An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I’ve been heavily practicing my 12 hole ocarina lately. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the range for most Irish tunes. If you want to play ITM in Irish music, you really need a double chamber ocarina.

So while window shopping for double ocarinas I stumbled upon this beauty.

https://pureocarinas.com/shop/pure-double-alto-d-ocarina

Very similar fingering to a tin whistle, in the right key for ITM. But this brings us back to a discussion I see has been brought up before- do ocarinas belong in Irish music? Sure it’s not an ITM instrument right now, but could it be one day? It wasn’t that long ago that playing mandolins at sessions was controversial, and now they’re almost universally accepted.

On the other hand, if you start allowing ocarinas at a session maybe it’s only a matter of time before you’ve got people bringing castanets and saxophones and pretty soon you’re not playing ITM anymore.

I’ve heard lots of people playing Irish tunes on ocarinas- some of them are fairly appropriate, some are quite blah. It can be done if the ocarina is in the right hands.

Personally I’m in the pro-ocarina camp, but I’d like to see what other people think.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I am a bit torn on this. In general, any instrument that can articulate the music in a traditional sounding way should be at welcome as part of the music, as long as it is played in a way that keeps the sound traditional. Certainly that ocarina sounds much like a whistle, and in the right hands would probably be just fine in a session. But the appearance of it might embolden some other players to push the boundaries even further, as you mention, and then you have to decide if and when to draw the proverbial line. There is a regular attendee to our sessions, a fantastic musician, who has been known to bring non-traditional instruments into the sessions from time to time. I can’t say that I always hate it, but a lot of it depends on the hands of the person playing…

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Exactly right Reverend. There was a fellow in The Ocarina Network Facebook group who posted about how he had gone to a traditional session in Edinburgh with C and G ocarinas, C and D recorders, clam shells and a washboard, and how next week he was going to spice it up by bringing his Turkish clarinet. I’m thinking to myself “wow, they must really LOVE you.” Maybe it’s a very open minded session that allows such things, but I’m willing to bet that he’s driving everyone crazy and they’re looking for excuses to chuck him out the door. Where does one draw the line…

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Is there a place for the ocarina in Irish traditional music? I would say wholeheartedly YES! I like the sweet flutey sound of the pure-double-alto-d in that clip, and if someone wants to play at home, busk on a street corner, or play for dancers, have at it. The tradition may well be richer for it.

Is there a place for an ocarina at my local session? Well, now that depends on the player. But that goes for fiddles, too.

I don’t buy the slippery slope argument as a reason to bar something, if in-and-of-itself it is ok. If you don’t like castanets, djembes, saxophones, or 5 string banjos at your session, address that particular issue, or vote with your feet.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I agree with you Joe, although there are people who wouldn’t. But I’ve also been a session master at a session in a town where a lot of people don’t know about Celtic music, and I’ve had to put up with people who don’t know the genre and bring inappropriate instruments, or appropriate instruments that they can barely play, and I’ve had to be the one to politely point them in another direction, so I understand people’s wariness. If I went to a session with my ocarinas, I’d probably start with tin whistle (although I have a lot of work to do before I could play a tin whistle in a session) and only take out the ocarina when the group feels comfortable with me, starting off with the obligatory “Do you mind if I….” And of course put it away if I don’t get a favorable response.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I’ve heard ocarina at a session a few times, played with all the taps, cuts, rolls, etc. that you’d expect to hear on a whistle or flute. Didn’t bother me. But I did wonder this: if you want to play Irish trad, and an ocarina is going to sound much like a whistle or flute, why not just play whistle or flute?

Even if ocarina is your primary instrument, switching to whistle would be easy, no? Then you could play whistle at your local session and ocarina at weekly meetings of the local Zelda gathering. 😎

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Another concern I have is bringing my fragile clay instrument into a bustling pub environment in which it could easily get knocked off the table and broken. Tin whistles may be shrill, but they’re durable at least.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Although I guess I wouldn’t mind a skilled enough ocarina player in a session, I can think of a couple of downsides to taking it up in preference to something else:

It’s not tunable except for some variation in breath pressure (?), so if a session is drifting slightly off A440 you may not be able to follow where the rest of the group is going, the way you can with a whistle or flute with a tuning slide. And if you can’t manage A440 to begin with, due to ambient temperature or some other factor, it can be annoying for groups that are stable at that tuning. There is nothing worse than a whistle that’s out of tune with the group, because you can really hear it in that pitch range that stands out above the other instruments.

