ITM and Pavlov’s dog

ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Have you ever noticed that after just hearing a tune start up folks will pick up their instrument and start fingering notes, or put a whistle of flute to their lips — regardless of whether or not they know the tune or not? I remember bringing this up at a session and we would catch ourselves doing it and then quickly put our instruments down again when we realized it.

It’s been a while since I first realized this so now I don’t have that response any more, but I had to un-condition myself. I’ll notice others doing it, and trying without success to play along only to realize it’s futile after the second time through the repeat of the first part usually. And then there will be an expression of frustration and disappointment on their face. The impetus for me to quash this response was that feelings of frustration and disappointment didn’t seem very fun, and I’d be distracted by these responses instead of just enjoying the music.

Have any of you noticed this in yourself or others? Why do we do this, is enjoying ITM only possible when we are playing? Why is it so hard for some folks to enjoy listening to each other without feeling frustrated or disappointed? Why are we compelled to play before we even recognize the tune as one we know?

Discuss

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I do it all the time, but for me it works about a third of the time and I don’t get frustrated when it doesn’t. Occasionally I start making subtle noises only to realize I was fingering it in the wrong key and I have to start over again.

I also listen to people all the time, and that works too. I enjoy mucking about with my fiddle and just pure listening about equally and don’t view it as an "either / or" question.

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Sometimes the only way to be sure you know the tune is to start playing along, and if it works you know it, and if you don’t, you will discover that within a few measures. I try to make this "experimental" phase as quiet and unobtrusive as possible. Is that because our fingers remember things better than our brains?
I just know that as soon as I saw the subject of this thread, I started to drool…. 😉

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This just sounds like a "noodling" thread under another guise. 😉

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pot noodling

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The pot noodle "horn".

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PS on noodling: am I alone in being annoyed by those people in sessions, who in between tunes start to play something fairly aimless? You’re never quite sure if you’re supposed to be listening to them or not - but basically they’re just filling the stuff with some sort of aimless noise. Really gets my goat!

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"This just sounds like a "noodling" thread under another guise. "

Of course, but this angle was inspired from something that was said on the band/session thread. At the end of the day it comes down to my pet peeve — noodling, but I was reminded of this angle on how it manifests itself as an unconscious response that sometimes conflicts with the enjoyment of a session. Think about at the next session you go to and look around and see if you can spot it in others. It’s almost an uncontrollable urge. When we brought it up at the session we would watch each other lift our instruments as a knee-jerk response a few times during the same tune. As soon as your mind drifts away from the fact that you’re doing it – you do it again.

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Isn’t it because, once you know a certain number of tunes, and once you’ve HEARD a certain number of tunes, every tune sounds a bit like one you know, and you check the notes to make sure it’s not one you’re familiar with?
I don’t think the ‘expression of frustration and disappointment on their face’ really denotes a great unhappiness.
Mark

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"I don’t think the ‘expression of frustration and disappointment on their face’ really denotes a great unhappiness."

I don’t either, but it is a distraction… isn’t it? Personally, since I have conditioned myself away from that instinct, I find myself enjoying the tune I thought I knew even more. Usually by the time it comes around again I’ll know whether I play it or not, and if I do — I jump in there. If I don’t — I remain a happy listener. It’s no big deal, but the point of the thread is whether or not you recognize this sort of response in yourself or others.

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I definitely do it, at least to the extent of fingering the notes on my flute. I’d only put it to my mouth if I thought it was a tune I knew. There are so many tunes played these days which are similar in parts to other tunes that they can catch you by surprise - particularly if you go to sessions which have a lot of different players every week, or a lot of semi-pro players who introduce new stuff all the time. I hear what your saying about how it’s probably better to sit on your hands until you’re sure which tune it is, but particularly if it’s the second tune in a set, and you’ve just played a storming reel, you want to keep going, don’t you? Your blood’s up. You’ve got the bit between your teeth, you’re raring to go! Self discipline may not be top of the agenda!
😉

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Where I am, I someone starts a set that isn ‘t instantly familiar, it is polite for everyone to sit out the first time through a tune. Problem solved

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I don’t think it really is a problem, provided that whatever people are doing is silent(!)

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But I think JohnJ is right, this is just Jack’s Auld Favourite - the noodling thread (aka What’s Wrong with Just Listening), in another guise.
But nothing wrong with that. It’s a valid topic.

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Its silent noodling.

And as it is silent, it is harmless.

Markharmer - you’re not alone. We had a guitarist at our session for a while who would do that (he coming from a blues background), so we politely explained the situation and he stopped doing it. I tend to be a bit less polite when my son does it, saying something like "for ***** sake either play something or shut the **** up"

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Part of the reason why fretted instruments noodle in between tunes is to check if they’re out of tune, or was it just the flute again.
It’s so hard to hear yourslef when others are playing.

Fiddlers don’t have to do it because their instrument is played up near enough to their lugs, so they can hear it as loud as everyone else.

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Bren, you’re right. I find myself doing this too and it’s usually if a flute or similar has joined the session and it hasn’t quite "warmed up" yet.

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Flutophobes!

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Not at all. It doesn’t seem to happen will all flute players either. Just certain ones. 😉

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You’re probably right actually.Wooden flutes, especially older ones, are notorious for going out of tune, even with themselves, and especially in humid weather.

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Is this a pavlovian conditioned reflex or is it part of the osmotic learning process?

Someitmes I do it as the tunes sink in - get it on your head first, lilt it while listening to the radio/cd in the car, futer on your flute silently before finally launching confidently to playing it at the sess….???

In any event it doesn’t bother me. What does is banjo players tuning up in the middle of a tune 😉

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And as for flutes going out of tune - well they are made of wood, wood expands and contracts, QED. BUT as long as you check the tuning regularly during the session [and give it a good blow in before the sess starts] it really shouldn’t be a problem.

My Monzani is usually spot on and it is now over 170 years old!

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you know, I never ever noticed the weather much unless it was extremely hot or #$^ing cold, but ever since I started on wooden flute, I’ve started keeping up with humidity readings, temperature forecasts and general barometric wossnames.

Plus I got myself a trick knee so I could sense when cold fronts were coming in. No avail though, I’m always second-guessing myself when it comes to tuning. Always there at the back of my mind while playing… am I in tune?? But then I can’t hear anything discordant so I relax. Until I realise or imagine I can’t hear myself at all, so how would I know if I’m out of tune? So then I play a little out of tune on purpose on some arb note to test, and I hear myself! And I’m out of tune! Argh! Panic! This goes on for the first half hour of the session. Or until I’ve had my first drink. Then I realise I’m too earthy and grounded to have neurotic tuning hissy fits. What am I, I ask myself, some kinda highly strung classical pro?

No! I reply.

I’m not.

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I happen to like it when people noodle… As long as they know when it’s actually tune time. I like to hear what people come up with on their own on the spot. Improv can sometimes yield some pretty cool little numbers. Oh well, to each their own. *Ding!* Slurp…drool…gob!

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I used to be a ‘tween tune noodler. Once I get started playing and having fun, I don’t want to stop for any longer than it takes to catch my breath. I saw the error of my ways after acquiring a friend who is the worse noodler ever. He’s a great player, but he can’t resist filling every gap with noodling. My wife and I have talked about it and we’re considering having him put down. Sometimes it’s the kindest thing to do.

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There are multiple answers here, depending on the situation. I am thinking of one situation where a person may stop playing a tune if they are the only one playing. If they think you might know it, the keep on playing it. So by putting the bow up on the strings and "noodling" inaudibly, you fool them into playing on their own. It’s a form of support.

I can certainly listen, and will especially do so when I don’t know the first tune in a set. I agree with Mark that it can be difficult if you are in the groove and then something new pops up. The inclination is to keep on going!

The support notion up above is a bit chancey however. It can turn our badly if the person doesn’t know the tune themselves and then expects you to lead it! That happened to me at the midwest fleadh. I was sick and out of my head at the time, or that’s my excuse. Someone was half starting a tune, looking around for someone who might play it. I encouraged the person to play the tune, and after I played a couple of notes he quieted down to listen to me! Expectations were not met on either side.

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Reading through the responses, I’d say it’s more of a problem for you, JG. At the session I host, I expect people to try to learn the tunes and it doesn’t really distract me as they tend to do it somewhat quietly ( I have a loud fiddle, which helps ). Sessions used to be where people learned new tunes before there were CD players, by the way.

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Spot on, Faust.

My objective as a fiddle player is to (on the sagely advice of Yoda) stop "trying" and "do". If I’m playing with other people I want my ears directly connected to my fingers with no interference from my brain. Letting my fingers find notes and patterns while the music is going on without thinking too hard about it is a very effective way to practice unblocking the pathway between what I hear and the sound I produce.

If someone, (let’s say Jack Gilder, for example) tells me they find it irritating, I’ll move out of their eyeline or stop when they’re playing solo, but no power on earth will convince me that I’m not actually learning anything or making any progress as a fiddle player with silent or quiet playing when I’m not completely sure of a tune, or that a session ought to be some kind 10th century serfdom where learning is strictly forbidden.

I know it works, so I’m never going to stop doing it. I do it way less now than I did when I first moved here a year ago, but that’s just because now I know most of the tunes they play around here, thanks to this process:

a) listening
b) silently playing
c) playing quietly
d) following
e) leading

Sometimes I can do all that in the space of 5 minutes, sometimes it stretches out over several years, but these days every single tune I learn is learned at speed, at sessions or house parties via the process described above, and a lot of the people I play with comment regularly that my fiddle playing keeps getting better and better.

I think discouraging people from using this method increases dependence on sheet music, lessons and recordings, all of which I have a vague and inexplicable contempt for.

I also think encouraging people to listen, learn and play at the same time makes musicians more receptive to subtle cues in dynamics, more able to produce interesting variations on the fly, and more quickly able to recognize and correct minor differences between their setting and that of another musician.

So, Jack, do you have any *reason* why silent playing annoys you? Or is it (like my unwillingness to learn anything set in stone) just the way you feel? Do you need to talk about it? Here, I’ll go make you a nice cuppa.

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Now Kerri… have I said "silent playing" bothers me? Did I even say that people picking up their instruments as an automatic response irritates me? nooooo… you’re assuming that. The point of this thread was how interesting it is that we do this. I thought it got in the way of my own enjoyment of the session when I became frustrated and/or disappointed that I didn’t actually know the tune… but that’s just me. I was asking of others notice this in themselves and/or others.

I do get bothered, however, when the response results in errant noodling. I’ve already copped to the fact that this is a version of a noodling thread when John first pointed it out — so what — we don’t need to repeat it again do we… Ottery?

Anyway, I don’t want to stop anyone from learning tunes, but there is a point where it can get in the way of the fun. Personally I think it’s impolite to turn someone’s session into my own personal learning device — but that’s just me I guess.

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Jack, if you can repeat an old anti-noodling thread, I don’t see why I can’t repeat JohnJ pointing it out(!)
Talking about flutes being in tune, I was at a certain session last night where there were ten flutes (yes, ten flutes - though three of them were also pipers, and a couple were prepared to humble themselves and play the whistle occasionally). Despite it being atrociously hot, it sounded pretty good, except when someone led into that Roaring Barmaid tune, and all the flutes hitting that top b simultaneously (or not quite doing so) sounded a trifle odd. The trouble with sessions like this is, how do you tune, you can’t hear whether it’s yourself or someone else that’s out ….

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"At the end of the day it comes down to my pet peeve - noodling." - Jack Gilder.

So anyway, moving along, my dad was telling me he read about a study where they discovered that your brain goes through the exact same electrical process when you watch someone doing something as if you were doing it yourself. (I know this to be true, because my mom used to always slam on imaginary brakes on the passenger side while she was teaching me to drive.) We got to talking about this phenomenon in terms of music, and how a lot of the time you "just know" when it’s time to get quiet, when it’s time to go buck wild, when it’s time to start and stop, or what tune is coming next. (Or at least I do, I don’t know about you guys.) We wondered if this kind of telepathy between musicians is in any way related to the brain chemistry described in the study.

I don’t noodle unconsciously, but that’s probably just because I’m too busy doing it on purpose. If there are people out there who appear to be unintentionally playing while they mean to be just watching and listening, maybe it’s because their fingers are just following the guidance of their brains, which recognize no difference between watching someone do something and doing it yourself.

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Now come on, Ottery, this isn’t a repeat — it’s a variation. We have never discussed this aspect before. It’s related to noodling, but not about noodling. I’ll never understand why some of you get so defensive when any topic related to noodling comes up… or maybe I do actually.

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As I already said, Kerri, I copped on to it being related to noodling. I see all the noodlers are gettiing worked into a froth now.

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Oh, yeah, and I meant to ask, Jack, If sessions are not a learning device, what is? Whay are some other things you might suggest for me, taking into consideration that I’m not interested in learning from CDs or sheet music?

I do occasionally sit down with someone and say "Show me a tune", but that usually involves them just playing it a bit slower than usual long enough for me to travel through all the steps of the same process I use to pick up tunes at sessions.

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Disagreeing with you is not the same thing as being defensive.

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So you think this is primarily a noodling thread?

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No, I think it’s a "silently working through a tune at a session" thread.

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Kerri, have you ever tried just fingering the notes without bowing? It is an interesting exercise to try hearing the notes, having the tune pass through your brain to your fingers without the reinforcement of sound from the fiddle.

In answer to Jack’s original question, I do the above quite often when someone plays something that I don’t know. So it is kinda in between noodling and listening. A form of active listening that I do not find discouraging.

And Kerri, if I may continue to interject, learning tunes or "taking a lesson or workshop" from a master is also a great way to learn tunes and techniques. I am not sure why you included that in your contempt list.

Learning tunes in sessions is a great way to learn a bunch of tunes quickly and to add to your repetoire. But learning tunes directly from a respected player teaches you more about the music.

Tunes you learn in a session often turn out to be "session" tunes, to pull in another former thread. Tunes you learn from a source can be more special and can also have a story behind them.

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To answer the question you asked, Kerri; there are many ways to learn tunes apart from noodling at sessions. If CDs aren’t useful, and I don’t really suggest it be an exclusive procedure anyway, listening is a good start. It isn’t the first half of the 20th Century anymore, so we don’t have to be historically accurate and only learn tunes authentically or any such non-sense. There are many options in the way of recording devices one can employ in capturing tunes from people you might like to play them with. In the olden days this wasn’t possible — but it is now, and it offers us an option that won’t interrupt the music as it’s happening.

I’ve mentioned this before; the fiddler I play with is a great example for learning tunes at sessions — but it’s an art. He will usually sit out the tune the first few times it comes up. Then when he recognizes it at consecutive sessions he’ll sit with his fiddle in his lap while he silently fingers the notes. When he finally lifts the fiddle to his chin and plays he astonishes us by playing it with only minor glitches here and there that he soon sorts out. I’ve never heard him noodling, but he’s learned most of his tunes this way at sessions.

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Oh, no, hang on, I just realized it’s a "picking up your instrument when you don’t really intend to play it" thread.

Never mind anything I said there. I sort of rolled off in a whole new direction.

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"No, I think it’s a "silently working through a tune at a session" thread."

Kerri, go read the beginning again and you’ll discover it’s about the unconscious response people have when the tunes start up.

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OK, jack, I’m like that guy, I guess. Maybe not as good at it yet as he is, but he probably has done it way longer.

Jode, I think of those as master classes or workshops, not lessons, and I take them whenever I can. I prefer to get one chewy, long-lasting morsel of learning every 6 months or so (master classes) to getting half an hour of repetetive pep talks and pointers every single week (lessons).

Udon? Ramen? Soba Tsuyu? Rice Noodle? Mung Bean Threads?

