Musical Food For Thought,,

Musical Food For Thought,,

Some of you Folks from the Session, might like this
sort of thing - I was sent this From a Dear Friend -
Brian - Derry or Londenderry Fiddler, whichever you prefer.

Read this Link — If you can — lol.

http://journalofmusic.com/article/1099


My Answer - Below =



Brian,,,

Like this man I grew up in a non tradition world,,
Orange Bands, Pop music - Rolling Stones,, But my Father
liked among Sinatra/Cole — Tchaikovsky/Wagner,,, Which
I heard a lot of.. But among them He would play the Dubliners
And a fiddler he thought was Great - Sean Maguire….I thought
later on this Odd, as he was an Orangeman, And my friends around
my street told me this was ” Fenian Music ”….

Later on I started to like this Folk music music Dubliners etc,
Sounded like some of the Orange tune’s I knew - Just different
Word’s - lol. I would listen to the song’s but lift the needle
up and skip that Diddle - dee music, which all to me sounded
the same. In my youth still A Fanatic, on the Stone’s,I heard
of where these guys who played that auld Dubliners and so called,
Fenian Music,, But I liked it so much I took a chance and went
into what for some reason was - ” A Catholic Bar ”Just to hear
This - Irish music. After being in there listen to Dubliners song’s
I found there was more Prod’s than just me — A at least two of
where playing this stuff— lol. The rest Musicaly is History for
me.

I havent a great attention span esp - to literature,, But could
listen to Mahlar Symphonies and Wagner’s Ring Cycle for long enough.
But I have looked through Bits of This article from The Journal of
Music.. And agree with alot -but I seem to have heard much and indeed
read similar before,,, On < structures is an essential human trait,>
Yes thats Human’s ok - Trying to make sence out of what they Dont really
Understand, In music like other things Written Words cannot capture the
feeling of what Musical emotion’s,, Like a parapsychologist trying to
explain the Supernatural. Or once when a man fixing our washing
machine - when I ask him about getting Shocked, He said ” Electricity,
is like God, you cant see it,, But you know its there.”- lol.

Talking about the Swing style that I also love in this great music,
I prefer the North Leitrim variety,, We may have been Influenced by the
then popular swing of 1920s America - This may also be true as we Humans
are all Mimic’s, thats how we learn. Maybe music itself was taken from
the Bird’s,, As in for example, That lovely Reel ” THE MORNING THRUSH ”.
Even now that mimicry is going on to this day, in Irish Music, with young
one’s useing more Easten, and even Old Easten once Soviet Bloc countries
Musical Influences…

But to Cut A Hell of a long story short,, Once a Banjo Playing friend said
to me when talking like this before - About Music fiddles and Fiddle playing etc,,
He said =

” Jim, just put tha fiddle under yer chin an play the bloody thing ”
( In an east Antrim accent ) — lol..

Jim McAuley,,,

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Yeah -
Nothing I Havent already heard - little_chup

Thanks — jim,,

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Interesting article, and I appreciate the heartfelt thoughts from you, Jim.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Very interesting article, Jim. Much appreciated.
Many of us are probably familiar with some of the points made in the article, and we may or may not agree with them, but to see them expressed in such an articulate manner is both pleasurable and thought provoking.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, chup?

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If I read another article that name drops Coleman, McKenna, South Sligo style, O’Riada, Hayes and throws in "Me hole is sore again" for good measure as though they’re the only musicians that are worth writing about I think I’ll hang up the boots. The only thing that’s innovative amongst all the cliches of this particular ivory tower are developing ways of accessing traditional arts funding. Seafoid ceart.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Well, there you are, little_chup, wouldn´t the world be a boring old place if we all agreed with each other !:-)
I think we are coming from different directions in our appreciation, or not, of the article.
I know who Micheal O´Suillebhain is and what he does. I don´t particularly like his style of playing traditional Irish music, I find it too "drawing room".
I don´t know or have any knowledge of Niall Keegan, although I have seen his name mentioned several times and knew he was a flute player.
I read the article without any preconceived ideas about these two musicians and their take on the music, and I found it thought provoking and articulate.
If, as you say, they are in favour of changing the tunes, then I certainly wouldn´t be in their camp. I am a bit of a purist and instinctively distrust "arrangements" of what are perfectly good tunes.
I would tend to identify with the accordeonist mentioned in the article who was being taught a tune by M. O´S. and had difficulty understanding what he meant when they resorted to words.
I have no formal musical education and I don´t read music to the extent of being able to learn a tune from the dots, but I have been playing it for over 40 years and have acquired a fair repertoire in that time. Please don´t read this as inverted snobbery - reading music would certainly have been handy for jotting down tunes, etc., but I´ve managed OK so far. It might be an interesting way to keep Old Man Alzheimer at bay though!

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Thanks chup And yerself !.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Dear - murfbox and little_chup =

Articulate? Thought provoking? — Well I’am not so sure about that,, my answer is more about Me, and my musical History, and Less about Musical Answers — But If I get
his { The fiddler who sent me this } permision— I’ll send His answer in - Make’s more sence to me, than mine.. About this
article — On the above link,,
jim.

The zen of tradition ~ spot on

"The academic Jesuit priest Walter Ong has shown us that in non-literate, oral societies the meaning of ‘tradition’, or the concept nearest to it, is what is current, what happens now."

Posted by .

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

I’m sorry, but I gave up at "…the essential disfunction of languaging about music." If he could write, I may be interested in reading what he has to say; but I have other things to do.

Posted by .

