Session Etiquette in Northern California

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

And……..?

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Sorry. Don’t do Facebook.
And it’s blocked at work too.
I am going to assume that it states to leave your surfboard outside on the left side of the door so that it is easier to pick up when you are leaving.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

I’m not clear on what the previous posters were trying to get across, but the link takes you to a fine interview conducted by travel expert Rick Steves (his travel books are the best, IMHO, as are his TV shows). The interview is with the author of Field Guide to Irish Sessions. It runs about 30 minutes. There are also some notes by this author and two other knowledgeable lads that are in print. Easy to play and no Facebook access necessary. I don’t do Facebook, either. I enjoyed it all, although I don’t think there’s much new information for those who frequent this site. Still, Steves is well known and popular, so I was gratified and impressed that he covered the subject in a manner surprising for someone who isn’t as devoted to the subject as we are.

Posted by .

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Don’t bogart your weed, man - share it.
Don’t drop your roaches on the floor.
Don’t push negative energy into some else’s personal space.
Transvestites can play polkas too if they want to.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Nigel’s is a good guide, but I have one issue with it. "In Irish sessions, the convention is usually to play a tune three times. This gives anyone trying to learn the tune or more chance to pick it up."

"Pick it up" or, *learning tunes on the fly, can be really annoying to people who want to enjoy playing the tune and listeners alike. Unless you have extraordinary skills at doing this it shouldn’t be attempted. I personally dread sitting next to people who don’t know many tunes but insist on noodling along with every tune they don’t know. Also… most people think they are better at it than they actually are.

*learning tunes on the fly — debated at great length in this forum.

Re: Session Etiquette ~ Nigel Gatherer

I don’t see where Nigel Gather is suggesting anything of the sort, PB. He’s merely pointing out that playing each tune three times (or more) through is one more opportunity for learning a new tune. In it’s entirety the guide is very respectful of music & those who appreciate it.

Posted by .

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Nigel Gatherer certainly does write in a way that is respectful of others and their musical endeavors. Unlike Nigel, Phantom Button seems very concerned that those still learning a tune might disturb the flow of his music, even those he has yet to encounter.

In the OP facebook article, I quote three primary sources on the subject, including Phantom Button himself. This seems to have rattled him. Perhaps Phantom Button is the one tilting at windmills.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

If you are not %100 on a tune you can still get it the third time around often times. Or sometimes it takes a couple times before I actually recognize a tune. I also know people who can pick up tunes relatively quickly, and sometimes on the fly if the tune is simple enough.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

For the benefit of MorganYYZ and others,

"As a supporter of Celtic Concerts and Sessions, AmeriCeltic recognizes that we perform our music in public places at the pleasure of the management of the venue and its patrons.

However, if you have ever attended an Irish session, as opposed to a concert, you may have found yourself surprised at the differences. With some Irish sessions, one might well wonder whether one has accidentally disturbed a private party. AmeriCeltic strives for accuracy in its work, and recognizes the principal of using primary sources in journalism. To help explain why this is so, AmeriCeltic has collected a few comments from primary sources on this subject, beginning with the participants: those who play an instrument or sing at these sessions.

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The first comments come from Barry Foy, author of a book on the subject, Field Guide to the Irish Music Session.

On Rick Steves 03/13/2010 radio show ‘Travel with Rick Steves’, author and PBS Travel show host Rick Steves, interviewed Barry Foy about the book. A webcast of Rick Steves’ interview with Barry is available on Ricks website: www.ricksteves.com/radio/protected/descriptions.cfm?showID=277. Skip forward to 33:00 to hear the interview with Barry Foy. Barry Foy’s book has often been cited to us, but in different contexts, so that the actual intent of the author has never been clear to us.

To discover the true intent of the author, we forwarded the Harmony discussion to Barry Foy, pointed out his point from the interview on his book’s target audience, and invited Barry to comment, asking for permission to publish them. Barry responded, granted permission, and offered his comments below for the purpose of clarifying his intent in writing the book.

Barry Foy:
Thanks for your interest in my book and my opinions. Here are a few notes on the exchange of views you sent, in no particular order:

My book’s definition of ‘session’ was meant to encompass any non-concert gathering of Irish musicians, whether in a kitchen or at a pub or on a sandy beach, but some readers have taken it to refer strictly to pub sessions and have found fault in that. Perhaps I wasn’t precise enough in the way I framed the matter; one way or the other, that wasn’t the intent.