Also you have no other options to extend the range and scale. For me this would be the major disadvantage. Whistle players sometimes bring a collection of whistles in different keys to facilitate certain keys and modes, like a C whistle for tunes in D dorian or a low F whistle for Lúnasa tune arrangements. Low D whistles are available as a flute alternative. Of course an ocarina player could switch off to whistles for those purposes, but it would seem more logical to just stick to whistles in that case.

All things considered, the ocarina seems to me to be a one trick pony, and I’m not seeing any advantages that would lead one to choose it over the whistle for this music.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

To answer your question Gimpy, I have very sensitive ears and I find the shrillness of tin whistles to be a little overwhelming. They’re great when they’re on the other side of the session, but they can be a bit much when they’re under your chin. Wooden whistles seem a little mellower but they’re also very expensive. Eventually I plan to get a decent wooden whistle so I can take it to a session. But I prefer the mellower tone of the ocarina and if I can bring one to a session, so much the better.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

We had a melodica player at Fort Augustus last weekend - pretty good, they were.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

The same questions were asked of accordions, concertinas, banjos, guitars, bouzoukis, pianos, mandolins, low whistles and many other instruments that are now generally accepted as ok to use in traditional Irish music.

There was a time when the regulators were a controversial addition to the pipes, not seen as ‘traditional’.

The tradition is constantly evolving. New techniques and instruments get accepted as time moves on.

For ocarinas to be accepted into the tradition, all it would take is for one exceptional musician to demonstrate how Irish music can be played well on the instrument, to the extent that others follow suit to develop a distinctively Irish style of playing ocarina.

Matt Molloy could surely make a convincing ‘Irish’ ocarina sound if he wished to try it.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Conical, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the ocarina a one tricky pony. Although these days you mostly hear them playing video game and anime music, before that they were classical instruments, and before THAT they were folk instruments. One thing they have over whistles is they are completely chromatic- so you could play in D minor on a D instrument, for instance, without having to switch instruments.

IMO, I’m in total agreement with you. It wouldn’t take long for an ITM ocarina style to develop- in some cases it already is developing.
This is why Pure Ocarinas makes this particular ocarina- it fills a need.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Lonnie, I understand your point about an ocarina’s mellower sound. Why not flute, then? You can get a very good delrin flute for not much more dosh than most wooden whistles. Yes, the embouchure will take some time, but the musical rewards are worth it.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

What can I say Gimpy, I like my wind instruments with a mouthpiece. I suppose I could learn flute though. I actually did try to learn the flute a few years back, but I didn’t have the money to invest in a proper instrument. I still prefer ocarina.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

IMO wrote “New techniques and instruments get accepted as time moves on.”

Yes, but not *all* new techniques and instruments win acceptance. There have been excellent sax and clarinet Irish trad players for decades, but they’re not popping up at sessions everywhere. Same with bass—Trevor Hutchinson has helped give Lunasa its signature sound for 25 years now, yet few other Irish trad bands feature bass, and they’re rare to nonexistent at sessions. (FWIW, I’ve played in sessions with a sax, clarinet, and bass (not all together), and several other non-trad instruments, and enjoyed it just fine. The players were top notch, knew the tunes, and were sensitive about blending in rather than overpowering everyone else.)

My sense is that the instruments that do make the cut have two things going for them: (1) they can produce timbres suited to trad sensibilities—reedy, chiffy, “dhurty,” and (2) they can be played at a volume that isn’t overpowering. Interestingly, that second point is one that’s commonly raised in screeds about banjos, keyboards, accordions, and sometimes even guitars.

Yes, traditions evolve, but they do so, by default and by definition, slowly and selectively. Otherwise Irish trad wouldn’t be distinguishable from techno or Afro-Pop or jazz.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Lonnie, if an instrument calls your name, then by all means play it. If you’re serious about playing Irish trad on ocarina, you’ll find a way. As I said in my first post above, I’ve heard them in sessions and it was fine. Since you’re a harper as well, you can always stash the ocarina if you run into a session that won’t tolerate it. And then find a more welcoming session.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I saw a video of Anxo Lorenzo playing an ocarina in a session at the William Kennedy Piping Festival. There seems to be a place for it in Galician music. I’ve see Carlos Nunez play one for sure.
I tend to think of it as a bit of a novelty instrument though most normal probably feel that way about the whistle.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Change in Irish music doesn’t have to be slow. In the 1970’s we saw an explosion of guitar and bouzouki players thanks to the success of certain bands, and now you’d be hard pressed to find a session that doesn’t have a guitar or bouzouki player.

