enjoy I don’t pretend to be a part of ‘Irish tradition’. And then we have the potential side issue of the plural ~ traditions, ‘session playing’ being something unique in itself, and which also has varieties, since it from one to the next there are endless variables…

Random_notes: I agree with PJ that this is based on a faulty (false) premise.

c: Exactly what do you mean, rather than just agreeing with something that wasn’t in itself clearly put forward.

Random_notes: The burden of proof (objective analysis) is squarely on your shoulders.

c: Not exactly, as I didn’t bring those tunes into this discussion, and I didn’t say or suggest I was here to judge anything. But carry on as you feel you need to. I just wish you would add something interesting, rather than just agreeing with the vague or expecting me to argue one way or the other for the tunes you drop into the discussion.

Yeah, I enjoy a good frailach too, now and then…

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I thought it was Spootiskerry you said you enjoyed playing.

Tunes ~ Shetland and otherwise ~

Shetland tunes, yes, sigh, lovely stuff, the dances too, and I’ve had the pleasure of learning some of both from great sources. But I don’t confuse them with things Irish, and have never thought of them as anything other than from the roots they belong to, and the folk who shared them with me… The same is true of the music and dance of Cape Breton ~ and elsewhere… However, it does give me added perspectives on this particular subject, and a passion for the history, those roots to it all…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I wasn’t going to get into this, c, but the worms are crawling out whether I want them to or not.

I don’t think there is such a thing, if we are talking about human experiences and human interpretations of experience and reality, as objectivity. Whether we are talking about physics, music, art, whatever, we are still perceiving "reality" through our senses and through the social and historical constructs we’ve developed to interpret it.

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It was the whole set. I think N played Willafjord after Spootiskerry.

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The premise as stated was to find an objective basis for evaluation. PJ was clear.* All I asked was what opinion does each person, on here, have regarding a specific tune (it was a random example ~ top of my head). imho the mustard members likely have heard, perhaps even played, the suggested tune. Where are the objective reasons ~ pro or con. I am not the one to offer any because I consider the matter to be mostly, if not completely, subjective.

*I’ll come back later to elaborate as I am preparing to meet some friends shortly. I listed what I considered the objective criteria which has been offered thus far & am simply underwhelmed. Anyone who thinks this deserves further analysis please present which elements you consider worthy.

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I can identify with this part of the tradition

"found myself playing a solo to blank stares" posted by emily
;)

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

"I didn’t say or suggest I was here to judge anything" by ceolachan
please ask your lovely wife if she agrees with this *fact*
cheers, my friend ~ & your worms too.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Liz Carroll has said that the good tunes (and I think we can extrapolate to include good dances) tend to hold together well—that is, the phrases and parts are musically related and support one another, rather than being jarringly juxtaposed.

That’s a start, but to get at what makes a tune or dance fit well within the tradition, you’ll need more criteria. Maybe worth a stab, but my experience suggests that with this music, whenever someone says, "Always do it this way," it’s almost always followed by, "except when you don’t." The same seems to apply to the music accepted within the tradition. As soon as you say a trad tune "must" include some element, or "must not" include some other element, someone will cite a tune well-established in the tradition that breaks the rule.

Tomas O’Cainnan (sp?), Brendan Breathnach, and others have tried to shed some light on what makes this music *this music.* But I don’t think anyone’s claimed yet to have found a fool-proof taxonomy.

But let’s not let that stop us. :-)
I’ll suggest some criteria (all fairly tautological):

A tune will more likely be accepted within the tradition if it:

- Adheres to the structural "rules" (meter, rhythmic feel, number of measures, phrasing) for one of the standard forms: reel, hornpipe, jig, slip jig, polka, etc.
- Falls within the range (in terms of overall range of pitch, and also key and mode) of the instruments commonly used to play this music.
- Lends itself to the articulations (cuts, rolls, crans, scratch triplets, etc.) that this music features.
- Contains recognizable bits of DNA from other traditional tunes, audible in its form, mode, and rhythmic feel, but more specifically in its choice of notes, intervals, and phrasing.

Now we’ll have to get more specific still, and exceptions will abound.

- Most trad tunes are based on a melodic phrase or chain of phrases that repeats over 4, 8, or 16 bars.
- Each part of most trad tunes resolves to its own tonal center.
- That said, modal ambiguity is not uncommon in this music.
- Many trad tunes are strongly pentatonic.
- Arpeggios featuring a major triad (the root, 3rd, and 5th notes; e.g., |G2 BG dGBG| ) are a staple of this music.
- The vast majority of trad tunes range from G, to c’ and no lower or higher.
- Notes longer than dotted quarters are rare in this music. Most phrases are built on eighth and quarter notes, and in most cases, dotted quarter notes can readily be played as 3 eighth notes (e.g., B3 becomes BAB) without detracting from the traditional character of the tune.

We could dive into each tune form and come up with more specific criteria, but I’m not sure what’s to be gained. Say, for instance, that we describe hornpipes as "typically featuring four or eight bars, ending with a trio of quarter notes of the root, the 3rd, and the root again, and a second part that features a new four bar phrase followed by a repeat of the first part’s last four bars." Most trad musicians already know this, intuitively or quite explicitly, and yet most trad musicians could also easily launch into a hornpipe that sidesteps these criteria.

FWIW, I’ve thought about these things a bit to help me explain and teach this music to others, and also as a way to inform the tunes that I’ve made up. But I can’t imagine consciously applying any of this while playing the music.

Posted .

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

…erm, just thinking out loud there. :-/

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Thanks MLH, that is getting to what I was hoping for.

Now to get my rant out of the way and give Random, well named, some of what was being asked for, tune-wise. But rant first.


It is our senses that give us a point of reference and a means to interpret and measure. Sound has a physical presence, not just an emotional reaction. With sheet music we have developed means to measure that, to record it, as we have also for dance. That takes these two items and gives them another physical representation, through notation, whatever form you like, from ABCs to dots for sound, and there are others, to numerous dance notations including what can be a very precise and amazing dance notation, Laban notation.

Once you acknowledge a measureable physical presence, you at least near something that can get close to an objective analysis, including through comparison of those measurable physical characteristics. To say this is impossible is as daft as saying there is no such thing as a 32 bar tune. But there are no shortage of daft people and daft things to say, whether out of ignorance or as a wind up. Lifting quotes isn’t speaking for oneself, and neither is the simple comment "I agree with ~". So not much substance there when what I really appreciate is someone thinking on their own and being willing to give it a try airing thier opinion in their own words.

Yes, in this instance I have been put in a position of ‘judging’, whether or not something has actually been said, rather than just lifting quotes. But that wasn’t what I was hoping for here, as I keep repeating. Feeling a bit fed up I have slipped into judgement, the daft and substanceless sometimes does that to me, winds me up. Sadly, I do it to myself too… :-/

“Willafjord” / “Wullafjord” first ~ a Shetland tune

First the transcription from Tom Anderson & Pam Swing’s "Haand me doon da fiddle" ~ the folks I learned this one from, and with the syncopation…

X: 1
T: Wullafjord
T: Willafjord
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
R: reel
K: DMaj
|: B2 |\
A2 FA- ADFA | B2 GB- BDGB | A2 FA- ADFA | EFGA GFED |
A2 FA- ADFA | B2 GB- BDGB | ABcd efge | f2 d2 d2 :|
|: g2 |\
f2 df- ffdf | geaf gfeg | f2 df- fAdf | e2 ce- eAce |
f2 df- ffdf | geaf gfec | ABcd efge | f2 d2 d2 :|

Let’s just deal with some of the positives here, as there are many ~

A good steady 4/4, more so with earlier versions where there wasn’t any syncopation, but even with syncopation, it never crossed between bars.