As I said above, "But nothing wrong with that. It’s a valid topic"
How is that being defensive?
I think it’s time you named and shamed all these noodlers. You could start a blacklist, and participating pubs could agree not to have them on the premises. "Noodle in one of our pubs, and you will be banned from all pubs participating in the Reading and Oxford Anti-Antisocial Noodling ring.

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The problem with that, Ottery, is that noodlers are usually nice people, and besides, I wouldn’t want to exclude anyone from a session. All I’m suggesting is that chronic noodlers might stop and think for a second about what kind of effect their noodling might be having on other people’s enjoyment of a session… including listening punters. There’s nothing wrong with asking folks to consider good manners and common decency when joining sessions, is there?

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You know what, Kerri, regardless of your noodling, you’d still be very welcome at any session I was involved with.

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Well, Jack, somewhere between the random-note-playing, whistle-toting hippie I scared off a few months ago and your miraculous friend who picks up tunes by ear at your session without many obvious screw-ups there’s a line, I imagine, above which experimentation is OK. The location of the line is different for everyone so there really is no sense putting it in black and white terms like "never try to play tunes you don’t know". You’ll confuse the newbies and make them insecure. Insecure people screw up more, making for a more discordant session.

Although I agree it’s kind of lame to pick up your instrument if you aren’t going to do something with it, like work out some fingering, or maybe play something, and I can understand why you’ve trained yourself not to do that.

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Hang on, Jack,I hope that invitation inn’t any way based on that "sleeping my way into the session" comment I made a while back…

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Nope, good manners and common decency are good, Jack, as is the opening of ears.
But none of the people who hear you say that will think you’re talking about them, that’s the trouble. If you say there’s a problem with people speeding up other people’s sets to an unnacceptable pace, you can be sure that the main perpetrator will look pleased with themselves and give you a wink and nod in the direction of some generally blameless individual.

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so true, Mark. I know a guy who is a rock solid drummer and guitar player but new to melody - when ever he plays melody he accuses everyone of else slowing down. I recorded him once to prove he speeds up and he told me he did it on purpose that time.

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"Hang on, Jack,I hope that invitation inn’t any way based on that "sleeping my way into the session" comment I made a while back…"

😲 Wow… I hadn’t heard this… uh… I don’t think we’ve ruled this sort of thing out or anything like that… I guess. *gulp*

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lol, never mind, it was way back in Jim’s "hate mail" thread. I suppose your memory isn’t as long as your beard hair.

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It should be possible to learn, quietly, at a session.

Noodling can be easily stopped by the simple and polite expedient of telling people what you are going to play before you start. If necessary, give a short demonstration by playing a few linews and saying "You know those two?".

However communication seems to be a difficulty in some sessions.

As a bodhran player, it doesn’t matter to me what the tunes are, and therefore I have time to observe these little nuances.

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"I suppose your memory isn’t as long as your beard hair"

Actually, I did a little research and found your quote on the "Retired? Is it possible?" thread. I didn’t see or contribute to that thread, so I wouldn’t have seen it. On the "hate mail" thread Kevin refers briefly to your quote… but that’s about it.

Turns out my memory is plenty long just like other parts of me. 😉

https://thesession.org/discussions/5777/comments

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"Noodling can be easily stopped by the simple and polite expedient of telling people what you are going to play before you start. If necessary, give a short demonstration by playing a few linews and saying "You know those two?"

I like to proceed this way, actually, and still do despite the protest from musicians who will say things like, "Just play the tune, Jack!" People have complained that it ruins the spontaneity of the music etc. I like it because you can let people know what tunes you have in mind to follow rather than trying to yell the name and key change etc. It’s gradually catching on here though as people discover that it takes the read-my-mind-about-what-comes-next aspect of playing tunes together at sessions.

I didn’t think this up myself of course, when I was visiting Ireland I noticed a lot of the better sessions proceeding in that way. I thought about suggesting this at our local session, but when I told people about what I saw in Ireland — they accused me of making it up so I could control the session. The irony is that it allows everyone a chance to control the medley they would like to play regardless of how strong a player they are. It also reduces the likelihood of their medley idea being hijacked.

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Kerri, this is an open invitation to sleep your way into our session. We’re mostly guys, a coupl’a girls who are probably open minded and we’re all kinky as hell. Anyway, I didn’t mean to imply that learning from CDs is " wrong " or untraditional, a lot of great players have learned from old recordings, etc. It’s just that I learned a lot of my tunes from playing at sessions with really great players in the west of Ireland. Not everybody has access to players like that so there’s nothing wrong with learning from a good CD. I hope I wasn’t annoying them when I was ripping tunes off them ( I doubt it; people speak their minds in Mayo ) but if I was, I’m not sorry. It’s the reason I play in the style I do and know so many good tunes.

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Jack, this is a practice I’ve seen a lot in the better sessions lately; ie playing the first few bars of each tune before starting a set. I never thought it was done to deter noodlers but more as a matter of courtesy.

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I didn’t suggest it was done to deter noodlers either — that was Blisster’s idea — not mine.

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Announcing, or playing a bar or two (a trailer?) of what you’re going to play is the way to go. As a flute player I can’t get to the first time through the last part of the first tune and mutter, "G - Lad O’Beirne’s," at anyone, so from a musical point of view, it’s far better that the whole shebang is kept going by my sorting that out at the outset, than that everything goes quiet while half the pub tries to figure out whether it’s that or the Shaskeen, and all the other chancers start playing the Shaskeen anyhows, as that’s the only G tune they know that starts like that.

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Most of the sessions in Ireland I went to the host guys would discuss what was to be played at least among themselves. They would arrive at what they were gonna do by some kind of wierd process. And the spontaniety was intact. Who the heck is telling you to "just play the tune!"? Ignore those scrubs. They are fools.

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"Who the heck is telling you to "just play the tune!"? Ignore those scrubs."

That’s what I say, but it was hard for many years because majority rules and all that. I kept doing it anyway even though I got abuse for it, and gradually now I’ll see other people trying it because they realized it solves a lot of problems. I also noticed that the people who objected the most were players that had a tendency to hijack other people’s medley ideas. I think the concept threatened these players because it disarms their ability to do so. Of course they argue that it ruins the spontaneity.

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Is anyone actually objecting to other people playing silently during one of their tunes?

It’s one obvious way to learn a tune because anyone who knows the sound of their instrument can follow the notes with the correct fingering and start to learn the sequence without making a sound.

It’s also natural human behaviour to mirror other people’s actions and expressions as an indication of being part of the same group. Objecting to it suggests deliberate exclusion.

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I did not say playing a few lines was done to deter "noodling". I did say it is a courteous way of involving all, and eliminates noodling as a side effect.

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"when I was visiting Ireland I noticed a lot of the better sessions proceeding in that way. I thought about suggesting this at our local session, but when I told people about what I saw in Ireland — they accused me of making it up so I could control the session."

You couldn’t make it up!

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My sets are nearly always spontaneous, and half way through the tune, I work out what is coming next and quietly announce it in the last 4 bars. It doesn’t always work that way and I sometimes curse instead. I wouldn’t want to announce all the tunes in advance.

Like at workshops, the only way to stop noodlers is to insist everyone puts their instruments down between sets .

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Why wouldn’t you want to announce the tunes in advance, Geoff? I’d understand if you couldn’t be bothered to, by why wouldn’t you WANT to? What benefits are provided by spontaneity in this instance? I ask in a spirit of genuine enquiry, not as some sort of criticism. I know a few players who usually announce what they want to play next towards the end of the current tune, but they are all happy to negotiate the layout of a set beforehand if you want them to. - If you were a wind instrument player you’d have to if you didn’t want the set to sound a bit stop/start.
Mark

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Mark, I enjoy unplanned sets because of those psychic moments where I "just know" what’s coming. Puts some magic in my life. I also like that I can often identify and launch into a tune after hearing less than half a bar.

I also enjoy planned sets, but I always forget what the plan was and find myself trying to be psychic anyway.

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I like unplanned sets too. I was just wondering why Geoff says he wouldn’t want to announce all the tunes in advance. But since writing that I’ve thought, maybe it’s because he tends to play long sets.
I prefer short sets myself (up to four tunes really), most of the time, though I’m quite happy to tag along if someone wants to construct a long one….

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Monday it was too bloody hot to play long sets and we did one or two tunes at a time between mopping sweat off our instruments, saying "’sti, qu’il fait chaud!" and sucking back pints to cool off. In the winter we need to play for 20 minutes at a time just to keep warm.

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I’ve noticed that people who put together tune sets "spontaneously" often do the same "spontaneous" set each time. Pre-planning doesn’t mean you do the same set necessarily; the predetermined sets can be just as spontaneous. The advantage of deciding what to play before you start prevents having to yell out while you’re playing or any mind-reading fiascos.

In predetermined sets it’s common that only a few players are on top of the change and you still have that interesting texture shift at the start, but the backer (if there is one) usually is on top of things and provides the necessary tonal shift that gives meaning to the change. Sometimes everyone’s on the change and the effect will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

Also, punters seem to pay closer attention because they don’t end up embarrassing themselves by applauding when they thought the set had concluded only to find out their clapping over on fiddle struggling to get the next tune going. Often a punter enjoying the music might loose interest if they get confused like this a few times. A session should be for everyone’s enjoyment – punters and musicians alike.

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It is, after all, a public performance. 😉

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You’ve finally got it — congrats, Kerri. (took long enough though) 😉

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I agreed with you all along, Jack. I just can’t take the way you express yourself, you troublemaker. 😀

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Ahhhhh, how nice of you to keep the punters’ interest in mind as you’re playing tunes, Jack. Just out of interest, what happens when they *do* lose interest? Does your session cease to be a session and start being something else?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"Troublemaker"? Does that make Jack a "kettle" as well?

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i think Jack’s the pot, actually.

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I never said it was only a session if the punters are paying attention, Dow. My hope is that everyone enjoys the session, not just the weirdo brit-box player who’s inside of his own private bubble playing only for himself and his buddies — out in public.

Our sessions include everyone; there’s Chuck who comes and listens every night… and takes photos. There’s people that will ask our lovely bartender, Laura, if there’s music tonight. At the end of the night she’ll say, "That was a nice session tonight." Should I tell her to feck off and quit budding into our private affairs? Should I tell the people who come in and sit nearby listening and enjoying the music to find another pub to bother people in? I don’t know what your sessions are like, Dow, but they don’t sound like much fun if you exclude the punters as participants.

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Jack, you’d have to *notice* the punters in order to tell them to sod off.

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You mean it’s ok to ignore them when they ask you questions? You can’t look them in the eye? You can’t nod with any acknowledgement if they compliment you? How rude is that?

Personally, I think anyone that doesn’t acknowledge or notice the punters when they’re playing in public is weird. Why even go out in public if you’re going to pretend the public isn’t there? Is it just to convince yourself that what you’re doing isn’t a public performance?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I am guilty of being a spontaneous but not so spontaneous session player. I usually will keep two tunes together, and either end or start with a third. Or not.

I don’t disagree with the idea of set introductions, and have seen it work really well. I have done it myself on occassion. But I love the opposite. I love the highly tuned session where everyone is listening intently to each other and like the inhale of breath, the tribe pauses while the next tune is reeled out and then everyone jumps on it.

I love that. It’s more "session like" to me.

And yes, sessions can be entertaining and interactive, but this does not necessarily make them performances for an audience.

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"It’s more "session like" to me."

What seems more "session like" to you would depend on what you’re used to, would it not?

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"And yes, sessions can be entertaining and interactive, but this does not necessarily make them performances for an audience."

But you are performing Irish music — in public. Playing IS performing — and an audience would be anyone listening regardless of whether or not they paid to get in. The only way you could keep it from being a public performance would be to have signs up that said, "Listening prohibited," "This is not a performance" and "Listeners will be asked to leave the premisis." — but that would be ridiculous of course — wouldn’t it?

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I speak only the truth, as far as where I am coming from, you know, personally speaking, accordion to my version of reality. In my world, I’m dead on and never said a more truer thing.

Jeezu, I’m beginning to sound like a bodhranist of personal distinction.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Audience au·di·ence n

1.a group of people who are watching and listening to a show, concert, or other live performance

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999

I think sessions would fall under "other live performances."

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Semantics. I play music in a public space, with and for other musicians. I am in an interchange with these musicians, a dialog over time. The entertainment value to the listeners in the pub is a byproduct of that interchange.

Performance to me is purposeful. I go to the session to play music with people, not to entertain an audience. It is not my purpose for a session. This has always been true for me.

If someone from my dayjob asks me…when are you playing next. I assume that they want to hear me perform. I tell them about my gigs. If they seem to have a deeper understanding, I tell them about the session, and warn them that it is not a performance. Entertainment can be had, but it is not why the musicians are there.

This doesn’t make me rude to patrons in the pub. I don’t seek them out for their opinions, or make announcements to them, but neither do I have disdain for them. I honor them, respect their interest in the music. But my energies while playing tunes are not directed at them.

I love an organic environment…Madden’s in Belfast, the Lobby or the Corner House in Cork; festival pubs where everyone in the place is breathing the music. Yet still, the musicians are playing tunes with each other, not for the general audience.

And that’s the color of the sky in my world.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack, one doesn’t just elbow the patrons aside and act huffy when spoken to, it’s more like "Oh, hello, I didn’t see you there. Having a nice evening? Is the toilet occupied? No? Well, then, enjoy your evening." SLAM.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

If musicians are tolerated in any public house that they do not personally own, the inference is that the person allowing them to play WOULD LIKE TO HEAR SOME MUSIC. It doesn’t mean that you have to take a bow, but you should respect that someone is LISTENING and may not want you back if afforementioned music sucks. I get paid to host various sessions, and when I am ignoring the "audience" for too long by chatting or whatever ( or letting crap musicians go on too long ) I get big eyebrows from the publican. I don’t confuse that with actual performance, though, which I am also accustomed too. But it isn’t completely different. Enjoy your world. Nice sky.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

In the Herschell Arms, anyone NOT there to listen is told to "shut the f*ck up and get in the other bar, or better still, there’s another pub up the street!" by our beloved landlord. Is that being rude to them? Amazingly they don’t seem to be offended - everyone always just laughs.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Wikipiedia is one person’s (or a group of person’s) interpretation of a "session," but isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all definition. But in their definition they say:

"The objective in a session is not to provide music for an audience of passive listeners, but in pub sessions, the punters (non-playing attendees) often come for the express purpose of listening, and the music is for the musicians themselves."

Even though, as you have also stated, the objective isn’t to put on a show. But if there are punters who are enjoying the results of the performance/playing/act of making music, then it is indeed something that’s taking place in public.

Performing doesn’t automatically mean you have to intend to and announce the fact that you are going to play a musical instrument — it’s just a fact. The truth is, sessions are often announced and advertised so that people who enjoy playing or listening will know when to come.

The problem people seem to have with the concept of their playing of music being a performance or not, (regarding sessions,) is that they don’t consider themselves to be putting on a "show" when playing sessions. I think you don’t have to be putting on a show to be performing — performing is the act of playing. If you’re playing in public — it’s a public performance. Not a show, you don’t have to bow or accept bouquets of roses and sign autographs. But you did perform Irish music – in public — like it or not.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Look at this, both of Jack’s most legendary threads rolled into one.

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Saves time and band width. 😉

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Semantics. If the tree falls in the wood, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

"If you are playing in public — it’s a public performance." That is one man’s definition of a session.

If I have an open party at my house, musicians come over and we have a session, people are there and listen. It is a session, and we are not performing (whether it be in public or not).

If I have an open session at a pub, whether scheduled or not, musicians come to the pub and play. It is also a session, and we are not performing.

By the same token, if me and my friends meet in a field in a public park, with no one around, and we play tunes together, this is also a session, and not a performance.