I’m not saying it should be the same way with the ocarina, just that there is definitely room for it if the ocarina adapts itself to Irish music and not the other way around. As dunnp said, it seems to have found a place in Galician music if nothing else.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Cool instrument!

I play ocarinas and also have a couple of double ocarinas.

The way this one is designed is intriguing to me. I like the extended range and that it’s designed to be more melodic than harmonic. My double ocarinas were designed more for harmony than extended range.

Here’s a question:

Is there a way to make an ocarina tunable sharp or flat of A440 without having to under/over blow into pitch? (i.e.: A tuning slide? Maybe a bulbous mass that could be pushed into or pulled out of the chamber to raise/lower the overall pitch?)

It would be even cooler if you could lower or raise the whole instrument’s pitch by a half step! Oh the musical possibilities! And so easy!

I’m guessing that physics would render a tuning slide on an ocarina impractical since it’s something that would surely have been thought of by our ancestors, but you never know.

Any brainiacs out there have a take on this?

Would it, could it work, Sam-I-Am?

Aldon

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I’m glad to hear from another ocarina enthusiast Aldon!

I’ve seen tuning slides on ocarinas, I have no idea how much they effect the pitch or how they even work. However, it doesn’t seem necessary to me since the ocarina is completely chromatic, unlike the tin whistle. The only problem with the ocarina is the limited range, but that’s not a problem once you add a second or even a third chamber. Quadruple chamber ocarinas exist, but they’re rare.

People have mentioned the inconvenience of a fixed pitch instrument, but it’s not a problem with the ocarina since the tone of it is so flexible that you can play as sharp or as flat as necessary to be in tune with other instruments simply by slightly adjusting breath pressure. I tend to play flat when I’m by myself but have no problem moving up a bit to match other people I’m playing with.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

@gimpy -- "timbres suited to trad sensibilities—reedy, chiffy, “dhurty,”

That’s another consideration, yes. I don’t think it would disqualify someone who knows the tunes on an ocarina and can play it well in a session, but generally speaking we do seem to prefer a rough timbre in this music, the “edge” and buzz, some dirt in the sound.

Recorders haven’t made much of an inroad into Irish trad, partly due to the fingering differences but maybe also do to the sweeter timbre. The “hard” sound is what all us fluters aim for. Maybe we’re all trying to get back to the reedy sound of the pipes.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Do banjos/mandolins/guitars have “tuning slides”? How about concertinas or button boxes?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

To Lonnie the Harper:

Likewise! It’s rare to meet another ocarina enthusiast!

If I had this ocarina I’d certainly be working up Irish tunes on it!

My desire for a tuning slide is to make playing at an audible volume easier. I’m aware that breath pressure on an ocarina modulates the pitch, but it also modulates the loudness so the louder you play the sharper yhe pitch becomes. Having a "tuning slide would allow me to center the volume and pitch to whatever optimal level is required at the moment.

To The Boy from County Cook:

I have no idea what your reply means. I’ve approached your comment from as many angles as I can conceive in light of this thread, but have no idea at all what your question (or point?) is. Please clarify for us, the uninitiated, on your take on the matter. I sincerely can’t make heads or tails of it.

Aldon

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I think all instruments “belong” in the right circumstances. As often stated, anything is acceptable in a “performance” or band situation. It may not be very good or appeal to everyone, of course.

However, if we’re talking about sessions, instruments have to “fit in”. That’s all instruments, of course. Even fiddles and flutes… they have to be played in the appropriate style and blend in with the other players. More likely than not they will though and more naturally than some of the more exotic instruments. However, for instance, “chopping” or some other fancy technique might not always work and an electric/amplified fiddle may be out of place too.

One former member of this forum who attends sessions “Here in Scotland” often plays ocarina and one or two other “different” instruments. He is a good player but not the easiest player with whom you can “join in”. This is both in terms of playing style and also the choice of keys.
So, often he will end up playing a tune on his own.