Still on counting ~ 64 beats, 32 bars, a classic 4/4 dance tune, played AABB, so that basic beginning structure holds up, but there’s more.

Phrases, brilliant, great help for the dancers and in giving a clear structure for the dance. And to start from the gross to the smaller measurements of melody and dance ~ two parts, 8 bars each, which repeat, giving AABB, which we’ve already said. But each 8 bar part is clearly divided into identifiable 4 bar phrases, which can be seen and heard clearly, again aiding the dance and dancers. These also are made up of clear 2-bar parts, and then there’s the single measures, also clear rhythmic identities, also a help to dancers.

If we take the simplest of dancing, just walking, there are 64 steps in this melody, and many 32 bar dances exist that are also similar, but we won’t go there, we’ll deal with the smaller elements, the figures. These tend to mostly be 8 steps in length, as with a simple forward 4 steps and back 4 steps, or a do-sa-do, and there are endless examples of this. Another classic element in dance is the swing, and there are short 4 bar swings and longer 8 bar swings, again fitting the structure of this tune, or it fitting the dance nicely, helping to define and move things along.

Yes, this is a perfect dance tune, and it fits in with the greater body of 32 bar AABB melodies quite well, but there is more.

There is ‘agreement’ within the tune, by this I mean repeating structures which further support the dance and dancer, and make for a memorable tune for all, including musicians. For a few obvious examples ~

The A-part ~ bars 1 - 2 & 5 - 6 =
A2 FA- ADFA | B2 GB- BDGB | ~

The B-part, with a little variance, bars 1 - 2 & 5 - 6 =
f2 df- ffdf | geaf gfe[gc] | ~
~ note that the g & c are harmonic, a 5th apart, something else that can be measured.

These are all 2-bar phrases, but there’s more, between both the A & B parts they share a common conclusion in thier final 2-bar phrase ~
~ | ABcd efge | f2 d2 d2 :|

This is ‘classic’ between traditions in our main realm of interest. But the reflective process exists in other ways, sometimes within the structure of a chord, sometimes rhythmically. for the latter consider the 3rd bar, with syncopation, in both parts, reduced to just rhythm, N = note ~
| N2 NN- NNNN | ~ a structure, with syncopation, that repeats elsewhere.

These are physical measurements. Other measurements are more directly to do with a specific performance, such as ‘tempo’. But, this tune also existed and exists in a straight and unsyncpoated form.

I know some of the background on both of the musicians who put this specific collection together, with the accompanying recording, and both will readily admit their outside influence, including American and European jazz and the dance band era that swept these isles. So, we can measure that influence too. Syncopation is fun, but like with anything, it can reach a point of abuse.

For a tune that meets some basics but fails on others, check this recent submission out, and obviously a ‘composition’ of recent alchemy, and one, that can be measured as such, doesn’t work out so well, is, objectively and subjectively, cack as a dance tune ~

https://thesession.org/tunes/10326

While it may have 64 beats/steps and be 32 bars in lenght, the melody is all over the place, over worked, with little or no ‘agreement’ to help dancer or musician, not ‘memorable’ except as messy, chaotic. Except for the last 4 bars of the A-part and the first ending of the B-part, so there is some rhythmic structure to it I can’t ignore, even if I don’t like the melody as it stands. And here’s that agreement, which oddly begins the bar before, so I’m giving that too, since in part it disrupts the helpful nature of 4-bar phrases ~

~ | G2 G cAG | ecG fcG | gfe d2 d | f2f efd :|

As a dance tune it is pretty useless, if not impossible, and compared to the larger body of tunes that are in this database, it doesn’t fit comfortably. It’s as my wife has said about the dance mentioned at the start ~ clumsy. Sometimes being run through the gamut of a session a tune can have the rough and uncomfortable bits worn off, changed to fit the more usual structures. And sometimes, as I suspect will be the case with this one, they just fade away…not being memorable in the sense of being taken to heart…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

There are composition on site, and elsewhere, that have little or no other agreement other than a time signature and bars… These are measurably, and by comparison, a long ways from that centre some have suggested above. The lovely thing about a centre, like aspiring to objectivity if not being able to completely realize it, is that a centre suggests a larger whole, something that is not exclusive to a pin point but that allows for variation and experimentation, something open to a wider and ever expanding set of measurable circumferences, and for convenience it can be akin to a dart board. Tunes like those with little or no connection are holes in the plasterboard…

Freylekh - Frailach - Freylach - Freilech ~ a different one for example

K: E Dorian
|: =c BA |\
E2 E2 _BA G2 | FGAF G4 | FG^AB cded | edc_B AGFD |
E2 E2 _BA G2 | FGAF G4 | GDEF GE=FD | E4- E :|
K: G Mixolydian
|: D E^F |\
G2 G2 FEDC | B,DB,D CB,A,G, | A,B,CD (3B,A,B, A,G, | ^CE D6 |
^FGGD =FEDC | B,DB,D CB,A,G, | A,B,CD B,G, A,2 | G4- G :|
K: E Locrian
|: ^F GA |\
BABA BdcB | A2 A2 A2 BA | GFAG (3GAG FD | E2 G2 B2 e2 |
B4 fed^c | dcBA BAGF | GDEF GEFD | E4- E :|

This one starts out on a count equivalent to any classic 3-part dance tune, 8-bars each part, and each part repeats, so AABBCC, 48 bars, 96 beats/steps ~ with all the elements of a good dance tune. There are some 48 bar dances that would fit this just fine, and it would be a kick to dance to it too, as it has been at times.

The key signatures are a good sign that it isn’t Irish, but there are other things to tell us that. This transcription takes this old standard down to the low G, string of the fiddle, so a grumbly take on what is also known as "The Fun Tashlikh". And yes, there are other possible spellings for that too, but I won’t go there. I won’t swear by the key signatures given, but it was a rush job. ;-)

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

And I still haven’t gotten around to that dance… :-/

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Wow. I mean, just wow.

…and, none of this got thought about in that nanosecond of time that elapsed between the finish of the dance and Mr. & Mrs. C looking at each other and saying "Well, that wasn’t quite right, or good, was it?"

Also, none of it was thought about in that nanosecond after we all told Bob his new tune was lovely (because we’re so damn polite) when really all assembled thought it was cr*p.

BUT! This:

https://thesession.org/discussions/23982#comment500090

…is actually what happened behind the scenes, in each of those cases, in a split second, without any conscious thought.

Amazing.