It is in a public space, there are no punters or audience. We are playing in public. It is not a performance. It is a session. Like it or not.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Any way you look at it — you are in the act of performing/playing/executing music. The public part only comes into it when you’re in public.

per·form v

1. vt to carry out an action or accomplish a task

2. vt to do what is stated or required

3. vti to present or enact an artistic work such as a piece of music or a play to an audience

4. vi to function, operate, or behave in a particular way or to a particular standard

5. vi to fulfill a promise or obligation

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Give up now Jode and save your breath (or fingers).
🙂

Jack is using performance as in def. 1 above, even though many of us hear def. 3 when someone says "public performance."

Since "performance" comes with such different meanings attached perhaps it’s better to call a session a session, distinct from a show or concert or gig, and—to avoid ambiguity and possible confusion—refrain from calling sessions public performances, unless you enjoy alientating people by being overly literal. 🙂

Posted .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Oh, and I guess I don’t have the Pavlovian response. I don’t start faking along subconsciously, though sometimes I do it on purpose, either to suss out the tune (often as Jack’s fiddler does, holding the fiddle like a mandolin and just fingering the notes), or to play along without making any noise because my memory has gone fuzzy on that tune.

But no, I don’t find myself seduced into playing or noodling merely because someone else has started a tune. My reflexes don’t jump. I’m the one sitting quietly and still, perhaps lifting my pint.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

P.S. So I don’t go through any grimacing in frustration or disappointment, either. More likely, I look like I’ve fallen asleep. If the tune is unfamiliar, the only thing I notice is a mostly emotional three-way response—either (1) the tune grabs my interest and I "wake up" to follow its melody, (2) the tune sounds like it has potential and I half listen, half imagine how it could be played, or (3) the tune does nothing for me and I concentrate on the flavor of my beer.

Posted .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

But Will, definition 1 comes from a very Californian perspective. "To carry out an action". In other words, life is a performance…everything is performed.

How about a little context here?

I gotta run to perform at a recording session!!!

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"Jack is using performance as in def. 1 above, even though many of us hear def. 3 when someone says "public performance."

Wrong. I’m using #3: to present or enact an artistic work such as a piece of music or a play to an audience

Notice the use of the word "or". to present (or) enact an artistic work such as a piece of music (or) a play to an audience

Now lets look at the definition between the "or"s

enact an artistic work such as a piece of music

This act can exist on it’s own. The "or" means as an alternative or varient. The audience isn’t even required, but accepted as a recipient if it happens to be there.

So the definition of #3 is that you can present, or just be playing tunes with or without an audience.

Conclusion: If the audience is there, and it’s out in public, it’s a public performance of Irish music known as a session.

I was wondering where you were, Will. Nice to see ya. 😉

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I read def. 3 differently. The first "or" doesn’t make the audience disposable, it just differentiates between "present" and "enact." Sounds to me like the writer wanted to distinguish between presenting a piece of music versus acting out a play. The definition doesn’t imply "with or without an audience." It says "to present or enact…to an audience." The "to an audience" applies to either present or enact. Which is why it doesn’t work for me as a synonym for session.

Good to see you too, Jack. I was just in Dayton, OH on business and frustrated that I could not make time to visit Dave Copley down in Loveland (only 50 miles south, if that) , even though I had my flute (a keyless Copley blackwood) with me. Not even time to go looking for a local session. At least the humidity was good for the flute.

Posted .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Fair enough… if you read it that way it still describes a session with anyone listening as a performance, regardless of your intentions. If a session is in a public place, and people are listening — it’s a public performance. The only way it wouldn’t describe a session would be if there was no sound. Sessions are all about sound last time I checked.

Sessions in public are public performances

Actually, I’d like to add that the only possible way to prevent a session from being a public performance would be to hold it in secret and far enough away from the public so they will neither hear nor see it.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Now I know what Bones felt like when he and Spock discussed emotions….

Posted .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Oops… meant to sprinkle that with a bunch of 🙂
🙂

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Haha it worked! Can I leave you two to get on with it - I’m busy on another thread… ta 😀

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

PS "I don’t know what your sessions are like, Dow, but they don’t sound like much fun if you exclude the punters as participants."

If a punter claps or says they enjoy it, great, we don’t exclude them, but if they don’t clap or whatever, it makes no difference to us. If you don’t like the idea of that, then no, you probably wouldn’t think our sessions were much fun. I think they’re great.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I am back to say that the term as described is meaningless to the situation. If "perform" is a synonym for "act" or "play" then it becomes a useless word in this context. It cannot be used to differentiate between a gig or a session.

For example, an earlier described situation, where someone is playing for the pleasure of the publican: that is a gig, a performance. He is being paid to perform, either for the publican or for the punters. It is a performance. When he doesn’t perform, eyebrows are raised and perhaps he won’t be asked back.

I am not paid. No one is paid. We play music for each other. The publican is happy to support the music, and enjoy the company of others that enjoy the music. The players, the people "performing" the actions that create the music, do so for each other, and for themselves. It is a session. It is not a performance.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack’s "hearing" but not "listening", Jode. If he was listening, he’d realise that we are totally right, and that what we are saying is self-evident. But go easy on him, he’s an anglo player, you know? They can be a bit slow at times.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

It’s a "performance" by definition regardless of your intentions, and if it’s in public… well you know… it’s a public performance. The argument that it’s not a public performance because of your purpose sounds like you’re inventing new meanings for the word. That would be having sex with someone and saying that you weren’t having sex because you were only doing it for your own pleasure. The reason for doing it doesn’t change the act itself.

If you want to distinguish between performing for a show (gig) and performing in a session, that’s easy. A session is a casual performance of ITM — and putting on a show would be a serious performance, but they’re both performances. Unless you have a new word that describes a casual performance and is universally accepted and acknowledged as distinguishing itself from "performance" — you have no other choice. And when you’re out in public… well — it happens in public then.

Most people don’t use the word, "perform" because it’s assumed for either a gig or a session. But the act of playing is in it’s essence a performance. The word performance isn’t reserved for the act of playing music depending on the circumstances i.e. the intentions of the performer and what the conversation and arrangements are with a publican. The conditions of the performance are only details surrounding the act, but they don’t transform the act away from it’s essence.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Dow, if a punter claps and enjoys your music — there’s your audience. That means he’s enjoying your public performance — it’s a good thing. Try repeating that to yourself; public performances are a good thing. People enjoying the music is a good thing. See… feels better huh?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Public performances are a good thing. The customer may or may not get something from watching the performance, but the musician owes something to those customers, because it’s a public performance.

Sessions are a good thing. The customer may or may not get something from watching the musicians playing tunes with each other, but the musician owes nothing to those customers, because it’s a session.

In both cases, people enjoying the music is a good thing.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"It’s a "performance" by definition regardless of your intentions, and if it’s in public… well you know… it’s a public performance. The argument that it’s not a public performance because of your purpose sounds like you’re inventing new meanings for the word. That would be having sex with someone and saying that you weren’t having sex because you were only doing it for your own pleasure. The reason for doing it doesn’t change the act itself."

It’s a performance in the sense of making music, yes, but then you could say that you do performances of music in your own home, thus rendering the term all-encompassing and meaningless. The nuance of "public performance" is - at least in places other than your planet, Jack - "music made for the purpose of the entertainment of customers". Our sessions aren’t that, although punters might be listening and enjoying it. It’s the *intent* that’s important in the definition. What you’re saying is like saying that the phrase "an orange balloon" is "an orange", just because it’s got the word orange in it. In other words, absolute twaddle and so meaningless it’s mildly amusing 🙂

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"An orange balloon"

It’s correct to say that the balloon is orange.
It’s incorrect to say that the orange balloon is an orange.

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Oh, and Jode… so if a session is a public performance, then playing by yourself in private would not be a public performance. That would be "practicing." There are group versions like; "rehearsing". And if you had a private session it would be a performance, but not a public performance. But you’d never say, "Let’s go to Tom’s and perform Irish music. You’d say, "Let’s go to Tom’s for some tunes."

I think the problem might be guilt by association. The word "performance" is used a lot in the context of concerts, but that doesn’t cancel out the meaning of the word in regard to public sessions. It still describes what happens, regardless of intentions, when you play tunes in public.

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I think that’s as clear as can be, but then, you’re an anglo player, so I’m making allowances for you and being very patient in explaining it to you, as I would a small child 😀

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"I think the problem might be guilt by association."

No, the problem is that you’re wrong, and you won’t admit we’re right 🙂

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"The word "performance" is used a lot in the context of concerts, but that doesn’t cancel out the meaning of the word in regard to public sessions. It still describes what happens, regardless of intentions, when you play tunes in public."

Like I said, an orange is orange, and an orange balloon is orange, but that doesn’t mean all balloons are orange, and it certainly doesn’t mean an orange balloon is an orange.

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So Dow, if you’re playing tunes in public, and people are listening, but it’s not a performance — then what word would you replace "performance" with? "Performance" still describes most accurately what it is.

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Don’t worry, Dow, I’ll admit you’re right if you say something that makes sense. But if it walks like a duck…

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The English language is a funny thing. I’ve just eaten an apple and only the "core" is left. I can use the word "core" in lots of other ways, but I can’t say that when I’ve finished my peach, the "core" is left. People would understand exactly what I was saying, but they’d think I was a little weird, unless I said "stone". It’s such a small detail of language, but you’ve been speaking it since you were a baby, so why not use it properly?

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"So Dow, if you’re playing tunes in public, and people are listening, but it’s not a performance — then what word would you replace "performance" with? "Performance" still describes most accurately what it is."

I’d replace it with "session". That word usually includes "public" in its definition anyway, so it’s redundant. Unless you want to distinguish between a house session, and one that’s played in public, in which case I’d say "pub session".

Seriously Jack, how long have you been playing this music?!
‘,:- O

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

If I look at a girl walking down the street, is she a model
walking for all to admire ?

Or is she just a girl walking down the street.

Be careful with answer it could get me arrested !

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Haha good one BegF!
Jack’s stopped arguing with us, so maybe we can take that as his admission that we’re right. *Sigh* so what can we argue about now?…

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack, let’s look at your analysis of the definition "perform" above. You break out "or" incorrectly. The original: "to present or enact an artistic work such as a piece of music or a play to an audience"

The use of "or" twice will end up with four distinct phrases:

1) to present an artistic work such as a piece of music to an audience.

2) to enact an artistic work such as a play to an audience.

3) to enact an artistic work such as a piece of music to an audience.

4) to present an artistic work such as a play to an audience.

So in all cases, you are presenting music to an audience. (I hope we can agree that presenting is a better term for music than enacting.)

Can we agree that a group of Irish musicians can gather together in the back room of a pub and all play tunes together, with no audience, no punters, waitstaff, or publicans? If so, then these individuals cannot be performing, because they are not "presenting music to an audience". There is no audience, no presentation and no performance. They are having a session. Individuals are playing in a session. They are sessioning.

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This conversation is interesting only as an exercise in linguistics or psychology.

The meaning of a word depends a lot on the context of its use. Let’s say I’m a teacher and I use the word "roll" in a lesson. If I’m teaching fiddle, "roll" means a specific articulation or ornament done by the left hand. But "roll" would mean something else entirely if I was teaching baking or kayaking. A fiddle student who insists on applying all the meanings of "roll" everytime the word is used in a fiddle lesson is going to get tired of running to the kitchen and kneading dough,and then tipping over his chair and flailing around to right himself, when all he really needs to do is a few flicks of the fingers on his fiddle strings.

In short, ignoring the nuances of context tends to lead to miscommunication and confusion.

In the context of people playing music, most of us think of gig or concert or show when we hear the words "public perfomance." The more literal sense of "to accomplish a task in public" is so obvious that it adds nothing to our understanding of what a session is.

Consider this:
"A session is a public perfomance [people accomplishing a task (playing music) in public]."

Well, yes, to be champion of the obvious, there you have it.

But:

"A session is a public performance [people putting on a show or concert for an audience]."

Then you have described something that does not fit with the sense of a session held by many, many session musicians. In this sense, "public performance" is even antithetical to what many of us think of as a session.

So one meaning of public performance does not appreciably add to our understanding of a session. And the other meaning clouds the distinction between a session and a gig, show, or concert. Why then insist on using the phrase "public performance" at all?

Unless you just want to get under the skin of certain English box players….
🙂

Posted .

Dow proves a session is a public performance

Q: "So Dow, if you’re playing tunes in public, and people are listening, but it’s not a performance — then what word would you replace "performance" with?"

A: "I’d replace it with "session". That word usually includes "public" in its definition anyway, so it’s redundant. Unless you want to distinguish between a house session, and one that’s played in public, in which case I’d say "pub session". "

Thanks Dow — you just proved I’m right with this answer. If "session" is synonymous with "public performance"… well… I think you see where this goes. I should have thought of asking that question long ago. Thanks again, Dow.

Dow proves a session is a public performance

"Can we agree that a group of Irish musicians can gather together in the back room of a pub and all play tunes together, with no audience, no punters, waitstaff, or publicans? If so, then these individuals cannot be performing, because they are not "presenting music to an audience". There is no audience, no presentation and no performance. They are having a session. Individuals are playing in a session. They are sessioning."

Sure, but what IS "sessioning"? well, it’s the act of playing Irish music for your own enjoyment etc. In your scenario it would be considered private. Put it out in public and you would be playing Irish music for your own enjoyment etc with an audience. Playing music for an audience is performing, so it would be a public performance of a session.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

(twilight zone theme music)

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Dow proves a session is a public performance

Will, you’re getting closer. You said, ""A session is a public perfomance [people accomplishing a task (playing music) in public]." Then continuing to define what exactly a "session" is doesn’t take away from that — it adds to it. When one asks, "What is this public performance of music known as a "session?" The answer would explain that it’s Irish music benig played by musicians for their own enjoyment etc., and even though it’s not a "show" or "concert," it’s still available for an audience (people listening) to enjoy. Do the musicians just sit there? No, they pick up instruments and play music… in view of an audience.

Back to my sex analogy: If a couple is having sex for their own enjoyment… in public… wouldn’t it then become a public performance of sex? If an audience is watching and enjoying it… it’s pornography, regardless of the couple’s intentions.

Dow proves a session is a public performance

"(twilight zone theme music)"

Will… snap out of it… Will… WILL!!!

(no wonder he’s not getting it) 😛

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Ah ha. So you agree that there is such a thing as a session, where a group of musicians get together to play tunes, and that this is not a performance.

So the crux of the issue is that once you put a non-musician (or non-involved musician) in the mix, it becomes a performance, and that person automatically becomes the audience, whether willing or no?

So, as I said, a session occurs in the back room of a pub. There is no one there besides the musicians. It is a public space. Anyone is free to enter the room. By your logic, you would agree that this is a session, but you would term it a private session.

By your logic, if someone walks into the room they immediately become an audience member, and the session becomes a performance. Walk out…session; Walk in…performance; Walk out…session; Walk in…performance.

If this person walking into the public space is without sight and hearing, is this person the audience? If they are strolling around the pub with an iPod on, cranking Metallica, are they an audience?

au·di·ence [ áwdee ənss ] (plural au·di·ences)

noun
1. people watching performance: a group of people assembled to watch and listen to a show, concert, movie, or speech

2. people watching or listening to broadcast: the viewers of a movie or a television program, or the listeners to a radio program

3. author’s readership: the people who read a writer’s books

4. formal interview: a formal, usually prearranged, interview with somebody important [14th century. Via French < Latin audientia "a hearing" < audire "hear"]

Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P)2005 Microsoft Corporation.

———————————————

According to the definition of Audience, this group of people must be assembled to watch and listen to a performance. There is intent there. On the musicians side, there must also be intent to present the music to said audience.

In the above scenario, having the two people in the same room as the session does not make them an audience. They are not there to listen to a performance. Neither are the musicians there to present a performance.

