Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

https://archive.org/details/TheFingalTrioTheBattleofClontarf

The link above is only an example. Feel free to consider any & all recordings from the early 20th c. How relevant are some of those recordings to the music played in sessions now?

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Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

I clicked on the link, listened for a few seconds and decided to come back later for a proper listen. Couldn’t get out of it!
Ended up having to restart my phone to escape. Never saw that happen before.

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

Sorry about that, Alexander. Here is another link. Hopefully it won’t have the same issue. This one is a list of ‘various artists’ who recorded Irish music in the 20s & 30s (1920s for those born recently).

https://thesession.org/recordings/314#comment14707

Nothing earth-shattering in my question. Just wanting to discuss how you (members) think people may have liked the recordings when they were released. Recording was a relatively new innovation for musicians.

Thanks!

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Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

Earliest recordings are the Edison wax cylinders from 1890-ies. Are they “trad” and “pure drop”? Played by “famous irishmen” named Frank S. Mazziotta and George Schweinfest, probably not. Definitely experimental (I can see Mr Edison yelling at underlings - bring me music that sounds lively and can be recorded on this latest invention of mine!) . Definitely pop fusion (“patrol comique” could be an irish reel, but is not, see https://egrove.olemiss.edu/sharris_a/19/).

Have a listen. Do we play the tunes better today compared to how they did it 120 years ago?

https://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/detail.php?query_type=mms_id&query=990029918230203776&r=30&of=74

https://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/detail.php?query_type=mms_id&query=990036482550203776&r=32&of=74

https://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/detail.php?query_type=mms_id&query=990033778400203776&r=53&of=74

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

My understanding was that they brought in “name” Irish players to record the melody instruments but the piano accompaniment was played by pianists hired by the recording companies, who likely as not had never accompanied Irish music. Due to there being no scores, the pianists just “winged it”.

Therefore I would think that those recordings were “fusion” in that regard.

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

‘Winging it ’ can be ok if a musician is familiar with Irish trad music, you can pretty much guess where a tune is going even if you don’t know it. If a musician doesnt have a clue about Irish music then its a disaster as we hear so often when a 3 chord acoustic guitarist thinks an Irish session will be an easy gig - and so it was with those long -ago ivory thumpers!

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

I don’t kow about its reception in 1931, but I thoroughly enjoyed that recording. I’m not sure about its direct relevance to session playing, but I would say it was very relevant to bands like Ceoltoirí Chulainnn, The Chieftains and perhaps the traditional music band format in general.

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

The piano backing on those early recordings really ruined them in my opinion. I can’t even get into listening to them. But, I’m kinda crochety about piano backing even when well done, same for most DADGAD playing. So I guess I’m just a pure drop curmudgeon!

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

not all recording were ruined by the banging on the piano. one of the cylinders I linked has (what seems to be) a very tasteful brass band behind the flutist. (and he clearly he used a piccolo for the loudness).

I think back in the 1890-ies they were still experimenting with the recorded sound. remember, no graphical eq, no photoshop, no autotune, not even any mike gain sliders. just the musicians and the contraption.

I can see Mr. Edison bustle into the recording room: what is this? fiddle music? sounds too sparse!
add a guitar! no, cannot hear it in the recoding! add this drum thing! no, it drowns out the fiddle! what is this
thing in the corner? a piano? you, there! sit here and bang on the white keys, do not touch black keys! $$$

Since a piano was probably a fixture in a recording studio, complete with a staff piano player, and since
clearly piano recorded well, that’s what got used on recordings of solo musicians. (whether they liked it or not).

in later years “they” tried drums and even electric bass (on John Doonan’s piccolo recordings), also with mixed results.

so, experimental fusion.

Re: Early recordings; were they trad, innovation, experimental, fusion or what?

“Do we play the tunes better today compared to how they did it 120 years ago?”

I don’t know. However, I think one reason we play the tunes today is because of those who played them then.

Mikie Smyth at the Patsy Touhey Weekend Loughrea
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tthn7ooQS8c

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