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Change the tunes, change the language.. create tunes, create language. I like the use of ‘language’ as a verb. The author isn’t a prescriptivist in any right, at least he’s being consistent. 8-)

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Sorry

My Old friend Brian —- Dose not wish to comment futher on this post —- As I now realize I have used his second name-
Leaving him now to a very sad disadvantage… As he dose not know who all is commenting on here ,,,,

And I hope It wont distroy of Once very long and good friendship ,,, If any one here can get his Sir Name removed
I’d Be very very Happy —-
Yours -
jim,

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

"… Take for example south Sligo fiddling, a style that is sometimes perceived to stretch over the whole of north Connaught in the west of Ireland. For this style, as for every style, there are ‘best-example’ fiddlers, central to the sound, namely Michael Coleman, James Morrison and Paddy Killoran. However, when you mention that the ‘swing’ associated with these players might have had just as much to do with the popular swing of 1920s America where these men lived and recorded, you are in trouble, because you threaten the authenticity and Irishness of the entity known as the Sligo style."

I think this statement alone might be enough of a topic for a doctorate! What evidence is available to show that these REPRESENTATIVES of the Sligo style were NOT influenced by American swing music?

Patkiwi, I don’t think that using names as references for a specific purpose constitutes "namedropping". The above statement, in particular, specifies that well-known and documented (through their recordings) musicians may have been influenced (and have influenced others) outside of the tradition of Sligo music. Niall mentions Coleman, Morrison, and Killoran as examples, whose style can still be examined.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

@ oldstrings:
True, but they’re still the same names being bandied about by almost everyone writing about Irish Traditional Music from an intellectual point of view. I have no problem with Coleman, Morrison et al being used as examples, my issue lies with virtually everyone using the same limited material to come up with their own angle. How much more needs to be written about the same handful of musicians before it becomes parody?

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Your valid point taken, Patkiwi, but it is handy to have benchmarks.
Certainly commentators should then move on to subsequent examples and expanded ideas.

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I think I have used this analogy before, so for those of you with elephant memory, please pardon me repeating myself:

Some years ago, on my way home from my local session at 1 o’clock at night a radio program caught my intention allthough It was far from my "neck of woods": It was about a bird ornitologist who had sampled melodies sung by birds in various valleys/regions. He had discoverd that the songs varied regionally, and any newcomer had to adapt singing to the "regional style" if this bird was to make it anywhere..

I found the similarity to traditional music intriguing: nature has its way of adapting to the structures around it, and in any culture there is a code structure that has to be understood and adapted and then possibly brought further. On the cover of Ed Reavy’s tune collections the old man Reavy is referred to as a "keeper of traditions" , while his fame is probably associated with the numerous great tunes he has expanded the tradition with. I think in any good thriving culture there are numerous (inner) circles (structures) who define and have a saying in what is bringing the culture forward progressively, just as some on this site cannot resist commenting on topics such as performances and dots…

Oh, while searching back to references for the above, I found reference to the above mentioned "morning thrush". This very morning I cheered when finding the title for this tune which has been a favourite of mine since I picked it up in a session in Cork. Links included
https://thesession.org/tunes/2151

http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1648/0273-8570%282000%29071%5B0467%3ASBOTHT%5D2.0.CO%3B2?prevSearch=%255Bfulltext%253A%2Bregional%2Bvariations%2Bof%2Bsongs%2Bby%2Bbirds%2Bvalleys%255D%2BAND%2B%255Bpublisher%253A%2Bbioone%255D&searchHistoryKey=
http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1554/04-276?prevSearch=%255Bfulltext%253A%2Bregional%2Bvariations%2Bof%2Bsongs%2Bby%2Bbirds%2Bvalleys%255D%2BAND%2B%255Bpublisher%253A%2Bbioone%255D&searchHistoryKey=

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

attention

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If you say that it is impossible to discuss music using words, what more is there to say?

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Well, I can’t talk intelligently about how the folks writing that original orticle or the folks mentioned in the article as innovators play.

I can tell you though that in the wonderful and sometimes silly world of ethnomusicologists there are two basic camps: Those who believe that the "original" versions of things are to be revered and preserved, and those who see the music (of what ever style) as a continually evolving thing. There is the same kind of a division in the world of language, and in many other similar disciplines.

So, unless I read this too quickly I see nothing in the article but a rehash and restatement of one of the two points of view. It may be that there is some difference in detail, but in general just the same old argument gussied up in good solid academic purple prose.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

article!! article!!! I’ve got to proof better!

“Let go of the language of the Past” ~ Niall Keegan

http://journalofmusic.com/article/1099

The Journal of Music
http://journalofmusic.com/

I’ll remain shtrum. This is just me throwing in the bait to see if the piranhas will rise and make a boil of it… I’ll just cautiously sit here high up on the bank in the shade of a lovely tree and play a few tunes with the birds… ;-)

Re: “Let go of the language of the Past” ~ Niall Keegan

Enjoy the shade and the tunes with the birds. Someone else threw this bait in the river a few days ago and the piranhas have already shown their teeth.

Soon to go "POOF!"

Re: “Let go of the language of the Past” ~ Niall Keegan

I am sure that the curt grunts and vocables that pass between trad musicians know how to look after themselves, and will modify exactly to the extent they need to as they follow their course through time.

They will never die.

Musings for the Compost ~

Duplication ~
~ /discussions/24676

I’d missed this, though I did a search before committing my ‘duplication’. I’ve only just tripped over Jim’s, this one…

The Journal of Music ~ http://journalofmusic.com/

I’d planned to remain shtrum, to lurk, to just throw in the bait to see if the piranhas would rise and make a boil… But, as things have started already, I’ll make a small contribution. This ‘article’ irritated me considerably. I’ve read better waffle from high school students.

My initial response was ‘cr*p’!, though that may be me trying to be kind, being too generous, as, in my opinion, it would take considerable work on the part of germs of thought to reduce Keegan’s rant down to useful compost. But, to be fair, his loaded language and poor understanding of things in general aside, the poor logic and juvenile writing, it might be that there are a few scraps of thought worthy of further ‘discussion’.

