Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I was listening this morning to Clare FM’s broadcast from Willie Week, and they played a recording of his playing of Down the Back Lane.

It struck me that his playing is not terribly rhythmic. He seems to slow down for the faster and more difficult parts, the ornamentation (cuts etc but also the regulators) seems to get in the way of the flow of the tune, and perhaps his timing is also affected by the pumping of the bellows. It’s like the pipes are partly in charge of the music, rather than the man playing them.

For the rest of the morning I’ve been listening to his playing on "The Gold Ring" CD. To my ear, a lot of the playing has the same faults.

I gather he was a nice man and an educator and a great champion of the music, but do people, and particularly pipers, really see his playing as a good model? Am I missing something? Was he not on top form on some of the "Gold Ring" recordings?

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<groan>

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Could not have put it better myself Prof.!

Just went off and listened to Willie Clancy - sounds great to me. May not have the polish of the sterile studio recordings of today but sounds to me that the heart is in the playing.

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I mean, as the man said, if you need it explained, you’re not going to understand it anyway.

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B29,
You’d do well to read Pat Mitchell’s fine book "The Dance Music of Willie Clancy"

If you can get through it and play what’s in it, then there may be a basis to complain………. but until then I agree with the Prof.

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He was.

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Maybe if you had been with him in the sessions back then Bernie you could have shouted "rhythm" at him. You know, so as to help him out.

:-D

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Yep. Have you heard his "Pipering of Willie Clancy" albums?

I’ve not heard the broadcast you are on about, but have heard (after lots of attendance at various tionols and things) that recording traditional music wasn’t the same sort of industry in the pre and post war period that it is now. There were a lot of field recordings, plenty of moments when someone would show up and be like, "Play us a tune" and regardless of whether you felt like it or not, or how pished you were, or whether your pipes were behaving themselves that day, you played the tune and that was recorded.

Is a frogs arse watertight?

.

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I think the 1958 recording, made by Paddy Hill, of Clancy playing Rakish Paddy is on the Gold Ring album.

Need I say more?

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Prof. P. You could say more about the other recordings on the Gold Ring album, if you like. You could say whether you think his rhythm is better on that tune than on other tracks. You might be able to say why his rhythm is shakier on some of them. You might be able to tell me that I am missing something, and what it is. You might be able to tell me that he is using some kind of subtle alternative rhythmic model, or that the slowing down and speeding up and hesitation is an old style of playing that I’m not tuned into yet.

Just say anything interesting. So far you haven’t.

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What I love about Willie Clancy’s playing is the constant inventiveness of it. Players nowadays seem to have a big bag of tricks that they just bolt on to tunes. Making all the tunes sound the same of course. Willy Clancy let the tune inspire his imagination. It’s definitely the right way to play.

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I think Bernie poses a valid question and I salute his bravery.My interest is in the acceptance of Masters of the music just because we have been told of their mastery by those that know.There is no doubt that 95% are definite masters but there are a few that I am almost shocked that they could be considered Greats.I would prefer not name my few but its a subject that other peoples views interest me.I dont find myself listening to Willie Clancy preferring Johnny Doran and even,in his early years,Finbar Furey.I accept that Clancy ,for many, is a Great but I salute Bernie,in a big way,for having his own opinion.

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Bernie doesn’t express an opinion. He asks about something he, by his own admission, doesn’t understand. That’s something very different. You may salute him for that though. But again, if it needs explaining, you’re not going to get it.

I do have a dozen or more hours of Clancy recordings, plus most of the official releases. But I don’t have the Gold Ring CD.

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Hmmm… I never really liked the answer, "If it needs explaining, you’re not going to get it." It seems to be a cop out when someone is faced with the task of trying to explain something that’s difficult (for them anyway) to express in writing or is just too lazy to do it.

On the other hand, can I say, "If I have to explain what these primary sources are good for, you’re not going to get it" in the methodology thing I am writing? That would be awesome. I wonder if my supervisor would agree…….

That said, I am going to cop out right now and not explain it. Mostly because I am in the office and I doubt my colleagues would appreciate hearing Willie’s playing right now. :)

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Everybody can understand music.I dont see where Bernie says he doesnt understand the music.He just doesnt understand maybe why you think Willie Clancy is a master when Bernie feels his rhythm is a bit dodgy.

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Another Professor, John Searle, widely noted for his contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and social philosophy, says that if you can’t explain something, you don’t understand it yourself.

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I just listened to the four (labelled) tracks I have of Willie Clancy playing down the back lane. I don’t hear any shakiness at all in the rhythm. I am not sure, maybe it was some equipment thing on your end causing it?

At any rate, yes, people, and especially pipers, do indeed think that his playing is a good role model. One of the biggest reasons I love his playing is, like "llig" says, his imagination, variation, creativity. Another reason is the incredible level of detail in his playing. There’s ornaments on ornaments, as it were. Bent Cnats, lovely bluesy Fs, lots of great pippity bits. It always amazes me that I can return to a recording of him and hear something new, "as if the permanence of the recording can’t even keep the music from breathing and growing."

Some of the recordings do suffer from quality issues, especially since many of them are not first generation tapes, let alone whatever material they were originally recorded on. And some of the recordings were done without giving Clancy a lot of time to tune or set up the pipes. It seems like many times whoever was recording just wanted to hear what he’d do, on the regs for instance, even though they hadn’t been tuned up. And now that’s what was recorded and passed around. But even still, you can see that his technique on the regs, rhythmic bits and held notes and choice of chords, is solid and masterful.

The one track of Down the Back Lane from the Pipering of Willie Clancy Vol 1 shows lovely, in-tune, perfect use of the regs, and lovely ornaments that serve the phrasing and rhythm very well, while also demonstrating variation, spontaneity and so on. Thanks for bringing this up, it’s always nice to be reminded of a particularly nice piece of music!

By the way, I agree that there is loads of room for personal opinions on various players, and I don’t think you should like someone just because you are told to.

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You can relax now Prof. Nico has given the information required in a most ineresting and informative fashion that makes me want to listen to Wilie Clancy straight away.Mighty post Nico!

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Cheers for that, Nick. I was hoping someone could actually explain what’s great about Willie’s playing. I might weigh in later once I’m home and can listen to a recording.

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I know that Prof. can explain it, too. After all, he’s definitely partly why I understand what Willie Clancy is doing.

Also, maybe these pages from Peter Laban and Steve Jones will help (admittedly it’s on a page with transcriptions of his whistle playing, but still, loads of lovely stuff going on!!):
http://www.rogermillington.com/tunetoc/wclancyintro.html
http://www.rogermillington.com/tunetoc/maidonthegreen.html
http://www.rogermillington.com/tunetoc/flogginreel.html
http://www.rogermillington.com/tunetoc/banishwillie.html

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partly = a big part of
I should be working!

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No rhythm or other problems here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5q-9XQbGyc&feature=related


I can see how someone might hear rhythm issues in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6JzNhMjJDM&feature=related


But what I hear (YMMV) is that he steps up to his pace in the first bar or two, and then he plays very much in front of the beat. But dead on. If you’re not accustomed to the tunes played in front of the beat, it can sound off. Many of today’s musicians tend to play on the beat or slightly after (for a more relaxed feel). But driving a tune from in front was once a very common approach to this music.

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Then he should explain it. :) "If I have to explain, then you won’t ever know" remains an easy way out of having construct a coherent argument and is in and of itself, a sh*te argument as it assumes a pretty dodgy premise.

I really should get back to work.

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I have had this discussion many times, on the internet and in real life. Some years ago a guy from Marcus concertinas was selling his wares in the shop in Main st Miltown Malbay during the Willie week. While I was in the shop he was giving out about Kitty Hayes to his customers. She had been in the shop earlier and tried some concertinas. ‘That woman hasn’t a clue. She has all the fingerings wrong, She knows nothing’ ‘She plays mighty music though doesn’t she?@ I offered. ‘No NO NO!, she has it all wrong, she doesn’t play liek Noel Hill, she can’t play fast and she has all the fingerings wrong’. I was foolish enough to enter a discussion, Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, Bobby Casey, all these old guys they. Couldn’t play if their life depended on it. ‘Now Paddy Keenan, he re-invented piping. Brian McNamara, that’s proper piping as it should be’.
I was out of there rapidly then.

As I said, I have gone through the same moves more than a few times on line. And while you may not like the reply, the state of affairs is that if you don’t recognise pure musicality, full understanding of the material and rampant creativity when you meet it face on, it won’t be explained to you.

Now, Pat Mitchell wrote the book on Clancy. He also gave a crystal clear analyses of one of Clancy’s recordings of Down the Back Lane. You can find that on-line in the Seán Reid Society Journal. Vol 2. Robbie Hannan discussed in detail innovation in Clancy’s playing, specifically in his playing of Rakish Paddy as recorded by the aforementioned Paddy Hill in 1958.

Start with that. And educate your ear as well as your mind. Do the work.

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I had to re-write the earlier post as the first submission vanished. Some errors slipped through.

Robbie Hannan’s discussion of innovation can be foudn in the Proceedings of the Crossroads Conference 1996.pp88-92

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Professor, there’s a pretty clear difference between your man in Miltown Malbay and Bernie here. Bernie sounds open to being educated, if the lesson makes sense. Your reference to Mitchell and Hannan will help, if Bernie can find them.

Maybe I’ve seen too many music students smile when the lightbulb clicks on because of something I’ve said or played and they suddenly get it. "If I have to explain it, you won’t understand it" presumes failure before any effort to succeed at all is made. I hate to think where civilization would be if that were our mantra….

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People who are "masters" are so because of the following they have in the trad community. That’s really all there is to it.

If a certain well-established player’s style isn’t your cup of tea, then there’s nothing wrong with that. We probably all have certain players that we don’t care for the style of.

But questioning whether or not someone is a "master" because you don’t like their style yourself is kinda nonsense, if they are accepted as having the right stuff by the trad community at large than that’s the only real credential needed. No one person has the right to decide who is and isn’t a "master" (thank goodness).

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I believe Willie Clancy was master piper… he played the pipes at a time when Irish Trad music was losing its popularity,
he most importantly layed a foundation for future pipers….
I love the air "Sliabh na mBan" on the gold ring - great expression and good work with the regualtors

Personally , of the topic, I prefer Seamus Ennis

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I’m not one of your students Professor, so don’t presume to tell me what to do. Music isn’t work for me, and I’ll listen to what I like, how I like.

As it happens I like Kitty Hayes, I like her rhythmic playing, and her simplicity. I have her recordings.

I like Bobby Casey too, and Seamus Ennis, this week I’ve bought Joe Ryan’s CD, I like the older players and the older styles. And I can explain why.