My trepidation isn’t about negative reactions, which I can certainly handle. It’s about inadvertently giving the impression that I fancy myself the supreme expert on sessions, a title and role that are essentially meaningless.

I don’t remember saying, in the Rick Steves interview, that the book was intended for the non-participants. What I may have said is that it’s ALSO intended for them, which is certainly true. But the primary audience is those who show up carrying an instrument.

AmeriCeltic:
At 36:10 in the Rick Steves interview, you said, "I had to kind of fire a shot across the bow right at the beginning of the book and say, ‘Look, I know I’m going to get looked at askance by people in Ireland, or in hot beds of Irish music, for even bringing up the idea of writing about a session, and writing a book about a session, and I was trying to talk to those people who aren’t at the epicenters of Irish music, and give them some idea of what they might see.’"

Barry:
This is an unscripted comment that could have been more precise. I chiefly meant aspiring session players there, rather than the punters; the sense of ‘see’ was what sort of protocols and objectives they’d encounter in a session and be expected to conform to.

AmeriCeltic:
Many host restaurants and publicans describe these gatherings as ‘Irish jam sessions’ and the like. You disapprove?

Barry:
Irish music will be better off once people stop associating the word ‘jam’ with it in any way (assume that someone who does, knows very little about the music in the first place). That word is freighted with far too many associations with other musics, whose values and protocols are worlds apart from those of Irish trad, to suit this context.

I’m 58 years old; I saw Jimi Hendrix play, and I can sing for you, note for note (God help us), Clapton’s solo from Cream’s live recording of Crossroads. So believe me, I know what a jam is, and this isn’t any such thing. You won’t show up at an Irish session and ‘jam’ to it any sooner than someone who has never picked up a spatula will walk into a kitchen and ‘jam’ an eggs Benedict (they’d probably try to put jam on it). I definitely prefer to trust the experts when it comes to Sunday brunch-why should I want any less from Irish music?

AmeriCeltic:
So, the target audience of your book is those who carry a musical instrument into a session unaware of what to expect?

Barry:
It’s worth asking where anyone gets the notion that he can saunter in on a spell of music making by devoted, diligent players of a particular music and essentially try to remake it in his own image, on the spot. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to answer that question. The fact is, Irish music, like any handed-down music, is full of strictures and borders and prohibitions, and it signals its distinctive identity by treading a finite number of well-worn paths. That scenario won’t appeal to everyone; some may find it inhibiting, a threat to their self-expressive impulse. Luckily, the world is large, and there’s likely some other form of music that would suit those people better. If so, the players of Irish trad welcome them to pursue that other music, and we promise not to impose our own standards on it. In the meantime, we’ll try to make the most of our sometimes limited opportunities to play this music in the way we learned to play it, and have a good time doing it.

I guess if I had to pick one sentence from Field Guide to the Irish Music Session that matters most, it would be this, from page 52: "The fact that you are holding a musical instrument in your hands at a session does not automatically entitle you to play it."

AmeriCeltic:
Is there anything you would like to share with AmeriCeltic and Harmony list readers?

Barry:
I don’t have any particular feelings about that kind of forum — whatever works for the participants is fine with me. I suppose the only caution I’d make is to remind people that participating in a chat room is not the same as participating in Irish music; playing the music is about playing the music, not just talking about it and dropping names of players and groups and festivals.

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This second comment is from Shay Black, who leads the Sunday session at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, CA, and is about those who play rhythm instruments in his session.

"I just want to add my input into the recent discussion of rhythm instruments in Irish tune sessions.

I am a guitar player and run an Irish session on a regular basis. It is an open session, which means open to anyone that wants to join in, provided they already know how to play Irish traditional music. That last half-sentence is important. There is nothing worse than sitting beside someone who is a “noodler”. Noodling is trying to keep up (and failing) because others are playing faster, not knowing the tune and guessing at it, or playing “harmony”. Please, people, do not do that. If you don’t know a tune or can’t keep up, don’t play. It spoils it for everyone.

Irish music traditionally is everybody playing lead all the time. There actually is no harmony as traditional Irish music does not have a history of rhythmic background structure per se, apart from some classical Carolan or harp tunes. It was really Sean O Riada and subsequently Paddy Moloney from the Chieftains who started that trend, developing into the music of great groups like The Bothy Band. So if you go into a session with a guitar, no one can tell you that you are playing “wrong”. There is no wrong. There is no right for that matter. That said Irish music bands these days do have guitar and bouzouki players who play chordal background. In our band (The Black Brothers) we have banjo and fiddle playing lead, and I play guitar backing, but we also have a piano and cello and we spend a *long* time working on backing tune chords that do not clash with each other, or the music.

