Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Folk music in Germany is completely out of fashion. The young generation prefers electronic music or writes English songs. The rest enjoys classical music. Also, the German music lovers mostly enjoy a passive consume of music. Very, very seldom you can hear somebody playing live at a party, in a pub or similar locations - despite of concerts, where you have to pay lots of money for. Public sessions don’t exist at all.
Not so the Irish music. All generations seem to enjoy traditional folk music, females and males alike, and there is such a huge number of good musicians over there, as if Ireland had the size of Russia.
How comes, this tradition has survived?

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I have no clue, but I’m glad that it has.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I honestly don’t think any other music has the power to lift the spirit the way these melodies do when played correctly. Of course I may be a little bit biased…

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Having grown up in Germany (now living in USA), I submit that it is Germany, not Ireland, which is unique in this respect. This is in great part due to the (quite extensive) canon of German folk song having been used by the Nazis for propaganda and indoctrination purposes, which caused our traditional music to become Kryptonite after WWII - people did not want to be associated with it and its attendant baggage. There were attempts to remedy the situation in the latter part of the 20th century by groups such as Liederjan and Zupfgeigenhansl which met with limited success.

Not just Ireland, but most other European countries have thriving trad music scenes, e.g. Sweden, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Italy etc. I suspect that Ireland’s insular nature, and its history of struggle for independence, have been helpful in keeping the traditions alive.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Living in Latvia is exciting for lots of reasons ;one of which is the folk culture is vibrant and alive.
In this country’s case it was a way to maintain hope and identity through 50 years of occupation by the Soviet Union.
There is a kindred spirit with Irish traditional music. At our monthly session here in Riga, people enjoy the themes of the songs and the melodies of the tunes.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Here is one theory, which I have. It seems that the Irish were always more archival, and held on to things. We were always interested in what came before us. In fact I should say, we were more interested in the past. Sometime in the early 60’s, recording facilities came along in Ireland. This was a great help, in preserving folk songs and tunes. People who were able to sing and play, could record their talent so they passed it on in this way. The ballad boom happened in Ireland, around this time, and this led to a revival of old Irish songs. Instrumental music was also passed on. If there was an accordion or a tin whistle in a house, this meant that there was someone who could play it. Ireland was always associated with old traditions being carried on. Speaking for the Irish, we were lucky that the people before us held on to things regarding music, or there would be no legacy today.

Some more ideas, why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive

I’m glad to find all your answers here. As I’m writing an Irish Whistle Book in German language, this question is certainly interesting for those, who have fallen in love with this music as I did.
Reading your answers, some more possible reasons crossed my mind:
Yes, that’s right, that there are also thriving traditional music scenes in other European countries. But I don’t know any other country, whose traditional folk music is not only appreciated but also played all around the world, as is Irish music.
I guess it is so, because Irish music is merry, full of joy (or lyric, but never depressive), it’s got an amazing drive, it’s suitable for dancing, it’s also mystic and not so exaggeratedly complicated as the classical music but still fits in the context of Western European music theory and most people in the world do understand English, so they can understand the Irish.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Well there are certainly other traditional forms of music thriving in the world; but in my opinion none of them is as good as Irish music. How that came to be, I wouldn’t know — but it doesn’t stop me enjoying it.

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Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I don’t think it’s just the quality of the tunes. The way Irish trad music sessions work provides an expressive and emotional connection between people, who might not otherwise even meet. I love sessions for that reason.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I suspect that one big reason that Irish traditional music has thrived internationally is the Irish diaspora that resulted from the potato blights of the 1800s. A lot of Irish moved to a lot of different countries, so a lot of different countries were exposed to Irish music.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I don’t think it does thrive internationally - I’ve played this music all over the place and am yet to hear it played to any decent standard at all outside of Ireland.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Yeah, Ben…. I’ve said it before and say it again… I don’t believe that to be the case for a New York minute… I’ve played some lovely sessions in New York, as well as Colorado, Massachusetts, Scotland, and England, and the players have been of a very high standard indeed.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I’ve never - like, never, in 49 years of playing - played in a decent session in England, Scotland, Wales or in continental Europe. I have played in some decent sessions in Canada, but then they featured almost exclusively Irish musicians. I’ve never been to the States.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Were we sitting at some of the same sessions? I’d like to think I know what a decent session sounds like!