Then again, there are “Sessions and Sessions” and ocarinas will surely have their place in some.
Generally, however, I feel they don’t fit in that well in your typical Irish or Scottish session though.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

If the ocarina could easily blend into a session as some suggest, wouldn’t there be hundreds of players around the world participating in Trad sessions?

I’ve never seen a single on in Ireland or the UK.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

‘single one’

aargghhh!

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Listening to the ocarina videos above, while they are playing common tunes, they don’t sound particularly Irish to me. Probably most notably because almost all of the articulation is done with tonguing. There is a fair amount of that in the audio recording of the OP, too, but not as pronounced. I don’t play ocarina, but I would assume that many of the whistle ornaments would work, wouldn’t they? (Maybe not, because the holes aren’t all linear and there are potentially multiple mouth holes?) That difference in style probably wouldn’t matter much in a session, as it would all blend in. But those solo performances sound like people who aren’t all that versed in the Irish style, and they’re just playing Irish tunes. Or is the style an artifact of the instrument?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I noticed in the vid above the guy is playing Cooley’s in Em as standard, then Musical Priest in the same key instead of the usual Bm - are all the usual fiddle keys not available on an ocarina , or was it just easier to stay in the same key? I know nothing about their tuning. He made a decent enough job of playing the tunes but like the recorder I’m not sure how ‘right’ it sounds.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Questions of desirable “dirt” and timbre aside, I remain puzzled about why one would choose to play ocarina instead of a common D whistle. What are the intrinsic advantages of the instrument that make it more desirable for Irish trad than the whistle? Is it just the compact size, so you can throw it in your pocket?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I don’t think those are the greatest of Irish tunes on ocarina. David Eric Ramos is a great ocarinist, but he doesn’t know much about Celtic music. The other guy (whose name I don’t know but whose videos I’ve seen) likes playing Celtic tunes on ocarina, but still doesn’t know much about Celtic music.

I found this on YouTube, perhaps it’s a bit more appropriate:

https://youtu.be/bsgE_5_ePRU


Aldon, that makes sense. I imagine that is exactly what tuning slides on ocarinas are for, but I’m not sure. I’ll ask around on The Ocarina Network.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Here’s another example, a nice Gaelic air, played fairly appropriately I think- at least compared to the videos posted earlier. Is it a coincidence that both of these tunes are recorded on instruments made by Pure Ocarinas, the very same maker of the ocarina I mentioned at the beginning of this thread? Perhaps not.

https://youtu.be/I1J7KlBZZ1Y

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Yeah, Lonnie, that video on the green ocarina shows articulation more like I would expect in Irish. So I guess that points toward it being a matter of “in the right hands”. I have never seen an ocarina in a session, but I’m sure I would be OK with it if the player is immersed in the tradition and can coax a well-played Irish tune out of it…

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Based on their scarcity at public sessions, it seems that the direct answer to the OP question—“do ocarinas belong in ITM?”—would be a resounding “Not yet.” 🙂 And winning acceptance, individually or for ocarinas en masse, is likely going to be an uphill battle.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

If you sound good and blend in you’d be welcome in any session I frequent. The first video posted with Cooleys sounds like someone trying to play the music without actually investing in the music, that doesn’t work with any instrument.

If you sound good I think you should be welcome anywhere. But if you butcher the music I’d rather see a whistle than a ocarina.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I think you’re right Gimpy. Maybe someday ocarinas will be common in sessions, but it won’t be today.

Boyen, I agree. David Eric Ramos is a great ocarinist but he doesn’t know Celtic music. Listen to the video I posted with the green ocarina, they do a bit better.

Aldon, it seems that tuning slides are used to slightly adjust the pitch of the ocarina, and can’t change the key.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Geez, I’ve heard ocarinas played by trad players as long as I have been playing Irish sessions. Ian Law (tinwhistler) once gave an ocarina workshop at Lark Music camp almost 25 years back.
Common, no. Played by ITM musicians who use more ‘traditional’ instrument as their primary one; absolutely.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

That’s good to hear AB. I’m glad ocarinas have found their place in trad in some circles.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I think most people that join ITM sessions (especially the more experienced players that drive the session!) love this music. Not only the melodies und rhythm, but also the general aesthetics of the sound produced by the „typical“ instruments.
People with recorders, ocarinas, clarinettist, ukuleles etc destroy this aesthetic and don’t respect it or their fellow musicians.
People’s with sich instruments are quiet egoistic in my opinion, because they hey change the the sound of the Session so much and take a lot of room.
Therefore, Lonnie don’t be surprised if you chase away the more experienced musicians that bring tue real groove to your session.