Carry on, sorry, just fascinating how the ol’ noggin operates sometimes.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I should say, we compared what we danced/heard/both to the master list Miss L laid out, subconsciously, as the tune was played or dance was stepped, just as Mr. C laboriously did above to the two Shetland tunes in longhand, mathematically showing his work, so to speak. The Xs and the Ys and cosigns. Ha ha.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I’m still here. Yes, please ~ carry on.

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1 question

Does the aspired to* objective measurement of traditional dance tunes require the use of abcs or some similar method of notation? I’m assuming swiffler is being facetious about the graph paper. Of course a deeper analysis might require more tools.

*imho the premise has been altered

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I’m curious about the dance. Did it have some of the elements described by Miss L though it was clumsily pieced together? I’m sure there is more to it than this.
Will, at the risk of appearing without substance, I would simply like to reiterate, "Wow!"

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Here is why I have difficulty buying the premise

On the one hand notation is being presented as a useful means to objectively analyze music.
On the other hand we are constantly being warned that paying too much attention to notation stiffles the tradition.
IMHO aspiring to an objective take on how a tune fits (& it isn’t clear what it is fitting into*) suggests we need to embrace some form of written notation as essential. Excuse me for this, but while I do not find this premise false (PJ’s word) I still consider the premise faulty. It is a subtle difference. So, basically I think PJ Doherty’s post works for me. I won’t cut & paste again. Sorry, I measure twice cut once. All of this takes me some time to consider. When I have something of substance to contribute I will.

* is it strictly Irish dance tunes? this was alluded to & it is hard to be objective with out being sure about certain specifics…

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I think you’ve missed the points. Notation has never been said to be useless by any of us who continually put the point that the ears are what requires ones main focus… Written notation isn’t ‘essential’. You’ve lost the plot and, sorry, I’m not going there again… Notation is just one proof that a thing can be measured, and once measured clear comparisons of some of those elements can be made, and it can be taken a lot further. Rhythmic identity was just a start. Like forming sentences, we can just throw words together for no reason, or letters, or we can use language with intent, to communicate something specific, with a purpose. We begin that by ordering letters to represent words that have substance and meaning. Music is a communication, and in the case of dance music it is a specific communication, it has a defined purpose and use, if not for everyone… I have a preference for the sense of it and not much patience for the nonsense some folks create with it.

That does’t mean that nonsense can’t also be fun…or useful…

“The Millennium Barndance” ~ a choreography too far?!

It seems, as with the set dances and other dances, that there isn’t enough, so some folks set about whippin’ up new creations. And that’s OK, they all started somewhere, and sometimes a decent result is had, and generally from someone with considerable experience and a resulting understanding to start from. That doesn’t prevent the clueless from claiming to understand. As near as I can figure this Frankenstein’s monster came out of workshops taking place in Donegal, Glencolumbcille I believe. There has also been a name given to the responsible choreographer, Edie Bradley, who I’ve not doubt is a lovely person, if this concoction says otherwise for their sense of tradition and couple dances in general, IMO. But it is unfair to judge a person on one couple dance. The scary part was that someone said that they are set on creating lots of new couple dances. I guess this might be akin to the new line-dancing for Ireland, or federated square dancing. Someone will no doubt have already started competitions and there will be ‘qualifications’. Scary eh? And here I am having started up a discussion on measures and standards, in a sense.

Back to the dance now, 16 bars, so half a dance, or half of 32 bars worth of a barndance. I suppose that 16 bar highlands could probably fill the background for this one.

It’s a couple dance, and it begins with the standard couple hold, also known as a ‘ballroom hold’, closed, meaning that the man has the woman’s right hand in his left, the other arms behind their partner’s back, or the woman’s left on his right shoulder.

* But that isn’t left alone, it is opposite of the norm, the woman’s back is to the centre and the first movement is clockwise, to the man’s left / the woman’s right ~

BARS
1 - 2 ~ 7-step, old style step-together
The man starts moving to his left by stepping on his left / The woman to her right and stepping on her right, that’s #1, then together, man’s right beside his left / woman’s left beside her right, that’s #2 ~ and so forth ~ 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ~ finishing with man’s weight on his left / woman’s on her right…

3 - 4 ~ 2 x 3s for couple to turn halfway round in place, man’s back now to the centre / woman facing him…

5 - 6 ~ 2 x 3s ~ keeping her right in his left, dropping the other hold, he raises an arch and the woman turns under that clockwise to end up with both facing the LOD (Line-Of-Direction = Anti-clockwise), the woman on the Left of the man / man to the Right of the woman (* this is atypical of couple dances. As most dancers will know, the usual is the man on the left / woman on the right.)

7 ~ Both stamp the outside foot flat and in place, Woman’s Left / Man’s Right, then clap both hands together twice.

8 ~ Same outside feet, Heel & Toe

9 - 10 ~ Walk forward, starting on the same outside feet ~ 1, 2, 123

11 - 12 ~ 2 x 3s ~ the man moving to his Left as the woman moves to her Left and in front of him, exchanging sides and finishing facing each other, taking both hands across, still holding M’s L / W’s R, take hold with the free hands, M’s R / W’s L, the man with his back to the centre.

13 - 14 ~ 2 x 3s ~ Let go M’s L / W’s R, the man raises an arch with his R-hand / W’s L, the woman dances a quarter turn Anti-clockwise under that for the couple to now face Against the LOD = CW (clockwise)

15 ~ 1 x 3s ~ Still holding M’s R / W’s L dance forward and Clockwise

16 ~ 1 x 3s ~ Turn in to face partner and step in place, taking a ballroom/waltz hold to start again from the beginning, Woman’s back to the centre…


This would be danced to either a 32 bar or 16 bar tune, with the usual 4-bar phrases. Considering this symmetry, how symetrical is this 16 bar dance? Here it is roughly chopped into figures as a tune is parts, A being the first move…

4 x 4 bar phrases of music ~

#1 ~ A (7-step) - B (half-turn)
#2 ~ C (Arch) - D (stamps & claps)
#3 ~ E (Walk forward) - F (Change sides)
#4 ~ G (Arch) - H (Forward ACW and turn to face)

As with tunes, ‘agreement’ is part of what makes a dance memorable. Here the nearest we get to that are with the arches. There is nothing wrong with the occassional ‘surprise’, but this little number is too busy, too bitsy. As my wife put it, unbalanced and clumsy. It doesn’t complement the music well, though it ‘fits’, as one can fit just about anything, but making it flow and memorable, that requires a deeper understanding. Aside from it being too busy for a mere 16 bars, it begins and ends atypically too. The ‘stamp, claps and heel and toe’ are almost throw away, as if forced to fill an empty couple of bars. Like with a tune, a dance can make a certain sense, and couple dances are very good at this, as would be realized by anyone with a fair experience of them ~ waltz, polka, schottische, German, Barndance, etc… Too often the composer or choreographer gets in the way of a decent tune or dance, tries too hard, as here. I think there are points * that can be made to show how this dance is a step too far, how it is clumsy and ill concieved, without it being solely a matter of subjectivity ~ "I like it!" / "I don’t like it!" In the end though, as has already been said, such things are tested over time. The sadness is that some will persist in carrying on with a poor tune or dance. Why? ~ when there are so many good tunes and dances to turn to instead? ~ old and new…

But then, if you haven’t a clue about dance, this won’t count for much anyway…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Those that carry on with a poor tune or dance may lack the deeper understanding you mention. Another way of saying this is that their taste is less informed by the tradition.