Therefore it is possible for a group of musicians to sit in a pub, playing music together without presenting it to anyone. It is also possible that people are sitting in the same room chatting, without paying any attention to the music. They are not an audience, and they are not attending a performance.

(Apologies to Will for taking this down to a granular level. I agree about context and made a plea for that earlier.)

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"So, as I said, a session occurs in the back room of a pub. There is no one there besides the musicians. It is a public space. Anyone is free to enter the room. By your logic, you would agree that this is a session, but you would term it a private session. "

Is this where you hold your sessions, Jode? The sessions I go to are in pubs where it is well known that a session will be taking place and people come in to enjoy listening to it. I have never gone to a session where people came because they don’t enjoy listening to sessions. Your model is irrelevant to what we’re discussing.

You’re converting it to an anthropological discussion with the following:

"By your logic, if someone walks into the room they immediately become an audience member, and the session becomes a performance. Walk out…session; Walk in…performance; Walk out…session; Walk in…performance."

It has been shown that the presence of an observer may alter the event observed, but your scenario isn’t practical or realistic… for me anyway. I usually attend public sessions in pubs where people are coming specifically to listen. They know in advance that the session will be held at that date and time and the crowd, or at least some of them, assemble to listen to the music.

"According to the definition of Audience, this group of people must be assembled to watch and listen to a performance. There is intent there. On the musicians side, there must also be intent to present the music to said audience."

In my Webster’s New World Dictionary the first definition for "audience" is: 1) The act or state of hearing. The second refers to the group of people assembled, but "etc." is included at the end so it’s not limited to concerts or shows as you would like us to believe according to your definition. Because of the “etc.” is included the crowd could be assembled to enjoy a session as well. There’s no stipulation that the musicians have to be intending to put on a show or concert. The session IS what the audience is enjoying, and it IS people playing music. Therefore, it IS a public performance.

The only way I could come close to agreeing with you is if your "session" is attended only by musicians (who are playing) and it is being ignored by a crowd of deaf people — then it wouldn’t be a public performance. Unless of course the deaf people enjoy watching you.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I like pudding…

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Yeah, Jode. Your model is lame. You forgot to include musicians who stop playing their instruments momentarily while the music continues. Finger goes in the nose: audience. Finger goes back to concertina buttons: musician.

Plus you forgot the bartender, who qualifies as an audience member whenever he’s not in the back hooking up kegs and washing glasses.

Between nose picking, walk-ins who leave as soon as they realize the strip club they were looking for is actually across the street, bartenders and the people at Jack’s session who never play tunes they don’t know, there is ALWAYS be an audience.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

And of course we won’t even lower ourselves to define those female fiddlers from Canada who sleep there way into a session.

I appologize for that last remark.

Kerri, just because you can’t grasp the concept doesn’t mean you have to insult me.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"their" Jack.

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LOL @ Jack. Why does "replacing" have to mean that I think it’s "synonymous"? You are hilarious! Why can’t you just say "session" instead of trying to define it and failing in your imagery? If you have to define what a "session" is, why can’t you just say "me and my mates having tunes at the pub" like the rest of us?

Or are you just trying to popularise the phrase, so that in the future people might say "there’s a public performance on tonight do you want to come?" without getting the answer "what a concert? Nah, I’m short of money this month"…

I’m afraid I don’t think it’ll catch on, Jack. Maybe in San Francisco it might I dunno, but in Ireland I don’t think you’d get people saying "we had a great public performance last night - it must have been good because the people in the audience were clapping after every set" unless it was a concert of course…

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Yeah Kerri, it’s my job to insult Jack 😀

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C’mon Jack, everybody picks their nose. That’s not an insult. "I wave my private parts at your aunties!" and "I fart in your general direction!" THOSE are insults.

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Circa 1985, Cafe de Palms, a restaurant closed on Sunday nights, adjacent to tavern Club de Wash, Madison WI, home to the regular Sunday night session.

Room is empty except for musicians. When we want to get a drink, we walk into the bar down the hall and bring back pitchers of beer. On the rare occassion, people would hang out at empty tables and chat, and listen to the session. Rarely, were there any people listening to the music who were not active participants in the session (excluding Kerri’s list).

So this public session that lasted for years was irrelevant?

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I appologize for that last remark.

If your session happens in a back room where no one except musicians are, then it’s relevant. But if people (the public) come back specifically to listen to it while they chat — it becomes, for them, a public performance. Unless they already there and would have preferred you weren’t there bothering them, because then it would become a public nuisance.

Your session sounds unusual, Jode, I don’t think many people on this site are having their sessions in back rooms out of view and away from hearing distance to the public area. But that’s not the sort of session that inspired the topic.

When I first raised this question it was because people were claiming their sessions weren’t public performances even though their session was in a pub on a date that was understood and attended by folks that came specifically for the music. What it is about being a public performance that offends them is a mystery to me. Personally I have no problem enjoying playing tunes with my friends at the pub… even when I realize it’s a public performance.

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Actually, there were two like that in Toronto alone, that I knew of.

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I love that Jack is apologizing for ALL his remarks now.

I appologize for that last remark.

Dow, if the act of playing music with people listening (when you’re in a pub) is for you a "session," then you’re saying a "session" is a public performance.

The public listening is an audience, the act of playing music that they’re watching and/or listening to is in fact a public performance, regardless of the intentions of the person playing the music.

It’s all about location. If you are not out in public — only then is it not a public event. Put yourself out in public in front of people who came because you would be there playing music and you’ve got yourself a public event of people listening to you play music. Hence; a public performance.

I appologize for that last remark.

But I’m not talking about sessions that are private, Kerri. That’s a different matter all together.

Kerri sleeps her way into sessions

I didn’t realize that if you change the title it stays that way on consecutive posts even when it doesn’t show up in the text box. I guess I’ll change it to something relevant.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

You might want to leave it that way, Jack, just to cover yer asp.

Dow proves a session IS a public performance

Actually, my favorite was this one.

Jack proves beard hair is actually made of dead brain cells.

They aren’t private, they’re just in areas of a public space where the public don’t go. Ie. quiet little corners, side rooms, upstairs where the bar is closed, etc. The public CAN go watch, they just choose not to. There’s no sign saying "Keep out, public!" Sometimes people wander in to check out what’s going on then decide they’d rather go back to the bar and watch hockey or whatever.

Kerri was only joking about the sleeping thing

If the public doesn’t show up to listen — then it’s not a public session. I’ve never argued it was, I’m only talking about sessions in public being public performances.

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"Dow, if the act of playing music with people listening (when you’re in a pub) is for you a "session," then you’re saying a "session" is a public performance."

No, I’m not.

I give up. We’re speaking different languages here 😏

Jack proves that anglo players are, well, a little bit dim, bless their souls…

Hehehe.

Dow’s getting just a wee bit pompous now

Dow, "session" isn’t a word made up to replace "public performance." You have to define what a session is. To do so, you’d explain the bit about playing ITM for your own enjoyment, etc., with other people in a pub and so on. That, in its essence, and according to definition, is a public performance.

Now I haven’t resorted to insinuating that you’re "dim" or any such thing just because you refuse to look at the discussion objectively. I rather think you’re stubborn. If you forget for a moment about your own obsession and examine it for what it actually is rather than what your ideological views about a session are — you’ll see how obvious it is. After you define it objectively, you can go into all of the philosophical and romantic aspects if you like. But don’t confuse them with the essence.

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Yeah but it’s more fun to insinuate that you’re dim 🙂

Jack’s an alien from outer space 😀

"You have to define what a session is".

No I don’t!

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The most trollish thing I can do is get back on topic ;->

People are picking up their instruments because they are bored with the obscure or just plain "naff" tune and want to get ahead on with something. Maybe unconcious, but it’s body language for "That’s real nice… now lets have some MUSIC!"

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Topic… what topic? 🙂

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Ok, Dow. Maybe if we change the subject matter you can finally get it. Say surfing… let’s change it to that. So, we were surfing. What is surfing? Well, it’s riding a board on ocean waves at a beach. Among people who know, you don’t have to define it, but if an explanation was needed — you’d have to explain it something like that. If it was a public beach and people happened to come to the beach to watch because it was advertised or known about in advance — that would constitute an audience. They would be there to watch a public performance of surfing. They wouldn’t say to each other, "I’m going to go to the beach and be an audience for the public performance of surfing." because that’s already understood, and besides, it sounds like androids talking. Humans might say, "I’m going to the beach where those surfers are every Sunday." So regardless of their intentions, the surfers are performing in public when the public assembles to watch. Hence – a public performance of people surfing.

Nanoo nanoo

Captain, we’re picking up something! It’s… strange radio waves from… another place. They’re coming to take us away!

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Nanoo nanoo… hmmm. I’ll look it up in Dow’s dictionary of made up words. Let’s see… session… surfing… uh… oh, here it is, nanoo nanoo. It means "I understand now, you’re right." Oh good… finally.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Dow’s dictionary of made up words makes a lot more sense than Jack’s dictionary of pointless and inaccurate definitions. I’m just leafing through it here. On one page it says "tree: a live public exercise in self-growth in potential material for wooden flutes"

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Uh, Dow, I was using the Webster’s New World Dictionary. I didn’t make up any words… hello?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Hi there!

Speaking of on-topic Dogs

What if the only thing listening to your session is a dog? Dose that make it public performance?
Anyway surely Pavlov’s dog must be dead by now.
There’s a rumour that Pavlov’s dog used to play the bodhran, or was it the bones?

Speaking of on-topic Dogs

Excuse my spelling of Dose = Does. I must have been about to does off.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"What if the only thing listening to your session is a dog? Dose that make it public performance?"

If it’s in a public place — yes. If the dog applauds and offers to buy you a drink it would add to the effect.

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I guess if the dog pees on your leg while playing it would count as the opposite to ‘appaws’.
There’s this site where you can play a game based on Pavlov’s Dog
http://nobelprize.org/medicine/educational/pavlov/
Warning: don’t click on this unless you really have nothing else to do.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

The beach analogy is interesting. Let’s take it from another perspective, related to BegF’s post:

Two young women call each other: Let’s go to the beach. Which one? Yeah, that one where that group of guys go surfing on Sunday afternoons. OK.

The two women meet at the beach, lie down to tan, and get deeply involved in a conversation about Jen, Brad and Angelina. Time just files before one says: "oh, excuse me, I must go to the loo" and saunters down the beach. Her friend sits up to notice that one of the surfers fell off his board and is totally checking out her friend. Typically, her friend is unaware of the interest she inspires in men.

Who is performing? No one.

Later, the two women get dressed to the nines to go out on the town. "Let’s meet at that irish pub where those funny people play squawky music, and then go from there."

They have a drink and get in a deep conversation about George and Karl. Time flies, another round is imbibed. One says to the other "I must go to the loo, and then let’s get out of here." She saunters across the room.

Previously oblivious to her presence, the flute player in the sessions stops and stares. The woman still at the table pays the bill and notices the squawking got a little quieter, and that the flute and fiddle player are totally checking out her friend. Of course, her friend doesn’t notice.

Who’s performing? No one.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I wondered why there were girls with tans at the pub last night.

But in both cases the performance happened regardless of the intentions of the performer or the attention from the public. The attention from the public that we get at or session fluctuates. Sometimes they’re with us cheering us on all night, other times they’re more absorbed in conversation. We never anticipate what the reaction will be, and we rarely think about it or notice, but we do realize that people are enjoying it in one way or another.

My point that a session in a public place, like a pub, is indeed a public performance. Not intentional, or even acknowledged as such by the audience, but a public performance none-the-less. Whatever behavior the participants are displaying on either side doesn’t change that fact. Because it’s a public performance doesn’t take away from the attitude of the participants or the audience. But to deny it’s a public performance is like denying the TV’s on even though no one in the room seems to be watching.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Finger goes in the nose, audience… finger goes back to flute, performer….

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The TV analogy is good. Having people deny that a session in a pub isn’t a public performance is like the following conversation.

SCENE: A pub with a few people in it and the TV’s on.

Patron to bartender: "Why’s the TV on?"

Bartender: "The TV’s not on."

Patron: (pointing to the TV) "Yes it is."

Bartender: "Do you see anyone watching it?"

Patron: (looks around room) "no… not really… I guess."

Bartender: "See, I told you it wasn’t on."

Patron: "But it IS on."

Bartnder: (to himself) "Stupid nit-wit."

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Kerri, you’re doing a public performance of a flute player picking their nose.

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And the punters in your model are doing a public performance of watching a session.

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OK, so we are back to semantics and a lack of context for the term. Let me see if I have this right:

You are sitting in a pub, playing music. Another person is sitting at the corner of the bar, drinking a beer. You are the audience, watching his performance of drinking beer.

Wait, I am on a roll. Two students sit on opposite sides of the library, each reading at their own tables. Help me out here. Which one is the audience and which one is the performer? Oh wait, they are both performers and audience at the same time.

Kudos to Will for stating that Jack’s usage of the term "perform" is according to the first definition stated above: "to carry out an action or accomplish a task".

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

But then we would have to add a new definition level to the term audience, adhering to the second definition taken from the Gilderese:

au·di·ence [ áwdee ənss ] (plural au·di·ences)
noun

1. people watching performance: a group of people assembled to watch and listen to a show, concert, movie, or speech

2. person or people within a space where someone else is carrying out an action or accomplishing a task

[20th century. Via Gilderese]

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Wrong, Jode. I’m using #3: to present or enact an artistic work such as a piece of music or a play to an audience. If you’re holding your session in a public place you’re playing music where people will probably be listening. You are performing the task of playing music. The crowd is functioning as an audience, and many will have likely come to the pub because they knew the music would be played. This fits all the criteria to establish that it would be a public performance. To deny that it’s a public performance is as silly as the barman in my allegory claiming the TV wasn’t on because nobody appeared to be watching.

Reversing the roles doesn’t work because the people in the pub didn’t come to watch the guy drink his pint. The advertisement didn’t say, "Live man drinking a pint tonight." If it did, and people showed up to watch — then you’d have a different kind of public performance. The fact is that sessions are usually a point of interest for at least some of the punters, and they come specifically to enjoy listening to it.

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Ahhh!
a long time ago, in a place far away, we used to take magic mushrooms, and go to a local pub to laugh at a bartender who had an improbably orange wig.
Was he therefore a performer?
We were definitely an audience ….

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

But having said that, Jack, of course you are right. A session, even in a private place, is still a performance, because you are performing for the benefit of the other musicians, either so they can listen to you or accompany you. The only time you play music and it is not a ‘performance’, is when you are practicing with other people, or when you are alone, and no-one else is listening - which does not really constitute a session anyway (It could be argued that, as, presumably, you are doing it for the pleasure of hearing it yourself, you are the audience, and so, you are still performing!)
One of the nice things about playing in a session is that you can PRETEND you’re not performing, which makes it easier for some people to manage it.

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I think your definition is too broad to be useful, Jack. Everybody knows what a performance is, and anyone who’s into trad knows what a session is. If you tell the people who don’t know what a session is that you’re "performing", you’ll have to add "Well, it’s THIS type of performance" and continue to explain what a session is, which is exactly what you’d have to do if you said you were going to a "session".

For people who both perform *and* play in sessions, it’s useful to have the agreed-upon shorthand to distinguish one from the other, especially when explaining to potential audience members what they are going to see when they come specifically to watch us play. Don’t you agree?

What am I saying, of course you don’t.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack, just out of interest, with that thing about the TV being on in the bar, would you say that the TV is "performing"?

What would we see if we peeled off your latex face? Are you stereotypically green? How many eyes do you have?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Kerri, when I say a session in a pub is a public performance I don’t need to explain anything — it’s just a simple fact. The only people that require explanation are those who feel threatened somehow by this fact. The people needing an explanation are never the members of the audience.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Dow… the TV being on represents the fact that’s being denied the same way people on this thread are denying a session in a pub is a public performance. It’s pugged in, switched on, and pictures and sound are coming out, but it can’t be on… right?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Ottery, I was talking only about sessions in pubs. I wasn’t discussing private sessions, rehearsals or practicing. Sessions in pubs are public performances. This doesn’t mean that I smile at the audience and sign autographs afterwards. All I’m saying is that playing tunes in public is a public performance. What you do at home in private is your own business.

