Why So Fast?!

Why So Fast?!

I don’t listen to a great deal of Irish trad by recording artists, some, but mostly I just like session music. What I do listen to is usually the older stuff like Planxty or De Dannan or Bothy Band and some others. Of the older groups, Bothy Band tends to play at a pretty fast clip, but overall most of them seem to play in a way where the melody is recognizable.

I was just on Pandora and plugged in a few artists to create a station, and, one after another, all these more recent recordings kept coming up on tune sets from the likes of Altan and Dervish that are just played constantly at this breakneck pace and there’s little to no respect for the melody and even being able to recognize it. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but the melody is the thing for me. Some of this stuff sounds as if Ingwe Maalmsteen were playing it, and I just can’t wrap my interest around it. Blazing fast playing that serves almost no purpose than to ego-stroke the player for how many notes they can cram into a second.

I know this type of thing has been brought up here before, but it never ceases to amaze me. Is this what people want to hear? Fast playing with little to no respect paid to the melody of the tune?

Re: Why So Fast?!

Jimmy, I’ll agree that Dervish’s pace can leave me cold, I think you’re overstating it a bit to say that this suggests they don’t respect the melody. They’re brilliant players, quite capable of playing with nyah at speed. So sometimes they go overboard. I don’t think they lack respect for the music.

And I’ve never heard Altan play “too fast.” Yes, they crank it out, but it’s well in control and full of pulse and lift, in the Donegal style.

Maybe it’s just us old geezers slowing down, between the ears. 😉

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Re: Why So Fast?!

Overstating? Fair play, Will. I’m not familiar with those artists on any regular basis, I was just listening to several recordings that came up at fairly low volume and just felt like I was being assaulted by notes. I’m not saying they don’t honor the tunes (I simply don’t know them well enough), it was just a feeling I got from what I heard. Of course they’re brilliant players, that’s obvious enough, I just got this vibe that they key was impressing people with their amazing playing and less about the tradition or the tunes. Just an observation.

Re: Why So Fast?!

Altan, Derish, Danu, and bands of that sort are part of a living tradition, in the sense that the tradition of a stage band consisting of three or four melody players, two accompanists, and singer goes all the way back to the Bothy Band, and stops there - and most of the Bothies are still with us.

This is not session music, it’s not music played by half a dozen people sitting around a table having a time, and listened to out of one ear by people who’ve gone out to the pub for a beer with their friends.
It’s not dance music, it’s not meant to provide a rhythm for people concentrating mostly on what they’re doing with their feet.
It’s music played specifically for an audience who are doing nothing but listening to it, and generally not an audience who are tremendously familiar with the tunes. (If you only played to people who play the tunes, you’d starve before Thursday) So it becomes a show, a dramatic presentation. That’s the game of being a stage band. So be it - it can sound really great, but it’s its own thing. It’s not session music.

Re: Why So Fast?!

Jon -

I understand and appreciate that. I just don’t care for it. I like Bothy Band, but honestly not as much as other groups of that ilk, and that’s mainly because they do an awful lot of the breakneck pace. I do appreciate the caliber of playing, and a great deal, it’s just that I don’t prefer it. And, in my own view, it’s more a dramatic presentation of how fast the musician can play. That’s my main observation, and why I don’t care for it.

Re: Why So Fast?!

I’m right there with you, Jimmy.

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Re: Why So Fast?!

Some local styles are faster than others. Donegal style fiddling does tend to be quite fast. The same can be said of Shetland fiddling. You might not like the speed they are playing at but it is very much respectful of the tunes and the tradition. That is the speed it is often meant to be played at.

Also some tunes sound better played really fast. Other tunes sound better slowed down a bit. There are tunes that are killed if you play them too fast but others that just do not work slower.

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Fair enough, I agree with your taste. I can enjoy a concert by those bands, but I’d rather be at a session, or listening to one or two great players in a quiet room.

Re: Why So Fast?!

If I play a tune at full speed, chances are it’s crap, but like Alistair said, there are styles which tend to be quite fast and speed works if the player can keep the rhythm, phrasing, and lift through it. I get fecked off with high speeds at sessions as a lot of people can’t play at the speed they’re playing at, but it’s great fun when you hear someone who can.

Re: Why So Fast?!

Jon,

Ah yes, I do enjoy a nice solo fiddler or flutist.

Re: Why So Fast?!

Speed.

The contradiction of ITM. Wise counsel from folks here and from those I respect to play slow. Then you show up in public and everyone is clipping along.