Or it could be that they like the tune or dance in spite of its shortcomings.

Some people make up in zeal what they lack in understanding.

Posted .

& I already have a stack of books I would rather be reading

:-O

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Howdy MLH ~ yes, the truth of it all. Experimentation is a kick, can be great fun, but sometimes it sticks (and stinks) like s**t… :-D

So what is currently on your ‘to read’ list Random?

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

"Or it could be that they like the tune or dance in spite of its shortcomings." ~ particularly the composer or choreographer…

The point = the premise

This is quite frustrating.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

That was the root and the intention… How could it be anything else?

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Notation, for music, for dance, wasn’t invented by people who hated either or who lacked understanding. On the contrary, it was out of a passion to understand further, and to share. Only a deep understanding could lead to the results, forms that can exist as simple and basic, or which can be quite exact and specific. No one with such a passion and understanding would have ever intended notation to replace live music, or to undermine it… This too is about ‘understanding’ rather than knee jerk judgements made that lack that…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I keep to the oft repeated ~ there is no substitute for ears and common sense ~ ‘common sense’ being something of substance based on experience and a deep interest and passion. Though, often, the latter needs to be kept in check… :-/

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Well, I can confirm not only that Edie is indeed a "lovely person" but that she’s regarded by many, far more knowledgeable than myself, as a very fine dance teacher. Her speciality is Donegal two-hand dances and I’ve a feeling she created the Millennium Barn Dance with Jacinta Gallagher. If you weren’t taught either of here ladies perhaps you were given a corrupted version? While I don’t have either of their email addresses to hand you’ll be able to track down Edie via Oideas Gael, Gleann Cholm Cill. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I’m sure she’d take your feedback in good heart.

Lonelyhearts, hopefully you’ve read enough of my posts by now to know that when I say your list of identifying characteristics is trite I’m not insulting you personally, dismissing your thoughts out of hand or trying to be provocative. I’ve two major difficulties. To start, if you asked a musician who’d never heard trad before to compose a tune to your criteria I’d be astonished if they came up with anything remotely resembling what I think of as trad.

My more serious difficulty is that you don’t seem to be taking due account of the "performance" aspect. My father says that in actuality there are no trad tunes only trad musicians. (I’ve a strong feeling that he’s quoting someone else, but no matter.) What I think lies behind such a gnomic utterance is one of the big unspoken truths of trad i.e that it’s really about the people not the tunes. Hence why trad musicians reference tunes by the person they learn’t the tune from, and why tune names are so both malleable and frequently forgotten

Certainly as late as 1985, Breathnach came to the conclusion that "Irish folk music is the music played in Ireland by musicians who acquired it from preceding generations by way of oral transmission.". Now my sense is that he wasn’t particularly happy with that definition, and certainly one can see all sorts of aspects of it that some might disagree strongly with. But, it places the emphasis firmly on the musician not the tune.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

PJ, you might be surprised to find that I agree with you 100%. My "list" post was just trying to be helpful to ceolachan’s discussion. Not only is my list trite, it’s sorely abridged, and as I said in that very post, even fully fleshed out would have little to do with actually playing this music.

I wouldn’t call it "performance"—I’d just say "play." But in substance I agree with you—what makes this music traditional, and uniquely what it is, is how it’s played. Which is why so many other forms of music get gill-netted into the tradition, why, for instance, it’s not uncommon to find Balkan and Scandanavian and French-Canadian, and even American tunes in Irish sessions, typically being played quite convincingly in a traditional Irish manner.

My mentor in this music was always telling me, "It’s not what you play but how you play it."

I suspect a lot of *that* can also be identified, labeled, etc. We could talk about the elements that go into creating nyah. But I’m not particularly inclined to throw words at it. I’d rather just go play some tunes.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

With regard to the original question, and the dance as described, it seems to me that, like many young bands who record their own tunes, the person who came up with this dance has done something new because it was easier than doing the research and finding something forgotten but still good and old.
I just wonder, for whom was this dance ? I wouldn’t try to teach and use it in one of the public barn-dances or ceilidhs I work for.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

PJ Doherty: Edie is indeed a "lovely person"

c: I’ve no doubt. Dance people can be lovely, and I value the passion folks bring to their interests. The criticism is for the dance, which was from a reliable and trusted source, and it fit the 16 bars, just not ‘tradition’ in the sense of 2-hand dances across Ireland or beyond, based on my own experiences, collecting, doing research ~ and most especially dancing, a hell of a lot of dancing.

PJ Doherty: ~ if you asked a musician who’d never heard trad before to compose a tune to your criteria I’d be astonished if they came up with anything remotely resembling what I think of as trad.

PJ Doherty: My father says that in actuality there are no trad tunes only trad musicians.

c: I can appreciate a certain sense in that.

PJ Doherty: it’s really about the people not the tunes.

c: and while agreeing with that I’d have to add it’s about community.

Breathnach: "Irish folk music is the music played in Ireland by musicians who acquired it from preceding generations by way of oral transmission."

c: I never met a traditional Irish musician that didn’t admire and respect a talent in music whatever their background. Johnny Doherty had a respect and admiration for Scottish music and players like Scott Skinner. To hear something different on ones instrument of choice, by someone else, even a completely different genre, tradition, and to appreciate that, I’ve never known that to be denied. Sometimes that can include trying something new, an exchange of forms or tunes or understanding. That ‘sharing’ is also integral to the music and is what ‘tradition’ means.

LMH: so many other forms of music get gill-netted into the tradition, why, for instance, it’s not uncommon to find Balkan and Scandanavian and French-Canadian, and even American tunes in Irish sessions, typically being played quite convincingly in a traditional Irish manner.

c: I think I did say something to that effect during this curious distraction…

MLH: I’m not particularly inclined to throw words at it. I’d rather just go play some tunes.

c: When it comes down to it, I’d rather play it too, but that doesn’t stop me thinking about it and exploring it, especially through the notions others hold with regards to this interest and passion we share.

The part of it that I value most, above all else, above the music, the dance, the twiddles and fancy bits, was and is and always will be the people, the social milieau, the community of it. The things I feel most strongly about in a negative sense are those things that eat away at that, the egotistic, the possessive, the obsessive, those that try to own it as if it could be held in that way. And it was that gathering of folks for a good night of chat, seasoned with music and dance, that is my ideal, not as some sessions can be ~ closed in a circle with the main focus on music and being ‘musician’s’… So, as far as what is most important to me, any rambling, explorations and curiousity aside ~ it will always be people. That includes what they think, and how they think about the subject here ~ ‘tradition’, traditions, music and dance, and other ways of looking at it, of caring about it.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

And yes, a cr*p tune, like a cr*p fiddle, can be made to sing in surprising ways in some hands… That doesn’t, for me, make it a good tune or a good fiddle… ;-) A sweet person full of charm can easily get me up for a dance, and I wll of course enjoy the company and the opportunity, whatever the dance, but like the fiddle and the tune, if it’s cack, I’ll have a pretty good notion of that, based on not insubstantial experience. But I really don’t mind it being pidgeon holed as opinion, or subjective…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

The worms crawl in,
The woms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout.