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So a switched-on TV is like a performance to you?

Wow your alien language and Weltanschauung is becoming more and more interesting to me by the minute!

The TV analogy is a good one, but it has nothing to do with "performance".

To a punter, telly on = background noise and images.
To a punter, us playing = background noise and images.
To me, telly on = background ambient noise and images.
To me, us playing = having tunes together in a session.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"Kerri, when I say a session in a pub is a public performance I don’t need to explain anything — it’s just a simple fact. The only people that require explanation are those who feel threatened somehow by this fact. The people needing an explanation are never the members of the audience."

Fact? We’re talking opinions about the nuances of language here, not "fact". That you don’t realise this proves to me where the problem lies.

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Guys please come on, you’re still at it when everyone else is gone home.
For my own part a performance implies that I am knowingly doing something for an audience. If I am playing and someone is listening to my "performance" unbeknownst to me, then as far as I am concerned I am not performing.
But hey, don’t get tied up in semantics about sessions and performance. What it all boils down to is if there’s someone/people there listening to your session, do you give a stuff, do you even notice or is it an essential part of your session experience.

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…which is what I’ve been saying for a few days now, and I know we’re right, Donough. I’m only still here because it’s fun taunting the alien. I’m still intrigued to know what’s under the latex human face mask…

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I’ve been leafing through Jack’s Dictionary Of Pointless And Inaccurate Definitions some more today. Hey check this one out:

stroll (vb.) /stro:l/ - the act of stretching and compressing the muscles of the lower limbs so that they move in a scissor-like motion, whereby the points of the scissors make contact with the ground and exert forces causing usually forward movement of the whole body. Each of the upper limbs maintains balance during "strolling" by alternate swinging, the motion of which is opposite to the lower limbs. This is usually a public performance, as in "taking a stroll in the park".

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Donough, there’s nothing in the definition about the performer’s intent. The definition is playing music to an audience. Unless you’re deaf and blind — you’ll know if there’s an audience in the pub. As long as you’re playing music, and people are listening — the definition is realized.

As for you, Dow, you always prove my point by attempting to dismiss it. Thanks again. 😉

P.S. If the punters at your session are truely ignoring you at your sessions that severely — that’s sad really… sorry.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

And look at this one!

shop (vb.) - ( = to go shopping) a public performance of the act of browsing and buying goods in stores, unless that store is online [ref. store/shop (n.), online (adj.)]

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

dismiss (vb) - to make a public performance of agreeing

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If only you could use your imagination for ‘good,’ Dow.

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Jack, what if all the punters in the pub watching and listening are your friends, and after the session everyone comes back to your place for drinks and you end up playing more tunes. Does that make it a public performance in your own home?

If you just call them both a "session", it makes it much easier.

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Dow, what is it about performing in public that has you so scared? If it bothers you so much — why go to a pub and play?

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Dow leave him alone and come on over to the ‘Why accompany’ thread. Like to hear your words of wisdom on that. BTW did you know that we had the pleasure of Ivan’s company here a couple of weeks ago for a session.

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I don’t need to call them anything — I’m just stating a fact. If you’re in public — it’s a public performance. I still refer to it as a session.

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hahahaha… great oxymoron — Dow’s words of wisdom. hahahaha

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Scared? I’ve done solo public performances in front of hundreds of people before. Yeah it is a bit daunting. That’s why I prefer pub sessions. Okay Donough I’ll leave the alien alone 😀 Jeez someone should feed it - the poor thing’s been stuck in its cage for hours yelling gobbledegook at me. It’s probably saying it’s hungry. Here little alien, goochy goochy goo, OW! It bit me!

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It’s past his bedtime anyway if my international clock is right. Time to perform some sleep.

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I guess when Dow goes to a pub to play tunes — the public evacuates, otherwise it would be a public performance. Either his playing really sucks – or he has a lower gastro-intestinal disorder.

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Someday I guess some of the people on this thread will learn how to look up real words in real dictionaries.

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Sigh.

Jack, it’s not about feeling threatened or bothered. For some of us it’s just an entirely different emphasis on *why* we play at sessions, and for whom. We play to share tunes, as an experience in and of themselves, with other musicians. We play for our collective (musician) selves, not for anyone who happens to listen in. The session occurs in a public place because that allows serendipity to bring other musicians to us, not because we want a public audience. To me, a "public performance" in the sense of a gig or show, or even a "presentation of music to an audience," does not describe what takes place at most of the more enjoyable sessions I’ve been to.

Of course, I also enjoy playing for audiences, sometimes even charging them a fee to hear us play. But I don’t call that a session.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s so important to Jack that we all see how "right" he is on any of this…..

Posted .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Because his opinion is fact, Will, didn’t you realise that? 🙂

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And Jack, the punters don’t leave when I play in a session, but even if they did I wouldn’t care as long as the other musos stayed to play tunes. Perhaps you would care because your sessions are obviously more like concerts than ours. I’d imagine you’d be most put out if your punters left. Maybe you’d rip off your mask and scare them with your single eye 🙂

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

It just occurred to me how many times I’ve heard Irish trad players *in concert*downplay the "performance* (i.e., concert) aspects of what they’re doing. Paddy Moloney telling the crowd that "we’re just having a bit of a hoolie here," or Mairead suggesting that the concert hall is really an overgrown livingroom where friends are enjoying some tunes and songs, or Mike Rafferty saying that he gets nervous doing gigs, so could we all please indulge him and pretend that we’re just at a session and go about our business while he and Mary try to remember a tune or two. I’ve heard the same sort of stuff from Liz Carroll, Cathal McConnell, Kevin Burke, Kevin Crawford, Tommy Peoples, Brian Conway and Felix Dolan, etc.

Someone more cynical than I might say that this is just being coy, professional entertainers building a connection to their audience. But I wouldn’t say that. In my limited, purely anecdotal experience, most practitioners of this music downplay the "performance" (musician-to-audience) aspects in favor of a more collective, participatory house party feel.

Apparently they do things differently in California.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

No need to sigh, Will, I’m not talking about intent, I’m just talking about facts. I don’t feel that I’m giving a public performance at sessions, but the fact is — I am, and so is anyone that participates in sessions in public places. It’s no big deal, and I don’t really care, but I am amazed at the extent of denial about it on these threads.

Consider this quote I got from ‘Irish Music Magazine’ that comes from an article about copyright and royalties:

"To collect the money due for that copyright they must join MCPS, the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, who collect royalties for the sale of tapes or CDs and they must join IMRO, Irish Music Rights Organisation. IMRO collects royalties due for the public performance of the work on radio, TV, and live public performance, for example traditional sessions."

http://mag.irish-music.net/BckIssue/9606Jun/Cpyright.htm

"and live public performance, for example traditional sessions."

It’s obvious enough to be stated clearly in an article that goes on to talk about why royalties aren’t relevant for sessions. But they aren’t in denial about the fact of what happens in a pub that has a session going on.

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How many of you detractors play in a pub that advertises on a sandwich board or in the window " Live Irish Music Tonight " or words to that effect? Do you really think that the publican has let you in to play music soley for your own enjoyment/edification/whatever? I’m sorry, but I see no logic in the argument that just because you are performing music, on purpose, in front of people, who may even have come in with the intersest of listening, you are not performing. If only because the concept of maybe entertaining people makes you inexplicably uncomfortable. Cop On.

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I’ve heard all of that stage talk as well, Will, but I doubt any of those artists you mentioned would deny they were giving a public performance if you asked them.

I understand as well as anyone else about the aesthetics of playing traditional music, so there’s no need to condescend about how we "do things differently in California."

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Are the people who wrote that session musicians? Are they talking in facts like you, or is that just their opinion? This is actually pretty scary stuff…

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Faust I love the way you have of making your point. The subtle humour and persuasive way you have of bringing people round to your point of view. In fact the way you said "cop on" just there, oo it’s so gritty and raw, it makes me think that I have to actually change my opinion right now, because I want to endear myself to you and be in the cool gang who talk "facts" and not "opinions".

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William Hammond is a box player as well as the organizer of the Beamish Cork Folk Festival among other things. He’s well connected with the traditional music scene.

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Does he have tentacles too?

Sorry, I’m only joking 😉

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Dow’s right. I mean that Faust and Jack are right. I’ve been instantly converted. Was blind, but now I see. Silly me, all this time I thought I was enjoying "sessions" when I’ve been a performing monkey from the get go. What a relief. Hurdy gurdy man, spin the crank! I’ll don my cap and beging my little dance!

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Right-o:
🙂 🙂 🙂

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I give up.

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So it’s settled then. I am performing even if I don’t feel like I am performing. Anyway who cares about feelings here.

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(Note to self: remember to dress more appropriately for next week’s public performance—perhaps a necktie; wouldn’t want to disappoint the crowd. And play all those tunes that get them stomping their feet. No more slip jigs—Yanks can’t count in 9/8. I can see how this audience thing could take off. Hmmm…Faust has an idea there—maybe we should ask the publican to advertise, even though he’s steadfastly refused to do so for the last 6 years, not even a sandwich board out front. Oh, and renew my subscription to Irish Music Magazine, the one and true authority and arbiter on sessions, because, well, it’s from *Ireland*! Funny, though, their web site says "Most sessions [in Ireland] begin at 9:30 pm, although they may not get into full swing until nearer closing time." I wonder how the audience gets in after closing? Why would the performers hold back till the crowd thinned? I’m soooooo confused! Even Websters Third International Unabridged hasn’t prepared me for this—aack! Ambiguity! Real-world inconsistencies! Poor Jack must be feeling like Mark Twain, who complained, "In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language." )

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Jack wrote:
"Ottery, I was talking only about sessions in pubs. I wasn’t discussing private sessions, rehearsals or practicing. Sessions in pubs are public performances. This doesn’t mean that I smile at the audience and sign autographs afterwards. All I’m saying is that playing tunes in public is a public performance. What you do at home in private is your own business."

Jack, you’re getting paranoid! I was agreeing with you, if you actually red the post. You’re like a bear tied to a post being tormented by dogs - when someone comes to untie you, you lash out at them as well.

To summarise - if you play music with other people, surely you are playing it for them to hear (that is what music is for, is it not?), whether they are the other musicians or ‘punters’ is irrelevant. So you are performing the music for someone.
If you are doing this in public, you are doing this in public. Therefore you are:
a) Performing
b) in public
One could make a strong case for this being ‘a public performance’
(not that it matters in the overall scheme of things)
But we could remove all this contention by substituting play for perform, and those who want to pretend that they are meeting up with six other musicians just to play music for themselves can be happy!

Now, can we go back to the stuff that really matters (noodling, of course)!

😉

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I’ve yet to see a convincing argument from you Dow. Sorry to see you’re so thin skinned. My apologies if I got up your nose. But you are as convincing as, as , well a very unconvincing person. Perhaps you only want to convince yourself. Will, I’m gonna get you at recess….

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LOL, I can only hope we get a recess from this broken-record debate. 🙂

But why wait for recess—FOOD FIGHT!
🙂

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Well, this has been fun, sort of.

It is obvious that some people need to perceive all sessions as performances. Why? I am not overly sure. Paid sessions? Sessions as gigs? Sessions on stage? Loose gigs on stage that you call a session? Are people afraid that we will challenge their right to call something a session when it has performance aspects to it?

I, for one, think that you can call a paid session a performance. Some of them are, in fact. Others, well, the paid musicians are at least playing for the benefit of the owner, or "presenting" their music to them. The owner then has the right to control the music to a certain extent. (If only to fire the musician and get someone they prefer.) So yes, you could argue that these are sessions and performances.

Earlier in the thread, Jack agreed that the session at the Cafe Palms in Madison in the mid 1980’s was a valid session. It was a session in public with no audience. Regularly scheduled event. No audience. Music. No audience. Therefore, it was not a performance. Plain and simple.

Jack, you for one have espoused the idea that every session is, and can be, different. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that some sessions are not performances? That the musicians are not "presenting" anything to an "audience"?

I think some people are lucky to have always had a supportive environment for their music. That they have people come out to listen to their sessions. This is not true of all communities. Three other long-standing sessions that I have taken part in have been public sessions without an audience. One location in St Paul, thankfully temporary, was downright hostile. The owner supported the idea, but the staff and the clientele hated the music, and felt we were invading their space.

I will continue describing sessions as separate from performances, as I feel it is a useful differentiation and an accurate usage of the terms. I think this conversation has made that thought even more stable in my mind.

In fact, this thread has brought me to another conclusion. When there is a session, and a punter becomes interactive with the musicians, this person then becomes a member of the session. So, even though some may perceive these people as an audience, I choose to acknowledge them as members of the session.

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Will’s post is very interesting. It provides insight as to why he, and perhaps others, are so resistant to accepting a simple harmless fact about playing music in public. He seems to think that if you accept the fact that pub sessions are public performances it will change his session and the way he and his session mates behave. He implies that he will be transformed into an organ grinder’s monkey and will have to dress different and add drama and tricks to entertain the audience that will come from near and far just to see him. The truth is, you don’t have to change anything about your session to realize and accept that it’s a public performance.

When I first joined this website I caught a glimpse in one of the discussions about an aversion to recognizing the participation of the punters in sessions. When I suggested that there’s no need to completely ignore them, there was a strong reaction against allowing them any consideration what so ever. This puzzled me and gave me an idea for what is now a legendary thread with over 400 replies. The thread I started was titled, "Sessions ARE public performances?" I had no idea I was touching a raw nerve and had in fact opened Pandora’s box.

Now I realize everyone doesn’t have the same session; some are more public than others etc., but if you’re in a public space, and the public can and does come near for the purpose of enjoying your session – it’s a public performance. But that doesn’t mean you have to change anything you’re doing. Everyone will be affected if people come nearby and are obviously listening and enjoying where there was no one a few minutes earlier, we’ve all been affected this way from time to time. But there’s nothing wrong with that.

I think people like Dow harbor an unhealthy distain for punters. Perhaps he resents the effect they have on him and his session mates at their sessions and he would prefer they were deaf and would leave them alone so he and his mates could play tunes to themselves. For Dow, perhaps a public space is only useful because you can buy pints (or get them free for playing) and someone else cleans up after you leave. But from what I’ve learned, a session in a pub is part of the fabric of Irish culture, and the punters are as much a part of it as anyone else. The punter’s enjoyment of a session should add to, rather than take away from the musician’s enjoyment. My experience has shown that a session is much more fun when everyone can be included in the craic.

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"Jack, you for one have espoused the idea that every session is, and can be, different. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that some sessions are not performances? That the musicians are not "presenting" anything to an "audience"?"

I did acknowledge that, Jode, and your session sounded unique to me. Then Kerri attacked me claiming that my implication that it’s a rarity was wrong because she knows of several in her area. But as rare or common as it is, it’s still in a public space. If it has doors that shut it off from the rest of the pub, and you can’t hear or see it from the public areas — it sounds like a private affair, so I wouldn’t call it a public performance. You did indicate that people sometimes come in to chat and enjoy the music. If they aren’t invited, and are part of the public at large — it becomes a public performance. So what?

You say that if a punter shows interest in the session he “becomes part of it.” Well this is true, but does the whole room become part of it too with all the different levels of enjoyment going on? And what exactly are they becoming part of. If you examine it, and attempt to define it, it’s a public performance.