In my open session, how the music sounds often depends on who walks in the door carrying a guitar. That can be a blessing or a curse. Because our session is open, I try to share chords with other rhythm players, because if I am playing a ‘C’ when someone else is playing ‘G’, then that is a recipe for musical disaster. Most of the other guitarists at my session work at copying my chords. Why? Because it’s *my* session and I call the chords, that’s why. Sometimes when I am not playing, I am gratified to hear the lovely and talented Dave Sahn playing the back-up with chords that he learned from me. I note him studiously watching everything I do, especially with new tunes, so he doesn’t clash with me. Experienced players can actually bounce chords off each other once they are familiar with each other’s style. I played in an Irish band called Garva in England and I loved playing with my bouzouki-playing colleague Tony Gibbons. We worked on our chords and bounced off each other to great effect.

On the other hand, there are people who join us in The Starry and who I can see are playing different chords on guitar and are off in their own musical fairyland. Yes, the basic chords add rhythm to the music but when others (like me or Dave) are also playing what we usually play every Sunday, it is a clamorous unmusical clash. I can totally understand why other musicians hate it and get impatient. I do.

In order to vary the music, we now have instituted an “advanced Sunday session” at the Starry Plough on first Sundays. On these nights, the main players (not me) decide who will play rhythm backing, and they only want one (named) person doing it. I often have my guitar with me on those nights, but is stays in its case because I don’t wish to compete with Lewis or Will or Richard or Burke who are doing a bang-on excellent job on rhythm guitar already. I would only mess it up. Similarly with bodhrans: just because one is great doesn’t mean two is more great. I have heard sessions where there are excellent tune players, but all one can hear is an amorphous diddly-diddly white noise because of the six bodhrans also thumping away.

Someone mentioned the booklet “A Field Guide to the Irish Session” by Barry Foy. While often written tongue-in-cheek and even fiddlers and concertina players come in for some slagging from Barry, it’s basically good advice. Another succinct source on the subject comes from the Plough and Stars website, and this was put together by the illustrious Jack Gilder.

He says: “Bodhran, guitar, bouzouki and piano players would benefit greatly by approaching seisiuns (Irish music sessions) very cautiously. These instruments have been given a bad name by insensitive hackers. Many people have the misconception that these instruments are the easiest to play. What they fail to realize is that the effect of these instruments on a seisiun is profound. The rhythm and tonal landscape of the music is what everyone is riding on, and if you’re playing an instrument that is the essence of this then you need to be spot on or you’ll throw everyone off. You might think you sound great when you’re at home playing with your CDs but keep in mind that the CDs can’t hear you. The understanding of how to "back up" Irish traditional music isn’t anything that comes overnight. If you’re interested in these instruments the best thing to do is find folks that do know how to play them well, then listen and watch. Also, two guitars or bodhrans in a seisiun are too many. If you are an experienced player on these instruments try taking turns rather than playing over each other. Do your part to protect the integrity of instruments that are actually fine contributors to the music.“

In my own session I have often been accused of suffering fools TOO gladly. Experienced musicians eventually vote with their feet and remove themselves to other sessions because they don’t want to play alongside a noodler or a thumping bodhran or guitar. I walk a line of trying to play good music in that open bar, while encouraging developing musicians, and it’s a very fine line. People are very sensitive around the issue of talent and musicianship. They often can’t hear that what they are doing doesn’t work. I know this is very subjective. There have been tears and harsh words and walk-outs and flame email wars. But we have been playing Irish music in the same bar on the same night for nearly twenty years, and most times, it’s really great. But for those of you out there who are working on their own chords that work well for tunes to their ears and don’t see a need to change that, please start up your own session. We really can’t have too much Irish music, and diversity in styles, leadership, levels of accomplishment, and types of instruments are very welcome. ~ Shay"

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The third is from Jack Gilder, one of the anchors of the Sunday session at the Plough & Stars in San Francisco.