The ones that crawl in are lean and thin,
The ones that crawl out are fat and stout…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Well, when you apply all this trite theorizing ( :-) ) to the players themselves, some of it *is* relevant, no? If someone’s playing at a session falls so far outside that session’s parameters, then the session participants can ask that person to adjust his or her playing, or desist, right? All the more when the playing stays outside the bounds of what’s "traditional," eh? (To be clear, I’m not talking about the one-off appearance of a cello, or someone playing a novelty tune once in a blue moon. I’m talking about someone who shows up every week and plays nothing but bluegrass, say.)

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

It seems to me that musicians either forget or don’t realise that Irish traditional music is well within the tradition of all Western music, along with early church, ‘folk’ and later art music. It most definitely *can* be analysed and dissected and compared to conventional standards. Even a minimal study of music history (the development of music) and the structure of music (music composition) would really increase everyone’s understanding as Ceolachan and Miss Lonelyhearts well know. And musical notation illustrates music’s relations so well.

Of course musicians don’t think about all this when they’re playing the tunes they love, the ‘good tunes’ that they KNOW to be good. They simply express their ‘felt’ AS WELL as their ‘intellectual’ understanding. The absorption of the conventions of traditional Irish music by those fortunate to have grown up in the tradition is a bonus. None of this detracts from sharing and being with other people who love the music. It only adds to the pleasure of understanding more. It’s much more fun to play good tunes and dance good dances and, yes, sometimes you have to *judge* them to know and appreciate the difference.

Incidently, a crazy (crazed –like cracked china) quilt is no less ‘composed’ or carefully organised than any other type of quilt. The quiltmaker just uses the conventions of traditional quiltmaking popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century. :-)

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Thanks JNW, that is basically what I had hoped for, among other thigns, a widening of the field, the perspective on things. This question wasn’t so much about ‘style’ as about physical makeup and content, things that might be able to be discussed and evaluated somewhere on the side of the fence that could be considered ‘objective’. Irish music does not exist in a vacuum, and never has, nor has the dance, though some will talk about it as if it just rose up out of the bogs of Donegal, or Clare, or Kerry, or wherever else there is a bog. Pity those that are bogless, eh?

On the previously broad statement regarding cr*p fiddles and tunes, I need to qualify that to a ‘might’ ~ for some fiddles and tunes there is no hope of such rescue, however well accomplished a musician might be…

Another source to this start was computer generated composition of dance and music. While the dance used as an example was generated by living people, it reminded me by its content of computer generated dances I’ve experienced before, in what to me has a disconnected feel to it, like picking 8 cards from a large deck of 2-bar phrase figures, steps, noves ~ and et voila! ~ laid out in a row and there’s your 16-bar dance…

Reading …

So there never was a premise? I wasn’t making knee-jerk responses at the beginning, rather I was very carefully reading each comment believing there was a sincere quest to objectively evaluate an art form. Guess I took the bait. I have always claimed to be simple minded & here is the proof.
I’m reading " Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue" by Paul Woodruff
"Pride & Prejudice" ~ Jane Austen
"Musicophilia" ~ Oliver Sacks
"See You at the Hall
Boston’s Golden Era of Irish Music and Dance" Susan Gedutis
Cheers, you devil.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Rant

I will probably read this thread several times over before it sinks in. Fact is ceolachan, your brain never seems to rest & I have feeble ability to comprehend your twists & subtleties. In my head it becomes 64-bars in the space of 16. Fair play!
Having said that, I do appreciate the dialogue between Will & PJ Doherty. It helped give me a centre for the gist of this discussion. Not to mention Mrs. C. Cheers all!

btw I do appreciate the usefulness of written music as well as its’ limitations, but most especially it is paradoxical.
If the desire is a deeper appreciation ultimately this is emotional rather than intellectual. The more we find answers the more questions we have. Though as Llig (aka Yoda) might say, "There is no try, only do."

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

JNW, i don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone, whose judgement I hold regard for, ever suggest that trad isn’t within the Western music tradition. Similarly I’m not aware of anyone who seriously doubts that it’s capable of notation and analysis using the same tools and techniques that might be applied in the study of a Bach cantata, the Beatles "Twist and Shout", or Thelonious Monk’s "’Round Midnight". Indeed such analysis is regular undertaken by ethnomusicology students in UL, UCC etc. Highlighting one example, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin has conducted a detailed analysis of Tommie Potts’s playing. In short, the relationship between trad musicians and notation is much more complex and nuanced than it might appear from many of the comments on this board which tend, as is the nature of internet discussions, to devolve into crude headlines.

ceolachan, I’m afraid I’m with Random_notes on the difficulty of grasping your arguement and, as it turned out, the absence of a starting premise. Please don’t interpret this as a discouragement to post, take it as as feedback, yours to pick up or ignore as you see fit.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Random_notes ~ "The more we find answers the more questions we have."

PJ ~ I have, in the gist of creating a history that tries to extend as far back as it can, without reason, and to try to present some idea of Irish traditions as being something ‘extra’ special and even ‘removed’ from those other ‘foreign’ influences. That can still sometimes be rallied around even when all around us the proofts of ‘connection’ are obvious.

No, I don’t ignore, I take in and give, I hope, a fair consideration to comment, even the comic and obtuse, including my own clumsiness there. It was literally as I said, looking for worms. That measures and means of comparison exist, from the gross to the fine, I think, are without question. Whether or not they can be put to judgements that are generally opinion and subjective, such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and all measures in between, that would first require quite a lot of work on what exactly one means by ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the ‘what’ of it. I was kind of hoping some would take that direction, and ‘ugly’. I was also hoping it would open up some to the ‘comparison’, of Irish traditions with others.

Yes, a wide open can, but maybe too many of my own worms, fat earthy well loamed ones, to be open enough for others to take a risk. That said, I really have enjoyed the contributions, including Random’s. One gets tired of using smilies to try to give the basic gist of a response. Some of my own by that are ‘knee-jerk’. I have been in the least patient of moods lately, after pain and too much lost sleep ~ due to my own stubborness and dislike of medicine ~ but I finally gave in and got that sorted, if not the lost sleep.

Another few worms are to follow ~ which rose to the surface after a night of music, dancing and general merryment…

The Qs, in this case including Quantity vs. Quality again ~

Quantity, either knowing a sizeable amount of tunes, or dances, will never be the measure of understanding, though some do persist that it is some proof. I remember one illiterate farmer on Cape Breton Island who had never travelled more than a few miles from his farm, but knew and understood more about human natue, environment and culture, in that deep sense, than many well travelled professors I’ve stumbled across in my own travels and queries. I’d rather share time with that farmer, in an attempt to gain some of his understanding, than warming a seat in the class of some of those profs.

One can read without understanding more than the surface, and sometimes missing that. One can play a tune without ever connecting it to a tradition, or understanding enough to get connect it to dance, dancers and other musicians, and so too with dance. You can know the technicalities of a dance without knowing and understanding its greater context. On can know even that without real understanding or appreciation. To me appreciation is proven in understanding, not in simply ‘liking’ a thing.