To use ‘metaphors’, he hasn’t bothered to hone his axe before taking hacks out of everything that bubbles through to the surface of his bile biases, splashing about and raising a stink, while occasionally striking living tissue, bark through living tissue to wood. I am not impressed. I’ve seen plenty of high school waffling in papers and his little tirade reads the same, around the issues, presenting premises, poorly or unsupported, we’re supposed to take on board without question, as fact in his mind, and trashing whole groups of people with other ill considered and poorly thought out generalizations. I tried to temper my anger, to be more considerate, and I did turn on the fiction release, the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, as hard as that was. But, after the dénouement and the finale, I left after several reads shaking my head and disgusted with it. Bad fiction is still bad fiction, worse that this is supposedly of the ‘other’ category, non-fiction. In wailing on with his own agenda he does everything that he bewails about the agendas of others, with similar fallacious reasoning.

I don’t doubt I’d enjoy a tune or two with this person, or just listening to his take on things, and I’m sure I’d enjoy sitting through one of his flute workshops. I just pray he’s not put in charge of anything else. I wouldn’t want to take a course in writing with him, or logic, or be caught in a discussion, as this paper suggests such would likely be a lecture/rant instead, possibly with just nodding and agreeable acolytes around the ‘master’ ~ rather than reasoned and constructive dialogue, ‘open’ argument, where folks are willing to listen and consider the impressions and experience of others…

Having had my blurt about this tripe, a friend having emailed the link to me to consider, and getting wound up over it, I’ll get back to just cautiously sitting here high up on the bank in the shade of a lovely old oak, playing a few tunes with the birds, reading a decent book, and with hopes there’s no other crocodiles lurking about, other than myself…

This paper didn’t pass, ‘unclassified’, and ended up with red ink all over the place, though to be real, it was turquoise, what I had immediately on hand.

Back to music ~ ‘c’

Grunt, burp, unnnhhh, diddly i oh…

Re: “Let go of the language of the Past” ~ Niall Keegan

Heheh. "the curt grunts." Anyone else have to read this twice to make sure that Nicholas hadn’t got past the naughty words filter? :-D

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Here’s what I said over there, so it’ll be over here too:

If understand this correctly, we have an article of close to 3000 words complaining that the language used to describe traditional music is restricting ‘artistic creativity’ in modern players. It leaves me feeling like I’m hearing a digital synthesiser player trying to explain why his jazz-rock-punk-fusion loop of ‘Toss The Feathers’ is "traditional."
The Bard wrote: "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet;" Changing the language used to describe traditional music won’t alter the fact that people with an interest in it know it when they hear it, and also know it when they don’t.
And complaining that art should matter more than ‘the past’ when discussing authenticity in any ‘tradition’ is astonishing. Unless of course Niall also wants to change the language used to define the word ‘tradition’ so that it includes the present as well as future innovation?

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

I’m more disappointed by the reviews in this thread than the article itself. If you’re going to criticise a paper - constructively or otherwise - at least speak in plain English, be specific about your gripes (give examples) and take issue with what’s actually being said in the article, not the emotions you feel when reading it. I’m not really interested in giving my opinion on the article myself, but I would have been interested to read some more discussion on the topic by people who would engage with it in a balanced, level-headed way. I found this thread made disappointing reading.. I honestly thought people here were better than that…

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

I think this is one of most important articles on Irish traditional music I have published over the last ten years and is worth re-reading.

Toner Quinn
Editor, The Journal of Music

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Which part exactly is drivel?

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

little_chup

I have read your comments above and you have not addressed a single argument that Niall Keegan has made and yet you are content to dismiss it. I think you should show exactly where you disagree with him and why.

Toner Quinn

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

"I’m not really interested in giving my opinion on the article myself, but I would have been interested to read some more discussion…" - Dow

That makes about as much sense as complaining that ‘tradition’ should be more about artistic creativity than the past.

How can you whine about people giving their opinions here on the one hand, and then say you have no interest in giving your own opinion on the other? Instead of chucking your rocks over the wall and running away, stand up, stick your head over the parapet and be counted.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

"All those thousands of words put together to tell us we should reassess the way we think about traditional music when in fact he has said nothing that is not blindingly obvious."

If it’s obvious, with what then are you disagreeing!

"Micheal and Niall are guiding people in their university courses in Limerick to study traditional music when it seems that they are not happy playing traditional music themselves wanting to change it ."

This is ridiculous. Where does he say this?

I’m afraid these kind of comments really do reflect badly on traditional music. Niall Keegan has written an article that is full of interesting ideas and the immediate response is to try and ridicule it rather than engage with it.

Toner Quinn

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

! I think you should show exactly where you disagree with him and why." - Toner Quinn

I think Niall should at least have had the courtesy to provide us with a list of the words he objects to in the language used to describe Traditional music, and a list of his suggested modern replacements. What is this new vocabulary we must all learn in order to avoid (unspecified) past political agendas?

Instead, he spends the best part of 3000 words complaining and offers no solutions whatsoever.

And who is Walter Ong? Is he the one who ‘weaponised Paddy Canny’s legacy’?

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

I think you jumped to conclusions too soon about this article. If there is language in it that annoys you I think you should focus on it and make your point. You still haven’t done that! Articles that engage with these sort of issues in Irish traditional music are rare, and they at least deserve a fair reading.

Toner Quinn

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

"I’m afraid these kind of comments really do reflect badly on traditional music. Niall Keegan has written an article that is full of interesting ideas and the immediate response is to try and ridicule it rather than engage with it." -Toner Quinn

They do not reflect badly on traditional music at all, don’t be an ass. The comments are about Keegan’s article, which itself has nothing to do with music either. Stop trying to silence views that disagree with yours with such nonsense.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Toner I have made my point in simple English that even the meanest of intellects would understand. Claiming that I haven’t simply indicates you haven’t read my first post above. Furthermore, show me where Keegan offers any kind of ‘solution’ to the problem his article is complaining about. The best he can do is:

"We must remember that if we constantly critique our language for music – the language that organises and articulates it – we have some hope of keeping (to quote the nineteenth-century poet John Boyle O’Reilly) the ‘ancient, wordless music’ in our hearts."