I wouldn’t mind if a regular who plays a typical „Irish“ (you know what I mean…) instrument, takes up more exotic instrument for a set or for one or two tunes. But I couldn’t tolerate anything more than that.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

If someone has learnt enough tunes on ocarina to play a significant part in a session, then surely they have earnt their place? But realistically I can’t really imagine someone going down that route, and not half way through thinking - no-one can hear me, least of all myself, why didn’t I just learn the whistle?

In all seriousness, I can barely hear whistles if there are more than 4 players, and Im guessing an ocarina will be even less likely to be heard, it does sound quiet!

So all in all, would be lovely to hear solo tunes by a skilled player, it’s a lovely instrument, but possibly not a great choice for sessions based purely on volume concerns?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

No, they don’t belong in ITM any more than recorders, Tonettes, or nose flutes.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I can play a pretty mean Merry Blacksmith on the jaw harp. Should I bring it to my next session?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I have the same one!

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

My guess is no. Willing to be proven wrong.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Just based on the Youtube clips above, I quite like the sound of the ocarina. I would personally have no problem with one at a session.

(Competently played of course, which goes for all instruments, I suppose).

I just hope no one tries to sneak in a shenhai 🙂

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

my two pence as a whistle player, who (20 years ago) played around with an ocarina
I don’t see why not, apart from tuning issues (and even that is a solveable engineering problem?) I can see people working out at least cuts and i don’t see rolls being a real problem by their nature. Some people will doubtless hate the sound. I’m not sure what the consensus is about recorders and ITM for example. But it’s not domineeringly loud which would be an issue for an acoustic music phenomenon.
Somebody naively coming without a clue about the music is going to be a pain in the a*** whatever they play. I don’t see ocarinas being innately worse in this respect. I suspect the recorder-hate is mostly down to the fact that you don’t hear many good players (a phenomenon with instruments that are percieved as ‘starter instruments’) and they are louder than any whistle, including susatos. The pure tone would otherwise blend into the big sawtooth wave form. I myself don’t particularly love the recorder’s tone in ITM, i’m a whistle player in good standing and that’s what i’m contractually obliged to say :P but i’ve heard some incredible players in other genres and there’s no doubt in my mind there must be some class ITM recorder players out there who make it work. But first and foremost, you have to be an ITM musician THEN whatever your instrument is, the sensibility for the music must be there or its a non starter.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Thanks @lonnietheharper. I’m more convinced against the ocarina “belonging” based on the videos.

And jig or reel samples?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

“Somebody naively coming without a clue about the music is going to be a pain in the a*** whatever they play. I don’t see ocarinas being innately worse in this respect.”

Well, if you enter a session with a usual suspect (Whistle, Fiddle, Irish Flute or Concertina etc. ) I’m much more inclined of giving you the benefit of the doubt because you atleast researched which instruments naturally fit. Everyone is learning and that’s OK. But no real excuse for ignorance.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Yes, but I’m not sure if all new players actually “research” as such. At least not actively.

Obviously, people who listen to the music and visit sessions will be soon aware of the “usual suspects” just because they are the most common if nothing else and they will naturally enjoy listening to one or other of them.

A player from another genre of music may feel that as he/she already plays an instrument that it’s just the next logical step to join in and learn/play a different style of music.
However, I’d reckon most beginners would probably chose one of the more common instruments first.

Certainly, I can’t imagine the ocarina and similar being the first instrument of choice for a player of any genre. So, I’d have thought that caution should surely be observed before introducing it into sessions.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Hi Lonnie,
From the responses here it seems you might need to convince everyone yourself.

I see the reel the hares paw in your tunebook. That would be a perfect example to use as it’s a nice reel that’s not too challenging. If you can play that on ocarina with rolls and cuts and good reel rhythm and an Irish feel I think you could win over some detractors.

I feel like the last two videos aren’t great examples of tunes you’d hear at a session, playing the south wind and fanny power on ocarina at a session would probably not do any good in promoting ocarina as a session instrument.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

The ocarina videos presented here so far bring to mind another possible issue with the choice of instrument. In terms of timbre, dynamics, and other expressive variables, is ocarina a one-trick pony? By that I mean, across the broad range of emotions that music can convey, is ocarina limited to the relatively delicate, ethereal end of the spectrum?