So far, Willie Clancy doesn’t move me. I haven’t listened much to him, but a lot of what I have heard doesn’t appeal to me, and I can explain why. The little clip Will Harmon kindly posted http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6JzNhMjJDM&feature=related

demonstrates quite well what I don’t like about his playing. It’s not about him being ahead of the beat, it’s that the ornamentation gets in the way of the rhythm. I don’t like that unsubtle bouncing on the regulators, right on the beat, it sounds dead, I don’t like the way he loses the rhythm, around 23 seconds in, when he seems to be concentrating more on playing a blaring chord on the regulators.

When I’ve been listening to the recordings on The Gold Ring in the course of today, I’ve noticed Willie Clancy often sacrifices steadiness of rhythm in favour of ornamentation in exactly that way.

If I hear that and you don’t, maybe it’s you who needs to educate your ear?

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Marklar. Thats possibly the problem. The trad community is masive.People all over the world listen to Ceili House and Clare Fm.If someone who is a spokesman for "the Trad Community" says that Paddy Murphy is a master of the concertina or Chris Droney and maybe they tell me that Peadar O’ Loughlin is a Fiddle Master I think,like Bernie here, it is interesting to debate the issue without taking from anyones opinion of the musicians.

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Cross post.Obviously Bernie is well able to speak for himself!:-)

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I wouldn’t say he ‘often’ sacrifices rthythm for ornemenation but I can definately see Bernies point… it’s not always steady

although I think the critism is a bit overboard -

"he loses the rhythm, around 23 seconds in, when he seems to be concentrating more on playing a blaring chord on the regulators."

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Yes, Premierflute, I liked the slow airs on The Gold Ring much more than the dance music. Rhythm is fundamental to dance music, and it’s obviously far less important in slow airs.

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Phrasing is very important in slow airs takne from songs but although the time signature can often change…. it and rthyhm is still of importance

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I see now that I was wrong in thinking you wanted to learn why so many master musicians of today think that Willie Clancy was a master. I see you really just wanted to have your own opinion validated.

I don’t agree with the ornaments getting in the way of the rhythm, so I think we have different opinions on what the "right" rhythm should be.

I think that the regulator playing shows great skill and requires quite a lot of practice, even if it’s not to your taste. I think this is the sort of thing that is appreciated and shows his mastery.

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*taken

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Why is that criticism overboard Premierflute? He does lose the rhythm there, and he does something very similar on other tracks on the Gold Ring. On Jenny Picking Cockles for example.

Will is right, in the first clip he posted Willie Clancy doesn’t have any problems with rhythm. That’s because the fiddler Joe Leary is quietly shouting "rhythm!" in his ear whenever they get to a tricky bit.

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I don’t hear him lose the rhythm at 0:23 at all. Is he tweaking the *timing*? Yes, but in a way that lifts, not detracts, from the rhythm.

But that’s just my ears and my taste.

Then again, I prefer to play on or behind the beat. So while I enjoy Mr. Clancy’s piping, it’s not my end-all favorite style.


Marklar, it may well be the collective opinion of traditional musicians that assigns the "master" title, but there are criteria involved. The player has to demonstrate lift and momentum, a sure sense of phrasing, an inventive playfulness, and a knack for getting inside the tunes to bring out their essential character (from each player’s individual take on them) rather than merely sounding the notes.

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"I think that the regulator playing shows great skill and requires quite a lot of practice, even if it’s not to your taste. I think this is the sort of thing that is appreciated and shows his mastery."

As a follow on"
Willie Clancy also played the pipes at a time when they nearly went extinct… and has inspired many pipers of today.. It should also be noted that there are more uillean pipers today than at any other point in history

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Willie was an innovator, taking the pipes and the music to another level, or, if you like, opening a door into a new world of piping. His musicality was what earned him his reputation, not his technique. Remember that he didn’t have the ‘benefit’ of electronic media, but learned from those around him, and developed his unique style by mastering the instrument and absorbing the music. His heart was in the music, so to speak, and the music was in his heart. To say that pumping the bellows may have affected the rhythm is like saying his breathing may have affected his walking. If he had been born later and were playing today, I doubt whether you would be questioning his abilities, although I admire your spirit in doing so here.

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He really pushes the pipes to their limit in terms of things like the tonal possibilities you can get from one note and finding interesting and ingenious ways to ornament notes and play variations.

I do kind of agree that his timing was a wee bit uneven in the youtube clip but I don’t that’s indicative of his playing all the time.

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snap with gam.

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Um, Bernie, this is just a hunch (based on a number of your recent posts and your bio that says you play fiddle "a bit"), but is it possible that you have less experience playing *this* music than some others on this thread, and that they’re trying to help you hear something that you’re missing?

I could be way off here, but you’re coming across as a newcomer to this music whose ears haven’t yet adjusted to its sense of pulse and timing.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, nor with questioning the accepted collective "wisdom." (LOL, here? In Mustardia?)

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Unfair post Will.Bernie has shown us where he thinks Wiilie Clancy ,in his opinion,fails to impress. He has done it well and in doing so we have learnt from others what to look for to fully appreciate Clancy.Fair play to you Bernie.

sorry posted already

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Actually Will, Bernie sounds like he has been playing music for a long time to me.

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What thoughts on the suggestion that the second clip that Will linked is made up of more than one take ? I think a slight change at 15 seconds where the camera angle changes, and something odd during the shot of the listeners face just before 23 seconds.

Whatever, its a great clip to watch and listen to.

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@prof p.: funny that guy said that, because noel hill respects kitty’s playing very deeply. i believe he even played at her funeral….

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In all fairness to Bernie, I think every one who is giving him a hard time should be aware that a lot of this music, especially the older stuff, while amazing and full of musicality to the ears of people who know it well, is an acquired taste. Maybe there are a few who just love it from the get go (lucky them) but many more for whom it takes time and increasing education in and understanding of The Music to really comprehend what’s so great about players like Clancy, Ennis, Mrs. Galvin, Paddy Fahy, etc etc.

Or, as a non-Irish music friend of mine once said as she was riding in my car while a Seamus Ennis recording was playing, "You could learn the piano and it would be a lot easier and actually sound good!"

No problems with asking questions. You shouldn’t accept that someone is a great player just because everyone thinks they are a great player. It’s all right to question assumptions and find out what about whoever makes them a great player.

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Well I didn’t notice his timing slip at 23 seconds although he did put a bit of a run of ornamentation in at 21 seconds. No worries about posting the clip a second time. It meant I watched it a second time and appreciated it a lot more then.

There is no doubt of the influence that Clancy has had on traditional music and how he helped to rescue the pipes from the brink of extinction. It is not all to my taste, largely because I don’t generally like regulators finding their use to be rarely "tasteful". I love the idea of regulators but, like Will, find that the constant playing on the beat can be a bit tedious and many pipers (including in this clip) are keen on making the car horn noise. I appreciate that that is just my opinion though and it should not be seen as an indication that I think Clancy was not a master or that he was not good on the regulators. He was very good on them. I just don’t like what he did.

On the other hand there are some pipers nowadays who show some exceptional playing of the regulators such as Eanna O’Croinin and Tiarnan O’Duinnchinn. Wonderful stuff.

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"You could learn the piano and it would de a lot easier and actually sound good." lovely! Am I the only one here with some reservations about the intonation on the ‘Dublin Reel’ clip? Still, yes, Willie was a master. For me, this is confirmed more by what his contemporaries had to say about his playing, than by the snippets and bits of recording we have of it.

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"Marklar, it may well be the collective opinion of traditional musicians that assigns the "master" title, but there are criteria involved. The player has to demonstrate lift and momentum, a sure sense of phrasing, an inventive playfulness, and a knack for getting inside the tunes to bring out their essential character (from each player’s individual take on them) rather than merely sounding the notes."

I sure can’t argue with that. I guess the point I was trying to get at is that calling someone a "master" is really just a way to acknowledge a player’s admiration and influence in the community, rather than some hard-and-fast title that gets bestowed on someone. It’s a way of showing respect, it’s not really important if different people have different ideas on who is a "master," though if someone disagrees with the community at large then they have to row hard against prevailing opinion.

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing someone’s playing no matter who they are (no one’s above it really), I just think it’s silly to drag the word "master" into it. To my mind "master" is kind of short-hand for "this person has been influential."

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I don’t know Daiv. There are several levels of irony there.

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Does know one else think that in that clip, he may have been hamming it up a bit for the crowd? I have recordings which have far more tasteful (to my mind) regulator playing.

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*Does no else…. Who needs grammar anyway.

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No ONE….


Arghh…. off to play me pipes, maybe with less mistakes, amazingly.

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Thanks for repeating Wills quote Marklar. Its well worth a second read.

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"my pipes" surely?

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<shakes head>WOW!</shakes head>

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Really, Alistair. Really??

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Fewer mistakes, shirley.

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"That’s because the fiddler Joe Leary is quietly shouting "rhythm!" in his ear whenever they get to a tricky bit."

That wasn’t Joe Leary, it was Mick Scruttocks the guitarist.

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SilverSpear, I think you’re quite right. Willie was an entertainer, not just a musician, and especially if you consider how big of an influence Johnny Doran was on his playing and his personality, you can see how he’s really just tootling along and making faces at the crowd.

There were also plenty of musicians (I’ve heard of this especially in Munster, for whatever reason) who made a distinction between dancing music and listening music - so although Willie could be playing for dancers and stay rock-solid on the beat, if he’s just playing for listening and enjoying it like so, he can afford to stretch things and let his exuberance get inside the tune.

Just possibilities.

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Willie made a distinction between music for the feet and music for the heart (although that may have come to him from Garret Barry)

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It may be a good idea to watch Cerbh É Willie Clancy which I believe was repeated last weekend on TG4 and will no doubt be on their website.

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big_tab, Bernie may well have played music for a long time, but I’m not sure if he’s played *this* music a long time, and there’s the (possible) rub. I could well be wrong on this. Just a thought. It’s not unusual for people to come to this music and take a while to calibrate their ears to traditional Irish sensibilities.

As I said, Bernie is welcome to raise questions. But it seems like he’s defensive to answers that don’t gibe with his own conclusions. As he was on the guitarist thread. And I’m trying to be helpful. :-/


Marklar, point taken. It’s silly to rank musicians much at all, really, because appreciation is so subjective and styles can be so different yet still wonderful. Seamus Connolly and Brendan McGlinchey used to duel it out in the All-Irelands year after year. Really, one wasn’t "better" than the other. Just different. And no one’s immune to a slip or clam here and there.

Besides, most of the acclaimed "masters" are the people who retain a "beginner’s" mindset. :-)

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I hate Willie’s music too, but for the opposite reason to Bernie - he wasn’t unsteady enough. That 2nd clip you can hear the D note on the middle regulator overblow at the end, too. FAIL

There aren’t more pipers now than in the past - I’m 193 years old, trust me. No, seriously, check the census records. No end of entries like "Piper, itinerant, 3 children and donkey." Some old duffer once remarked that Garret Barry was a lot wilder than Willie; ‘nuff said, G. Try and dance to that and you’d break your shin bone.