Which is, frankly, meaningless.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

My last point was @ little_chup

@ GaryKelly: where does Keegan say that he objects to certain words or wants us to learn a new vocabulary?

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

@ garykelly it does reflect badly on traditional Irish music because it means that if you try to offer some new thinking on the art form, and if readers don’t agree with you, the only other response is ridicule, not engagement.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Traditional music echoes the values and aspirations of an entire people and not one small well funded minority. I honestly think that when people read this it will make them think" these are the people who are teaching the younger generation the music is safe in their hands" I think not! Why do they not call it modern traditional music ah! No funding for that.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

@Toner,

I’m sorry, my brain is imploding at your protest that Keegan does not objects to certain words or wants us to learn a new vocabulary. The very title of the article is "Let Go of the Language of the Past" and in the teaser para we see "The language we use around traditional music isn’t about making new music but about old music."

He even gives us a facile example of "too fast" as a bad metaphor, when the cd is revolving the same speed it always does…

See, I’m using the word ‘vocabulary’ in the sense that it’s "a list or collection of the words or phrases of a language", and there’s Keegan banging on about how "we should look to develop our own vocabularies, both musical and musicological, as metaphors for creative practice, not past agenda" and his complaining that the current vocabulary used to describe traditional music isn’t about new music.

Ridicule is also an entirely valid form of criticism if there’s actually nothing to engage with. Irish traditional music is what it is, "new music" by definition cannot be ‘traditional’, so where’s the surprise that "the language we use around traditional music isn’t about making new music…"?

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

I think the linguistic cul-de-sac that we have ended up in here ("new music" by definition cannot be "traditional") actually adds weight to Keegan’s argument: that the language we use to describe traditional music is a lot more powerful and political than we usually give it credit for.

A Tar Pit for Thoughts

It’s a sloppy essay, plain and simple. Yes, there are some seeds that could be developed one way or the other, many, but an idea here or there, nothing new, does not make it a decent read. Without exaggeration, I have read better essays from children arriving fresh into high school.

I’m in agreement with Gary Kelly and little_chup, about the sloppy writing and thinking. I haven’t said I agree or disagree with any of the ideas scattered about in Mr. Keegan’s rant, but the poor writing and bad logic was irritating, got in the way. While the author bewails metaphors, loaded language and the agenda of others ~ he lays all that on quite thick himself. He doesn’t write to engage thinking or discussion but to set forth his agenda. A more open approach and writing engenders the same, including constructive discussion. This paper was not ‘open’, fair, or well put. But I’ve also read some great rants, one sided ones, but this isn’t even a decently thought out example of that extreme.

As to a lack of focus here in this thread, that’s the fault of the source, because that’s where this article is, muddy. We could cut out some small parts to discuss, and there are several interesting ones that could be fished out of the muck, but this is really about the ‘total’ package, not those several fragments. I too would enjoy seeing them given air here, but there’s just too damned much mixed into that mess of an essay. Hopefullly some of those individual points will get discussed again here, in another thread, starting with a given point, a focus.

If it doesn’t engage constructive discussion should we not ask why, rather than blaming those who bothered to give time over and read this rant and respond to it in a ‘general’ way? The nature of a ‘rant’ is that it can loose touch with reason and result in silly phrases and a loss of focus, jumping from one place to another. Rants can end up setting others back away from the flailing rather than welcome them in to a discussion, involve them in thought. I speak from experience, having done a bit of flailing myself and axe swinging, and having had to deal with this kind of writing by others ~ this kind of juvenile waffling. Some teachers can’t be bothered and just pass the stuff, at least the writer attempted something. I find such waffling and scrabbling clumsily for ‘authority’ irritating, especially when there is hope for a serious and thought provoking read, which this didn’t accomplish, in my opinion, a ‘failure’, but as they at least tried, ‘unclassified’…

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

I’m sorry Toner, I don’t see the ‘politics’, and I don’t see it adding weight to Keegan’s argument. The definition of the word "tradition" can be found in any dictionary, it’s pretty straightforward.

Unless you are in fact conceding that Keegan is indeed asking for the definition of the word ‘traditional’ to be changed to include ‘new and innovative and anything that hasn’t actually been handed down by previous generations’?

Re: Musical Food For Thought

@ ceolachan If Niall Keegan’s article is not interesting to some readers, so be it. But I think the point needs to be made: it took almost 60 comments before anyone engaged with the article in some way beyond ridicule. You can’t blame the article for that. There is plenty in the article that could have been discussed.

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@Toner report back to your paymasters with your tail between your legs and await your instructions

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Well, well, well … I only put this Discussion into the
session to hear there Opinions - And Of the fine minds on here and
what they thought of it, No-matter - Whatever they Thought,,

Found, Some enlightening, some humorous,And even some Gettin a Bit Heavy—-

But I think I shall just take the advice of may Auld Banjo Playing
Mate,, When it come’s to Learning and Playing Traditional Music =

When He Said ..

” Jim, just put tha fiddle under yer chin an play
the bloody thing ”
( In an east Antrim accent ) — lol..

Many Thank’s — jim,,,

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

Yes, JOM, I totally agree, and I had hoped, still do, to see bits pulled out for discussion, specific bits, even the notion of ‘language’. What leaves his rant weak is that few people I know think of ‘tradition’ in the singular, but inclusive of offshoots and crossovers, as between root forms and jazz. But none of this is new, a number of well thought of old sources also dabbled in playing for dance bands, including the sax. Again, it is the weakness of the article, the sawed off shotgun of issues that makes it difficult to focus in on a single issue. Consequently, and hopefully, I’ll pull out some of that, or someone else will, and we can deal with those points rather than the article as a whole.