The clip posted above of Hickman playing Si Bheag Si Mhor falls into this camp: clean but listless. I’m not hearing the heart and longing that I know can be wrung from that tune. Maybe it’s the player, but maybe it’s the constraints of the instrument.

To be fair, I’ve run into musicians on fiddle, flute, whistle, concertina, etc., who seem to think Irish trad is meant to be delicate, clean, tinkly, serene, and ethereal and nothing else. So they play every tune in the same mood, with that one expression. Nothing bores me to tears more quickly (though I suspect that isn’t the emotion they hope to elicit).

When I search for ocarina videos on YT, the majority of clips (in any genre) lean that way, some adding an ocean of reverb to make them even more Enya-esque.

Never having played ocarina myself, I’ll ask: is it possible to play ocarina with chiff, drive, lift, bark, growl, grit, spark, and fire? Is it possible to convey heartbreak, overwelling joy, angst, rakishness, pugnacity, fierceness, craic, and more? Is it possible to play ocarina in a way that listeners’ feet can’t help but dance?

I’ve never heard an ocarina do this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdJYbOkbetQ

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

“Certainly, I can’t imagine the ocarina and similar being the first instrument of choice for a player of any genre.”

This is the part I still can’t figure out. Why ocarina? What makes it preferable to whistle? Is it just because it’s cute and can fit in your pocket? I mean sure, it “works” and makes a sound, but what makes it desirable to focus on as your main instrument?

I don’t understand the appeal, and so far I haven’t heard any musical examples posted here that convince me that it’s preferable to anything else. That said, I’ll repeat what I said earlier, that if a skilled ocarina player with an understanding of ITM showed up at a session I wouldn’t mind and would welcome them. I just wouldn’t understand it.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Conical, up the thread a ways, Lonnie said that whistle was too shrill for his ears, and ocarina is mellower.

The mellowness, if that’s all an ocarina is capable of, is to me the trait that would limit its welcome in a typical session.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Thanks gimpy, that’s at least a reason, if somewhat at odds with the typical character of this music.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Hmm… darned impressive technical feat but yet doesn’t have the right feel for traditional Irish music.

There’s a lack of dynamics and swing, sounds more like someone playing the tunes on a soprano recorder and tonguing all the notes.

Still, darned impressive…

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

That’s the same video posted way above by mandocello8. And I have the same reaction: for me, it’s neither impressive nor expressive, at least not for what I think of as Irish trad.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

My apologies to mandocello!

Personally I’ve never much cared for the sound of an ocarina, but I don’t think I’m in a position to say one doesn’t “belong” in any particular musical context.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

“Yes, but I’m not sure if all new players actually “research” as such. At least not actively.”
Probably not, Johnny. But I will say newbies I meet in sessions typically use this forum as their main source for information about playing Irish music.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

The Boy fCC wrote: “…but I don’t think I’m in a position to say one doesn’t “belong” in any particular musical context.”

Agreed. Isn’t it up to each session to decide these matters?

OTOH, the near total absence of ocarinas in Irish trad settings (not mentioned in historical accounts, no paintings of ocarinas played by a peat fire, not on recordings, not in many sessions, no ocarina category for the All Irelands, no tunes named The Ocarina Tooter’s Despair or The Ocarina and Shamrock) over the past 300 years to the present day suggests they don’t have membership in this music the way other instruments do.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Gimpy, I would never bring an ocarina to a session with you present.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

AB, I’ve already said that I’ve played in sessions with someone on ocarina and it was fine. Mellow, inobtrusive, and in one case at least, the guy knew a spate of tunes. Not really my cuppa tea but not irksome either. Of course none of that (or your aversion to playing one in my presence) has much to do with the OP’s question.

Most of the good musicians I’ve session with over the years have shown curiosity and a fair degree of tolerance for all sorts of divergences from traditional norms, to the extent that I would say that curiosity and tolerance are perhaps part and parcel of those same norms (though not in every session). But tolerance and acceptance are two different degrees along a scale that runs from abhorrence to fully embracing some novel visitor (be it instrument, tune, time signature, tune format, person, etc.). And none of those same fellow sessioners were in a rush to save a seat every week for some new and unusual instrument.