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Hm, yes - it might be, that excellent players of trad Irish music are rare outside Ireland and that there are no decent sessions. But the music is beloved and people play it with great fun anyway. I’ve also heard German musicians with a high standard of playing, although it sometimes was apparent, that they didn’t grow up in Ireland. In the rural areas of Germany, there’s lots of people who like to go to Irish concerts and festivals - look at this:
http://irish-net.de/Irish-Folk/Festivals-in-Deutschland/

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

@Max:
"I guess it is so, because Irish music is merry, full of joy (or lyric, but never depressive), it’s got an amazing drive, it’s suitable for dancing, it’s also mystic and not so exaggeratedly complicated as the classical music but still fits in the context of Western European music theory and most people in the world do understand English, so they can understand the Irish."

It’s hard to pinpoint - partly because there are many examples of Irish music, e.g. dance tunes, ballads in English, pub songs, sean-nós, céili, O’Carolan. Nobody plays them all, you rarely find everything on the same album (even on a collection), and you won’t hear all of them in a session, no way. One person’s idea of what is "Irish music" can be rather different from next person’s. Last week we had a session in a pub and still people asked what kind of music we played, how about that! And yesterday a guy said "I thought I had good knowledge of Irish music, but now I realise I didn’t!". It’s easy to get lost in the various sub-genres, and of course, to have gaps in the repertoire.

We find Irish music in the diaspora, as well as in popular media, in sessions and so on. People are encouraged to play music. That helps. Those who haven’t grown up in Ireland but happen to like the music can still learn it. And feel welcome whenever they join a session.

By the way, one could as well ask why styles like classical/jazz/blues/country/rockabilly/bluegrass are fairly widespread. You can find an orchestra, a big band, a dozen blues bands, a handful of country bands almost everywhere, it seems.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

What makes it a decent session for you Ben? I’m happy enough if there are two or three players who can play the traditional tunes together in time and in tune, and nobody is spoiling it.

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Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Clearly if you are not playing with Catherine McEvoy, Cillian Vallely, John Kelly, MacDara O’Raighallaigh, Edel Fox, or anyone else of that standard, it is not worth the effort of schlepping to the pub.

I mean, playing with mediocre hacks like myself… why freakin’ bother?

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

We for sure don’t really have any thriving traditional music in our culture. So much new music is made, and so many copyright infringement laws, older songs and others types of music aren’t really passed around. I guess the only truly traditional music we have is like… Gospel and hymnal stuff. Those seem to be the only melodies recognized by multiple American cultures.

The Bluegrass and Old Time culture are underground, but being back in Kentucky, it’s much more accessible.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Irish music is unique.

It shares this uniqueness with Blues, Jazz, Soul, Latin, and so on…

OK, I’m taking the p!ss.

In some ways the OP is correct. Ireland and its music is quite unique, and long may that remain the case. I went to Cuba last year and, in my travels to many countries on our planet, only Cuba parallels Ireland:
https://thesession.org/discussions/32275
I have to disagree with Ben though, some of the finest sessions to be had are right here in London, but are not well advertised. Why would, for example, John and James Carty, Brian Rooney and Paul Gallagher want to advertise some wee godforsaken backstreet pub where they want to enjoy swapping a few tunes, with the risk of it being invaded by every session hound within a 30-mile radius? When they can just invite a few mates along, even though word might leak out a wee bit?

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Jerone, Jazz isn’t a traditional form of American music? I do admit that it’s only a century old in its current form, but that is five generations of a music deeply rooted in the traditions that preceded it, but unique to the place where it was born.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Its because its the best form of music in the whole wide world 😎 There you , my colours nailed to a tree.🙂

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Ben, come to the states, and we’ll point you in the right direction 😉

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Well Al, I guess you could say it’s traditional. I don’t know a lot about Jazz. I just don’t see Jazz tunes being passed down and around, but maybe that’s cause I’m not in the culture?

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

The core of a lot of these "is it real traditional music" discussions seem to revolve around one person constructing a rigid mental model of their ideal and then dismissing things that don’t match up to it. Then two or more mind sets collide and each party becomes more entrenched. I think ultimately it is up to all of us simply to decide what music we like and not get too concerned if other people don’t like it. Who knows, people may change in their appreciations over time. I know I did. When the Bothy Band were actually playing I was "into" rock music and wouldn’t have been seen dead listening to their music. Now I love it. The music hasn’t changed (I have the original LPs now) but I certainly have. Currently, I don’t like opera (can’t see that changing, but who knows)

Apart from the purely musical aspects of this, there is also the feature of our sense of being immersed in or exposed to aspects of a "tradition". I think this is particularly dangerous territory in terms of the likelihood of misreading what things really are: by way of example, many years ago I was in a coffee shop in Oban and overheard two old ladies talking to each other in their traditional tongue. How wonderful, I thought, that the gaelic language is still going amongst the older generation in these parts…. it turned out that they were two holidaymakers from Wales!