"There is plenty in the article that could have been discussed." ~ JOM

Yes, definitely, but it is as it stands, in my opinion, a disjointed and poorly structured essay, which makes that difficult without taking out those bits and addressing them individually, in seperate threads, not everything at once, but a point per thread, so people can actually get a hold on a given concept. Niall doesn’t accomplish that clearly on any single point. Part of that is also the distraction of feeling he needs to refer to other authority ~ out of context ~ rather than clearly state his own mind and experience here, step-by-step, avoiding weak premises.

I’ll give it another go and look forward to seeing any one of his points given some thoughtful and constructive discussion and argument, which I don’t think he managed.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

ceolachan —
Fair Enough my Friend,, You gettin a dab hand at the East Antrim Accent —- lol..

Yer’s, Jom..

Low-brow & high-brow

To illustrate one cheap shot from the article ~

"The national broadcasters churn out much doggerel associated with either low-brow imaginings of past tradition or popularisations and teenage magazine accounts of current ones." ~ Niall Keegan

But left just as is, unsupported, sloppy, not giving a clean connection to the supposed focus of the article, though I can only assume that somewhere the ‘high-brow’ must be part of the issue. There’s a bit too much of the we-and-them about this piece, rather than an exploration of an idea.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

tradition is rooted in how music was played in the past, though it is interpreted by those who play the tunes now. The past is respected, yet the present is where it is learnt & now lives. Anything less is merely words on a page.

Posted by .

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

@journalofmusic: I recognize your concern that ridicule rather than discussion formed the bulk of the first 60 posts. However I object to having my previous post lumped into that category. I’ll quote it here for convenience:

"I can tell you though that in the wonderful and sometimes silly world of ethnomusicologists there are two basic camps: Those who believe that the "original" versions of things are to be revered and preserved, and those who see the music (of what ever style) as a continually evolving thing. There is the same kind of a division in the world of language, and in many other similar disciplines.

So, unless I read this too quickly I see nothing in the article but a rehash and restatement of one of the two points of view. It may be that there is some difference in detail, but in general just the same old argument gussied up in good solid academic purple prose."

That isn’t ridicule, but rather a description of how I view the article. It is dismissive of the academic content of the article. Perhaps this is a new take in the world of Irish Traditional Music. It certainly is not a new point of view in the world of ethnomusicology. And, it is not even, as others have pointed out, a particularly well written set of statements.

I don’t know your background, but in mine (musicology) criticism of lack of new information and criticism of clarity and use of language are certainly valid. And I’m not the only one here expressing those particular concerns.

Re: Musical Food For Thought,,

>@ ceolachan If Niall Keegan’s article is not interesting to some >readers, so be it. But I think the point needs to be made: it took >almost 60 comments before anyone engaged with the article in >some way beyond ridicule. You can’t blame the article for that. >There is plenty in the article that could have been discussed.

Actually I think it is quite revealing regarding the quality of the article that there was so much outright dismissal and ridicule expressed.

Why should anyone spend time rigourously expressing a piece that comes across to them as the worst king of self serving academic windbaggery? How are we supposed to give an in depth critique of clothes that appear to be non-existant?

- Chris

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@ Gary Kelly, nah, sorry I’m still not interested in giving my opinion about the article. I’ve reviewed enough journal articles for one lifetime thanks, and I’m not ready to do any more in the near future.

I’m just saying that if you feel like expressing your opinion (which I think is a good thing, incidentally, and not something I’d "whine" about, as you put it), make sure you don’t fall into the same traps that you accuse Keegan of, i.e. making sweeping statements without giving evidence, not stating sources, using overly florid metaphors, etc. Doing that in your criticism of Keegan makes you look seriously stupid. Giving your opinion on this article in the way that you have, i.e. stating simplistically that you think it’s stupid/ridiculous/crap/whatever is valid in the sense that you have freedom of speech (just as tabloid newspapers have!), but is ultimately meaningless and nothing good can come of it. It just makes the people involved in writing and publishing the article feel bad, without being clear on how they can do better next time.

See, academics aren’t egotistical a-holes away off in fairy land. They’re just human like everyone else, interested in their subject, usually interested in doing the best they can, and often a bit cash-strapped too. They have feelings, you know. I’m trying to help, really. Help you not come across as A-holes. But if you really want to come across as b1tchy, sniping airheads, do go ahead. On the other hand, if you want to be nice and criticise constructively, keep along the lines of more recent comments where people have started to pull quotes out and give concrete examples of where the problems are.

Try putting yourself in Keegan’s shoes as you write. If Keegan ever reads this, he need never worry about his writing or the validity of the points he’s made because you guys have done no better. If you have a point, make it clearly and concisely, and back it up with substance - examples, quotes, etc. Saying that there’s no substance there to criticise or that it’s too bitty and confusing is a total cop-out. Show you’re better and let your comments stand on their own merit. Up your game, basically…

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I’d like to read the article. I’m sufficiently teased by the teaser paragraph. But not enough to pay twenty quid.

Posted .

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I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with anyone else - where on earth did you get that from? I think disagreeing is good. I just think it’s more interesting and constructive to say WHY you disagree, otherwise what’s the point? So you disagree, big wow. Maybe they’ll interview you for "Today Tonight".

That, by the way, is my opinion. I’m just as entitled to give my opinion on the reviews of the article as the article itself. Reviews are not beyond criticism, you know.

Don’t get me wrong… I just don’t like to see thesession.org go the way of other online forums where so-called contributors just say "that’s crap" and don’t give any explanation. Like YouTube - you’ve seen those comments before, all written in mobile phone "text speak" and you’ve rolled your eyes and wondered why they bother writing at all, and then they get cross with people who criticise them for having an "opinion". There are enough sites like that on the web. Don’t let’s allow ourselves to go down that track. Think before you press "post" please. By all means disagree to your heart’s content. In fact, disagree with every point if you will, but at least do it in a kind and considered way.

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"Dow .You just have to be a schoolteacher..You yourself give no opinion and give Gary Kelly (who has never claimed to be a writer) a lecture for disagreeing with the lecturer. Your lecture is noted ."