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If someone is regarded as ‘central’ (not the best word maybe) to a tradition by his contemporaries and those who came after then questioning his style is like questioning the whole tradition. It’s not like discussing the Emperor’s new clothes. It’s the way it really is.

Did his contemporaries have any trouble playing along with him ?

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The problem is is there is a comparison going on with the musicians of today which isn’t really fair. Recording techniques are better now as is instrument manufacture. More people are learning the pipes and they are learning from experienced players who also learned from experienced players. Back when Willie Clancy would have been learning there would not have been so many experienced players to learn from and the techniques on the instruments would not have been so refined as they were still being developed.

The point is that the players at the top of the pile nowadays are, almost definitely, technically better players than Clancy (although they may disagree) but they are there because of Clancy and because of what he and his peers did to reenergise piping and traditional music as a whole.

Clancy is revered because he led the way. It is easier to copy than it is to create and he was the one that created.

Honestly, listen to me! I am not even a piper and I don’t have any Willie Clancy recordings. I do have other old recordings though and, whilst I am more than likely going to hit skip if they come up on shuffle (I am a hypocrite) I can hopefully still appreciate what these guys did for what we listen to today.

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"I could be way off here, but you’re coming across as a newcomer to this music whose ears haven’t yet adjusted to its sense of pulse and timing."

The first record I ever bought was a Dubliners LP, in about 1963, and I learned some tunes off it. I think my ears were already pretty much adjusted. I’m still working on my fingers.

Listening again to Willie Clancy I can see what people mean about his inventiveness with melody and ornamentation, I can see why musicologists and keen pipers would like it, but I still think it often comes at the expense of steadiness of rhythm, and to my mind that is getting things the wrong way round.

It makes me feel like he is playing slightly above his own capacity, I find that unsettling.

I’m sorry if I spoiled anyone else’s enjoyment.

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‘Back when Willie Clancy would have been learning there would not have been so many experienced players to learn from and the techniques on the instruments would not have been so refined as they were still being developed.’

For fecksake listen to yourself.

Clancy learned from Johnny Doran, Felix Doran, Seamus Ennis and Leo Rowsome. Among others.

How experienced do you want your teachers?

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He is also on record saying that if he had heard the 1890s recordings of Mici ‘Cumba’ earlier in his life he would have tried his life long to sound like that. For your information, Cumba had a high level of refinement, as did other pipers of his time. Piping technique is NOT a new invention.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"As I said, Bernie is welcome to raise questions. But it seems like he’s defensive to answers that don’t gibe with his own conclusions."

Well isn’t that sort of what discussion is about? I’m willing to change my conclusions if somebody gives me a reason to, but if their answer doesn’t persuade me I’m allowed to challenge it.

Other people have been extremely defensive of Willie Clancy! All this stuff about him being revered and central, and that I am brave to ask the question! I’m not disrevering anybody, I am just asking about a technical aspect of his playing. Do pipers see him as a technical model?

And I suppose we can conclude that they would use him at least as a model for inventiveness and variety of ornamentation.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Fine Prof, you caught me talking out of my arse. He wasn’t self taught. I was wrong. Mea culpa.

I still think it is fair enough to say that technique and style will have developed over the subsequent years as people learned from these masters. I also think it is fair enough to say that technical mastery of instruments has improved over the years, not just the pipes but all instruments. There are more and better fiddlers, fluters, pipers, concertina players, guitarists, etc. And every one of them owes a debt of gratitude to those who have gone before.

And it is definitely true that recording techniques and equipment and instrument manufacture has improved.

Is that ok?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Of course technique is not a new invention. I never said that. It will have developed over time though like with every instrument.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Then pray tell, who has more refined technique than Dinny Delaney, Mickey Cumba and Martin Reilly employed?
Seriously now, it is a myth piping of the highest standard is something previous generation were unable to witness.

Has the average standard gone up? Certainly. Have higher peaks been reached? I don’t think so.

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"If someone is regarded as ‘central’ (not the best word maybe) to a tradition by his contemporaries and those who came after then questioning his style is like questioning the whole tradition. It’s not like discussing the Emperor’s new clothes. It’s the way it really is."

But that’s not the way things are. Individuals aren’t regarded as central to a tradition like this, and you can certainly question one aspect of an individual’s style without questioning the tradition.

"Did his contemporaries have any trouble playing along with him ?"

I’m sure they didn’t, his loss of rhythm is only minor and playing with somebody else would obliterate it, I think.

On the solo recordings I am talking about I think he is playing in a showmanlike way, as somebody perceptively pointed out above. He calls attention to the cleverness and difficulty of what he is doing,and in my opinion mucks up the rhythm a bit by doing so. But he doesn’t do that in the duet clip we saw.

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Well given that I am not a piper then I will leave that to pipers to answer - a cop out I know but I have not heard much of Dinny Delaney’s recordings though and possibly nothing of Cumba or Reilly.

As you say though there are more pipers than before and the average standard is up. If those at the top of their game are not rivals to the old greats then there is something seriously wrong and I don’t see why piping should be considered different from any other instrument.

I know when I hear piping I like and I have already named a couple of pipers - who I especially like because of their regulator work. I am not about to turn round and claim they are better or on par with Clancy or Ennis though.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

If you Google Delaney, Cumba and Reilly you will find that they are about as obscure as it’s possible to be, in Reilly’s case a single incomplete recording on a damaged wax cylinder, if my googs are accurate.

It would be great to hear some of these recordings.

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"I hate Willie’s music too, but for the opposite reason to Bernie - he wasn’t unsteady enough. "

Are you serious, do you really like unsteady rhythm?

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Who makes the criteria that determine whether a Trad player is
considered "good" or not? I’d say it’s a peer review process and
in his time Clancy was considered by his peers to be great.
Nuff said - end of story.

Probably today if you polled real Irish Trad musicians — those
born and raised in the tradition, not adult learners — you’d get some dissenters but they wouldn’t be the majority.

The criteria wouldn’t be quite the same as those used in the
recording industry or by school music teachers or classical
musicians.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Well Bernie, there ya go—I was mistaken. You have some decades under your belt with this music.

Sorry, but for me then it’s all the more mystifying that you apparently miss what makes Willie Clancy a beguiling, compelling piper.

And no, good discussion isn’t about believing only what you think and getting defensive whenever someone disagrees with you. You might learn something if you try to actually understand the points others are making, especially when they *don’t* gibe with your conclusions.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

What I love about Willie’s piping is that it’s Raw. It’s human. It ebbs and flows like the wind and tide. He was the real thing. Listen to him sing. The man was the music. It oozed out of him like his sweat on a hot day. His whistle playing is raw and full of character too. I don’t hear any rhythm problems in his playing at all. I hear the pulse of a heartbeat that is alive with emotion. I think modern playing is too machine like, too much like a metronome guided gearbox. Listen to your own heartbeat, it has slight variations in rhythm. Feel how you breathe. Is every breath perfectly timed? No, of course not. I love the human feel, the music is way more alive with life energy when it ebbs and flows like the tide or the wind. Too many modern players are stuck on click track mentality and expect a perfect rhythmic machine. I say, kill the machines and lets play like humans and let the music be alive the way Willie plays it.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"Are you serious, do you really like unsteady rhythm? "

Oh yes. I used to punch holes in LPs off center before dropping a few tabs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBFBdQM7Eq4&feature=related


There are really lo fi recordings of Willie where you can’t hear the busy bee ornamentation - maybe those would change your mind. Or you could just roll off the treble until you can’t hear it any more. Edit his stuff so the tempo’s steady. Come to think of it you could make recordings of some perfect piper with narys the flaw that way, hey.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Hi Bernie. I did say ‘central’ was maybe not the best word. ‘Admired’ and ‘influential’ were more what I had in mind.
But Hup said what i meant better "it’s a peer review process and in his time Clancy was considered by his peers to be great. " That’s how traditions work.

" I’m sure they didn’t, his loss of rhythm is only minor and playing with somebody else would obliterate it, I think." I’m not sure I follow the logic or wisdom of that.

However, the reason I asked the question is that there is a somewhat comparable figure (I think) from a another piping tradition, Billy Pigg, who’s contemporaries did find tricky to to play with because of quirky rhythms (it’s in an interview on the FARNE web site).

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"Sorry, but for me then it’s all the more mystifying that you apparently miss what makes Willie Clancy a beguiling, compelling piper."

Will, really, I was just asking how people feel about the steadiness of rhythm in his playing.

"And no, good discussion isn’t about believing only what you think and getting defensive whenever someone disagrees with you. You might learn something if you try to actually understand the points others are making, especially when they *don’t* gibe with your conclusions."

Who says I’m not trying to understand the points others are making? But they have to add up for me, they have to be coherent. I’ve acknowledged that Clancy was inventive and all that. I don’t accept that his playing was therefore technically perfect. I’ve taken on board the point about his showmanship, that that is part of the tradition he comes from. I find that for me that emphasis on clever technique gets in the way of enjoying his playing.

It’s not all as black and white as you make out.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"I did say ‘central’ was maybe not the best word. ‘Admired’ and ‘influential’ were more what I had in mind."

Ok, so if somebody questions an aspect of the style of an admired and influential player, does that call the whole tradition into question? Doesn’t seem like it to me. Seems to me like you were wildly overstating things.

"" I’m sure they didn’t, his loss of rhythm is only minor and playing with somebody else would obliterate it, I think." I’m not sure I follow the logic or wisdom of that."

Well that’s what happens isn’t it? If I play with someone with a steadier rhythm, maybe on a tune they know much better than me, their steadiness steadies me. When the relative beginner at my session starts a tune the rhythm can be very unsteady, but when a better player joins in the beginner’s unsteadiness is obliterated, their rhythm is pulled into shape.

"However, the reason I asked the question is that there is a somewhat comparable figure (I think) from a another piping tradition, Billy Pigg, who’s contemporaries did find tricky to to play with because of quirky rhythms (it’s in an interview on the FARNE web site). "

I’m not talking about quirky rhythms, I’m talking about a loss of rhythmic consistency caused by (excessive?) emphasis on ornamentation.

I’ve just listened to a recording of Billy Pigg playing the Morpeth Rant and his rhythm is very steady.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

One man’s "loss of rhythmic consistency caused by (excessive?) emphasis on ornamentation" is merely another man’s appreciation of how the pulse can be pushed and pulled with the most marvelous of melodic and rhythmic inventiveness.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Billy Pigg played everything with that same steady rhythm. He oozed consistency. He’s kind of a bad example for anything except himself.