"I’m in agreement with Shay on this. I made a page that’s linked to the Plough & Stars website about session etiquette, but it was aimed specifically at the people who come to that venue. I tried to give anyone interested an idea of what to expect when they come on session nights to the Plough in hopes of everyone being able to enjoy it and maybe gaining a little insight into what makes it tick. As for sessions elsewhere, they would need to establish their own MO for what they want it to be… so it’s really impossible to have any universal set of guidelines. I posted the following on the session.org as part of a response to what someone said, but it sums up how I feel in general.

I asked Charlie Lennon about sessions when he was visiting one night years ago here in SF, and he said that he gets questions about sessions from people outside of Ireland and rarely in Ireland itself. He said at the end of the day it’s just a matter of making sure you don’t interfere with the flow of the music. I think if you truly stick to that concept you can’t go wrong regardless of the differences from one session to the next."

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To add balance to this discussion, AmeriCeltic is seeking comment from two other major stakeholders: First, the owners of these public venues, including the restaurant owners and publicans, and second, their patrons, including those who patronize these establishments, and do NOT bring an instrument or their voice in hopes of participating in the session. If you would like to comment, please email americeltic@gmail.com.

Slainte!"

And some previous history…

"On the History of Celtic Sessions" https://thesession.org/discussions/28738
"On the interest of the Publican" https://thesession.org/discussions/28766

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

From Shay Black: "So if you go into a session with a guitar, no one can tell you that you are playing “wrong”. There is no wrong. There is no right for that matter."

I’m sorry, but what?

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Lots of dejavue again here

David

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Indeed there is David, indeed there is…

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

The phrase "preaching to the choir" comes to mind…..

(and if you don’t know the tune, stop noodling! I’m in agreement with Jack on that one)

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Na éisc writes: "I don’t see where Nigel Gather is suggesting anything of the sort, PB. He’s merely pointing out that playing each tune three times (or more) through is one more opportunity for learning a new tune. In it’s entirety the guide is very respectful of music & those who appreciate it."

Did you read my post? I said his Guide was good and I only had "one issue." I quoted him and he clearly indicates picking up tunes at sessions is acceptable and playing a tune 3 times facilitates that. He said, "This gives anyone trying to learn the tune or more chance to pick it up." I would say that might be true for sessions where learning tunes is the objective, but I wouldn’t subject my tune-learning to people who enjoy playing the tunes… or people who might enjoy listening. It’s crucial to sus out a session first and see if people are noodling along as a matter of course before you try it.

The idea of not playing tunes you don’t know seems to upset people though. I think one contributing factor might be that people who don’t know many tunes might feel they aren’t having fun if they can’t noodle along with tunes trying to "pick them up." Otherwise they might sit with their instrument on their lap all night. I’ve done this, and until I thought about it more I sometimes felt frustrated. I have noodled along with tunes and got funny looks from other musicians at sessions I went to as a novice. I didn’t mean to put people off… but intent doesn’t change the effect. These days, the only time I’ll attempt to pick up tunes at sessions is if I’m familiar enough to do it without guessing where it’s going. This usually means that I sat listening without playing many times when the tune was played previously at other sessions. If a tune is complex and unpredictable I won’t attempt it until I have sat and made it my own at home first.

If you think picking up tunes on the fly is a good idea… don’t say I didn’t warn you the day you wander into a session where the response might not be what you were counting on. I have learned this the hard way. Also… many musicians are too polite to say anything… your behavior at sessions is your responsibility.

Playing a tune 3 times is common, but you will find sessions were people will play tunes more times just because they’re enjoying it… not because they want to facilitate noodlers.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

i go to sessions where we play through tunes only once because we love the music so much that we want to fit as many tunes into one night as possible

Posted .

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

How about "when in Rome do as the Romans do" ? Not necessarily what you do at home - or read on the internet about somewhere else.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Or as as Nigel Gatherer puts it "Every session has its unique unspoken rules…"

I think Nigel’s was the first such summary that I came across but I only just re-read it. So far I have not come across a session where it would not apply. But then, I don’t live in California.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

PB, I understand the problem with noodling as I think Nigel does too. And, yes, I always read every bit of your comments to which I respond.

Posted by .

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

JAYSUS! (well if we’re going to use ‘quasi’ words like ‘seisiun’ I can surely spell the Almighty’s name a bit different now too?)
Two things stand out amongst the sound of people disappearing up certain orifices (oiriphisheannaigh or whatever to make it sound authentic)
"It’s worth asking where anyone gets the notion that he can saunter in on a spell of music making by devoted, diligent players of a particular music and essentially try to remake it in his own image, on the spot. "

I’ve been playing sessions since the late 1970s and still don’t feel myself qualified to say that I have THE definitive unalterable sound of a particular tune. Many many times I’ve heard a tune transformed by someone changing a major chord to a minor; are we to bar individual players who bring their own personalities or styles to tunes? Of course not, the music is a living flowing evolving thing.