I don’t know where you draw the line as far as punter participation goes. Sure there’s the guy who actively cheers you on and might add to the spectacle, but what about the guy at the bar who when I go for a pint tells me what a nice session it is tonight? When I was playing and saw him sitting at the bar – he appeared to be ignoring us. This is very common, often when I walk away from the session for one reason or another people who seemed uninterested will have positive comments about the music. Are they part of the session too?

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Sorry Ottery, I should have used a winking emoticon.

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Jode, do you not have singers at your sessions?
When they sing, are they not ‘performing’, if only for the assembled instrumentalists? Is there a problem with that? Why?
No one is saying that sessions aren’t different from other situations in which you might play music, but music is a performance art and it’s a form of communication (I hope).
If ten people sit in a circle in a closed room, they are performing for each other. You can say "It’s not a performance, it’s a musical conversation," but that’s just semantics. The essence of the event would not change if someone sneaked into the room and started listening to it - would it?
I feel that there is a sort of inverted snobbery going on here.
Mark

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LOL. Quick recap, Jack is referring to the comment "Actually, there were two in Toronto that I knew of".

Some attack! What are you, some kind of sissy?

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Kerri, sometimes when I’m remebering back at your responses to my posts, the attacks blur together with the rest.

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"I think people like Dow harbor an unhealthy distain for punters. Perhaps he resents the effect they have on him and his session mates at their sessions and he would prefer they were deaf and would leave them alone so he and his mates could play tunes to themselves. For Dow, perhaps a public space is only useful because you can buy pints (or get them free for playing) and someone else cleans up after you leave. But from what I’ve learned, a session in a pub is part of the fabric of Irish culture, and the punters are as much a part of it as anyone else. The punter’s enjoyment of a session should add to, rather than take away from the musician’s enjoyment. My experience has shown that a session is much more fun when everyone can be included in the craic."

I’ve been through this already. I’ve already said that the punters may or may not enjoy the music. It’s great if they do - good on ‘em. However, if they don’t, it’s not the end of the world because I’m not performing for their benefit. It’s obvious to me that you’re only interested in reading what you want to read in my posts, so I’m bored of this now and am especially bored of Faust’s cheap flame tactics.

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Hmm, come to think of it, "cop on" is a really good argument. At least it’s clear, concise and easy to understand I suppose. Not so sure about the substance of it though…

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Mark, there is not much singing in our sessions. But it is all in the presentation. If a singer sings a song, or someone plays an air, there is a difference between it being part of a session, or being a performance. If the singer showboats it, stands up, faces out to the pub, well then one would be hard pressed not to call it a performance.

It’s a good question though, because with all the shushing that goes on for songs, they do seem to be more of a performance, don’t they?

I am not saying that sessions can’t include some performance aspects.

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Sissy. 😉

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Jack, the organ grinder monkey thing was an attempt at humor. With a grain of truth in it. My experience at sessions is that when the musicians think of the punters as their audience, it influences what tunes are played, how sets are put together, and how much risk players are willing to take in doing something new or untried. In short, the session tends to be about getting a rise out of the "audience" instead of just putting lift into the music. And the music goes stale—repetitive from week to week, a tendency for the less experienced players to clam up, which compels the more experienced players to step up to the plate with their best material—it soon starts feeling like a house band gig.

Some players do harbor disdain for the punters, although I think you are misrepresenting the intensity of the emotion people have voiced about this in the past. Some sessions do indeed play to the punters. At other sessions, the musicians don’t ignore other people in the room, but they don’t cater to them either. And at still other sessions, the musicians actively discourage "audience-like" behavior such as applauding or tipping. They have their reasons, some of which you and I no doubt do not know or understand.

Like Jode, I see all the people in the room as participants in the session, not an audience. When I play a gig, I don’t put my fiddle down and go chat with an audience member for an hour. But at a session I can go visit with a friend as long as I want, because it’s part of the crack. It’s part of what makes a session more of a socializing event than a performance, more of a group dialogue than a panel lecturing to a roomful of listeners.

Jack, you may not intend or realize it, but many of your comments here come across as combative and condescending. You presume to tell other people what they are thinking, you assert that anyone who doesn’t agree with the public performance label is insecure, and you present your opinions and interpretations of words as "fact." Which leaves little room for other points of view. And you seem hellbent on persuading us how right you are.

Aren’t other people allowed to have their own ideas about what sessions are? Particularly if their experiences are different from yours?

I’ve played in sessions that were public performances. I’d even go so far as to say that’s a fairly common situation. But not all public sessions are about presenting music to an audience. Some of us are interested in sessions that create a sense of unity and mutual participation that is distinct from sessions that (even gently) divide people into musicians and listening spectators. More like house sessions. But we see value in bringing that sensibility to sessions in pubs and other public places. We see value in distinguishing between this kind of session and the gig-like or musician/audience sense of public performance. You don’t have to accept the value we assign to this, but I can’t see what you hope to gain by insisting that we’re wrong and insecure and ill-informed and ignorant of the facts. It’s just another way to think about sessions. No one here is telling you that your session isn’t a public performance, if that’s what you see in it and want it to be.

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And I don’t mean to suggest that all public performance sessions are stale or otherwise "bad." Sometimes I enjoy the "casual performance" feel of using the music to connect to listeners, of stirring their emotions and feeding off the "audience" response. Sometimes we structure a session that way, sometimes it just happens that way.

But I’m generally more inclined to steer a session (if I can) toward a different model. Instead of using the music to communicate with others, I think of the music as a group chant that creates a sense of communion—to me, a deeper, more integrated, more wholistic form of communication. Maybe you and other people acheive something similar through public performance—good on you. I’m just saying this is what works for me.

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Not to argue the point further, just to toss in a nearly relevant anecdote, I saw a public performance where the musicians on the stage played to each other and didn’t acknowledge the crowd except to mutter a bit between the tunes. The rest of the time they faced each other - the dancer had her back to the audience for half the show and seemed to be dancing for the piano player, who was looking at his fingers. I was annoyed and bored and wanted my money back. When I perform I do everything I can to engage the audience and connect with them. I imagine this group was just shy, but still…

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Ooooh, er, language is fraught with potential land mines. When I said that I tend to steer a session, I meant the one I’ve facilitated in my own home town. Would never do that elsewhere unless expressly invited.

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“My experience at sessions is that when the musicians think of the punters as their audience, it influences what tunes are played, how sets are put together, and how much risk players are willing to take in doing something new or untried. In short, the session tends to be about getting a rise out of the "audience" instead of just putting lift into the music. And the music goes stale—repetitive from week to week, a tendency for the less experienced players to clam up, which compels the more experienced players to step up to the plate with their best material—it soon starts feeling like a house band gig.”

This is about how one responds to the situation. I don’t play music to get a rise from the crowd just because I acknowledge their existence. I don’t put any emphasis on performing just because I realize it’s a public performance.

“Like Jode, I see all the people in the room as participants in the session, not an audience. When I play a gig, I don’t put my fiddle down and go chat with an audience member for an hour. But at a session I can go visit with a friend as long as I want, because it’s part of the crack. It’s part of what makes a session more of a socializing event than a performance, more of a group dialogue than a panel lecturing to a roomful of listeners.”

By “public performance” I never meant, “lecturing to a roomful of listeners.” I was talking about playing music to an audience in a public space. The audience doesn’t have to be silent and sitting in rows. The audience is the people in the pub enjoying whatever the session happens to be.

“Jack, you may not intend or realize it, but many of your comments here come across as combative and condescending. You presume to tell other people what they are thinking, you assert that anyone who doesn’t agree with the public performance label is insecure, and you present your opinions and interpretations of words as "fact." Which leaves little room for other points of view. And you seem hellbent on persuading us how right you are.”

I think you might want to reconsider this point after reviewing the tone I have received for my assertion. People have insinuated that I don’t understand Irish music and sessions, that we don’t do things right in California, etc. etc… I have simply been sticking to my point and defending myself from unfair insinuations.

“Aren’t other people allowed to have their own ideas about what sessions are? Particularly if their experiences are different from yours?”

Certainly, and I’ve accepted many if not all ideas except one; that playing music in public constitutes a public performance. Simple as that. Am I not allowed to have ideas as well?

“I’ve played in sessions that were public performances. I’d even go so far as to say that’s a fairly common situation. But not all public sessions are about presenting music to an audience.”

I never said that’s what they were about – I said that’s what they were, regardless of the musician’s intentions.


“Some of us are interested in sessions that create a sense of unity and mutual participation that is distinct from sessions that (even gently) divide people into musicians and listening spectators. More like house sessions. But we see value in bringing that sensibility to sessions in pubs and other public places. We see value in distinguishing between this kind of session and the gig-like or musician/audience sense of public performance. You don’t have to accept the value we assign to this, but I can’t see what you hope to gain by insisting that we’re wrong and insecure and ill-informed and ignorant of the facts. It’s just another way to think about sessions. No one here is telling you that your session isn’t a public performance, if that’s what you see in it and want it to be.”

My goals in sessions are no different than yours except that I’m not in denial of the fact that they are in essence, a public performance. I don’t announce it to the crowd, or the other musicians, but I do realize that we are in public playing music for people that may or may not be enjoying it.

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Jack, by saying that I’m in denial about what my sessions are, you are telling me that I’m wrong. That’s different from saying we simply disagree. Too bad you can’t seem to leave room for others’ opinions without bashing them. Makes this an unpleasant place to be.

I think I’ll go find a less obsessively righteous thread….

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Will, you insist on reading your own interpretaion into what I’m saying. I said people are in denail about sessions in pubs being public performances. I never said you were in denail about what the session itself is. Your accusation of "bashing" is the pot calling the kettle black because you have activly bashed me. Then when the thread doesn’t work out the way you would like so you call it "obsessively righteous" and storm out. Just realize that you’re all worked up for reasons that you brought on yourself. Stop for a second and think about what has taken place here.

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denail = denial in the last post

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Why are you so uncomfortable with debate, Will? It seems to me that I could say the exact same thing about your thread that you and others are saying about Jack. He disagrees with you. You disagree with him. The difference is you’re getting offended. Lighten up. I guess we should all put inane smileys at the end of our sentences so we can all see that it’s No Big Deal. Glad to see Dow finally copped on, though… ( Big, Unnerving Smiley!!) Come down to SF some time and we’ll show you how we do it. I’m buying…

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I’m not worked up. I’m enjoying a breezy hot July day here in Montana. Just got back from treating the kids to milkshakes.

I didn’t storm out. I tried to give a rational, helpful explanation of my views. But it provoked only point-counterpoint rebuttals from you, like this is some sort of debate you’re determined to win. I’m not interested in debating the utility of calling sessions public performances. That’s your pet project. I’ll leave you to it.

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LOL, Faust I’m not "unfcomfortable" with debate! I do conflict management for a living! Of course, we try to move from argumentation and position-based debate to deliberative dialogue and interest-based negotiation—it’s more productive. But you can’t force someone to be reasonable, and I don’t care to spend any more time giving Jack fodder for his rants.

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I’m not carrying a cross about this, and I don’t even think it’s that important. You know I’ve always advocated that sessions are whatever the people having them want them to be. I’m not trying to say there’s any problem with your session or anyone else’s, and I’m certainly not trying to indicate that you don’t understand what sessions are. All I’m saying is very simple — sessions are basically people playing music, if they do it in front of other people is a performance. When it’s a session it’s a very unique type of performance that can be whatever the musicians want it to be, but in it’s essence — it’s still a performance. Hold it in a public place — it’s a public performance. That doesn’t change anything you do or imply that you should, and I’m not suggesting that anyone should call it a public performance or advertise it that way — it’s just a simple harmless fact. Look how casually it was mentioned in the IMM article — no big deal. The Irish music world didn’t get upset over it being referred to as such, why does it get such a strong reaction in here?

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Thanks for calling it a "rant," Will. I guess everyone can see how you’re the bigger person now. *sigh*

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LOL Jack! I love how you play the wounded, innocent puppy! Poor Jack! 🙂

Above you wrote: "My goals in sessions are no different than yours except that I’m not in denial of the fact that they are in essence, a public performance. I don’t announce it to the crowd, or the other musicians, but I do realize that we are in public playing music for people that may or may not be enjoying it."

A. Why do you feel entitled to psychoanalyze me, suggesting that I’m in denial? You’ve never even met me. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean my world view is unrealistic.
B. In contrast to your last sentence there, all I have tried to say is that *I* am expressly *not* "playing music *for* people that may or may not be enjoying it." The people in our pub know that the music is not being played *for* them, and the musicians know that we are not playing it *for* anyone but ourselves. The publican also understands this—he is willingly providing a place for us to play, whether or not it brings drinkers into the pub (as I’ve said many times before, he refuses to advertise). If everyone in our taproom is in agreement on this, which I suggest they are (having been there myself) , then who are you to say I’m wrong and in denial?

Reminds me of a one liner from a BBC sitcom—drunken woman to even drunker man: "Am I in your nightmare, or are you in mine?" 🙂

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Oh, and Jack, is it me, or are you now shifting between two definitions of public performance? On one hand, you’ve said it’s (1) playing music in a public place for people (whether or not they’re enjoying it). And on another hand you’ve said it’s (2) nothing more than the act of playing music (just physically making the sound) in a public place. To me, those are two different things, two divergent meanings of "performance." (Just to be clear, it seems to me that some words have more than one meaning, and those meanings don’t necessarily overlap. In fact, they may be widely divergent, as in the bark of a tree and the bark of a dog.)

As I’ve said before, sense #2 is fine by me, but it doesn’t add anything to clarify what a session is. So why bother. In fact, to me it muddies our understanding because some people may think you mean sense #1, and #1 doesn’t gibe with my sense of some (mighty good) sessions, for the reasons I explained in my previous post.

Jack, can you explain *why*accepting sessions as public performances is important to you?

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Jode writes:
"Mark, there is not much singing in our sessions. But it is all in the presentation. If a singer sings a song, or someone plays an air, there is a difference between it being part of a session, or being a performance. If the singer showboats it, stands up, faces out to the pub, well then one would be hard pressed not to call it a performance."

So really this is all a matter of hair splitting semantics. So why DO people get so worked up about it?
I suspect it is because the argument itself threatens their self-image.
I have a friend I love dearly who is into rock music big time. He describes any folk based music, whether it be Beth Orton, Eliza Carthy, or Lunasa, as being ‘rootsy’ stuff. He categorises it in relation to rock music. All other musics are categorised in rock music terms as well.
I was talking to him about stuff that I’d recently heard a couple of months ago, and mentioned that I thought the new Tom Waits album was really good - very similar to Rain Dogs, I said.
He threw up his hands in horror. Tom Waits! Tom Waits! He’s a pretentious poseur! He writes songs full of blatantly ripped off imagery and he presents a blatantly fake image of himself. He’s not rock’n’roll at all, he’s more like vaudeville!
I tried to explain to him that the idea of rock being some sort of ‘real’ music, where people sang songs and had personas which were real and authentic, and that it was some sort of youth rebel music, had been hype since the time of Elvis, but he wouldn’t have it.
Tom waits was fake, and not rock’n’roll, but, for example, David Bowie’s many faces were real, and the personas he presented, although theatrical, represented what he was really feeling at the time.
I agreed to disagree with him after a while, as for him to change his mind would have meant everything solid in his life melting into air.
I can’t help hearing a resonance in some of the arguments above. Someone says that a session is a sort of performance. This is anathema to someone else, who seeks to point out that that sort of performance must not under any circumstances be labelled a performance… Why? ‘Performance’ is just the definition of this sort of artistic endeavour. Painting is not a performance art, except on very rare occasions. Acting is. Sculpture is not a performance art. Music is. Those who claim to have found in sessions a new form of music which is not a performance art are deluding themselves. Music is communication, not masturbation. Why is performance such a loaded word? It means a wide variety of things, and one of those meanings covers what we do. To use it doesn’t imply that we put on costumes and mug and grimace at the punters, and play Danny boy. That isn’t what it means. It just means ‘to play’. In the same way that if I perform my ablutions, it doesn’t mean that I’m about to have a wash in front of a paying audience.
As Faust so succinctly put it - ‘Cop On’….
Rant ends here .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Count the times I’ve responded in this thread and count the times you have, Will. "Someone" is definitely interested in winning an argument. Can you manage this conflict? I’m ok with you not performing music, but simply playing it. It’s the friggin Oxford English Dictionary that contradicts you, dratted thing. ( Great Big Smiley and a Virtual Hug! )

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"all I have tried to say is that *I* am expressly *not* "playing music *for* people that may or may not be enjoying it." The people in our pub know that the music is not being played *for* them, and the musicians know that we are not playing it *for* anyone but ourselves."