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

@ TSS: "Clearly if you are not playing with Catherine McEvoy, Cillian Vallely, John Kelly, MacDara O’Raighallaigh, Edel Fox, or anyone else of that standard, it is not worth the effort of schlepping to the pub."

That’s not what I mean at all. Quite the opposite. I’m talking about the ordinary players - complete unknowns, some of whom technically aren’t even that great. Or sometimes quite poor. But in Ireland they do at least know what the music sounds like. And that doesn’t happen, even with technically good players, outside of Ireland. In my experience (all of it 🙁 ). (Also bear in mind that there are, clearly, some few individuals who do know, and who play in a lovely, relaxed and flowing style, but it never seems to come together as a complete session.)

Danny, I’d love to experience those, though they sound like something I’d be happy enough to just come along and hear, rather than join in with such stellar musicians.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Maybe you’re not getting to the right sessions?

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

… and haven’t for the past 49 years …

(except in Ireland, where they’re almost all "the right sessions")

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I believe that, at one time, everywhere in Europe (in the world even) had its "own" music. But it was mostly music of the rural classes - not lacking in quality in any way, but looked at with disdain by many townsfolk and bourgeois classes. With industrialization and world wars, the rural classes throughout western Europe gradually disappeared (dunno about Eastern Europe) - as did their musics. Most survival is due to late industrialization, combined with early collection and revival. Ireland is already at the forefront of rankings in terms of that (unlike, say Germany, eastern France or England with early industrialization, or southern France and Britanny with later and less collection and later revival).

Irish music is particular in that
- it never literally stopped - traditional playing slipped almost seamlessly into revival playing (some people would say it’s still traditional, but with so many people *choosing* to play a music their parents didn’t play, I would kinda disagree)
- diaspora in the states kept it alive and kicking (where other musics were very much transformed or killed by trying to "preserve" them.
- Irish music was accepted by the bourgeois classes (as such it’s to some extent more like trad Jazz or Tango than it is like other European traditional musics)
- Irish music is relatively easy on newcomers ears and easier to translate to a concert setting than many European trad musics. And naturally more "exciting"
- the various Celtic tiger factors led to widespread adoption throughout the world (with differing degrees of quality)

Some of my points may be misinformed - so take them with a grain of salt.

Add to that, of course that Irish music isn’t doing all that well. Blues and trad Jazz/Swing are doing at least as well, tango isn’t doing too badly. And there are plenty of Irish people who are *completely clueless* about Iris music.

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Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

There could be something in what you say, Tirno, about industrialisation et al. Ireland has been late in losing its rurality, being rather more isolated, separated that little bit more both geographically and politically from the rest of the world. Industrialisation came, of course, but I well remember television, that destroyer of culture, was a late arrival.
Perhaps the invasion of world media coincided just enough with the advent of recording and other means of disseminating the traditional music that other cultures and countries simply forgot, in a way that what would otherwise have been a cut-off point was smeared, rather more two-way, with some opting for jazz, rock-and-roll, country and western, blues etc, while at the same time others were surfing the net, buying records, generally adopting the music as quickly as it was being abandoned.
It does seem to me that youngsters now are more interested in trad than they ever were in pop, because, I suppose, they get to play it themselves rather than simply watch other people playing it.

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Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

< Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive? >

Because it’s played from the heart if played right,
your allowed the ad-lib, of varation’s, and improvisation, etc.
If you ever played Irish Music exactly as the score on the page.
Its the most boring music, you could ever listen too.
Another from of music close to Irish Trad, is this I think.
f4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb_QrmySFLk

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

I reckon that the connection with America via the English language has had a lot to do with the uptake of Irish music in the postwar decades. This is because the English-language folk revival started there, feeding duly into the Irish ballad revival, with the latter giving Irish songs and tunes new kinds of presentations (using guitar accompaniment, e.g.) and making them more accessible to urban audiences inside and outside Ireland who might have found the usual Irish traditional music of the time, and some of its connotations and baggage, unappealing.