One can’t judge a person fairly on one creation, though the ‘threat’ of more of the same to come did turn my insides a bit. But this particular single dance shows little proof of understanding of anything more than the basics. That is based on my own experiences with many, many dances and traditions, connected traditions, and having collected dance, and music, all over the place, including Ulster and Donegal.

As to ‘expert’, the only folks I could ever consider expert are those I was fortunate enough to know, who opened their homes and their hearts and shared their knowledge and passions for these things, their first-hand understanding. At best, I’m second-hand, but I do try to do them as much justice in passing on those traditions as I can, and I keep trying and striving to improve on that. What they intrusted to me was not just the technicalities, or merely style, it was a spirit, a hospitality and a welcome. Those things too can pass on with the tune or dance and make such things so much more valuable. I’m not an expert, my sources were the experts. Out of respect for them and that, I can only try to give a bit of them in the sharing, though I realize sometimes I fail by getting in the way.

My notion of this ‘new’ couple dance choreography that started this off, both our notions, my wife and mine, and others too, is that it clumsily stands in the way and despite the bits fitting together in a kind of hodge-podge way, technically and structurally and in feel it has a weak connection to history and tradition. This is besides who the source might be, however lovely and sweet and generous the choreographers. History is littered with clumsy experiments, and sometimes something really nice results, if rarely… Such experiments can also inform us. If we’re able to learn from our mistakes a greater understanding can be the result. For me that sometimes takes a bit of extra time, a bit of pondering and introspection, and kicking the soapbox out of the way and having a good long laugh at myself.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

By way of preface, c and I have exchanged warm pms so I don’t feel there’s any rancor on either side of this exchange.

ceolachan, to be Joe Friday for a minute and look at "The facts, Ma’am, just the facts." these seem to me to be:
a) The dance makers (I suspect they don’t think of themselves as choreographers) are Edie Bradley and Jacinta Gallagher.
b) Edie is held in high regard as a fine set dance teacher and expert in Donegal couples dance tradition by many in the set dancing community in the same way as say Jimmy O’Brien-Moran would be considered an expert piper by other pipers.
c) You weren’t taught the dance by either Edie or Jacinta.
d) You, and others with you, think the dance "clumsy … the bits fitting together in a kind of hodge-podge way, technically and structurally and in feel it has a weak connection to history and tradition."
e) The dance has been picked up by dancers taught by Edie and is finding it’s way round the trad scene as evidenced by it having been taught to yourself, relatively recently I gather, ten years after it was originally created.

Now I wasn’t there when you were taught this dance, neither it would seem were any of the other posters. I’ve seen it danced with Edie in the room, and though it looked within the tradition to me I’m a very irregular set dancer, more likely to be playing than dancing, so don’t feel that my view counts for very much. But fact e) above does count.

Now trying to square the above facts leads me to a number of possibilities:
i) You were taught a corrupted version - another reason to contact Edie.
ii) Your teacher has a true version of the dance but was having an "off-day".
iii) You (and the others of the same mind) were having an "off-day" - no, not so likely I’ll grant.
iv) You aren’t as familiar with the norms of the Donegal couples dance tradition as you may think.

My own guess is v), which is where it gets interesting, if anyone’s still with me at this point. As a living tradition, the "purist" v "innovator" dynamic is crucial to trad. Perhaps Edie is on the leading edge of that dynamic while you sit on the trailing edge? Really where’s the harm and why the fuss?

Surely your extended critique of this one dance belongs in Set Dancing News not as a peg on which to hang such uncontroversial topics as whether a large dance or tune repertoire equates to depth of knowledge and understanding, or, as you started with, whether someone from outside a particular tradition can apply a set of objective criteria to determine whether a tune or dance is traditional.

Just crawling up to the top of the can ~

I keep wondering if innovation comes about from leaving some of what you know behind. Even if this means making glaring errors, for a time, then returning to more traditional concepts, though with some *new* insights.

ceolachan, why do you favour the term *choreographer*? If I may be allowed to worm-in a question.

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Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

PJ ~ All views count for something…

iv) You aren’t as familiar with the norms of the Donegal couples dance tradition as you may think. ~ You only have my word on it, but ~ ‘extremely familiar’…if not with the new wave of new fangled creations, until recently. On who taught us, they were grand, lovely, in good mood and good form, and they did an admirable job on anything. While we enjoyed it all, and our moment with this particular dance, that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize a duff creation when I see one, but you can just ignore that as you choose as opinion, and you can devalue that in any way you’d like. I can only say that most would see my opinion is based on something more than an off moment, or ignorance of dance traditions, in Donegal, in Ireland, and amongst the greater tradition they belong to. I do my best not to narrow my perspective, and I’m always challenging it. I would know a decent dance too if one came my way. If some get pleasure from this, great. I won’t judge their pleasure, just the mechanics of the dance. Good company in any dance can mean a great time.

I’m also not fond of many of the new sets, and some of those passed off as old that I know from experience and other information, including reputable source ~ are newer than they let on to be. But this isn’t saying ‘new’ dances can’t have merit, including dances that might take a large step away from past conventions, and the sort of content that tends to mean something is likely to last ~ once it stops being promoted, or as happens, fashion changes. All the bits, taken on their own, are part of the greater tradition of couple dance, but how they come together and how they conflict with the usual norms, not that we should necessarily limit ourselves to ‘norms’, but counting all things that jar, it’s a clumsy dance, poorly conceived, whoever the source is ~ IMO…

But your points are made, considered and valued. It is of little help to me if ideas aren’t challenged and if there isn’t a re-evaluation of what might be a faulty perception or notion… Discussion is in part about taking risk and seeking the views of others, and even better if they present a challenge and make us look again at our views, and question them…


Howdy Random ~

"choreographer" ~ while doing the rounds I stumbled across a group of dancers and their leader redoing a set, this being a group that had won cuedos for their dancing. He was proud of what he did every year, which was to change it and work in some more stepping. Her referred to himself as a choreographer, and to his work as choreography. His background was with the Commission, and sets were just another opportunity to win medals, which he took to with great zeal, even brusing aside all previously existing traditions in his immediate influence. But that’s another story.

In keeping with that experience and the modern dance connection and meaning to that, when I come across folks doing something similar, the somewhat mechanics sounding quality in the words choreographer and choreography just seem to come immediately to mind. That does not in any way mean there can’t be ‘good’ results at the end of the processing.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

That you’re "extremely familiar" with the Donegal couples dance tradition but haven’t met, or it seems even have heard of, Edie (or this dance until recently) is, let’s be kind and say, difficult to reconcile.

That the dance, according to people far more knowledgeable than myself (including one of the organizers of the set dance programme at Willie week), has proved both popular and seemingly enduring, suggests you’re perhaps not as in step with the wider trad dance community as yet might think.

Accordingly, I’m curious as to who the "most" of "most would see my opinion is based on something more than an off moment, or ignorance of dance traditions, in Donegal, in Ireland, and amongst the greater tradition they belong to." actually are?

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

I don’t see any need to set out proofs. I was only responding to your list and previous comment.