Is the FARNE site working lately?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Hi llig,

Actually I can appreciate how Willie Clancy does that inventive pushing and pulling, in the same recording of Down the Back Lane I referred to. And it’s beautiful But in other places in the same piece he does lose the beat a bit, and not intentionally, and that isn’t beautiful.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

gravelwalks - I’m not going to have time to find who it was commented about playing along with Billy Pigg. I think it may have been Joe Hutton in an hour-long ‘interview with tunes’ hosted by Alistair Anderson. FARNE site is slow but working this morning.

‘Quirky rhythms’ was my word for what what llig is describing, I think. Find some clips of him playing irish tunes, there are often what I think of ‘tumbles’ of Northumbrian pipe-style ornaments that don’t do what irish ornaments do. And they do it in a way that throws me off the beat. So my ears also picked out the comment by one of his contemporaries, who seemed to say it as a matter of fact, rather than cristicism (and it may not have been the same thing as was confusing me).

By the way Bernie, I am sort of agreeing with your perceptions but disagreeing with your opinion/judgement based on them.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I see what you mean. The timbre of his pipes does enough to confuse me… (hypnotic and all) :-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

in the end, mastery is not about precise rhythmic accuracy, or impeccable technique, or even necessarily, experience. It is an attitude,an aura, a way of living life that inspires respect , admiration,and even harmony amongst those who come into contact with it.i think Willie had it. But if it’s technique you want. this is incontrovertibly the work of a master piper:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwYGwwXS0dc

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

David, what is my opinion/judgement that you think you are disagreeing with? Earlier on you seemed to be saying I was calling the whole tradition into question. All I think I am doing is asking about one aspect of his technique.

Pipewatcher, yes, I suppose you might well be right there, when people talk about somebody being a "master" they may have all that romantic, airy-fairy stuff in mind. It’s all a bit fanciful for my taste, and I’m really much more interested in the music than in the attitude and "aura" of the person playing it.

Thoroughly unpleasant and unlikable social inadequates can also play great music.

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I’ve never met a thoroughly unpleasant and unlikable social inadequate who could play anything anywhere near great music. Great music requires an open and giving generosity of spirit

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Moral of the story…. if someone is regarded as a master don’t whatever you do admit on this site that their playing is not to your taste. Don’t question anything. You will assumed to be a beginner, or you don’t and will never understand the music, or that you can’t use your ears. Even if you hate it pretend you’re in awe of it and you’ll get on just fine.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

For all the grumpy responses on this thread, bogman (and it’s thesession,org… grumpy responses are inevitable no matter what you post), I think there have been some articulate and measured explanations and some interesting discussion.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Nonsense llig. To take an example from another genre, the great saxophonist John Coltrane once said that everybody wants to play sax like Stan Getz. But socially speaking Getz was a nightmare.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Have to agree 100% with Llig.There is something about the music that personality shines through and for the music to be described as great it has to be devoid of unpleasantness.Bogman is also on the button.I appreciate this thread because Bernie questions an aspect of Willie Clancys playing.It is not the first time I have heard his musicianship questioned (Bernie is not alone by any means) but it is the first time I have heard so many great explanations of what is great about his playing.One thing though.All the experts,academics and professors in the world cant make us love music that doesnt get under our skin and make us sit up and take notice.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Cool and Lyrical, Four by Getz

by Joe Cornwall — last modified July 24, 2009
Cool and Lyrical, Four by Getz

Stan Getz was a study in contrasts. A man with an unsurpassed talent for melodic beauty and understated musical elegance, he none-the-less fought viciously with his personal demons. Addicted to heroin for decades, Stan Getz also suffered from alcoholism and problems with other intoxicants. His addictions lead him to live a life of Jekyll and Hyde, pushing him through three marriages marked by familial violence, abuse and one of the most bizarre and long-lived divorce cases this author has ever heard of. Through all of this Getz’s musical voice, as filtered through his preferred axe - the tenor saxophone, remained sweet, soft and romantic. Clearly Getz’s music was the calm eye of his personal storm. Knowing this makes listening to the sound of Getz an even more amazing experience today.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

re: what Alistair said earlier about instrument manufacturing being better than it used to be…

I don’t know about that. Most of the good pipemakers i know love nothing more than to study 19th and early 20th century sets and attempt to replicate them. And there are plenty of pipers who would like nothing more than to get their hands on sets made by the Rowsomes, Egan, Kenna, Harrington, Coyne, etc. Some of those big, old sets just have an amazing sound. Mmmmm…. Ronan Browne’s Harrington B set comes to mind…….

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I think there is some validity to pipewatcher’s point in saying that if a player has that generous spirit, exuberant personality, and really puts himself and his music out there and is a great musician to boot, they will be well known to posterity. Technical proficiency with the music is a part of it, but not the whole picture. Tommy Reck, for example, also an amazing player and a contemporary of Clancy, was evidently a far shyer man and while he’s pretty well known among piping nerds, he’s not as big a name as Clancy and he did not make as many recordings.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I’ve never met Stan Getz. But I know smack turns you into a right t w a t

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"I’ve never met a thoroughly unpleasant and unlikable social inadequate who could play anything anywhere near great music. "

You must come to our session some time.

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A great musician is a rare thing but there are quite a few out your neck of the woods Bernie. Now you have me thinking and maybe there is one all right.Actually he is not really great because of his over confidence!!

Willie Clancy ~ a few recordings

"Michael Gorman & Willie Clancy: Irish Jigs, Reels & Hornpipes" ~ 1956
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/3752

"Willie Clancy: The Minstrel from Clare"
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/459

"The Pipering Of Willie Clancy. Vol. 1 & Vol. 2"
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/462
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/463

"Willie Clancy: The Gold Ring"
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/3660
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/3661

"Folktrax-173: Willie Clancy And Bobby Casey"
https://thesession.org/recordings/display/1473

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Don’t forget the Gael Linn 78s, Seoda Cheoil, The Drones and the Chanters and the Folkways compilations with material from the Ballyheighe Fleadh.

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Well Bernie, I respectfully give up. Either you’re not saying what you mean very clearly (backing off from your use of "master" and "central" etc.) or I’m simply misunderstanding you. I’ll leave you to it. No harm intended, cheers.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Just another horse that buckled when it was led to the well.

All’s fine.

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(maybe I haven’t quite given up yet….)

In line with pipewatcher’s comments above and Bernie’s dismissal of them, Yo-Yo Ma says "Music isn’t about perfection; it’s about expression."

That’s what Willie Clancy was a master of. If you (generic you) disagree with Yo-Yo Ma, fine, but then you won’t understand why some people’s music is so compelling while sound "flawed" to your own aural standards.

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erm, "sounding"

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Will, if the horse refuses to drink. Let it be. It doesn’t mean it may not drink in it’s own time.

At some point you have to decide you’re secure enough in your own appreciation of music that you don’t need to convince other people to share your appreciation if they don’t want to.

Bernie has been offered material to read, look at and listen to. He can open his mind to what is offered or he can get stuck behind his own notions of what is good music.

So far he has not shown, as far as I am concerned, he is willing to open his mind. I talked of the earliest recordings of pipers we have. He dismissed them out of hand as too obscure. He could have looked up the recordings, listened beyond the primitive recording device and heard mighty powerful, technically sophisticated piping.

It’s all good. People have different appreciations. I am secure in mine and don’t need that appreciation validated on the internet.

It’s the style in which the argument is sometimes conducted that gets my goat though. But that’s life.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

There are many people with musical instruments who hear musicians like Yo-Yo Ma speak about expression and take that to mean it’s OK to sound terrible; even to make ‘wonkiness’ their goal. After all, it’s expressiveness, and that’s what really counts, right?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Why are these people so surprised and upset to hear derisive words like as ‘diddley’, or worse used in reference to their ‘musical’ offerings? And no, this listener does not lump Willie Clancy in with that bunch.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Oooh - just had a listen to pipewatcher’s link to Dark Lochnagar. That really was nice.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Wasn’t it though?!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

AQ, I know that’s a potential pitfall. If I remember right from the context of Ma’s quote, it was aimed more at people who are so hung up on playing perfectly that they never really make music at all. Perhaps more common in other genres.

Professor, I really don’t care whether Bernie ever sorts it out. But talking about this stuff helps me better articulate it to my music students. Most of whom *do* get it, often sooner than later. That’s all I do…lead horses to water. They figure out how to drink and enjoy it on their own. :-)

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"It’s the style in which the argument is sometimes conducted that gets my goat though"

You responded to my perfectly reasonable and sincere question with "groan", you’ve continued in the same rude, unhelpful, self-aggrandising style throughout.

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Self-aggrandising non the less.

Well yes. <Groan>. That still stands.

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Will:

You said:

(maybe I haven’t quite given up yet….)

But what are you trying to achieve? What do you think I haven’t "got" yet?

Do you want me to say Willie Clancy doesn’t speed up and slow down in a slightly clumsy way sometimes? Do I have to accept that his style/technique was unimpeachable? I’ve already acknowledged his strengths. And I’ve learned what I think are interesting things about his minor weaknesses, reasons why he would play that way, at least in certain situations.

I kind of thought the discussion was over.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Maybe the "discussion" was over before it ever began….

Bernie, my parenthetical aside was just that, an aside. I don’t hope to achieve anything.

No one’s style or or technique is unimpeachable. But if you think that style (personal taste) and technique (divorced from expression) are what it’s all about, or that Willie Clancy’s rhythm was "clumsy," then you and I aren’t hearing the same thing when we listen.

So I wonder if that dichotomy continues in your own playing. I don’t mean to be patronizing here—I just wonder if you hear the same glitches in your own rhythm—clear breaks in the beat—in that clip of your guitar playing. Because if you don’t hear those, then I doubt you’d hear Clancy’s rhythm in an accurate way. NCFA and I (and others?) picked up on your unsteadiness on guitar right away. Do you?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Ah Will you are, in effect, being patronising.Bernie doesn’t have to prove himself on guitar at all to think that Willie Clancy might be losing rhythm at times and wonder if he deserves to be considered a master of the instrument.Its perfectly reasonable to wonder if anyone else thinks the same thing. The Prof and yourself dismissed this notion and thats fine and The prof knows what there is to know about Clancy.His music doesnt excite me the same way as the Dorans or Patsy Touhey but I learnt a little of what to look out for here and I appreciate it.Thanks again Bernie for posing the question.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Will, you can’t argue with someone who believes he’s being perfectly reasonable when he isn’t. He will listen only to those who agree with him, and dismiss anyone who doesn’t validate his own feelings.

He insists that his original post was perfectly reasonable. What does that tell you. He will assume that the countless numbers of trad musicians past and present who have appreciated Willie Clancy’s playing for what it is must all be wrong, if that’s what it takes for him to be right.