"The fact is, Irish music, like any handed-down music, is full of strictures and borders and prohibitions, and it signals its distinctive identity by treading a finite number of well-worn paths."

Doomed to die away then. He’s not talking about the Irish music I know. But then - since I’ve played guitar and bouzouki / mandola-type things as a soloist, playing all kinds of jigs and reels and not just as an accompanying chordist but as the main tune-carrier with which believe it or not our flautist and fiddle-player harmonise - I’ve turned things on their traditional, regulated and restricted head and so am not qualified to comment.

(What’s the Oirish for ‘tongue-in-cheek, by the way?)

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

I am in agreement with most here. Don’t noodle away if you don’t know the tune. If you don’t know it, write it down, and there are plenty of websites nowadays that you can noodle with it online. I understand that the best way to practice a tune is by playing it with others, but you can look up tunes on youtube or comhaltas, practice the tune with videos, get it down pact, and they play it nicely at the session with your friends.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

"What’s the Oirish for ‘tongue-in-cheek?"

Póg m…

Sorry - Did I misunderstand the question?

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Tom, thank you for posting the work.
The best time of day to access the site is during breaks at work but they block so many things (such as YouTube) so an entire article such as that is just off-limits. And with all the hair-pulling to keep the kiddies off the FaceScreen, I really have a hatred for that site. I probably should go discuss it with someone and unburden myself but the therapist would want me to like them on Facebook so I’ll be back where I started. I guess it’s like a book because they keep reading about all the exciting things other people are doing.
And, there are only so many clicks in these old fingers.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Strange not even a mention of reading music at the session. While I am not fundamentally against it, I recently co-hosted a one time session and somebody showed up with a stack of books and a music stand. "Do you know this one?" — flipping pages …. "Can’t say that I do" …. "How about this one?" —-grabs another book and frantically flips the pages…. "No but how’s about you play that one and then we go into something everybody knows, followed by something else everyone knows, right after it? Ok then."

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

@Footerin’About - you are a man after my own heart. The challenge for me in particular is that I’m well known because of my AmeriCeltic newsletter. Worse, I’m a melody playing guitarist and singer, and it generally assumed that I will play only chords as a rhythm accompaniment and sing too many songs. When I visit a new session, it takes a while before the regulars realize I’m playing the tune right along with them and generally fitting into the established pattern.

The larger problem here in Northern California seems to be a small minority who assume the worst about anyone new, based on too many bad experiences and decreasing tolerance for same. PB tends this way, but my faith in the ultimate good in human nature has kept me trying to get through to him, in the expectation he will finally ‘get it’ and open up his cold, cold heart.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

"The larger problem here in Northern California seems to be a small minority who assume the worst about anyone new, based on too many bad experiences and decreasing tolerance for same. "

Back when the Cooley/Keegan branch hosted the international ceoltas convention, was it about 20 years ago, two very excellent musicians from the east coast just had to go to The Plow, because it is, like, internationally famous, you know. I warned them about that attitude you mention, but they scoffed. On later communication with one of them I was told I understated the scorn that was heaped upon them. Save one of our four Marin/Sonoma County sessions, I don’t think we would be characterized that way. In my experience, the suspicion does seem limited to San Francisco. I have never played on the Peninsula or South Bay.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

FooterinAbout writes: "JAYSUS! (well if we’re going to use ‘quasi’ words like ‘seisiun’ I can surely spell the Almighty’s name a bit different now too?)"

How errantly pedandtric… I always laugh when I see people dismissing spellings like "Seisiun" and "Craic." I first saw "seisiun" in Ireland being used in publications and in front of pubs letting people know about when they were happening—and I still see it being used. I also see "craic" being used by Irish people in various places, many times from friends of mine in Ireland on facebook and such. I suppose I should instruct them on the proper use of their language. lol

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Been through two generations of barkeeps at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, CA. Lots of guitars at sessions in Berkeley. Thought that was the norm. Moved to Portland, OR. Lots of fiddles at sessions, very few guitars. Always liked Shay Black. That’s all I know. I’m not very sophisticated, but love the food at the Starry Plough and at the sessions in Portland … especially the fries and raw oysters.