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a "writer" to make a good job of disagreeing with someone. You just have to take the time to think. That’s all.

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It took me awhile to suss this one out. Yesterday, or day before, I read the entire article, though now all I can pull up on the site is the 1st few paragraphs. It has been important enough for celoachan to try to bring up his own signed disapproval ~ twice. I know something about not meeting his approval. While I love you dearly, kind sir, & you may be nice enough when the kiss & makeup comes around, you’re a viper while still on the prowl.
When I did read the full article I didn’t get the sense Keegan was proposing a condemnation of Irish musics’ icons ~ merely a tipping of the pedestal which tends to be thrust under their feet. As much as I would like to stand on the shoulders of any of the wonderful traditional players of the past, I don’t think they are any less of a giant because some writer at the "Journal" suggests their *admirers* are erecting a virtual riser underneath them.
If Niall Keegan is attacking the tunes or the musicians of the past I cannot support him. Though this is not, at all, how I read the article.

Posted by .

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So why can’t I read the article? Has the journal of music put a price on it because a few daft feckers on a daft website are interested in it? I don’t understand.

Posted .

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That’s interesting. When this thread started, i could read that article. I could even have copied it at the time. I didn’t, but I could have. But now I can’t. Hmmm …

Posted by .

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I was away at the weekend and missed the article (and most of the thread). Too bad. I’d quite like to read it.

I think it’s unfortunate that the JOM felt it necessary to block or limit access to the article because a few people on a daft website had a go at it. You publish anything, it becomes open to criticism, whether that criticism is well argued and logical or not.

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I think you might change your mind about that one someday, dear :-)

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It really isn’t worth your £20 (or whatever the payment rate) is folks.

Not in my, possibly cheapskate opinion, anyway.

- chris

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I’ll second that, ramblingpitchfork!

Those of you who didn’t get to read it before it became chargeable didn’t miss much, I can assure you.

"Musical food for thought?". I started reading it, but had to stop as it was giving me verbal indigestion :-(

I’m probably just another cheapskate, but for my money I would put it on the same bonfire as psychology tomes and books on management written in corporate-speak ….

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Those are both good analogies for the article Mix.

Jargon flailing around looking for victims.

(See I’m not going to rise to Dow’s lure, no matter how commendable his message :-D)

- chris

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So has the JOM been silly in removing it? Of course it has. Now, all that stands is second hand abuse of it with no recourse for back up. Idiots.

Posted .

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Perhaps decided they might make some cash out of people refering to the piece from this, and potentially other sources.

But I don’t normally look up that journal, it may be their normal practice to charge for articles after a certain amount of time/number of hits.

- chris

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No, they made a big show, with a posting here (can’t be arsed looking for it) announcing that in the interests of pure altruism, their entire back catalogue of mags over a - I think it was - a couple of months old was now going to be completely free.

Posted .

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RP - perhaps my condemnation of the website in question in my earlier post was a little harsh …

.. yes, produce an online equivalent of bonfire fodder, then charge folks to read it …

.. a good money-making scheme - I wish that I’d thought of it ;-)

The Journal of Music ~

The Journal, to be fair to them, only make available articles online in full for a limited time, as tasters. Fair play to them for this. You catch it while it is made available, for that limited time, and then, as with other online publications, it becomes a footnote, the full article available only via a subscription…

” ~ proposing a condemnation of Irish musics’ icons ~ ” :-/

Random_humour says ~ "~ I didn’t get the sense Keegan was proposing a condemnation of Irish musics’ icons ~ merely a tipping of the pedestal which tends to be thrust under their feet. As much as I would like to stand on the shoulders of any of the wonderful traditional players of the past, I don’t think they are any less of a giant because some writer at the "Journal" suggests their *admirers* are erecting a virtual riser underneath them. "

Huh? ~ the ‘viper on the prowl’… :-P

& Random_humour continues ~ "If Niall Keegan is attacking the tunes or the musicians of the past I cannot support him. Though this is not, at all, how I read the article."

Did someone else read it contrary to your basic interpretation? You read the article & you read the various comments, of both threads? However, if this is your response, including name calling, ‘viper’, I’d question the balance of your interpretations of what has been written in both cases. The need to ‘call names’ suggests a slight imbalance in your reasoning skills, something more personal than well thought out, unfortunately…

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ramblingpitchfork ~ if there weren’t points of interest about this article, including its content, then we wouldn’t have these two threads… It has obviously fed the yeast of discussion, if not quite as well kneaded and formed as Dow would prefer… I do have my copy of it full of underlined passages, statements, paragraphs, silly verbiage, and with notes, if you like… But I don’t think it warrants the bother, personally. The article, for me, basically, was like fishing around in well cured lobster bait for a dropped knife. Now I just need a good shower and a nice shot of single malt, and a ‘good’ read…

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Thanks to a friendly email, :) I finally had the chance to read this in its entirety. Here are my brief, initial thoughts (I’m about to dash off to a session so haven’t the time to write up anything extensive, though lots more could be said about it.

My first reaction to it was, "Huh?" It seemed like one of those post-modernist critiques of post-modernism where the writer writes a paper that makes grammatical and syntactical sense but actually has no mean anything. I think he made a few valid points, i.e. his suggestion that there are conventions in the language of Irish music which Irish trad musos understand, like the word "flute" signifying a simple system transverse flute, but when he ranted about how the language used to describe Irish music was anathemic to artistic expression, he sort of lost it. It seemed as if he perceived and was trying to present a problem where there just isn’t a problem. Is the "language" of traditional music limiting people’s artistic and creative musical expression? Really? There seems to be more musicians now than ever pushing the boundaries, finding new and bizarre ways to bring new ideas into the music. At the same time there are plenty of musicians listening to the old players and expressing their own music through how they perceived past musicians played. There’s room for both. I guess what he sees as negative about the way a lot of people talk about the music, I see as positive:

"The tune is no longer the musician’s, it is the music of place and past generations."