He will question the whole world before he questions his own ears. There’s no point in arguing with that attitude.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Amen to that.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Sorry Stevie..Dont think he is talking about me:-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Why on earth would he be?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Marklar.Am I missing something here? I thought Bernies OP was very reasonable. What was unreasonable about it?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

The unreasonable part was questioning Willie Clancy first, instead of questioning his own ears first. A reasonable question would have been "why is Willie Clancy considered a master piper? I don’t get it." Not, "Willie Clancy’s playing is flawed because I don’t like it, why on Earth would he be considered a master?"

If someone is considered a great player by most people who listen to the music, and you don’t hear why, does that point to a problem with the player or to a problem with your ears?

I’m not saying that great players are so sacred that they are above having their playing questioned, but if you go so far as to question why they are considered great in the first place when you don’t hear it and refuse to listen to the idea that you might not be hearing it right, that’s unreasonable.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I can see what Bernie was getting at in his original post, and at the risk of extending a discussion that may have already gone on long enough, let me offer an analogy.
The old timers of this music play in a style that has the rough-hewn beauty of a craggy old tree in a field. Some of the youngsters, with their All-Ireland Championship awards, and technical perfection, are like a lovely wooden cabinet, all polished and finely joined. If you have been taught to appreciate that furniture, you may not appreciate the beauty of the wood in its natural state when you are first exposed to it. But if you give it a chance, the beauty is there, it is just a different type of beauty.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Actually, I think that "why is Willie Clancy considered a master piper? I don’t get it" is actually what he was trying to ask, but he worded it in a way that made it sound like he was saying Willie Clancy wasn’t a master at all and got defensive when challenged instead of listening.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I think by questioning WC s piping Bernie was been totally reasonable.I have heard the same point of view many times by many people who love the music.From the second post…"Groan"" on the unreasonableness was directed at him the worst by Marklar. Al. You dont have to explain old timers to him as he mentioned he learned tunes in 1964 and likes Casey ,Ryan and more.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

spot on Marklar.

Al, somewhere above on this thread, Bernie says he’s done a lot of listening to the old players and likes it. I don’t think the issue you raise pertains here, though it often does with other listeners.

I think Marklar has it.

big_tab, I’m not suggesting that anyone has to be able to play well to hear well. I was simply wondering whether Bernie hears his own rhythm problems. That would explain things, eh?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

No.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

That is the trouble with such long discussions, I sometimes forget who said what, and miss the point they are trying to make. Ignore my last, and carry on, lads!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Well Al I just read it again and even if its not pertinent its fine sentiment!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Heh, big_tab, I posted the same sentiment as Al in my 3rd or 4th post on this thread. And then Bernie mentioned that he likes listening to the old players.

And it’s too bad you apparently don’t understand the distinction I made above. Which is why you think I’m being patronizing when I’m not. If Bernie doesn’t hear his own significant rhythm problems (based solely on the clip he posted of himself playing guitar—I have no idea what his fiddling sounds like and it could be stellar for all I know), it’s unlikely that he’ll hear Clancy’s sense of pulse in a positive way.

In short, you don’t need to play well to hear well, but you *do* need to hear well to play well.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

The problem with your poorly thought-out theory Will is that I can not only hear the unsteady rhythm in my own guitar playing, I can also hear when Clancy is playing steadily, I can also hear when other players are playing steadily and unsteadily, and I can explain why Clancy is playing unsteadily when he is.

So I can hear his sense of pulse in a positive way, when it’s there, and I can hear him losing rhythm when he tries to pack in too much ornamentation, with the melody or the drones.

You seem to be determined to believe that that is impossible, that his sense of pulse is infallible, that anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t "get it".

If I can hear something you can’t, then isn’t it you who is missing something?

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Will. You dont have to play at all to have an opinion on Willie Clancys piping.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

As Clancy’s music is a highly complex one it certainly helps to be well informed about the nuts and bolts of traditional music to be able to fully appreciate it. Surely you don’t need to play, but it can provide you with some insight you may not otherwise have.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

There is truth in what you say Prof but for many of us, and I am one, the nuts and bolts of traditional music are a given and all that matters is if the music appeals or not.Willie Clancys neighbours and friends didnt need to "do the work" or seek out acedemic studies and rare recordings of vintage piping to know if they like his music or not. When Johnny Doran busked the market towns of Co Clare people loved his music and were generous.No information needed just a sound that goes through you or doesnt.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Well you can obviously appreciate things on different levels.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

The nuts and bolts are never "a given". The nuts and bolts IS the music. And what arrogance to say you have it. For a start, what are you gonna do with the rest of your life?

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You make the music sound like a science. It was never a science for the people who have used it to celebrate joyous occasions or to grieve the death of a loved one or just to turn on the radio and tap their foot.Arrogance? If I dont understand the nuts and bolts of traditional music I understand nothing. Music either moves me or it doesnt.Trying to make the tune into some physics class is fine but not too many people who love the music and understand"the nuts and bolts" will be taking any notice of you.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

It was kind of presumptious wasn’t it?

Anyhow, Clancy did know about the nuts and bolts from the time his father gave him a thorough grounding in them (his own words). He never took stopped delving deeper though. He had a voraciously inquisitive mind and was forever exploring new directions. In the last recording made of his playing, shortly before his death, he is exploring new ways of ornamentation and is obviously going in a new direction.

I was just thinking as well how his neighbours didn’t need vintage recordings to appreciate him. Ofcourse they didn’ t they were his contemporaries. But what did his neighbours think of his piping, can you tell me that? (I already know by the way). And was it a fair assessment?

Maybe you meant the cylinder recordings I mentioned. Clancy certainly held those in the highest regard and would study them closely if, as he would any piping he could get his hands on.

So what is it you’re really saying Tab?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

That was directed at Llig. Prof I can listen to recordings of Willie Clancy and enjoy it without any access to information. Bernie can listen and find he has dodgy rhythm. You can spend hours and hours dissecting his every note. Its fine. Each position is equally valid.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

There was a cross post there.

Well Tab, I have sat with Clancy’s friends and contemporaries, some of his neighbours. What do they respond to when listening? A little turn of phrase, a well placed ornament, a variation, a change of rhythmic emphasis. The nuts and bolts that bring life to music. The ones that were interested in music did anyway, few of them are left by now.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

And another cross post.

Bernie asked a question. He was clearly unable to resolve the issue by merely listening. All I did was pointing him to a few sources that could have provided him with an insight. As did Nico.

Listening threw up his question but apparently couldn’t provide him with an answer. Time to reach for different tools?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Another cross post.I know you have and I know you know the music of that area inside out. I have a simple approach to music and I am happy in that way.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

The nuts and bolts referred to here are the practicalities of playing the instrument. I don’t think that IS the music is it Llig?

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

That weren’t the nuts and bolts I was referring to.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Did Clancy have a simple approach to music? Did Casey, Canny, Rochford?

In my experience all of these men knew what they were doing and the ones I talked to (Clancy was before my time) were well able to talk about it in detail.

Music has different levels of complexity. A good musician is aware of what is going on, even Micho Russell did, despite all his ‘simplicity’.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Imagine being on a football forum and some loo la calling you arrogant because you say you understand the nuts and bolts of the game of football.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Prof that kind of implies that because I have a simple approach to music(it either grabs me or it doesnt) that I dont know whats going on. I know whats going on.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Are you a native speaker of English Prof?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

SPort analogies never work with music. Football has rules

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

:-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Music has rules, although they may be unwritten.

And many of the rules of football are not written either. For example there’s an unwritten rule that players should attempt to play well so that their side will win.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

And there’s an unwritten rule that a lot of musicians seem to adhere to that says players should attempt to play well so that they will win.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

The style of argument in this sort of discussion, for some people at least, seems about scoring points.

In that context, I was thinking of Tab’s contributions. During the course of this there seemed several bandwagons he jumped on. This lead to some, in my perception anyway, contradictory statements.

I mean, for example, giving out one moment about people listening to vintage piping recordings and advocating a simple appreciation of music. The next moment declaring Johnny Doran and Patsy Touhey among the favourites. That’s really wanting to have it both ways. Isn’t it?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Where did I give out about listening to old recordings?Scoring points ,my arse.You have been feeding us with acadaemia and we are well able to figure out the music that appeals to us. I much preferred your old user name. It didnt make you sound so all knowing.You are not the only one allowed an opinion on the music of the area you moved to.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

What was his old user name Tab? I have to confess I was naive and trusting enough to think he was a real Professor at first.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

That would be for the Prof to answer Bernie.Its not that important.I just got annoyed at the way we are being talked down to.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Oh yeah Bernie.The prof is a good musician!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

well Tab, when you said:

‘if the music appeals or not.Willie Clancys neighbours and friends didnt need to "do the work" or seek out acedemic studies and rare recordings of vintage piping to know if they like his music or not. ’

you sounded ‘pretty much like ‘academia’ and ‘vintage recordings’ were on the same level on your scale of things you look down on when it comes to ways to appreciate music.

Unfortunately (?) we can’t go back to hear some pipers, we’ll have to listen to ‘vintage recordings to broaden our outlook.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Thoroughly unpleasant and unlikable social inadequates can also play great music.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Of course what you say is true and I love to hear musicians from the past.Why would I disagree with something so blindingly obvious. It is still fair game for someone who has never heard a vintage recording to say "I dont really like that Willie Clancys piping and I think he is fierce overrated".

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Well it is, maybe.

I brought up the Reilly, Delaney and ‘cumba’ cylinders when it was stated that piping technique has developed in modern times to a level previously unnseen. These recordings show that statement is pertinent nonsense.

Anyone can make any statement. You’re right there. A statement wins in credibility when it’s made from an informed point of view. Don’t you think?

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Informed is a strange word. Who is more informed? The man who has heard his father and uncles and neighbours play all his life and thinks nothing of it and just knows the way he likes the music played or the man who has spent his life reading thesis after thesis and studying all available information oral or aural? Not that there is anything wrong with either. I just dont think its quite as simple as you make it. For example it is possible that I could think that Bernie is more"informed" about music in general than you.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

In the case I mentioned above, making a statement about piping technique and how it has improved with actually hearing the old pipers, that’s pretty much uninformed.

And don’t make it sound like all I do is reading thesis after thesis. I don’t. But I do the odd bit of reading when it’s relevant. Information is where ever you find it. But it’s something I can’t win is it? If I mention the musicians I have spent my time with the ‘namedropping’ stick is at the ready.

But it’s all fine. Work away.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"Pertinent" heeft een verschillende betekenis in het engels. Extra aandacht is steeds nodig bij discussies in een vreemde taal. Het is al te makkelijk om een foutieve impressie te nemen, of te geven.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

From your posts, Bernie, it seems that you place a high value on technical ability, precision, and consistency, as though the music cannot be "good" without them.

Others here might disagree with that., while still hearing those very things in Clancy’s playing. But valuing his playing for other qualities anyway.

Tab, you can continue to misread my posts if you want. I never suggested that a person has to play to have an informed opinion on music. That’s daft.