My ‘experts’ are the lovely people who opened their doors and shared their traditions with me. While I used to do ‘the circuit’, in a manner of speaking, we choose not to. I’ve never felt I knew enough to call myself an expert, but my expertise has been called on by others. Those that shared with me were and are the experts, all my teachers, and friends. That some of that has ended up in my care, well, I do feel some passion for it, and have taken on some of theirs as well. It can build up inside you and sometimes I forget to check it.

You have your conceptions and views and I have mine. I’ve nothing to prove, so I won’t bother.

Good night and joy be with you, and good health…

Most of my ‘experts’, my sources are sadly no longer with us, except in memory, and some have managed to leave other records of themselves behind, which I and my ears regularly take pleasure in, as we do also some of those dances shared with us. That I don’t know one of the ‘new’ sparks, hey, to quote daft things ~ am I bothered?

A small point of clarification ~ "It is of little help to me if ideas aren’t challenged ~" ~ that was directed inward, back at myself, meaning my ideas and notions.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Well Edie would laugh at the idea that she’s a "new spark".

Good night and God bless.

The Taxonomy of Fish & the Obfuscation of Semiotics (the effects of lost sleep!)

Good, I’d hope someone would get a laugh out of this… :-D

Compared to the likes of the folk I mostly turned to for my education I’m a ‘spark’. Anyone younger than 90 or still living is a ‘new spark’ to me, and that includes the vast majority of those I see steppin’ the light fantastic on a dance floor nowadays. It’s all relative.

I keep thinking about all this, still, but also playing music in and out of the thinking, and I’ll be off for more tonight, and maybe some stepping too if my joints are in agreement. And I keep coming back to looking for other things to compare to the subjects raised here, including ‘measures’, and some attempt toward edging more in the direction of objectivity, if not ever being able to completely divorce ourselves from the subjective. Part of that is trying to be clear where we’re coming from, without me having to prove my opinion is worth anything. I’d rather that decision was made by others, favourably or not. In this case my interpretation is that it isn’t counted for much. So be it. That wouldn’t be new either. But back to this little dance for starters.

The assemblage of figures in question, collectively given the name "Millennium Barndance", have also been considered within the context and variation of related forms, including from Donegal, and I’ve even turned it around and played it back from a beginning more fitting of the norms, the LOD, Line-Of-Direction, ACW, Anti-ClockWise. In other words, beginning with the man’s back to the centre, partners facing in a ballroom/waltz hold, and that opening 7-step moving to his Left, her Right, ACW. Even if one were to assum that the LOD direction as first given here were a mistake or a misunderstanding, and even after that possible correction, with or without it, the dance is still, in my sense of it all, built basically on 2-bar asymetric phrases ~ chop-shop, cobbled together. That the creater and teacher of it is charming and that has carried forward with their dance, I’ve not doubt, asa the folks that taught us were themselves charming, wonderful people. As I keep saying, it isn’t about the subjective I’m wanting to deal with here, it is about trying to edge more to the objective, in comparision to current and past history with regards to dance, in this case couple dances, and if even narrowed down further, barndances, that family, and that can be taken even further down to those forms as they were danced and survied in Ireland, Ulster, Donegal… In that context I find it to be chop-shop, poorly thought out and constructed, my personal opinion if you like.

I don’t need any expertise to have an opinion, but it helps to have experience. I could go into greater depth and pull out a slew of dances, even limiting them to Donegal, and show how the complement each other and the traditions of couple dances over all, and how this doesn’t really fit over all. I wasn’t using this example to put a halt to it, I can’t, I haven’t that power or influence, and I was told there was more to come, the promise of a great tsunami of new couple dances akin to the set dance one that swept over the island in the 80s, including taking over Miltown Malbay and The Willie Clancy Summer School. Yes, alright, slot me in with the dinosaurs if you need to, as I still prefer things as they were at Willie Clancy Week before that great tsunami shook things up.

Let’s consider another tradition of communication, language, languages, in comparison to music and dance, which are to me a matter of communication as well. So I don’t see the comparison, personally, as a stretch. A living language changes and borrows and adapts. It’s alive! No one can freeze it, stop it in its tracks, encase it in perspex, not without risking snuffing out that life. But, the language has identity, it has to in order to clearly communicate, it has common elements and a structure that all understand, definitions and a way of ordering them that aids the intent, to communicate. We have tagged these and analyzed these ~ subject, verb ~ noun, object, etc… We recognize the structures, basic and complex. From sounds we build syllables and then words and then sentences and paragraphs. All those identifiable elements and structures don’t stop us from experimenting and trying new forms, as some communities create their own ‘speak’, such as combinations of two language, pig-English, rhyming slang, street slang, playground codes. But within these, again, there are elements and structures that aid understanding within the given community that supports them. And there are other identifying characteristics to increase interest, such as accent and geographic, job specialization and race specific terminology.

We can jumble up syllables and structures for a lark, and there are some great nonsense poems knocking about. But on the whole, wanting to communicate, wanting to do that clearly and effectively, the structures and basic constructs hold, and the language breaths and is allowed its bit of fun, despite those that might rally against it, such as "The Plain English Campaign" folks, bless ‘em. And, yes, I do hold sympathy for them, but I’m not about to start up something similar for music and dance, so not quite a dinosaur, maybe something in between that and the nuovo? But I also enjoy quite a bit of the new, if never planning to join Facebook or the Twittering lot, though we have family that try to bring us over to that.

And then there’s fashion, and nobody can suppress the craving for the new, the novel, the experimental. Hey, it’s all ADHD in the present rush past quality for quantity. It’s the MP3 generation, or so I’m told. I am not surprised that music and dance are touched by the adrenalin of it all, including the want to be famous, even if it is for just 5 minutes. "See what I made!" There the coelacanth in me takes a clear identifiable form, if not quite a dinosaur.

My heart still tends to sink a little when I see "Someone At The Session" in the mailbox, even though the greatest number of these are very welcome, friendly chat, sometimes a request for help, sometimes in answer to a request I’ve made, or to query something, sometimes something foolish I’ve said. I love it, but still, while only a few were vitriolic, I still have a sinking feeling when I see anther, though mostly they end up making me smile, sometimes laugh, and always think, feel… It’s not the questions I fear. There are a lot of lovely folk gathered here, including the sometimes curmudgeonly… ;-)

Thanks for the time PJ, appreciated, whatever your judgement of my contribution…

Keep teaching and inspiring, as I know you are and will be…

If anyone wishes to make some basic comparison of forms dance-wise there are some dance descriptions on site here. At least half a dozen of these are for couple dances that were danced in Donegal. You can find links to some of these by scrolling down my ‘details’, if your interest nudges you to do so. Better yet, go out and learn the dances, whatever they are, for the social craic in it, for increased understanding, but mostly for the comradery of it all… As is always true, as with the music and the ears, it is even better if you can find a live source to show you the steps and moves.

Best of luck in all you do!