Like I said, the definition has nothing to do with intent. You’ve made your intentions about what you’re doing in your session clear in previous posts… I’m not disputing any of this. But the fact remains that music is being played in public.

"Oh, and Jack, is it me, or are you now shifting between two definitions of public performance? On one hand, you’ve said it’s (1) playing music in a public place for people (whether or not they’re enjoying it). And on another hand you’ve said it’s (2) nothing more than the act of playing music (just physically making the sound) in a public place. To me, those are two different things, two divergent meanings of "performance."

My dictionary says an audience is, 1) the act or state of hearing. To perform is to render or enact (a piece of music, a dramatic role, etc.) So people in a pub hearing you play tunes easily meets those requirements. It says nothing about the musicians having to be conscious of their performance other than the act of doing it. And it also says nothing about the audience having to be sitting in rows and not talking or being distracted in any way.

"Jack, can you explain *why*accepting sessions as public performances is important to you?"

It’s not that it’s important, it’s more that I’m befuddled that people seem to think the session their having in public isn’t supposed to be acknowledged by an “audience” or even noticed. They seem to want the session to be something that defies the reality of having players and listeners — as if it exists in a bubble or something. I wonder why people have sessions in public at all if they prefer that no one’s there listening.

I think this whole issue came up originally when I suggested that punters like strong endings because they know better when to show their appreciation. I had motioned that they will sometimes start to do applaud on weak tune changes only to be embarrassed that they interrupted someone’s playing as the next tune starts up. And the result is that they lose interest in the session. This observation raised some shackles on this website and inspired my public performance thread.

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(What’s the emoticon for total, bemused bewilderment?)

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Mark, for the record, I have not gotten "worked up" yet. For a good while there, I was enjoying a bit of debate about word usage and definition. I took it down to that level for a bit of fun. It’s grown a bit sour now.

As far as splitting hairs are concerned, how wide are the hairs in an assertion: "any note you play in public is a performance". To split that hair you could use a steamroller.

I used the semantics thing a long while ago when it became clear to me that the word "performance" meant nothing to some people. What’s the use in calling life a performance? As I stated several times earlier, that is semantics. Synonyms are nice, but it is better to find words that describe unique things.

Like gig and performance. Those are nice synonyms. But perhaps a gig is a more informal performance. Like, would a orchestra member say to a competing orchestra member that they were off to a gig? Maybe not. Should we talk about "gig" next? I think it may have come from jazz players originally. Maybe they thought they weren’t really performing either.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Will writes "(What’s the emoticon for total, bemused bewilderment?)"

And he says I’m condescending.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I have been busy working and now I have been busy catching up on this thread.
This thread is in some way bogged down in semantics rather than debating concepts. If ‘accepting that a session is a public performance’ changes nothing, then this is really not a debate but a misunderstanding of sorts.
Jack, I am prepared to accept that there is an element of performance in a lot of sessions but this varies greatly depending on the punters and location. If it is a relatively minor aspect then it hardly merits comment even though technically correct.
"Disdain for punters": well I don’t know what sort of punters you get at your sessions but the ones we have rarely add anything to the experience. Generally they are little more than a nuisance. Yes there are the ones that sit quietly at the bar and are probably enjoying the experience and sometimes we get a bunch of people who really do get right into it and ask questions etc etc.
"Intent" as part of definition: here I am not so sure of my ground but I feel certain that what I consider I am doing has some bearing on what word I use to describe that activity. If I go for a run with you and I am very unfit, you might think you are jogging (slowly) but I think you are sprinting/running. Who’s right?
If I am not feeling like I am performing then I am not. If you are listening you are entitled to think and say you are listening to my performance. This doesn’t take into account the aspect of public (or otherwise) place. You are correct in referring to my performance but because it is not intended as such, I do not (maybe wrongly) feel that I am performing.
Now if my failure to realise the performance aspect of what I am doing, means that I fail to act as I should, then I need to shed my illusion. Otherwise it stands as a valid point of view.
Jack, you are generally a very reasonable person so please try and meet me half way here 🙂

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Whether you think you’re performing or not doesn’t mean you aren’t. You seem to be implying that it’s rude for someone to enjoy your music if you didn’t intend for it to be enjoyed — even if you placed yourself among them.

Music is well understood as something you perform. Playing music in front of other people is well established as performing. People aren’t going to assume anything about your intent if they listen to you. ITM isn’t exempt simply because of the player’s intent or acknowledgement of an audience. It isn’t just about semantics.

If people in sessions have such an aversion to consider they might be performing music – then why do it in public? I still don’t understand why people who feel this way go out into public to play tunes in the first place. I would think they might be careful to avoid any public exposure.

When I walk into a pub to play tunes, I know the odds are good that someone will be listening, and I hope my playing won’t suck. I’m beginning to wonder now if denying it’s a public performance might serve to allow yourself to play even if you don’t think your playing is quite up to snuff.

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Okay, now I understand. I’m satisfied that I’ve got to the bottom of this for myself now. Youse can keep arguing if you want, but this paragraph of Jack’s sorted it out for me:

"…I’m befuddled that people seem to think the session their having in public isn’t supposed to be acknowledged by an “audience” or even noticed. They seem to want the session to be something that defies the reality of having players and listeners — as if it exists in a bubble or something. I wonder why people have sessions in public at all if they prefer that no one’s there listening."

This isn’t so much about intent, semantics, or anything we’ve discussed so far. It’s simply that Jack thinks it makes no sense for a session not to be acknowledged or noticed by punters. Well, I can say from my side that here in Sydney, some of the best sessions I’ve been to happen to have been in the back rooms of pubs, or upstairs in a lounge bar on a quiet week night, and there’s only musicians round the table - no-one watching or listening, apart from the musicians watching and listening to each other. The lack of background ambient noise has the potential to make things a bit awkward and tense if the musos don’t know each other well, but we’re all mates, and that sort of session can kick arse.

Look, it basically boils down to whether you can just enjoy playing tunes with your friends and enjoy making music together without having that extra appreciation from outsiders looking in amazement at how fast your fingers are going and wondering "how do they do that?!" I’m speaking just for myself when I say this, and you can call me selfish, insecure, whatever, but I’m just as happy when there’s no-one there listening. I can hear the other musicians better and concentrate on the tunes and sharing time with friends anyway. That’s what this boils down to in the end - a need for appreciation.

Why in public then?
Because there’s beer at the bar and if there’s a bit of ambient noise to relax people enough to start tunes, then all the better. Most of all, like Jack said earlier, you don’t have to tidy up before everyone arrives and you don’t have to clear up after you. You don’t have to worry about the neighbours. (I live in a small apartment - chances of ever having a house session @ my place = big round zero)

Players and listeners? I’m listening, and so are the other musos. Maybe this sort of session doesn’t appeal to you. Well maybe you wouldn’t enjoy our session. I do though, and nothing you say will stop my enjoyment. Sometimes it’s great to get in that "bubble"!

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I did try to explain myself as best I could and meet you halfway but…….you ignored my analogy of running/jogging - intent/personal perception versus definition. As well as the other points I raised. But I hoped that this would at least show you why people like me appear to be in a state of denial.
As regards my playing being "not quite up to snuff", I have had no problems playing in public on stage before a large audience who seemed to appreciate - but that has nothing to do with this.
I prefer private house sessions personally but most of the sessions that I can get to are in pubs.
I hope one day to sit in on your session to see what it is like and maybe better understand your perceptions and definitions. If Tipsy House recordings are anything to go by, the sound would be worthy of much applause.
I will leave it at that.

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That’s not to say that I necessarily *prefer* it when there’s no-one watching or listening, but simply that it’s not a necessary condition for my enjoyment of the session. My priorities with this music are different from yours, Jack, and I know that to be true now after reading this thread. For me to come home after a session thinking that I had a really good time, there are a few criteria that have to be filled during the night. Having a bunch of non-musos watching and clapping isn’t one of those criteria.

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Dow, my experience with sessions is the same, my apartment is too small too, and some of the best sessions are after all the punters have left. If you have your session in back rooms behind closed doors, it sounds like a private affair. But when the punters are there, and they’re listening and enjoying it — wouldn’t it be a public performance by default, or do you discount their presence as if they weren’t there? And if you do — does that mean they aren’t there?

Now I can understand that having a session in a pub is like having a party you don’t have to clean up after. I’ve thought this way about our sessions for years. Personally, I also like it when there’s a crowd provided they aren’t screaming at each other or laughing like crazed hyenas. But when they are there, and they’re getting into the music — it adds to the fun. I don’t think to myself, "Oh now I must perform." I just go with it. But at the end of the day it is people playing music in public… and you know what that is. But so what?!

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Sorry, Donough, I didn’t think I was ignoring your allegory. I thought I addressed the intent issue… maybe not enough.

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And this…

"When I walk into a pub to play tunes, I know the odds are good that someone will be listening, and I hope my playing won’t suck. I’m beginning to wonder now if denying it’s a public performance might serve to allow yourself to play even if you don’t think your playing is quite up to snuff."

…apart from the mention of "pub" and "tunes", sounds like it could have come from a classical soloist being interviewed about a concert. I simply do not identify with this statement at all. I’ve never felt either of those things going into a session, just because of what the audience might be thinking.

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"My priorities with this music are different from yours, Jack, and I know that to be true now after reading this thread. For me to come home after a session thinking that I had a really good time, there are a few criteria that have to be filled during the night. Having a bunch of non-musos watching and clapping isn’t one of those criteria."

Dow, this only demonstrates that you haven’t a clue about what I’m saying… sorry.

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Dow, All I’m saying in that statement is that I care about what I sound like. Maybe you don’t — that’s cool.

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"But when the punters are there, and they’re listening and enjoying it — wouldn’t it be a public performance by default, or do you discount their presence as if they weren’t there? And if you do — does that mean they aren’t there?"

Absolutely not. The only difference when people are there is that they create ambient noise which lends an atmosphere to the pub. This tends to have the effect of loosening up the musos so that the conversation and tunes flow more freely. That’s all. I don’t discount their presence. But at the same time I don’t play for their benefit. Is that so hard to understand? Same as if I was having a conversation with Bridie in the pub - I’d be aware there were people around me who may or may not be listening, while they in turn have their own conversations, but I don’t have my conversation for the benefit of the other people in the pub.

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"Dow, All I’m saying in that statement is that I care about what I sound like. Maybe you don’t — that’s cool."

Jack, this only demonstrates that you haven’t a clue about what I’m saying… sorry. Oh how useful cut & paste is. Of course I care about what I sound like. I care because I know the musicians I play with are listening very closely to my playing, as I am listening to theirs. If a muso came up to me at the end of a session and said "dude I think your playing sucks", I’d be upset. If a punter came and said the same thing, I couldn’t care less, because a) I wasn’t playing for them anyway, and b) at least in our neck of the woods, their most likely not to have a clue about tunes.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

And I’m sure no one came to the pub to listen to you talk, Dow, I’m very certain of that. But on the other hand, I’ll bet more than a few came to enjoy the session.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

they’re
grr

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And if a punter told you he enjoyed your playing… I suppose that would be meaningless coming from one of those lowly non-musos who are so beneath you and unworthy of any recognition.

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Sometimes people come to enjoy the session, but I doubt that Irish music is viewed the same way over here as in the States. I imagine people over there would think it very romantic and rather quaint, and have a sort of fascination with its "exotic" sound. Over here, most of the pubs we play in are Irish pubs, and they’re full of Irish people. They’ve heard it all before. They’d probably rather be listening to U2 or some hip hop on the juke box. The exception is when non-muso friends or family come to watch and listen. They have an appreciation of the music, and, as such, we accept them as part of the session. Our scenario in this case is very much like Will’s, where tunes are happening in the corner whilst musos are getting up to go to the bar, having a smoke over where there’s an ashtray, talking to friends and family (sometimes for long periods), going back to play a few more tunes. We had a session like this last night in a cosy little oldy-worldy pub in one of the oldest parts of Sydney. The kind where you play tunes for hours and meet a whole load of new people, and everyone hugs and kisses each other goodbye at the end, and you realise you can’t even remember who was just watching and who got out an instrument for a couple of sets. It was a very relaxed affair, and the tunes kicked butt. We had some visiting musicians passing through, some famous, I won’t mention names because I’m not a name-dropper, but that didn’t make any of us worry about our playing. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a couple of locals sitting at the bar I suppose, and a few younger people chatting and drinking in the corner. They probably enjoyed the tunes too, and good on ‘em if they did. But sorry, our tunes were for the benefit of someone who had come to visit, not random people who happened to be there. That was the intention from the outset, even in the original e-mail notice that appeared in my inbox. That’s just the way it is here. If you don’t like it, then, well, tough I guess 🙂

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"And if a punter told you he enjoyed your playing… I suppose that would be meaningless coming from one of those lowly non-musos who are so beneath you and unworthy of any recognition."

Depends who it was. If it was a friend or family member of one of the musos, or otherwise someone who I knew had a clue about tunes, I’d take it as a compliment. If it was some backpacker w/o a clue, I’d thank them politely, but to be honest, people who don’t know this music aren’t very good at telling who’s any good and who’s not. Lack of exposure I guess. That’s just my opinion though, and anyway, that has little to do with this thread.

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Put it this way, I’m not the type to lap up praise from anyone. Some people enjoy that, but that’s not me. I find it hard to take compliments at the best of times.

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Amazing how arrogant you can be, Dow. You make errant assumptions about the local pub I play at, who frequents it and what their nationality is — and you’re wrong on all counts. Then you drop names without revealing the names. OoOOooo! And end with, "That’s just the way it is here. If you don’t like it, then, well, tough I guess." But the smiley face doesn’t conceal your smugness.

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Oh sorry, they’re not American, oh well that’s something I suppose LOL 😉 (smug, nasty little wink)

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Jack, is it that you have a problem with the concept that people outside of SF could be enjoying themselves and having a good time? How on earth did you cope in Ireland? You must have totally had an eppy!

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Do people agree that we are performing for each other in a session?

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I’m afraid we dont agree on anything here BegF

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

BegF,
don’t come here looking for agreement. I tried asking that one and it was studiously ignored by all concerned(!) So you’re wasting your time.

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I would have completely disagreed about a session being a performance, but Ottery’s points made me have a re-think and now I’m not so sure.
Hard thing to do, see something from someone else’s point of view, when you already have some set arguments about the topic already stored in your head waiting to be fired.

I suppose we are performing for each other, with any additional “audience” been incidental.

Anyway I do notice I pick the instrument when a tune starts up regardless, as often I go “ah yeah, I know that”

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Ah Ottery we corss posted.

I actually did post "I think you have a point" but I think it was deleted or something.
Maybe I was un-civil and said
"I think you have a point you tosser" - but I don’t think so

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"Hard thing to do, see something from someone else’s point of view, when you already have some set arguments about the topic already stored in your head waiting to be fired."
How true, BegF, How true.
We’re all guilty of that, I guess.
The reason this thread is interesting to me is that behind the sniping, posturing and arguments about semantics, there is an issue which I think we all see, but can only just put our fingers on, which is about why we play music in this particular way. And behind that is the issue of how we integrate ourselves into the tradition, or/and indeed the myth of the tradition.
But I guess that should wait to form the basis of another marathon thread….