Not all opinions are equal. Some are based on reality. Others aren’t. No one is "entitled" to an opinion, especially if it’s based on misinformation or a misunderstanding or wishful thinking.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I appreciate the work you have done Prof. I appreciate the knowledge you have .I appreciate it all . I just dont like the way your second post influenced in a totally negative way the way Bernie was talked down to from then on for asking what I thought was a totally reasonable question. I am delighted that people with your knowledge are here on this forum and obviously many people agree with you.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Once again prof I never stated you did say that. All opinions on music are equal. 100 % equal. You can deride someone elses opinion but is still equal. It is important to state this because there are people discussing this music with an elitist mentality and that should be exposed.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Sorry Prof.Thought you posted the last one and therefore the last post was directed at will and I sure didnt misread your last post!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"All opinions on music are equal. 100 % equal"

Ridiculous.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Never mind.

I just another very long post that summarised how I feel about this. I am not going to do it again. I’m done.

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Actually Wills last post shows what is evident in this thread. Bernie had the timerity to tell how there were things about Willie Clancys music that bothered him and the elite jumped in and from the second post more or less told him (Will finishing it off) his opinion is not of equal standing.It is.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"From your posts, Bernie, it seems that you place a high value on technical ability, precision, and consistency, as though the music cannot be "good" without them."

No, that’s just more failed telepathy on your part Will. I think it might be what they call "confirmation bias": you’ve got a fixed idea in your head and you seek and find or invent evidence to back it up, and ignore the counter-evidence.

What I actually like is relatively simple, unostentatious playing. Someone I like listening to at the moment is Breda Keville. Here’s a review of her album:


BREDA KEVILLE: THE HOP DOWN
Breda Keville: fiddle, vocals
Claire Keville: fiddle, concertina
Liam Lewis: fiddle
Terence O’Reilly: guitar

When I first heard this album, I was immediately captivated, and yet puzzled, for there was playing a woman, pretty young of age from all indications, yet with a sound and a style which will make anyone think: this must be an 80-year old from East Galway or East Clare. The intonation, the sparse ornamentation, even the slightly edgy tone, all point to a manner of playing once common with older generations of players from that area, one that is disappearing fast as those older players fade away and as new aesthetics are being superimposed on an older tradition.

End of quote.

I like simple resources elegantly deployed. I find Willie Clancy fails to achieve that in some of his music that I have been listening to. He ostentatiously crams so much ornamentation and showmanship into his playing that the poise is lost. Like Silver Spear said about the clip you put up, he is hamming it up for the audience. And I think now he is doing the same in the recordings I’ve been listening to. Perhaps he thought that was the appropriate thing to do on a recording: to demonstrate his mastery, to pull out all his tricks. Almost as if he’s saying "look, you can’t do this!". For me, it’s counterproductive.

I prefer to listen to music that at least seems like I could play it myself. That’s what I think this music is: ordinary people’s music, something a few people in every village or street should be able to do. I don’t go in for all this hero worship, sanctification, rarification.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Bernie, now you’re talking stylistic differences. That’s completely different from rhythm problems (which hardly anyone but you seems to hear in Clancy’s playing).

I’m not assigning thoughts to you—simply trying to plumb what exactly it *is* that you’re thinking. But since you keep moving the target and not clearly articulating what you mean, it’s kind of pointless.

And Tab, your attempts at refereeing and editorializing are funny, but they lack any basis in reality. If you truly believe all opinions are equal, then there’s not much hope of having a conversation where anybody learns something.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Will .They are not meant to be funny. I am not refereeing. I am with Bernie on this . He presented his case well and I think Nico was the only respondent who didnt patronise him. His opinion is just as valid as yours. Mine is too. So is the man tapping his foot at the end of the bar.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"I brought up the Reilly, Delaney and ‘cumba’ cylinders when it was stated that piping technique has developed in modern times to a level previously unnseen. These recordings show that statement is pertinent nonsense."

"In the case I mentioned above, making a statement about piping technique and how it has improved with (sic.) actually hearing the old pipers, that’s pretty much uninformed."

Not that I want to get sucked back into this row but seeing as you are referring to me I think I should say something. I think what I said and meant has been exaggerated somewhat in these comments. I am not a piper but it seems patantly obvious that technique on the instrument, and on every instrument, will develop over time. That is not to say that the Reillys and Delaneys of this world were not as good and they may have even been doing things that are not done any more but techniques still develop and change, particularly in the case of piping (I would have thought) when we have moved from a situation when very few people were playing the instrument to one where lots are playing it.

Secondly I have heard a lot of these pipers including some recordings of Delaney. I just don’t own a lot of them. I do own some old recordings of fiddlers and also some Tommy Reck, for example. I possibly have more but would need to have a dig around to remind myself what.

I am probably never going to have huge collections of the old recordings as I am not a piper and do not want to spend great lengths of time listening to them, as much as I appreciate the skill of many of these players.

I am perfectly willing to bow to your superior knowledge on this subject and I wish I had not entered the conversation in the first place. The golden rule I should follow is never talk about piping. Others know more about it than me and it is as much an academic subject as it is a musical instrument these days.

Please don’t take my comments as me saying "how it is" so much as some theorising, some right, some wrong. Lastly I think I am quite a reasonable and pleasant person and, normally, try to remain polite on here so I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell me and the world that I am talking "uninformed pertinant nonsense". I didn’t start this thread and I didn’t even agree with the original poster so please don’t lump us together.

Have a nice day.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Willie Clancy - some man

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"Bernie, now you’re talking stylistic differences. That’s completely different from rhythm problems (which hardly anyone but you seems to hear in Clancy’s playing)."

I was responding to your mind-reading message where you were telling me what I like in music, that I like technical perfection and so on.

"Hardly anyone"? There are maybe a dozen people in this discussion, and several of them can hear what I’m talking about.

[quote]
I’m not assigning thoughts to you—simply trying to plumb what exactly it *is* that you’re thinking. But since you keep moving the target and not clearly articulating what you mean, it’s kind of pointless.[/quote]

I clearly articulated what I meant in my first message:

It struck me that his playing is not terribly rhythmic. He seems to slow down for the faster and more difficult parts, the ornamentation (cuts etc but also the regulators) seems to get in the way of the flow of the tune, and perhaps his timing is also affected by the pumping of the bellows. It’s like the pipes are partly in charge of the music, rather than the man playing them.

This also seems quite clear to me:

The little clip Will Harmon kindly posted http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6JzNhMjJDM&feature=related

demonstrates quite well what I don’t like about his playing. It’s not about him being ahead of the beat, it’s that the ornamentation gets in the way of the rhythm. I don’t like that unsubtle bouncing on the regulators, right on the beat, it sounds dead, I don’t like the way he loses the rhythm, around 23 seconds in, when he seems to be concentrating more on playing a blaring chord on the regulators.

When I’ve been listening to the recordings on The Gold Ring in the course of today, I’ve noticed Willie Clancy often sacrifices steadiness of rhythm in favour of ornamentation in exactly that way.

This seems clear to me:

Listening again to Willie Clancy I can see what people mean about his inventiveness with melody and ornamentation, I can see why musicologists and keen pipers would like it, but I still think it often comes at the expense of steadiness of rhythm, and to my mind that is getting things the wrong way round.

Then you said this:

"Sorry, but for me then it’s all the more mystifying that you apparently miss what makes Willie Clancy a beguiling, compelling piper."

So I responded:

Will, really, I was just asking how people feel about the steadiness of rhythm in his playing.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Are you starting to get the idea?

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Bernie, there’s nothing wrong with saying that you don’t like Willie Clancy’s playing because it’s too highly ornamented and too little rigid in rhythm for your taste. Others may disagree but that’s fine, not everyone likes the same things when it comes to style. That’s not how your original post came across though.

What you said sounded like you were saying that he wasn’t a master or great player at all because you didn’t like his playing. That’s what the groans were about, and they were understandable groans.

This music is an aural tradition. Great players are respected not just because people like the sound of their playing, but because they have played a role in the music itself by being a part of transmitting the music aurally.

The elephant in the room that you and big_tab keep ignoring is that questioning whether a major figure in the tradition had any right to be in that position in the first place is questioning the very tradition itself. You aren’t just disagreeing with certain people on this board when you say something like that, you are disagreeing with the tradition itself.

Now, I’m no longer sure that that’s what you meant. I think big_tab actually means it because he’s said as much in other threads, and he’s been jumping into this one because he thinks he’s hearing one person who is justifying his denials about certain great players having a right to be so. But I kind of think that you know better Bernie.

I gather from something you posted above—by accident I think—that you are a native Dutch speaker. So maybe something has been lost in translation here. Do you really just mean that certain aspects of Willie Clancy’s playing are not to your taste, or are you actually questioning the tradition’s acceptance of him as a major player?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

If we question Willie Clancys rhythm we are questioning the tradition itself. Now I have heard some high faluting pious sh*te in my time but seriously Marklar do you understand what you are saying?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Nope, not by questioning his rhythm. By questioning his place in the tradition. As I said.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

What does that mean. How can you question anybodys place in a tradition that belongs to anynbody that wants to be part of it?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Anyone can be a part of it, but not anyone can be a central figure in it.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

If thats the case there must be 5000 central figures.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Yes, Bernie. I got the idea from your very first post. And your wrong. He’s not clumsy with the rhythm.

You say: "I’ve noticed Willie Clancy often sacrifices steadiness of rhythm in favour of ornamentation in exactly that way."

An I say that’s dead wrong, a mishearing of Willie Clancy. So your first post was patronizing, and now your condescending to me, besides missing most of what I’ve said and the spirit in which I’ve said it. You haven’t listened to anyone on this thread who’s explained why you’re wrong about Clancy’s rhythm.

Good luck with that. Cheers. :-)

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

B29,
If you’re so bothered about Willie’s playing and its inherent deficiencies, why don’t you improve it? I’d be all ears. And since he’s a legacy, I’m quite sure you, with proof on your side, too, could be one.

How about Bernie Week?

And if you can’t measure up… well then, meh!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meh

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I honestly think you’re *not* hearng the clips of Clancy’s playing right, Bernie. There’s no unsteadiness. To me, all of what Clancy is doing is deliberate and part and parcel of it. That particular clip is different from some of the other clips of Clancy’s playing. I think he is deliberately playing in an agressive, sort of ‘outdoor’ style there. Upbeat and on the front of the beat. He was capable of playing in many other ways too, as just the few clips which have been posted here show.

And, for Bernie as well as for big_tab, I’ll state the obvious: Bernie was not *only* querying Clancy’s rhythm in his OP. That post deliberately makes the link between what Bernie says is Clancy’s "not terribly rhythmic playing" and Bernie’s view that his status as a "master piper" and as "a good model".

You’re wrong about the rhythm Bernie. And the rest of it is just arrogance and ignorance.

Posted by .