Fin.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Na éisc, I’ve seen that letter… it doesn’t change the fact that the two words are used in Ireland and by Irish people. I’m not about to start handing out copies of Fintan’s letter every time I see it or hear those terms. I’m also not about to start lecturing to people who use those terms about how "wrong" they are to use them. If I told you who I’ve heard using them I’d be accused of name dropping… but let’s just say they are just as legitimately Irish.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Tony Becker (AmeriCeltic) writes; "PB tends this way, but my faith in the ultimate good in human nature has kept me trying to get through to him, in the expectation he will finally ‘get it’ and open up his cold, cold heart."

This is hilarious. Tony, I don’t know what drives you to do what you do, but you aren’t going to find many people in the local trad community who agree with your assessment. I have never played in a session with you, but the stories about your crashing of south bay sessions and insisting they adhere to your Round Robin song singing expectations and out-of-context guitar banging are legendary. I didn’t know you until you emailed me for advice regarding your experiences, but after investigating the details from session regulars in that area I had no problem understanding why you were having problems. What you were actually looking for from me was vindication, but I suppose I let you down after learning for myself what transpired. I tried to help nonetheless, but your tenaciousness about being "right" overpowered your better judgement and you refused to accept anything other than your misguided preconceptions. Now you seek to do the same on this website, and you might have better success than you had with me, but I don’t know if personally attacking me on a public forum is going to render the results you’re seeking.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

‘"It’s worth asking where anyone gets the notion that he can saunter in on a spell of music making by devoted, diligent players of a particular music and essentially try to remake it in his own image, on the spot. "

I’ve been playing sessions since the late 1970s and still don’t feel myself qualified to say that I have THE definitive unalterable sound of a particular tune. Many many times I’ve heard a tune transformed by someone changing a major chord to a minor; are we to bar individual players who bring their own personalities or styles to tunes? Of course not, the music is a living flowing evolving thing.’

@Footerin: Perhaps I am reading meanings into it that were not intended, but my impression was that Barry Foy’s comment refers to those musicians who come to a session with little or no prior knowledge or understanding of traditional music yet, instead of taking a passive stance and learning what they can, resolve to join in and try to impose their own alien musical aesthetic. I think I can tell from your comments (and from the fact that you are bothering to read and comment on this thread) that you do not fit that description. There may be a handful of traditional musicians out there (I’m not sure I’ve met one yet) that are so narrow minded as to believe that there is only one correct way to play this music, but I don’t think Barry Foy is one.

Re: ‘seisiún’
I’ve never found any use for the word, personally - people know, from context, what I mean when I say (or write) ‘session’. But it’s nothing more than a transliteration of the ‘English’* word, based on Irish (Gaeilge/Gaelic) spelling rules, and with respect to Irish phonology. It’s the way an Irish speaker would naturally say the word in their language and it’s so close to the English version, why bother to change it when speaking English? I’m not Irish and nor do I speak the language, so I pronounce it the English way.

*’session’ comes ultimately from Latin sedere - ‘to sit’, so it means something like ‘a sitting’. In most senses, musical and non-musical, it implies a period of staying in one place. Incidentally, the Welsh word ‘eisteddfod’ has a similar derivation, coming from eistedd - ‘to sit’ (although an eisteddfod is a *very* different affair from a session [sesiwn ;-)]).

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

@ PB What drives me is the love of the music, and as I wrote, faith in the positive side of human nature.

Please consider opening your heart, and perhaps, one day before we both die, we can play some Irish music together.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Re: ‘seisiún’… sure it’s just an Irishized spelling of an English word… but who cares? I don’t understand why people get so worked up over it. It might have been someone’s idea for a way to distinguish an Irish session from other sessions. That’s why I use it.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Tony… my heart is already open. People feel very welcome at sessions I’m hosting. The issues that put me off with visitors isn’t unique to myself. In the 25 years I’ve been hosting sessions I can count on one hand the times I had to ask anyone to stop what they’re doing. The vast majority of people who come to the session aren’t trying to impose their personal expectations on us. Everyone has been very polite and engaging with what we’re doing when they sit down to join in. So telling me to "open my heart" is a moot point. I just hope you understand at some stage what went wrong at the sessions where you had bad experiences so it isn’t repeated.