& ~ DVD: “Damhsaí Cúplaí Thír Chonaill / The Couple Dances of Donegal”

Highly recommended ~ brilliant ~ some of the ‘experts’ ~
DVD: “Damhsaí Cúplaí Thír Chonaill / The Couple Dances of Donegal:
Traditional Music and Dance of Donegal”

Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí: Donegal Fiddle Music
http://www.donegalfiddlemusic.ie/
“Damhsaí Cúplaí Thír Chonaill / The Couple Dances of Donegal”
http://www.donegalfiddlemusic.ie/dvd-1.htm

I like it so much I’ve bought copies for others…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

PJ Writes: "My more serious difficulty is that you don’t seem to be taking due account of the "performance" aspect."

Will writes: "I wouldn’t call it "performance"—I’d just say "play."

If we apply Will’s suggestion to what PJ wrote it would say: "My more serious difficulty is that you don’t seem to be taking due account of the "play" aspect."

~~~

hmmmm… I’m not seeing it, Will. I like PJ’s original sentence better… clearly makes more sense.

‘Performance aspect’ ~ Some arguments are like festering old wounds, ulcers, they never seem to heal… :-D That’s not necessarily bad if we pat attention, don’t pick at it too much, and keep testing new cures…

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Yes, I’m truly amazed that it still comes up… lol. Put down the word and back away slowly folks.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

c, I have a suspicion this has become a semi-private correspondence between that the rest of the board has little interest in (perhaps save yourself there Phantom!) but no matter.

It’s interesting that you seem to have picked on one suggested scenario (see iv a couple of posts back) i.e that "you aren’t as familiar with the norms of the Donegal couples dance tradition as you may think." rather than engage with the one I favour (see v above) i.e. that in the age old "purist" v "innovator" dialogue perhaps Edie is on the leading edge of that dynamic while you sit on the trailing edge.

it’s this dynamic that interesting, not frankly your level of expertise or otherwise. I’m sure you remember the heated debate provoked by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin’s River of Sound TV series and the resulting Crosbhealach an Cheoil, (the Crossroads Conference) in 1996.

Your language in critiquing Edie’s dance goes far beyond a mere expression of dislike describing it (I’m paraphrasing several lengthy diatribes here) as not only outside the Donegal couples dance tradition, outside the Irish set dancing tradition but outside the dance traditions of Western Europe! Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with disliking a dance or tune or even what a musician does with a tune (one of my grandfather’s disliked Coleman’s records with a passion and to this day they’re not played in our house). But given Edie’s credentials and the seeming popularity of the dance (I can personally speak to the former and understand the latter to be the case) such a stance is just not credible! As I argued in my first post, the sole defining criteria of whether a dance or song or tune is traditional is its acceptance as such by the body of trad dancers, singers or musicians.

To use what I hope will be an uncontroversial illustration, growing up I remember fierce debates between my mother and her father as to whether Tommie Potts played trad or some sort of jazz. To quote Ó Súilleabháin

"What is highly significant about Tommie Potts is that he is called upon as the epitome of tradition, on the one hand, and as the epitome of innovation, on the other. I believe I can show conclusively here that that he is the epitome of true innovation by virtue of the fact that his understanding of tradition was so grounded as to allow him to be primed for the innovation which flowed through him."

Now I’m not for one moment equating Edie with Tommie (to my mind the nearest to a genius trad has produced) but she is working from a deep well of tradition. For me, the only sensible squaring of your rejection of the dance as trad, Edie’s trad sensibilities and its seeming acceptance as trad by a large proportion of the trad dance community is in that healthy space where, as with Tommie, tradition is in tension with innovation.

Re: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Objective Measures of Tradition?!

Phantom, it’s often heard among trad musicians that one doesn’t play a tune, rather one plays with it.

Arriving at customs they first asked, “passports please!” and then, “your credentials?”

"in the age old "purist" v "innovator" dialogue perhaps Edie is on the leading edge of that dynamic while you sit on the trailing edge." ~ PJ Doherty

I guess you didn’t pick up on that then ~ the ‘dinosaur’ references, or more specifically the coelacanth… I’m not surprised at attempts to pidgeon hole me in ways along these lines, ‘purist’ or otherwise. I can’t say it works for me, as I can also recognize and acknowledge a well conceived ‘new’ tune or dance, or way of things. Going back over this I don’t see myself denying wider connections, on the contrary. I will admit I’m not generally fond of when things go O.T.T., which in my sense this particular dance has, but things go O.T.T., it’s in our nature to test and push past established norms and expectations. I don’t have a problem with leaving such things to time, as if I had any other choice. I’d thought I’d also made that clear previously…

It’s alright, continue to wave credentials around. As said, I’m not going to add a whole slew of comparisons with other dances connected to this form, old and new, to further clog things up. As said, since there’s really no other choice, it is just best to let time take its course, and for those that fancy it to have their fancy, their bit of fun ~ ‘on the side’… I still think it stands as an example of a badly concieved ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of a barndance, personally speaking… But I wouldn’t deny anyone their fun, either as an ‘innovator’ or as an acolyte to the cause of innovation… I quite like how it stands out glaringly and clumsily compared to other dances of the same ilk. That’s my notion of such things, how ever uncredentialed that may or might not be. :-D

Thanks for the banter PJ, best of health to you and yours and your music too ~ and as well to dear Edie. May she reign supreme amongst her throng, and may future innovations show a growing understanding of dance… While not at all against the ‘new’, as said, I do prefer a slower lane. I find too many folks in the fast lane can be pushy, adrenalin addicts, and I find it quite uncomfortable to be tailgated. I’d much rather move aside and let them continue on their merry way.

I haven’t stopped learning or seeking a better understanding of things, I never intend to lose that curiosity, that hunger. Though, sometimes I do need to pinch or kick myself. For each new answer the questions just keep growing… The most priceless resource is a living one, but I’ve had my nose down in libraries too, exploring dusty ol’ tomes ~ as well as the new ones. Whenever possible I like to knock myself down off my high horse, when I get uppity, and sometimes in revery or ignorance I’m knocked off by a low branch. Once back down on the ground is a good place to brush myself off and re-examine my passions and notions, just to guard against the weakness we all have of letting preconceptions sneak in, or to guard against becoming too ‘set in ones ways’. I much prefer being open to taking things in than closed like set concrete, thinking too highly of my own notions, or that I know and understand something better than I actually do. However, once in, I might just form an opinion, as here, whether based on hot air or something less amorphous…

Objective Measures of Credibility?!

Mob rule?

We have a miniscule but merry mob here that regularly takes me down a notch or two, and welcome it is. They vocalize their need for a natter and let me know when dance or music needs to step aside for that. We wouldn’t have it any other way. They’re a lovely, patient and welcoming lot.

It is more important to me that I try to nurture other things shared with me in my travels, that welcome, without judgement, that instant friendship, as if you were family, that warmth. You’re a friend, family, part of the community ~ until acts of disrespect and discourtesy prove otherwise, with repeat and inconsiderate offenses. I’m still working on that. Too often the emotions of those sources, with my own, get more hold on my sense and reason, and in the way of both, and can interfere with my want to be open, receptive, welcoming and without judgment. It’s a work in process. Such things give me something to aspire to, that tradition of hospitality and welcome meaning more to me than any other aspect.

We’ve moved away from topic, but sometimes that’s the natural way of things, diversions, like a river swelling its banks and losing control…