Well, yes. This is what makes the tunes great. The tune is the musician’s, but it is also the "music of place and past generations" and I think we are connecting ourselves to these places and past generations when we play the tunes. The tunes are bigger and more ineffable than any one individual. What Keegan advocates, and I disagree, is that the individual, the artist, the ego, is more important than the tunes and the "tradition" (however you perceive that) and dislikes language which elevates the tunes above the individual musician.

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I don’t know about the tunes being ineffable. I can eff them. I can eff them good and proper.

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I have effed many tunes, but that’s a different discussion.

Came back tonight with more random thoughts on this article and why it annoys me. I never got my chance when this thread was first posted, as I was doing useful things like playing tunes, drinking, and hiking on the Isle of Rum. :)

It hacks me off when people present their opinions as facts — in this case pronouncing that there is a SERIOUS problem with traditional music due to the fact that the language we use to describe is the language of the past. Uh, is there really a serious problem at all and what the hell does "language of the past" mean anyway? Isn’t all language essentially "language of the past" because it had to come from and describe a priori conventions. I suppose you can get all Wittgensteinian about it and say our perception of reality comes from language, but all language still has a history. Words don’t exist a priori to the things, ideas, conventions they describe. The fact that I call this object I am typing on a "computer" comes from past usage of the word to describe similar objects and an etymological history for why that word was chosen to describe these things. Niall seems to have issues with using words like "jig" or "reel" to describe the tunes — as if that somehow stifles creativity. I’d say that Irish music, in order to be Irish music, has to have certain conventions and while you can be creative within those conventions, if you go wildly outside them, it’s not Irish traditional music anymore. Some of those conventions are the classification of tunes. If I say, "Lets play a set of reels," you know what I mean and that makes communication a hell of a lot easier.

So lets drop all the conventions we currently use to talk about Irish music. Then talking about Irish music will get incredibly awkward because no one will have the faintest idea what anyone else is talking about. The fact that there is a common language, which implies a common body of knowledge, means we can use these social conventions to communicate easily with people all around the world about the music and play the tunes with people all around the world. I’m not interested in "artistic expression" (I’m not bloody good enough, for one, to even be operating at that level, and even if I were, I probably wouldn’t want to because that’s not what I perceive this music to be about). I’m more interested in community and in playing the tunes because they are just fantastic as they are. There’s no need to find language to free oneself from the past and the tradition — as I see it those are positive traits which give the music its strength.

There are no barriers, linguistic or otherwise, stopping people from doing creative, bizarre things to it if that’s what they want to do (I might not necessarily like it or listen to it, but that’s just my views). Many are.

So where’s the problem again?

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Oh, and "languaging?" Seriously? Stop verbing nouns!

“Languaging” ~ is that anything like Balkan ullulling?

Yeah, that raised a grimace on two counts here, and a laugh…

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Lets coin a new word of the future….verbosing! ;-)

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Unable to read… unable to comment.

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Nice article, he seems to me to be suggesting that we view trad music as a timeline rather than something with a beginning and ending point in order not to kill it off. Periods and regional styles, etc., all have distinctions, but to dismiss anything that falls outside of those barriers is counterproductive to the overall history of trad both behind us and ahead of us. He mentions the legacy of particular players, and acknowledges the importance and contributions, but points out their legacy is a marker rather than a limitation.

One of the things that first grabbed my head about Irish music was the fact that it’s a living tradition, as opposed to what I was playing at the time; Early Music. But as a ‘living tradition’ you have to accept that it is indeed alive. The very thing that makes it so fresh and interesting, and gives it momentum… is the fact that it’s alive and kicking. Just as with anything that’s alive, you have to make room for it to grow… even if it seems a bit inconvenient and challenges your own personal perspective.

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"it is indeed alive. The very thing that makes it so fresh and interesting, and gives it momentum… is the fact that it’s alive and kicking. Just as with anything that’s alive, you have to make room for it to grow… even if it seems a bit inconvenient and challenges your own personal perspective." ~ PB

True, and well put, but that is part of the problem, where’s the problem? Who is limiting it, what specific language is repressive, and how? While ‘tradition’ is in the present, now, though acknowledging a past, is there not also a huge variety of ways with it, about it? And is it wrong for some people to want to keep certain aspects of that percieved definition alive, based on their experiences and their likes and dislikes? This too is part of a living tradition. No one I know is calling for tarring and feathering the ‘progressive arteest’. If we don’t like it, we just don’t bother with it, free choice. One can choose to do as they like, some base that choice more on their experience, history and understanding of a ‘past’, while still living it in the present. Others feel a need to pull at those roots and establish something more for themselves, to free themselves from conventions and strike ‘new’ ground. But what’s ‘new’, nothing in this article, and not much in all the cross-breed recreations going on around those roots…

True, true ~ c’est la vie!

“Let Go of the Language of the Past” ~ Niall Keegan ~ #1, in the beginning

# Posted on May 24th 2010 by ceolachan
https://thesession.org/discussions/24682

Keeping the connections ~ and hopefully some other elements of the article will rise for discussion in the near future…

Replacing ‘I’ with ‘we’ and dragging us all in ~

While I know that little trick of involving others in our musings by using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, a kind of cheap interaction, there was far too much of it in this work, and in situations where I don’t agree with the premise presented that ‘we’ were expected to go along with in order for the author’s argument to unfold. I would have been more receptive of a more honest ‘I’, instead of all the times ‘we’ were being dragged into another assumption. In fact, at this moment, I can’t think of one instance where I’d consider myself in agreement with that ‘we’, as used by Mr. Keegan in this article.

On the repeating frayed thread of this article, that somehow the ‘arteest’ is being hampered and restricted by language in current use with regards to ‘Irish Traditional Music’, that very term included, and the capitalization of it ~ ITM, I have to just ask how so? Is this about failed funding, a grant that didn’t get approved? Is this about not getting on the radio or TV or not being covered in the local papers?