The influence of The Beatles and other acts from both sides of the Atlantic - not necessarily or primarily folk-revival bands - also fed into accompaniment, and indeed into ideas of what a band *was*, or could aspire to do. The sustained development of fretted-instrument harmony accompaniment to Irish music over the last several decades seems to have been something new to it (for all that guitars were evidently used in American dance-hall Irish music in earlier times), and has added considerably to the attractiveness of Irish music and song for a lot of people, myself included - when it’s done well, that is, and not forced on all melody sets that are self-sufficient as such or showcase some other form of accompaniment. Agreed, other people didn’t/don’t like this kind of accompaniment at all.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Maybe it is so alive because it all sounds the same; everyone can immediately recognize that one tune that everyone plays real fast. 😉

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Ben, I think I know the type of old-style, relaxed-pace sessions to which you alluded. Yes, to be found mostly in rural Ireland, but I may have caught one or two at the tail-end of the "golden age" of London sessions on the Holloway Road in the ‘80’s.
Nicholas, your historical analysis of this is spot-on, IMV.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Taking it away from the Irish Trad/Folk Tradition but, still staying with the,
English language. I think ’ maybe ’ if it had not been for Guy’s like ’ Vaughan Williams ’ .
We may not have had a folk-revival with band’s like, The Corries, Dubliner’s,
Planxty, Bothyband etc, etc. Even due to lack, of Material, and maybe Interest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR2JlDnT2l8


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_folk_revival#Folk_clubs

f4

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Sure. Vaughan Williams, Cecil Sharp, Francis Child, Alan Lomax and plenty of others collected and made available a large repertory of the old English-language songs and ballads from both sides of the Atlantic, while Scottish and Irish collectors picked up the songs in their own countries. That meant that performers in all these lands had plenty of material to draw from, from various localities and traditions (Gaelic ones included). But I’m sure the much increased uptake of this in the postwar decades - in which according to my own take the songs led the process, followed by the tunes - owes much to changing styles of performance, adapting to the zeitgeist: the developments in accompaniment I referred to in my previous post, the emergence of new kinds of venue (folk club, pub session, concerts with amplification, folk festivals, e.g.), singer-songwriting in various new veins, and so on. For many of the new audience/participants, listening to or singing folk songs round a piano in a drawing-room or sitting through an evening of unaccompanied singing or fiddle / pipes playing wouldn’t have been a draw.

There has been a divide between purists/conservatives and those who have preferred/pursued innovations. Both persuasions have produced, over the years, some superlative performers. But I am very glad the purist one has not prevented the innovative one from developing. We would have missed out on such a lot if this had happened. There is - or has been, up to now - plenty of space for both.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

@ FIDDLE4: "If you ever played Irish Music exactly as the score on the page. Its the most boring music, you could ever listen too." Thanks for your answer, Fiddle4, but I think, this dreary 1. first place has been conquered by Germany long ago. Look at this, if you dare:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxoNTfHS0bs

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Max Altemueller : Love it .
But still a bit Rehearsed, ’ but thats the German way ’
An absloute goal for perfection, and talking about goal’s.
” WUNDERBAR ”
f4
’ Danke, Max ’

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

The big difference between that and an equivalent Irish performance would be that in the latter there would be great whoops and shrieks when the women were thrown 360% with their legs in the air.

Or so I would imagine 🙂

Doing that bit so smoothly must have taken a lot of practising. Are they all professional dancers / gymnasts / other?

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

@Fiddle4: It was nothing! I could even send you some more links, if you love it. I haven’t regarded our German folk music like this for a very long time. Thank you!
Maybe there could still be a bit more ornamentation, or a bit more variation. And the solo parts could do with some more development. Though, that is not always so - here’s one of my favourites:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PpmRKF4wRs

But concerning perfection, you a completely right: You can absolutely rely on the fact, that our folk music exactly sounds the same from concert to concert. Every single note. Like played from a CD. Even the tempo. It’s only the score, that counts, and that’s the only reason, why we sometimes score on the green: Because the rules say, that’s how it’s all supposed to be.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Max:
"You can absolutely rely on the fact, that our folk music exactly sounds the same from concert to concert. Every single note. Like played from a CD. Even the tempo."

This doesn’t differ much from a bunch of other musical styles, including some Irish bands (e.g. céili bands, Riverdance). Even some sessions are super-tight - some like them for that reason and some loath them.