Bothy Band Reels and Martin Hayes Reels…. ying and yang?

Its amazing though. I will do 10-15 minutes a day working to as close to session speed as I can get. Go lessons with John, revert to nice anslow and attempt at steady… and he spots it right away.

But how do you get to speed without getting the muscle memory ready for it?

Slow and steady gives you the technique nad the ‘flow’. To do speed, the mind has to stay out of it. One stray thought at speed and its a brain fart!

Re: Why So Fast?!

btw, that 10 to 15 minutes is after an hour and a half of attempts at slow and steady. I do take that advice….

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Well, fast isn’t too bad. Matt Molloy can be the fastest flute player out there, but his notes are still clear and crisp. I have seen the Bothy Band play just as fast as Dervish. But Dervish has a lot of nice, slow tunes as well in there mix up. I fancy both kinds.

Re: Why So Fast?!

I meant “their”

Re: Why So Fast?!

Well yes, the Bothy Band took it as far as it should go
I think, and Early Altan at a push !

But is seems, you either play for you ego,
or for the Beauty of the music like video below..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga4qocQkH0A


jim,,,

Re: Why So Fast?!

LOL - that one at every opportunity, Jim! Some of the Kelly clan
are coming to play at our Natl Folk Festival - can’t wait.

When you hear somebody who can crank it like Paddy Keenan
or Mairtin O’Connor - it’s good fun.

I’ll get crucified for saying this, but Matt Malloy gets out of
control and loses the pulse too often to my ears. Maybe it’s
that Sligo style of flute playing. Harry Bradley can spit out
lotsa notes too but the pulse always rules.

Re: Why So Fast?!

Wow, those are some of my favorites. I’ve been a Danu fan since their first CD and a fan of Dervish before that. I love the high octane energy and find the pace of most session music kind of dull unless the tunes are ones I really like. Most reels played slow/moderate bore me to tears. Can I play at breakneck speed well? Not as well as I’d like but itsa commin’. Jimmy do ya like this?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-MrUX03mWM

Re: Why So Fast?!

I listen to lots of Dervish, Lunasa, Altan, Danu and Solas. I’ve seen the first three play live and while they do play a lot of fast tunes, there are alot of songs and moderate tunes in there as well (except for Lunasa who don’t do songs). I like a mix, but my pet peeve is going to a session and everyone’s trying to play at break neck speed because they think that’s what everyone wants to hear, but it usually just comes out sloppy.

Re: Why So Fast?!

OP:
Why?

It is played that fast because it is not for dancing.

It is for listening, and gauged to the taste
of the performers and their audience.

It is what the people, many of them, want.
Else they would not do it, because there
would be no money in doing it.

Or am I missing something?
😏

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Re: Why So Fast?!

Well if nothing else, Shanty, we can agree that Danu are good.

And are people picking up on Caladh Nua who apparently are being championed by Danu? Fairly moderate pace and simple arrangements.

Re: Why So Fast?!

ian

could it be that so many of us players are getting older and, as Herself reminds me when I complain about lightinging fast fiddle players blowing through tunes at break neck speed, “…you don’t have the synapes of eighteen to twentisomethings anymore!”

Probably more experience with “12 ounce curls” though! Which Herself also reminds me I have done too many }.

Re: Why So Fast?!

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Re: Why So Fast?!

damned smilies and emiticons. never work when you want them to! 😉

Re: Why So Fast?!

Perhaps it was just the tunes that Pandora picked out then. I just found my head swimming and not really enjoying what I heard. Oh well.

BTW, I’m not complaining about fast playing in general, just when it seems to be more about the technical wizardry than the music.

Re: Why So Fast?!

From my perspective, the music can get too fast on occasion, but not too often. The music takes on a new quality when it is fast.

It is like the difference between a pretty train ride through the countryside versus a ride on a rollercoaster. Each has its own purpose. Sometimes it’s great fun to be taken on the twisting, turning excitement of the speed – even when you know the tune, the movement of the melody takes on a whole new dimension of “surprise” when it jukes jives, and dances at a great clip. All the same, there is a lot to be discovered by listening to a slow, soulful rendition of a tune.

The key, for me at least, is the variety. And so when I hear music played fast, I appreciate it for taking me on a wild ride, and when it’s played slow, I marvel at all the wonderful bits. And everything in between. If I had to live with any given tune just played one way, I would go bonkers after a while…

Re: Why So Fast?!

Bravo Reverend!!!!