I was once part of a long-running session where a gent showed up with a recorder. He sat in with us, revealing that he was both an adept musician and had also spent enough time listening to Irish trad and playing it on recorder that he had a reasonable sense of the tunes, rhythms, and ornamentation. After a few weeks of this, one of the session leaders talked with him to explain that the recorder’s tone wasn’t a great fit, suggesting that if he really wanted to play this music, switching to whistle or flute would better suit the situation all around.

To his credit, the man came back three weeks later with a D whistle and joined in on his old tunes. He became an excellent whistle player and a welcome asset to that session, to any session really. And everyone, including him, lived happily ever after. 🙂

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I do not play ocarina. I take baroque recorder lessons. I suspect ocarina faces similar challenges for playing irish music (zero dynamic range, must tongue to hide bad fingering transitions, etc). To me, this explains the “sounds like recorder” comments. Now, good recorder players can play quite danceable jigs and reels, so ocarina players should be capable of same. If ocarina player comes to local session and plays true, in tune, in time, and danceable, I say “welcome!”.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

See, that’s exactly it.
Some musicians and some sessions will welcome good ocarina players. And some won’t.
Either way, that’s up to them, yes?

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

It seems unlikely that in real life anyone would be truly enraged on aesthetic grounds if someone turned up and could play well.

But following the points made above, it does seem like it would indeed be -more difficult- to play well, even with considerable musicianship. I imagine the reason why most instruments are not played in sessions less to do with aesthetic and more to do with practical aspects of playing to fit the style easily - including that of being loud enough. Some instruments obviously do come along which fit the bill and (despite some protest) eventually make it in to the tradition.

For instance, I wonder if what is holding back melodica playing is the cheapness and harshness of the instruments, and if someone took time to produce a quality sounding instrument, it could fit right in. Don’t quote me on that…

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Somebody with a ChatGpt account, punch the ocarina question there and post reply? please, please, please?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Your wish is my command ;) It didn’t know what ITM was, but I asked:

> Do Ocarinas belong in Irish Tradiitional Music?

And it replied:

> Irish traditional music (also known as Irish trad) is a genre of music that originated in Ireland and is characterized by its unique instruments, melodies, and rhythms. Ocarinas are not typically associated with Irish trad, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used in this type of music. Irish trad is an evolving genre, and many musicians are known for incorporating new and unusual instruments into their music. So, while ocarinas are not typically used in Irish trad, they could potentially be used in this type of music if a musician wanted to incorporate them.

Hedging its bets somewhat I’d say… So I asked:

> Would you throw someone out of an Irish session if they pulled out an Ocarina?

And it replied:

> Irish sessions are informal gatherings of musicians where they come together to play traditional Irish music. These sessions can take place in pubs, homes, or other locations, and they often involve a mix of experienced and amateur musicians. It is not common for ocarinas to be used in Irish sessions, but that doesn’t mean that a musician who brings an ocarina to a session would be thrown out. Irish sessions are typically very inclusive, and many musicians are open to experimenting with new and unusual instruments. So, while it is unlikely that someone would be thrown out of an Irish session for bringing an ocarina, it is ultimately up to the individual session organizers and participants to decide whether or not to allow the use of this instrument.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

And yes, it is scarily intelligent seeming:

>Would you throw someone out of an Irish session if they pulled out a 20ft wide Ocarina?

> …It is important to remember that Irish sessions are typically held in small spaces, such as pubs or homes, and a 20ft wide ocarina might not fit in the space available. In addition, a large ocarina of this size might be difficult or impossible to play, so it might not be suitable for use in an Irish session. It is always best to check with the session organizers and other participants before bringing a large or unusual instrument to an Irish session.

I am happy to type in any other ITM related questions, perhaps on another thread, if wanted 🙂.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

> Has there ever been a Star Trek episode in which an ocarina was featured?

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Great, so Skynet knows about our Irish sessions. We’re doomed.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Sorry, Gimpy. I’m trying to be 100% honest. I probably have less aversion to ocarina players and Irish sessions than yourself. That is my reasoning for not bringing one to your session.

Cheers!

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

AB, your “honesty” is misplaced. Most of my posts on this thread are pondering different ways of thinking about so-called exotic instruments at Irish trad sessions, from various viewpoints, not statements of my personal beliefs. E.g., where I raised questions about ocarina tone, I’m genuinely curious whether someone can get a reedy or gritty tone out of one and produce more emotional range than the above clips convey. I’d be surprised if people can’t hear the difference between Margy Bergin and any of those ocarina clips. (And I’ve played with many whistlers over the years, none as talented as Mary, yet who could lift people out of their seats.)