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I like to play a particular style of music a particular way, and tend to gather with friends who share that goal. When folks wander up with a different goal in mind, we tend to try to steer them in the right direction, which usually does not involve them jumping into the middle of things the very first time they show up. Does that mean my "heart is closed?" Is the pathway to salvation and enlightenment denied to me because of the darkness that lurks within?
This is perhaps the oddest discussion I have seen around here in quite some time…

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

I certainly agree. It seems very odd to me too.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

I have honestly heard people pick up tunes on the fly and play them well. I have also had the experience of hearing a tune that I had never played but had heard endless times and finding it fell under the fingers by the third time round. When this happened I tried to play quietly and not disturb other people until I was sure I had it. Of course I have also heard people make a loud wince-inducing hash of a tune by trying to play it, and I may have done that myself a time or two- (though I don’t remember any complaints). This doesn’t mean that picking tunes up on the fly is impossible or even an unreasonable objective though.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

No, outwesht… I did say it’s possible if you review my comments, and I said I have done it myself under the same circumstances you describe. What I’m talking about is how some people do it on nearly every tune they don’t know. And the people you notice doing this are generally people without a very big repertoire. Others with lots of tunes and years of experience are better at doing this, but since they already know most of the tunes you don’t notice the rare occasions when they try it. People who don’t know many tunes and are often attempting this usually think they’re better at it than they actually are. I was guilty of this early on and I cringe when I think of how annoying I was. I stopped doing it after my first visit to Ireland when I put some distance between myself and our local bad habits. I’m not the only one that had this epiphany. These days most of us listen when we don’t know the tune and either work it out on our own or wait until it’s come up at sessions enough that it’s well into our heads and we aren’t guessing where it’s going and it seems to fall into our fingers.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California ~ “These days most of us listen when we don’t know the tune …”

& the choir responds, "Hallelujah!"

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it’s just a loanword, no biggie

Those posers over at Comhaltas have the nerve to put out a series of books (gasp-with sheet music) titled Foinn Seisiún

I dearly wish some of the people who think they have the capacity to pick up tunes on the fly actually did. And the ones who actually can, well, they’re usually so good and well-versed I’m never sure if they’re actually learning the tune, or calling it to mind.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California — Noodling finally explained by science

I don’t log on for (years?) and … what’s going on right in my back yard? Geez — Am I not entertained?

PB: >> "most people think they are better at it than they actually are."

Haven’t you ever wondered how that works? I have a lot and then found this:

http://m.today.duke.edu/2013/09/volumecontrol

Long story short: Our lower motor cortex is wired to our auditory cortex so that when a signal for any muscle movement goes down the spine, a signal also goes to the auditory cortex which inhibits the processing of the resulting sound.

So, noodlers and other session wreckers physiologically can’t hear themselves the same way people around them do.

Not that that’s an excuse. I guess experience and practice gets us past this?

p.s.
>> "…open up his cold, cold heart."
I can’t comment on this without being insulting to AmeriCelt. Maybe we could just get PB’s heart a little sweater and call it good. It’d be all happy and fuzzy and comfy…

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

I’ve got mixed feelings about noodling. Personally, I can’t stand it. I will avoid sessions with noodlers, and I remember leaving a few sessions through the years where noodling was unbearable. But the thing is, and correct me if I’m wrong, without noodling we would not have the big repertoire of Irish music we’ve got today. Many farmers and friends used to sit together in Ireland and elsewhere and would slowly absorb a tune by noodling a couple of times, week after week, until they got the tune right… they would then transmit the tune the same way to other people. Even though with technology today it’s totally possible to learn tunes without noodling, I feel kind of bad about dismissing a tool that’s been used for a long time to transmit tunes within the oral tradition.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Willy, why do you think it’s only the technology of today that makes it possible to learn tunes without noodling? Your image of people of the past sitting around noodling for weeks just doesn’t ring true.

Somebody in the community could play the tune. Other people could hear it, memorise it and then play it. Competent players can pick up a simple tune and play it the second or third time through, on the fly. Why would there be any need for weeks of noodling?

Posted .

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Well, I’m basing my view on my experience at a few sessions with old timers in Ireland, but it’s just my personal experience and certainly might not represent reality. Having someone play a tune while everybody listens doesn’t ring true to me, based on this.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

If I start a tune and nobody joins in I will play it slowly to encourage people who are capable of that sort of thing to pick it up. Doesn’t bother me any more than somebody "memorizing" a tune and playing it badly anyway.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

I can’t work out if some people have a very narrow experience of sessions or are campaigning strongly in favour of a particular approach.