Silly little cult

That’s what this seems like. I’ll leave you to it.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

As this thread is descending into name calling and recriminations, maybe it’s time what it was about.

I have been given stick for inserting my first comment: <groan> . Which I did based on the question asked and numerous experiences of the same and similar discussions on various internet forums. Did Bernie have the right to ask the question. Certainly, everything and anybody can be questioned but I do think when questioning a musician who is held in the highest regard by the majority of his peers you need to come armed with a good argument and a firm question. I think it was Marklar who, somewhere above, dealt with what was wrong with the question as Bernie put it, and I fully agree with that assessment. Bernie didn’t want to be enlightened, in fact he clearly (in my view) resisted any argument against his position.

Nico and myself brought some sources of information to the discussion that could have played a role in answering Bernie’s question. Was Clancy a master musician/piper? Most of the sources quoted were assessment of Clancy’s music by fellow musicians: Pat Mitchell, Robbie Hannon, Peter Browne’s television program Cerbh É. Repeatedly these sources wee discredited because they would bring the discussion into ‘academia’. Did they now? I heard the voices of fine musicians expressing their admiration for another musician’s achievements.

On that note, Pat Mitchell’s article, Rhythm and style in Irish Traditional Dance Music in the second part of which his description of Down the Back Lane I mentioned appeared, is the best ever written on the subject. No harm in having a peak at it. You’ll find the source somewhere above.

But as the discussion progressed Bernie and Tab made it clear where the issue lay. Not with Willie Clancy per se. There’s a strain there that is anti (perceived) authority, anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism. Bernie wants music to be simple, so any man in the street can play it. None of your fancy pants complications and all that. It could easily be argued Clancy was that man in the street, a carpenter and joiner who never had much but who had a talent and did all in his power to develop it. And fair play to him for doing what he loved is what I say. Bernie, in his last post calls the defenders of Clancy’s music ‘a silly little cult’. Which probably typifies his thinking.

Clancy’s music is a complex one. It’s multi layered, every note is (in Clancy’s own words) ‘pondered over’. It’s multi-layered and stems from a multitude of influences. Clancy had a mind that was inquisitive, fast and sharp. I think that is reflected in his music throughout. Is Clancy’s music easy to listen to? Well, it isn’t to begin to understand the height of his achievements you need to understand a few things, it requires a bit of effort.

I have long listened to Clancy, from tapes handed out by Breandan Breathnach during the early eighties to stuff as it still turns up. The Paddy Hill recording, the Two Bills tape, the tapes Clancy sent to John Joe Tuttle, Ivor Brown’s recordings, the never released Decca field tapes, Martin Talty’s tape, the Na Piobairi Uilleann visit recordings all that and more. I realise I am in a way privileged to have access to all that material although most of it has a currency among pipers. Based on what I have gleaned from Clancy’s playing I think I can say that elements of his music were always in flux, he was always exploring new avenues and finding ways to dig deeper. The recordings made only shortly before his death during a visit of a group of pipers from NPU show him more introspective maybe, exploring more new ways of ornamentation and new repertoire.

Taking all that and considering it on it’s own merits. I think there’s only one answer to Bernie’s question. Even if it’s not the one he so wanted to hear.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Poor oul Bernie.To be accused of arrogance and ignorance for asking some valid and interesting questions . You know what ethical the arrogance is all one sided.We can query what we want about any aspect of this music and by that post it is you who is displaying the arrogance and ignorance.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Cross post. Fair play to you prof for such a detailed response which I must read again now.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Good stuff Prof!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

One reason Bernie may perceeve the presence of a cult is that the <groan> comment could only be properly interpreted by people who recognised that it was "based on the question asked and numerous experiences of the same and similar discussions on various internet forums"

Is a bit like him blundering into a strange bar and starting a controversial conversation without considering that the regulars already knew one another, had had many conversations, knew some of each others personal preferences and that they (and those of us quietly sipping pints in the corner) had made private assessments of who knew what they were talking about.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You are reading an awful lot into my messages which isn’t actually there, "Professor". In particular about my general attitude. As you say yourself, your initial moronic "groan" response was based on discussions you’ve had with completely different people about completely different issues. Well I’m not responsible for what other people say or think, and it would have been better if you had dealt (politely) with what I said, rather than what you imagine I meant.

It’s very interesting to hear that you have a great many recordings, and that you have spoken to so many famous people, but you still haven’t actually addressed the point I was making.

I notice that:

"Although remembered mostly as a piper, the whistle was Willie’s first instrument; some would even argue his piping didn’t come up to the superb standard of his whistle playing, Breandan Breathnach for one held that opinion."

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

He may not have percieved, that the poster could have been a ‘special character’.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You’re not getting what I was saying, big_tab. Bernie wasn;t just questioning Clancy’s rhythm. He specifically questioned his place in the tradition by linking it to the - in my view UN-reasonable - questions: "Was [he] a master piper?" And even Was he a "good model"?

Clancy earned - and, IMO, continues to earn, even in death - his place in the tradition. And, whatever one may think, the fact is that Clancy is a model. He is taken as a model. Peple are inspired by him, his playing and his dedication to the music. To question whether that is good or not … well, I called it arrogant and ignorant. I’m struggling to think what else it is. It certainly comes from ignorance of this tradition, because it shows a lack of understanding of and appreciation for what makes the tradition what it is.

Posted by .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

204!!! ~ Whew!!!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"Although remembered mostly as a piper, the whistle was Willie’s first instrument; some would even argue his piping didn’t come up to the superb standard of his whistle playing, Breandan Breathnach for one held that opinion."

Yes. That was Breandán’s expressed opinion. Pat Mitchell has on occasion said that if he remembers Willie, he sees him standing in Friel’s wearing his dungarees after work and playing the whislte.

That is a testament to Willie’s whistle playing. Not a statement that this piping is somehow not up to par.

You’re really grasping at straws there. And you really need to get a dig in about ‘all the famous people’ I have talked to. I am a musician. I talk to other musicians and play with them. Get over it. People know I am a piper and they’re keen to tell me about Willie if they knew him. Recently a few lads I had working on the house told me, among other things, about a farting contest between Willie and Maggie Barry. This thread is a bit like that. Stick to the relevant point or get a life.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"A lack of understanding of and appreciation for what makes thr tradition what it is" This is dreadful stuff. Bernie is as much part of "the tradition" as Willie Clancy was . This is elitist nonsense and is designed to exclude. As far as I know Bernie lives and breathes the tradition out in East Clare . He is living in the tradition.He just doesnt think Willie Clancy is great!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You’re still not getting what I’m saying. I’ll try it the other way round: what makes the tradition what it is? It *is* a tradition. Why is that? Could it be because of the contributions of people down th generations to it? And whose contributions should we take? Anybody’s? Anybody at all? That wouldn’t make any sense. We take the contributions of those generally accepted by those in the tradition. Why? Because that’s what it is. It’s not a question of one person’s adverse opinion on one of those ‘tradition bearers’. They are - and were - what they are and were. And the tradition is what it is because of them. Fine if you don’t like what they do/did. But it’s not fine to query their contribution and try to make out that somehow they are not worthy. Because, if you do, you’re actually saying you don’t like, and don’t respect, the tradition as it is. Maybe Bernie doesn’t. Who knows?

This is decidedly *not* designed to be exclusive or excluding. Quite the opposite. Everyone is welcome. But let’s accord the traditon a little respect. Or else find some other tradition or genre which we *are* able to respect.

Oh, and come off it! I don’t care at all where Bernie lives. Why on earth is that relevant? I mean, let’s rule out Michael Coleman for a start on that basis. I mean, he never was a Clare man, then he moved even FURTHER away. Sheesh!

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

No idea what that post means ethical. There are thousands upon thousands of tradition bearers. Ok here is my analogy..There has been thousands of bishops in the Catholic Church.They have been generally accepted as stalwarths by those in that tradition…

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You are still saying if you think Willie Clancy had dodgy rhythm you are not respecting the tradition.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Hang on a minute…

Bernie lives in East Clare? You live in East Clare too big_tab. Bernie was complaining about a guitarist in his session who is rubbish. You play guitar.

My, I err, feel like I have, err, walked into a very awkward situation. Err, you guys carry on. Pretend I am not here at all.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

This is not going to get solved lads.

Listen to this:

http://www.box.net/shared/m6eniic6ax

Green Gates, The High Road to Galway and London Lasses recorded by Willie for John Joe Tuttle around 1963, he was playing Seán Reid’s concert set that Liam O Flynn now has. He was in a Rowsome-ish phase with a bit of Doran thrown in. To me it’s brilliant, happy piping. Bernie no doubt will find the rhythm too shaky for his liking. enjoy, if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, don’t bother.

I’ll leave it there for a short while.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I dont know Bernie.I know from his posts he lives and plays in East Clare. I live in Ennis. So many f(cking detectives here . Guitar? You live up to your name!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

What do you play big tab?

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Well I don’t remember Bernie ever saying where he lives although he may have done. He was anxious to remain anonymous so as to avoid embarassing the guitarist in question.

I tell you what though, between yourself, Bernie and Jig, you are not doing the Clare tourism market any favours.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Not sure why you would be interested Llig.I might be the greatest fiddler you ever heard or I could be an out of time bodhran player . I enjoy the anonymity that is allowed here.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Myself , Bernie and Jig! C’mon the Banner!!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Things are going from bad to worse for Bernie on this thread . Now he is getting lumped in with Jig and myself! Sorry about that Bernie. Mightn’t have done you any favours taking your side here. The cosy consensus on session.org doesnt like when you disagree with them:-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I play the fiddle, the viola and the whistle a bit. And I grew up with a piper. And I feel the relevance of this is directly linked to the take people may or may not have about the value of my musings.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

big_tab, unless you are acting out a part here, very different from you normal self enjoying the banter down at the pub, then you are not really anonymous. Your mates would recognise you. Our mates would recognise most of us. For the time being the search engines don’t though.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

People can value my musings as they choose.My musings on this thread concentrated on how a simple observation and good questions turned into a blood sport from the horrible second post . with the exception of Nico who answered Bernie with a great post.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

In all fairness lads, Some of Willies playing on the Gold Ring is not his best. If you haven’t heard it yet, well ,get it! I hasten to add he is one of my all time favourite Pipers.

I have heard, Robbie Hannon, Seamus Ennis, Leo Rowesome, Finbar Fury, slip up at times. These are live recordings of a difficult instrument being played by human beings, no overdubs, no take 15; take 1 . Doesnt mean to say they are not master pipers though!
For me, these slips reassure me as a piper that Its not about infallibility, but humanity. They define the criteria by which we judge ourselves. Its alright to slip the octave! It happens. Perhaps on occasions a piper might chance his arm with an impossible variation, and lose it… Brilliant. Better to have tried and lost than not have tried at all.
Was WC a master piper?! Of course he bloody was, you try and do any better!