That said, I do believe that each session is free to set its own boundaries (or none at all). And I enjoy inclusive sessions as much as pure drop ones (for somewhat different reasons). So save your boycott for someone else’s sessions.

Not that it matters. Our current sessions appear to be about 8,000 km apart, as the rook flies. I won’t worry about you darkening our door. 😉

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

WTF?

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Here’s what Lex.page AI came up with after being fed the original post here:

"What do you think? Should ocarinas be allowed at Irish traditional music sessions? Why or why not?

I believe ocarinas should be allowed at Irish traditional music sessions. Ocarinas can easily be adapted and wielded to play Irish tunes, and there’s an ever-growing repertoire of such tunes. Ocarinas are also small and easy to transport, so players can bring them to small venues or even busking. This is an important aspect to consider as Irish traditional music is often enjoyed in small, intimate settings.

Furthermore, the Irish culture is so embracing of musical diversity that instruments that may not have"

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut until I see what they can do with it. If you can play at session speed and do all the ornaments you’re alright with me. There are some instruments that simply just don’t work and if you let them in they become a fifth column in the session as they try to introduce non Irish music that suits their instrument better. They come in nice and learn a few tunes but before long they become subversive.

Try playing a fast highly ornamented reel on that ocarina. Also I doubt you’d hear yourself over all of the din in a session. Sometimes even a generation style penny whistle can’t be heard let alone an ocarina.

I don’t see the point. Why not just buy a penny whistle. Unless you’re Brian finnegan I can’t see you tonguing your way through a bunch of fast reels. I wouldn’t kick you out unless you became a nuissance.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

“if you let them in they become a fifth column in the session”

That sounds a bit harsh and, surely, this could apply to other even more common instruments too?
You could also be wary of welcoming a mandolin player in case he/she tried to bring in blue grass by the back door or any guitarist who might (one day) offer to play one of his/her songs or burst into some old Bob Dylan classics. Even a flute or fiddle could stray into dangerous territory in the wrong hands.

Personally, I don’t mind an occasional diversion into another genre. A “one off” in the evening, so to speak, but I realise that’s not what you are talking about here.
In the great majority of instances, most musicians will join an Irish, Scottish, or similar trad session because they are genuinely interested in the music and will want to try and “fit in” with the proceedings.
There will always be a few cowboys/girls who end up disrupting the proceedings either by accident or intent regardless of the instrument they choose.

Of course, many players may find that a particular session is not for them and will either move elsewhere and/or start their own session. This applies to really talented and innovative musicians as well as budding ocarina players.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Just out of curiosity - what’s the volume level of an ocarina compared to whistle?

Thanks.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

ocarina volume: the ones I heard, quiet. similar to clarke conical whistle (wooden stopper) in low octave. no idea if they can also be played louder or if louder ocarina exist.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

We tend to think of this music as in the ‘tradition’ of sessions. Fair play. However ITM is not limited to increasing the music’s volume, nor our instrument’s volume in order to be heard in a noisy pub or large sessions.

Liz Carroll actually moved to a new fiddle as the sessions she was in became louder. Makes me want to seek out more than just the usual noisy sessions to listen for what it’s like when a session doesn’t *require* more volume.

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

Thanks, mando.

Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

I mentioned Ian Law above. He plays flute & whistle. My comment was about an ocarina workshop he hosted during Lark in the Morning Music Camp (circa 2001 + or -). If anyone knows where he might be &/or if he is still making music I would appreciate any contact information just to touch bases. Also if anyone was @ Lark in those days send me a message. I attended the camp right before & after the turn of century.

Cheers,
AuburnB

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Re: An ocarina made for ITM- but do ocarinas belong in ITM?

“do ocarinas belong in Irish music?”

Presumably less than the instruments which one usually hears in Irish music. What are those instruments?
Fiddle, flute, uilleann pipes, button box, whistle, harp, some percussion instruments, piano, tenor banjo, bouzouki…these are off the top of my head; YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

More than washboard, body percussion, theremin, kazoo & bells. Slighty above recorder, some really, really cheap whistles & several wind instruments made in Pakistan.

On par with harpsichord & oboe.

Like everything in this music ~ It depends!

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