Do we not have the right, on whatever basis or by whatever means, to disapprove of something, to put the garlic garlands around the house to ward off the perceived demon? Nigel has his demons and some folks consider those their angels, their guiding lights. While some folks might not like a strictly run session where only certain tunes,sets and ways are acceptable, others dislike sessions that are ‘new age’ and ‘progressive’. That doesn’t put an end to either, you just move on and find something that suits your temperament, on the extreme or somewhere in between, or you start your own.

As the arteest has the right to experiment and fart around, we all also have the right to appreciate it or not. In a sense, it is the failure or some things to find a wide acceptance that directs art, and this is not unnatural or wrong, it just is the way of things. It doesn’t prevent those offshoots and mutations, but it doesn’t guarantee them a place near the centre or to be carried forward into the future. This is free choice, this is part of the wide variety of things that fall within this realm, which is wide and interesting, but we can’t expect to please everyone, or for us all to just open up and accept everything without acknowledging our own personal biases, likes and dislikes.

The term in our realm, ‘tradition’ is not immutable. The proof of this is in the history, including over hundreds of years, many changes, and in instruments, including new additions from other cultures, and new ways and tune forms and dances. Look at step dancing and the costumes over just the last hundred years. And then there’s the rise of the almost indefinable ‘sean nos’ ‘tradition’ in dance, where, as with the music, there may be some agreement, but everyone has their own way with it.

The pot of gold at the end of national funding, arts councils, is every diminishing, and not everyone will get a piece of it, or is deserving. There too, they are allowed their biases. I am, however, amazed at how those with a fire in them can continue on despite any distractions or any of Keegan’s percieved demons of restrictions ~ and on their own sweat and true genius, they succeed, they make it despite it all, because they did the work, because they had the talent and the genius. Such characters and talents stand on their own merits, find and manage to develop a unique voice that succeeds ~ without worrying about how any few might view them dis-favourably. They manage without needing anyone else’s authority or funding…

Without the need of a new language they break new ground…

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I agree with you about the I/we thing. It’s very journalistic and WE should protest when WE see it being overused in academic papers :-)

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"Is this about failed funding, a grant that didn’t get approved? Is this about not getting on the radio or TV or not being covered in the local papers?"

Is it? It may well be, but it may well not be. You can wonder at the writer’s motives for writing, but in the end you just have to take the words on the page for what they read - nothing more, nothing less - and resist the urge to read something behind the lines…

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"I agree with you about the I/we thing. It’s very journalistic and WE should protest when WE see it being overused in academic papers"

Respectable (and respectful) academics don’t use the "royal we." Period. "We" is reserved for situations where a plural pronoun is appropriate. The "royal we" is, in my opinion, a sign of academic insecurity or of extreme ego.

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I thought the "we" thing was just a peeve of people who don’t like going to the doctor, as in ‘how are feeling" and "if we used a bit less alcohol on the weekend, we might be feeling a little better this morning"

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Psst, I think King’s fly is down, I can see the royal wee.

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;-)

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It’s worth it, for myself, to state where I stand after reading Jack Gilder’s comment & ceolachan’s response.
I agree with everything PB says, in his most recent post. While ceolachan makes some good points, & I do respect you c., one point stands out above all others,"If we don’t like it, we just don’t bother with it, free choice. One can choose to do as they like, some base that choice more on their experience, history and understanding of a ‘past’, while still living it in the present." Fair play, so why all the *bother*?
Is it something to do with Niall Keegan which I have not yet sussed out for myself? I still do not see him as doing any damage to tradition. In a nutshell (minus a few hundred words) he is pointing out the need for a time & place to question things, including one’s own perceptions of the past.
IMHO, ceol, your history, experience, & understanding of that past mean a great deal to me. I trust you as I do any good listener. I intend no offense, though I do not always agree with everything you write here.

Posted by .

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ceol writes in response to my comments: "And is it wrong for some people to want to keep certain aspects of that percieved definition alive, based on their experiences and their likes and dislikes?"

How did you garner this notion from what I wrote? I never suggested any such thing, there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with having a preference for any particular period or regional style and speaking to it’s merits. If you think I did, please point to it.

If you’re referring to my use of the word ‘problem,’ I’m talking about people who get upset at and dismiss anything that pushes the envelope or sounds too progressive. I have my preferences, and they’re based on markers that have been in place for generations, but I don’t dismiss anything that seems to be on the cutting edge just because I’m basing what I like on something more established.

I don’t think we can suddenly stop the clock on trad music and keep it just the way we like it for ever. It will evolve just has it always has with us or without us. Accepting that fact doesn’t mean you have betrayed any particular style or period, and no one will force you to play or listen to the more progressive stuff. But it’s all part of the overall tradition. We’ll just have to wait and see what survives the tides of time to determine what has established itself in the tradition and what has fallen to the side.

I think a lot of time is wasted passing judgment on things just because they might be new ideas. I’m not saying all new ideas are good, but to dismiss them based on being new is a waste of time and something I’ve seen happen in these forums over and over. That’s what I’m talking about when I say, ‘problem.’

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six words should suffice.
just enjoy yourselves whilst playing music.

Posted .

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Thank goodness for that RH, what progress a discussion if it is all nods in agreement.

No PB, just another point on aspects that have been raised, possibly misread, concerning Keegan’s article. As I’ve said before and elsewhere, I don’t necessarily disagree with some of what is said in the article, what mostly I wince and moan about is the way it was written, that in my sense of it was done poorly, waffling, and not well thought out. It is more like a quick first draft and for me doesn’t cover anything new, or even old issues well, in my opinion…

" I don’t dismiss anything that seems to be on the cutting edge just because I’m basing what I like on something more established." ~ pb

‘c’: Me too ~ with the proviso, ‘most’ of what I like coming from deeper roots, and closer to these…

"I think a lot of time is wasted passing judgment on things just because they might be new ideas. ~ to dismiss them based on being new is a waste of time ~" ~ PB

Yup!