He and others of that generation set the standards we aspire to, perhaps others might one day overtake him as a piper, perhaps some already have,!
I could name pipers who might be considered today [ by some] to be ‘better pipers’ but at the end of the day who cares? its not a competition and they too deserve the accolade of being described as master pipers.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

‘Of course he bloody was, you try and do any better!’

Well there you go, that was simple. Crazy mechanical octopus players. I take my hat off to all of ya. I wouldn’t dream of touching those things.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I think the mistake can easily be made of missing the point of why Willy Clancy was and is so highly regarded if you gauge the man and his music in the present-day context.

I heard it said or written somewhere about Seamus Ennis that you should not presume that in his later recordings when he was much older that his playing sounded the same as it did when he was decades younger, when it was too early to have had his music recorded. So perhaps, simply, age is also a factor, especially with pipes, which are, in my observation anyway, pretty unforgiving - "they will outlive *you*, boyo" is what they seem to say to the player. ;-)

Seriously though, I think the situation is summed up quite well by that spoken intro in the Dark Lochnagar link above:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwYGwwXS0dc


Clancy was not playing *for* an international audience, he was very much a Clare man and viewed, I am sure, as one in a line of traditional musicians who had preserved the music, but not just that, Clancy seems to have experimented to try to demonstrate that - there it is again - that intrinsic rhythm of the music; the intro above talks about sean nos again, there is that link with piping in particular.

If you listen to a sean nos song from some perspectives, you would swear there was no rhythm, but when a musician does an instrumental version of it today, there is an incredible rhythm that to many ears can only be heard in the instrumental form. That’s what Clancy I think represented the beginnings of, or perhaps the resurgence of - trying to find that intrinsic rhythm of the language and the music. Notice the Dark Locknagar clip actually has Irish language overlaid on the image and the pipes playing over.

Clancy sometimes reminds me of a comparison with a famous singer songwriter - who may not necessarily be the best singer in the world. Maybe that’s not as accurate as it could be though, or as fair an analogy either.

Tommy Keane did a version of Dusty Miller, Silver Slipper and Willie’s Fling some years ago, which, I think that is the recording was meant to demonstrate what Clancy was trying to point to as the intrinsic rhythm of the music, perhaps something that was not that apparent in his day. It certainly is today though.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

the Willie’s Fling is, I am sure, the same tune as is in Mitchell’s book, Music of Willie Clancy. Tommy Keane played it without all the ornamentations shown in the book though, but the rhythm is powerful nonetheless.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I’ve just checked the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup again :-) - they are saying that Willy Clancy should be seen as an historical signpost along the road that traditional music was going, as to what it could/would/might become (or not). The roadsign looks like it is in Irish though…

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"Notice the Dark Locknagar clip actually has Irish language overlaid on the image and the pipes playing over. "

No it doesn’t. That is Scottish Gaelic. It even has it written out in full underneath and an explanation of where it comes from so even if you don’t speak either language you should not mistake it for Irish!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Yeah. Don’t you hate it when the tea bag splits when you’re squeezing it out?

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

"You are still saying if you think Willie Clancy had dodgy rhythm you are not respecting the tradition."

That was directed at me by big_tab. But I’m not. I didn’t. I quite carefully didn’t say that at all. What bothered me about Bernie’s OP, was that he *wasn’t* just accusing Willie Clancy of having dodgy rhythm, absurd though that statement is. He was saying that he wasn’t a master piper and wasn’t a good model. And those statements are way worse and unjustifiable from any standpoint of respect for the tradition as it happens to be. If you want a different tradition, then fine. But you’ve got a few generations to go before that happens, and it ain’t going to be achieved by people who haven’t got the idea of the rhythm in the first place. (Or, worse, maybe it is …)

Posted by .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Thanks for the "Green Gates" link, I enjoyed that…

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Read the OP again ethical. He asks a few simple questions and you would have him denounced as a heretic.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Tab, in the OP, Bernie asked, "Am I missing something?"

But on Clancy’s rhythm, he hasn’t demonstrated that he’s listened to a single answer here. He simply keeps insisting that Clancy’s rhythm is off.

The other possibility is that Bernie’s rhythm is off, of his ears at least. Funny that in another thread, Bernie was upset that another session player seemed unable or unwilling to take on board advice to improve his playing. Yet Bernie’s behaving the same way here….

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Jaysus but ye have a funny way of turning things back to front.He still thinks the rhythm is dodgy. Obviously Clancy was loved and still is.Bernie just wonders does he deserve the accolade of Master of the Pipes. It is a perfectly reasonable question.Nico gave good reasons why he should be and even the Prof at the very end gave us good stuff. If Bernies not convinced it sure as hell doesnt mean there something wrong with his shagging ears! It doesnt even mean he is wrong.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

No. The fact that he’s wrong is just an added bonus. :-)

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Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

LOL, Tab I’ll accept your "dodgy" assertion that all opinions are equal if you’ll accept that your opinion on this is wrong.

:-P :-D

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Seriously, I’m not arguing Bernie’s right to ask the question. I’m saying he’s done a poor job of listening to the answers. And he’s proven to be at least as patronizing as the worst of the repliers here.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I would say he was reacting strongly to the answers that came to his questions. Ethical has some ridiculous notion that the tradition is under threat by not liking Willie Clancy. I have, genuinely, met many people over the years who are underwhelmed by his piping.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Well, that would be a ridiculous notion all right. But since I’ve never said it (which I keep having to repeat ad nauseam), I’m not worried.

Posted by .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You have some nutty post above where you say that if you query his contribution you do not respect the tradition.Too much respect for a tradition is as bad as too little.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

It’s completely nonsensical to query his contribution to the tradition. It is what it is. Which is huge. That has nothing to do with whether you like his playing or not.

And you’re saying that respect is as bad as no respect? What??!?!!!

Posted by .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

His playing is his contribution.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Er … right. I don’t agree … But even if I did, so what?

Posted by .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Who do you respect when one opinion is as good as another?
Everyone?
No one?
I’m so confused…

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Sounds like I’ve confused you alright. Maybe I should start again..:-)

Mmmmmmmmooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

Bernie & Big_tab, you’re asking for a cheeseburger in a room full of sacred cows (and their adoring, vegan subjects). Everybody else…
Belt-loop Frankenstein
Chicken Dust
Shrimp-fried Suicide
OOGILLY-BOOGILLY ROBERT MOOGILLY!!!!!

There, that should put an end to it!

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

245 ~ :-/

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Does that include the ones that got shaven off just now?

Posted .

Is Willie Clancy now an ITM deity?

Master or not he has obviously reached the state of deity for some. I can’t wait till they start selling little buddha like figurines, playing the pipes, with Willie’s mischievous smile, and you could rub his brass bald head for luck. No doubt he’d have found a good chuckle here. I doubt he ever took himself as seriously as others have since… I also suspect he’d have been well aware of any foibles or rough bits in his playing, and would have been able to have a chuckle about that too…


My-my-my-my (U can’t touch this) music hits me so hard
Makes me say,"oh my lord thank you for blessing me
With a mind to rhyme and two hyped feet"
It feels good
When you know you’re sown
A superdope homeboy from the Oaktown
And I’m known as such
And this is a beat-uh! - U can’t touch this

I told you homeboy - U can’t touch this
Yeah, that’s how we livin’ and you know - U can’t touch this
Look in my eyes,man - U can’t touch this
Yo, let me bust the funky lyrics - U can’t touch this

Fresh new kicks and pants
You got it like that now you know you wanna dance
So move out of your seat
And get a fly girl and catch this beat
While it’s rolling - Hold on
Pump a little bit and let ‘em know it’s going on
Like that - Like that
Cold on a mission so fall on back
Let ‘em know that you’re too much
And this is a beat - They can’t touch

U Can’t Touch This ~ MC Hammer

U can’t touch this
U can’t touch this
U can’t touch this
Yeah,U can’t touch this
I told you, U can’t touch this
Too hype, can’t touch this
Yo, we outta here, can’t touch this…

Maybe instead a figurine along similar lines but like thos old 8-Ball things, you ask a question, give it a shake, and then turn it upside down and wait for the reply. It’s happening, I can see the edge, and you jiggle it a little more, and it rolls over and ~

"Skip a beat!"

And so does my heart, with a smile, whenever I set aside time to enjoy a listen to Willie’s take on things, appreciative of the rough and uneven too. There are no Gods of ITM for me, only great characters, and a few assholes, flawed and varied like the rest of us. And, like most of us here, getting great pleasure out of the music, good additional seasoning for a varied life. However, there do seem to be more people nowadays taking it VERY seriously, and sometimes losing touch with why folks like Willie were in love with the music in the first place ~ the ‘craic’, for the sheer enjoyment of it all, and the good company too…

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

If there were little Buddha-like figures of Willie Clancy, I imagine pipers would set up little shrines with them and pray to them every night for enlightenment and ingenuity in their own playing. I mean, it’s easier than practicing for hours a day every day, right?

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

They actually sold wall hanging relief images of the Clance and his pipes. Haven’t seen them for a long time though. I think the woman who sells the antiques during the Willie week had one last year.

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Yes! I want one, a WC buddha with pipes and grin. :-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I think I’d prefer a Paddy Keenan piping buddha, complete with big-brimmed hat. :-D

Posted .

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You could start a whole wee line of them — Keenan, Clancy, Maloney, Ennis, Reck, everyone. They’d become collectors items, or possibly chess pieces.

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

All the famous pipers would be the major pieces, king, queen, rooks, knights, and bishops, and you could have a bunch of little people with practice sets as pawns.

#255 ~

What’s the longest discussion on this site so far? :-/

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I think I need to go into business. Rev can do the T-shirts and I’ll do the graven images… :-D

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

A chessboard with all the pieces being pipers, except the pawns, they should just have whistles… Now I’m seeing a session full of instruments. What about a deck of cards, like the one they did for Saddham and his cohorts? Trading cards? ~ with bubble gum? With things always falling off of sets of pipes the bubble gum could have a practical application…

What were those things that they produced of rugby players down in Cymru/Wales? Groggs!!! Yes, that’s the thing to peddl, Groggs of well known an lesser known musicians. If that succeeded then we could move on to garden sized version…

http://www.groggs.co.uk/

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Piping gnomes! fae the garden….

Ok I will shutup now :-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Back to the chessboard ~ the pawns could all have practice sets, flat sets for the king and queen…

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Back to me grog… ;-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

I like the idea of the piping chess set Em. Best laugh I have had all night. I imagine those of us that don’t play the pipes would be at an instant disadvantage though. After all, to us all pipers look alike.

:-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

You mean old guys wearing tweeds and flat caps? ;)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

It is my enduring image of you! :-)

Re: Was Willie Clancy a master piper?

Willie Clancy ‘s playing?

…..a case of "The King is in his altogether" me thinks.