One can’t really say that "Irish music" (with a myriad of sub-styles) is popular because it sounds a certain way - it doesn’t. One can’t really say that it’s simpler than classical music, because it isn’t (or maybe it is, but any classical musician attempting to play a tune convincingly usually results in a disaster). By the way, that first German clip sounded like Tex Mex slowed down (or vice versa). And Tex Mex is really popular. If you ask yourself why for instance German music isn’t widely spread (if that’s something important), you could by all means change the approach. Form your own band, write new tunes in the tradition, mix sets with Irish and German polkas (not that I’m sure it would work, but you could always try).

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Max: Well its not all bad, This man from Donegal ” Bless Him ”
Told me when I was starting this Irish music, that they got these tune of
German people that stayed there in donegal for a while, he also
said the local musician’s could never, Get/say the name’s right, so they just called
the tunes ’ The Germans ’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN4W2NPKeng


And mybe the perfection in ther Folk song/s was influenced
by this Genius.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNGZP9pOfws

f4

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Playing German folk music in Germany is a bit complicated. In southern Bavaria (where I live traditional music is quite well established but always linked to dancing with tradtional costumes - organised in clubs. People are not so open-minded usually. Of course you need to play instruments that are considered traditional - brass dance bands, string ensembles with fiddles, steirische melodeons etc.

So I try what jeff_lindqvist suggested: mixing bavarian traditional music with irish trad in sessions and in a band.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

And then there are also organizations like the Scots Music Group in Edinburgh that contribute greatly to the spread of traditional Irish and Scottish music. They make it both cheap and easy (key factors) to learn for newcomers and introduce players to the wealth and variety of the music, as well as its deep history. As an American who lived for two years in Edinburgh, I was really impressed by that attention to traditional musical culture and I have them to thank for playing trad music at all. (As do many others). From my understanding, there are organizations like that in Ireland as well. While we do have thriving folk and traditional music scenes in various parts of America, we don’t have the benefit of organized institutions like the Scots Music Group dedicated to passing on the tradition.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Hello to all,
thank you very much for your enriching opinions🙂 I’ve studied them all eagerly and I’m very surprised, how many answers I’ve got here!
Your music is great. Comparing it with the German folk music, I now understand, why it is so alive and adored and why we Germans consider our own folk music tradition as "Kryptonite". The Irish and the Scots are doing very much for their tradition, only think of Thesession.org or The Fiddlers Companion and so very, very much more.
And I’ve learned, that it’s not okay, to speak of "one" Irish tradition, because it is so very much sub-divided.
Concerning classical music think (as a musicologist, who has studied in Freiburg by H.H. Eggebrecht), classical music is more complicated, not because it’s harder to archieve the appropriate sound (which certainly is as hard in Iris or Scottish music), but because it’s chromatic, because it’s sparkling with presentation prescriptions and articulation reglementations and because the musical forms are much more constructed as is the common AABB-form of jigs, reels and so on (think of Beethoven’s "Sonatenhauptsatzform" or Bach’s Concerti Grossi or the four-part setting, fuge technique and so on.
I agree, that the Irish diaspora has helped to spread the music all over the world, and I understand, why a mental diaspora from the German youth took place since the early 50s, to find new, positiv and intact traditions (such as the countries, where Elvis, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and many, many more).
So, the "tradition" of those countries is something new, something different for us. That’s one main reason, why it is so exciting lively for us.
Also, the idea of mixing a certain kind of Reel- or Jig-feeling up with something German could be of some benefit for a new music here, that is performed on acoustic instruments, is merry, full of joy (or lyric, but never depressive), it’s got an amazing drive, it’s suitable for dancing, mystic and not so exaggeratedly complicated as the classical music.
One thing I still have to mention: German traditional folk music’s contribution to "rock music" (hard rock, not heavy metal!) is as remarkable as undervalued: It’s solid, inflexible, nearly immobile and also mainly played by folks, living in alpine regions (Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland). Pure rock, so to say! Never changing and hard to digest.
I love "thesession"!
Max

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Max, I am not convinced about alpine folk music being never changing and inflexible.
On the one hand it is inflexible in a ‘Trachtenverein’ (dance clubs with traditional costumes) and ‘Blaskapelle’ (brass band, playing for dancing) but there are people who want to bring life into folk music and new ideas. IMO the problem is you must be a really good musician, for example:

Herbert Pixner, here playing a traditional Zwiefacher: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0YTPLVjb8M