I have only been going to pub sessions for a few years but I have encountered sessions that I guess are a bit like Phantom Button’s, where I sit on the edge and join in quietly on the few tunes that I feel really confident about; but at those I have seen people do what Earl describes. I have been to ad-hoc sessions when there were visitors and decided that it was above my pay grade, but where after telling me "you can’t bring an instrument to a session and not play" everyone has been happy to play a few well known tunes that I can join in on. Also sessions (admittedly with a mainly anglo-scottish repertoire) where one of the leaders has said "this is an easy one to pick up as you go along, give it a try". People are normally friendlier than depicted here and the world seem more as Nigel Gatherer describes.

I know its often tricky on the internet but I can’t work out if that bit about PB’s cold hard is just slagging or not. It’s not the way I read his posts here.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

"Cold, cold heart" is a reference to the Hank Williams song of the same name", his biggest hit.

http://youtu.be/Wn2e4Dhod7M


"…But you’re afraid every single thing I do is just some evil scheme…"

Re: AmeriCeltic’s serenade in Northern California

"There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me."
:-/

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Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

It would be an allusion.

Re: An allusion, in Northern California

There’s always someone that can melt your heart. It as good a reason as any to head to the woodlands, up above the fog, just up from the coast. ;)

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Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Your comments on noodling and picking up tunes on the fly are all interesting in that they come from people who (I’m guessing) spend a lot of time at sessions and know a lot of tunes, but to someone who hasn’t had that opportunity they strike me as discouraging. As a trained classical musician, I fully understand your sentiments against playing alongside people who are less familiar with the music. How would you recommend someone begin attending sessions if they don’t know many tunes? Is it really necessary to build a large personal repertory through online resources and books before one can ever bring an instrument to a session and actually participate?

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

In the session I co-host, we have players that know 5 tunes, and players that know 500+ tunes. We try to accommodate all levels, but one of the basic guidelines for those who regularly participate in the session is "play the tunes you know, don’t play the tunes you don’t know". i.e. no noodling. And generally, with the exception of the occasion transient visitor who may play in sessions with different rules, I don’t often have to say anything about it, it’s just understood and appreciated.

If someone requests a specific tune they’d like to learn, I’ll generally make a recording for them or refer them to a reference recording I learned the tune from.

If they do the work to learn just one tune a week this way, they pretty soon have a much more useful repertoire. We do what we can to support those who really want to learn. Over time those who are willing to do the work also reap the benefit of being able to participate more in the session.

So far, this seems to have worked pretty well for us.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Elizabeth G asks: "How would you recommend someone begin attending sessions if they don’t know many tunes? Is it really necessary to build a large personal repertory through online resources and books before one can ever bring an instrument to a session and actually participate?"

It’s different depending where you are and what sort of sessions are available to go to. If the session is more of a learning session and tunes are played slowly deliberately to accommodate beginners and novices — that’s your session. If there are a lot of experienced players in the area you might have sessions where the tunes are flying and a lot of uncommon tunes are played — that’s one to go and listen to. Eventually, if you keep at it, you will find yourself in the latter.

Everyone has to learn, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Most of us have put in our time just listening at sessions and woodshedding at home. I have attended many slow sessions over the years, but not for a long time now… but they were very useful. After 30 years of experience I know most of the tunes at local sessions now, but I still find myself listening a lot if I travel to places like Ireland. I haven’t been to NY or Boston, so I don’t know what my experience there would be. But the bottom line is that you don’t want to disrupt the flow of the music regardless of your experience or ability at whatever session you go to.

Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

Last sentence there, from PB - "But the bottom line is that you don’t want to disrupt the flow of the music regardless of your experience or ability at whatever session you go to".
As far as I’m concerned, you have there the only session "rule" that matters, and it applies to any session of any style of traditional music, anywhere.

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Re: Session Etiquette in Northern California

"Is it really necessary to build a large personal repertory through online resources and books…?"
Elizabeth G, if I was you I’d also introduce myself to people who know a few or, or several, tunes. You never know who may be willing, even wanting, to play a few tunes for you (one on one) in hopes of passing on their appreciation of those tunes. If you’re so fortunate please give them your undivided attention & you’ll be taking your first steps to beginning a seemingly small but rewarding repertoire.

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