Bairisch-diatonischer Joedelwahnsinn http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c27cRk7ZKQ

Deitsch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg05IrMxS3E

Die Cuba-Boarischen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlrhzULyxy8

Georg Ringsgwandl playing a Landler with electric guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt9RtJ9qaak

Barney McKenna! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liA326YJc44#t=4m55s

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Max:
"Also, the idea of mixing a certain kind of Reel- or Jig-feeling up with something German could be of some benefit for a new music here, that is performed on acoustic instruments, is merry, full of joy (or lyric, but never depressive), it’s got an amazing drive, it’s suitable for dancing, mystic and not so exaggeratedly complicated as the classical music."

That clip you linked to was a kind of polka to me. Pairing it up with a couple of Irish polkas could be an idea (a polka is a polka…), and maybe it doesn’t even sound like a Irish-German mix. Or maybe it does. There are Irish tunes that sound a bit peculiar and there are Irish musicians who have borrowed tunes from other traditions. Kevin Burke once played a Finnish polka, and the first tune of that set was in fact a "polkafied" reel. Nobody is stopping you from experimenting.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Ben Hall wrote:
"I’ve never - like, never, in 49 years of playing - played in a decent session in England, Scotland, Wales or in continental Europe"

Were you ever in Sweden, Norway or Denmark? The standard of playing Irish music here is high. I’ve heard many musicians from Ireland saying that the playing standard and understanding of Irish music in Sweden is often as good as in Ireland. Of course there’s also a bunch of "musicians" who don’t understand Irish music but try to play it anyway, but they tend to get weeded away or convinced to learn a proper playing style.

I think one reason for this is that Swedish traditional music is very strong, so people have something to relate to when trying to learn Irish music. Here we also encounter the phenomenon of German musicians coming here and trying to play Swedish music, but not understanding a bit of it, so Swedish musicians who get into Irish music probably know a bit more how they should get into an Irish playing style.

Another reason is that there have been some very good Irish musicians living here, who have taught Swedish players a proper style.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

The first time I heard Irish trad tunes (in my 30’s), it woke up my DNA. Certain tunes seem to connect me with long gone kinfolk across the pond. Some tunes feel like I’ve heard them before, even tho’ I know they were brand spanking new to me.

I reckon lots of my ancestral countryfolk got around and spread a bunch of that DNA after the genocide, I mean potato famine, migration.

"Because it’s played from the heart if played right," fiddle4

Agree.

I don’t like to analyze this stuff too much. It makes my head hurt.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Because Irish Music and Scottish Music is ageless. We are playing tunes that our forefathers played and still enjoying them. Let assume I was into Rock for most of my adult life. I’m afraid there comes a time when you’d look out of place playing it and that is a shame, but there it is the ‘ageing rocker syndrome’. However the older you get playing ITM the more you are respected by your peers and thankfully the same can be said for ‘Jazz’ The other thing of course is the fact that it is a universal language. You can play it anywhere, with complete strangers, and without any preparation. All you need is practice and good retention.

Re: Why is traditional Irish music tradition so alive?

Dear folks,

thank you very much for your kind answers, inspirations and opinions. I’d never expected such an overwhelming resonance.

@ TomBom: Thank you for your private tuition in Bavarian music. You are right, your examples are witnessing a progressive tradition, and I feel, I have to revise my prejudices (I’m living in Berlin and am therefore a kind of "Saupreiß, damischer"). Bavaria has preserved a true kind of traditional music. And though it is a bit major-minor-dominated (and therefore older than the Middle Ages), it is distinctively original.

Not only Germany has undergone a painful cut in its tradition during the first half of the last century, but also the origins of "German music" aren’t very old. Pagan associations have desperately tried to discover a musical tradition in the region, where our ancestors may have lived, but there seems to be no heritage. Just a lyre, that they have found in Trossingen, some lurs, some whistles and some ocarinas and a few (not really flattering) testifies from the Romans - we do not have more. But at least it is the best GTM we have.

The idea of mixing bavarian traditional music with irish trad in sessions and in a band is truly inspiring. A witty idea. No doubt, that this could encounter dissent in traditional music scenes - wether Irish or Bavarian. But that is the essence of *tradition* - that it strives to beware its gems and rejects revolutions. Quite rightly, as we can see and hear in TIM. Nothing against progress - but it’s something totally different. Not bad as well, but not tradition.