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

You see, Mark, that’s what I thought, that there were "issues" and that it was complex and something you "can’t put your finger on", but then I realised it was shockingly simple. Some people crave appreciation. Some people don’t.

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Oh I don’t think so Dow.
Are you saying people who call it performance grave attention ?

Up until Ottery’s post I thought the whole discussion was just daft, Ok the public bit is a given but of course it’s not a performance, it’s a session, and the punters are just people who ask for songs, with the odd exception.

BUT no one is replying to the Ottery’s point that we are performing for each other at least, otherwise we wouldn’t care if our instruments were heard or not.
So it is a performance “of sorts” even if we don’t like that word’s connotations.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Dow, that is a bizarre and simplistic reduction, to say the least.
From birth, all people crave appreciation. Babies Some may say or think they don’t, but that is usually because they are damaged in some way, and are attempting to protect themselves against further hurt.
The desire to perform and entertain each other, which is one of the fundamental joys of human society, has been increasingly stolen from us (look at the desperation to get up and sing a song at karaoke nights, once a couple of drinks have loosened those inhibitions) by those who want to turn everything into a commodity. One of the great things about Irish session music is that it is one of the few arenas left where adults can play music in this manner, purely for the joy of entertaining those around you. Surely this is a good thing and not something to be guiltily repressed?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Guiltily repressed?! Damaged?! Attempting to protect myself from hurt?! This is reaching new levels of bullscheidt. I’m sorry lads, but I’ll say it again, a session to me is not about performing and entertaining those around me. It’s about getting together with my mates in the pub and sharing a few tunes, and a chat and a few beers and nothing more. I’m easily pleased - leave it at that. I refuse to feel guilty about it.

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I’m beginning to think that that simple pleasure I get every week from sharing tunes with friends must actually be a rarer thing than I thought. I’m often moaning about Sydney sessions and how they don’t happen often enough, but jeez, reading this thread maybe I’ve been taking them for granted 😲

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"BUT no one is replying to the Ottery’s point that we are performing for each other at least, otherwise we wouldn’t care if our instruments were heard or not.
So it is a performance “of sorts” even if we don’t like that word’s connotations."

BegF you haven’t read the thread carefully enough. That’s not what we’re talking about. We haven’t even discussed performance aspects between musicians. That’s a completely different thing! It would take place regardless of whether you were playing in a pub with punters watching, or just with maybe two musos in someone’s house.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I don’t think that everyone is saying it is about entering all those around you…but there is a performance of sorts for your fellow musicians.

And one crowd attempting to "protect themselves from hurt" is along the same lines as others "graving attention"

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Opps !!

"Entertaining"

Freudian slip !

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Do you not crave appreciation Dow?
Do you not like it if someone appreciates you something you do?
Three posts in a row? that looks like someone seeking some sort of attantion to me!
Why not lie down on this couch and tell us all about it …..

Sigmund

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"Entering all those around you", oo BegF you dirty bugger 😀 *snigger*
BegF you weren’t listening to me. I never said that there wasn’t a performance of sorts for your fellow musicians. That’s a complex issue and one that hasn’t been dealt with in this thread. Of course there is a performance of sorts for your fellow musicians. Because you’re playing for yourself and them, and they are playing for themselves and you. It’s sharing. I don’t see how anyone could argue with that.

Dear Sigmund,

No, I do not crave appreciation from punters. It’s nice when you get appreciation from your fellow musicians though, whether that be positive compliments, or negative criticisms. Both at the very least mean that they’re listening to what you’re doing. Example: recently some friends of mine collared me and said "hey Dow we don’t like how you treat the 1st 2 chords of Vincent Broderick’s "Fox On The Prowl". We hear different chords when we play it. Can you try it again?" That’s negative appreciation - i.e. they didn’t like what I was doing, but I treated it like: "wow, cool, these people are really listening to what I’m doing in detail if they can pick out exactly which bar of chords they don’t like and ask me so directly to change it", and change it I did. So yes Mark, in that sense I *do* crave appreciation.

But not from punters cuz they don’t play the bloody tunes.

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"Three posts in a row? that looks like someone seeking some sort of attantion to me!"

LOL shut up Mark you’re trying to wind me up aren’t you? 🙂 Of course I’m trying to get attention - I don’t want this argument to die just when I’m winning, do I?! And I’ve still got to finish my glass of whiskey and somehow get tired enough to want to go to bed…

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OMG 293 posts - this is one of the longest in the history of thesession.org. It’s been an interesting and heated one too, eh lads.

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I’m certainly not going to enter my fellow musicians !

Unless there’s money involved.

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Whiskey again !!!
It’s only Tuesday !

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Another 3 posts in a row Dow. …
I had you going for a while there, I reckon.
As Sigmund (I think) said
‘Culture involves neurosis, which we try to cure.’

Now there’s a title for a thread …

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BegF you’re wrong! It’s Thursday. And I know that to be a fact. That is not just my opinion. Oh whoops my glass is empty. Oh now it’s full again, oh dear.

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Dow, it’s not rare (what you enjoy). Our sessions stretch out long after the punters have gone, right up until they kick us out of the bar most of the time. After that we occasionally end up at someone’s house. I agree with you!

It’s OK for words to mean different things to different people. I’m not going to use "perform" for sessions because I already use that word to describe what I do when I’m on stage. I use different verbs for what I see as different actions, which includes the same action done with a different intent - I’m a little obsessed with finding the right words to express myself accurately. I don’t care so much if "dining" and "snacking" technically express the same action - I’m going to choose the one that best indicates what I’m doing.

Semantic arguments are always the endless ones. They never go anywhere because they boil down to trying to convince each other "MY definition is superior to YOUR definition", which is insulting and disrespectful. It’s inevitable that that kind of debate will escalate - people start whipping out their dictionaries and saying "look at definition #1!" "Yeah, well I go by definition #4, section b!" then your back to "My definition is better than yours", even though nobody has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually altering anyone else’s relationship with the particular word in question.

Your only way out is to be exceedingly clear using a bunch of other words what *you* specifically *mean* when you use that word and make a sincere and non-judgemental effort to discover what the other person means. Then there’s more often than not a big "Oooooooooooooooooh, OK, never mind then" and everyone can move on.

So to Jack, playing in public is, by definition, a "performance". To Will, the word "performance" implies a specific intent to entertain an audience on the part of the performer. Both definitions are in the dictionary, as a matter of fact, so none of us can claim to be more right than any other, and everyone has been completely clear about what they use the word "performance" for, and why they do or don’t use it to describe a session. So, where is that moment of "Ooooooooooooooh, OK, never mind then."?

Anyway, for the record, Jack, yes my playing at sessions is often sub-par and I think that’s fine because I don’t think of it as a performance. I don’t work for free.

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Yeah, that’s what I thought, Kerri, but sadly it’s simpler than that. It’s down to a fundamental difference in attitude, and an ATTEMPT to back it up by bickering over semantics, but I now see that that was a veil for the real issue.

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PS thanks for letting me know that the enjoyment that I enjoy is enjoyable elsewhere 🙂

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Sure, drop in any time.

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Oh, (*skin crawling*) I finally did the "your" for "you’re" substitution. How humiliating.

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(Into the lions den…..)

People’s perception of what is happening at any time can vary without any of them actually being wrong. I think all the semantics being discussed here is a blind alley. Isn’t this about peoples perception and, perhaps more importantly, intent? A recent musical experience of mine may serve to illustrate my point……

I play with a couple of friends in what might rather generously be termed “kitchen sessions”. Once a week, we also play in the back room of a local bar. The other week there were only two of us, we met up in the bar as usual, and some of the guys drinking said, “don’t go into the back room, play here!” So we opened our cases and began to play.

My friend knew some of the guys at the bar, but I didn’t know any of them. So there’s me, my friend, and “everyone else”, who you might quite reasonably refer to as “the audience”. Now between the three of us (me, my friend and the audience), there were three distinct opinions as to what was going on.

The Audience most definitely thought the night was about me and my pal performing FOR THEM. They stopped talking and listened to our playing. Their intent was to be entertained by our music. (They soon regretted it though, because we’re crap. So at the end of the night, I’m sure they were doing their best to try and blot our existence from their consciousness. They started the night as an audience, and ended the night as blokes drinking in a bar and talking to each other with some bloody racket going on in the background).

My mate knew these guys, and wanted to play well. He was therefore PERFORMING FOR THEM because his motivation was to make music that his peers would enjoy.

I did not know these guys, and could not give a toss about their opinion of my playing. I was playing purely for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of my pal. (I’d feel the same even if I DID know the drinkers). Now, whilst I didn’t care whether they enjoyed the music or not, I was not at any time nasty, rude, ignorant, or whatever to them. Just because my playing wasn’t motivated by any desire to provide for their listening pleasure doesn’t mean I stop having good manners and social skills.

The rather laboured point I’m trying to make here is that all those people, myself included, were at the same event, and we all had different perceptions as to what was taking place, because we interpreted it’s purpose differently. Surely it would have been quite useless for any one of us there that night to try and tell the others that their perception was actually and categorically wrong?

So if a bunch of people all in the same blummin’ pub can’t decide what a session is, what hope have we got of doing it on an internet message board?

(P.S. Not been posting here long, but you guys are great (if a bit weird 😉 ). Not that many folk are passionate about music round my way.)

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Way up above, Jack wrote:

"I think the problem might be guilt by association. The word "performance" is used a lot in the context of concerts, but that doesn’t cancel out the meaning of the word in regard to public sessions. It still describes what happens, regardless of intentions, when you play tunes in public."

Which is spot on, in my book. And I thought this deserved to be looked at more closely, so somewhere along the line, I said:

"Ignoring the nuances of context tends to lead to miscommunication and confusion. In the context of people playing music, most of us think of gig or concert or show when we hear the words "public perfomance." [See, Jack and and are in agreement here.]

I then went on: "The more literal sense of "to accomplish a task in public" is so obvious that it adds nothing to our understanding of what a session is."

I think this is crucial. I continued:

[quoting myself]

"Consider this:
"A session is a public perfomance [people accomplishing a task (playing music) in public]."

Well, yes, to be champion of the obvious, there you have it.

But:

"A session is a public performance [people putting on a show or concert for an audience]."

Then you have described something that does not fit with the sense of a session held by many, many session musicians. In this sense, "public performance" is even antithetical to what many of us think of as a session.

So one meaning of public performance does not appreciably add to our understanding of a session. And the other meaning clouds the distinction between a session and a gig, show, or concert. Why then insist on using the phrase "public performance" at all?"

[end quote]

I’m surprised that this has been ignored throughout this conversation. And from what I can see, there are two reasons for this.

First, in a sand dune of words, Jack has a predeliction for picking out the single grain that he can argue with, rather than acknowledging large areas of agreement.

Second, Zina, Clay, Cait, and other people who’ve been to Jack’s sessions at the Plough and Stars say that those sessions: (1) feature Jack and his bandmates, (2) are seated on a stage, (3) on some nights use microphones, (4) predominantly stick to prearranged sets, discouraging spontaneous, random strings of tunes, and (5) are not particularly welcoming to unknown visiting musicians (people with instruments have waited hours at the bar before being invited to play).

All of which, to my sensibilities, puts Jack’s sessions nearer the gig-like end of the session spectrum. NOT THAT THIS IN ITSELF IS A BAD THING—I’m NOT criticizing Jack’s session, or even saying that they’re always like this.

All I am saying here is that this perhaps explains Jack’s comfort with "public performance" as a synonym for session, and his apparent trouble understanding why some of us object to its possible "gig" connotations.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Spot on Plinkeyplonkey.

At one point, Jack said "public performance" was "playing music for an audience." The word "for" implies intent. It *is* part of that definition, even though Jack tried to claim that it isn’t.

And Kerri, you’ve nailed it—we’ve had many "OOOOOOHHHH, okay, nevermind then" moments through this thread and the earlier epic—we’ve answered and re-asnwered Jack’s question about why "public performance" might be a mischaracterization and therefor a bad fit for some. But our answers and the epiphany has been ignored.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Plinky’s experience illustrates why going into public places and playing tunes is likely to become a public performance. He and his friend intended to play some tunes together for their own enjoyment, like they would in a kitchen, but chose the pub instead. But when you go into public you risk your tune playing to become a public performance.

Ottery feels ignored so I’d like to acknowledge that he makes a good point about how we entertain each other. I think this is true, but that would happen in private as well and I was talking about playing tunes in public. I suppose it is relevant in that the entertainment value is spread to the people in the pub so our playing for each other becomes a public performance. Thanks Ottery — good point.

Kerri doesn’t like looking up words in dictionaries I guess. Perhaps she likes to make up her own definitions instead. I bet she’d be great at Balderdash.

Dow is the session.org’s self-proclaimed expert on all things and attends the only authentic Irish sessions outside of Ireland, and probably even superior to most sessions within Ireland as well. He’s the only one who’s got it right and understands what it’s all about. Probably we could save a lot of time and bandwidth if the whole discussion board was changed to "Ask Dow" and the answers he gave would be the final word. Any further discussion wouldn’t be allowed and only adulation for Dow the Magnificent would be allowed to embellish any subject. Jeremy, can you make the changes? Don’t delay, Dow’s getting testy and impatient.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I’m lost. Is Jack trying to be funny (a la Woody Allen), or is he just being incredibly rude, demeaning, and dismissive?

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Easy, Jack. Dow gets riled quickly and I think you’ve made your point ten times over. Will; I played at Jack’s session last Tues. at the corner of the bar, away from the stage, no microphones, stage lights, pyrotechnics, etc. I’m not in his band, no one else was in any band. What Are You Talking About? Dow and Will; do you just show up out of the blue to play in any auld pub or do you have to ask permission from the owner, manager, whatever? Cuz if permission is granted ask your self why. Maybe, Jeez, just maybe so Your Music will add some atmosphere to the pub because people ( god bless ‘em ) would like to hear some friggin’ music. ( exreme smiley and a cyberspace round for all, with a whiskey for Dow { that’s right: whiskey spelled properly})

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Will, your description of the sessions I host with my friends at the Plough is full of errors. We don’t do our sessions on a stage, we’re in the middle of the room around a table, and we never use mics. We only play on the stage with mics for set dances or Friday and Saturday nights as a band.

I invite people with instruments to play as soon as I notice they have instruments with them. In fact, a girl from Leeds had a concealed whistle in her purse and sat nearby with her mum last Tuesday. I somehow sensed she played whistle and asked her to join us before we had played more than 2 or 3 sets of tunes. She was delighted, surprised, and happily joined in. This is typical, and I have no idea where Zina, Clay, or Cait would have got this impression. The only way someone who plays won’t be noticed and invited is if I, or the others, can’t see an instrument case with them.

I have discussed before that I like to play snippets of the tunes I intend to play together before I start the first tune so that others can follow the changes with me if they like. This is an accepted session style I observed in Ireland — and I like it. But I don’t insist that anyone else does it too. I invite everyone in the session to start tunes or suggest medleys and they can proceed in whatever way they desire. Often they will just start the tune and change "spontaneously" to tunes that only they know will be next. This is fine and I don’t discourage it.

Now I realize Zina has come to our session before, but I don’t know who Clay is. If either of them have described our session the way you claim they do, I’d have to seriously consider that their memory and perception isn’t functioning properly. If by Cait you mean Cait Reed, she has her own idea of what session style should be. I have discussed session styles with her, and she feels that the “spontaneous” session style is the only one that’s acceptable. I, on the other hand, am open to different styles as well. Cait would complain that I play the same sets with my “session style,” but I would notice her playing the same sets of tunes when she was being “spontaneous.” The only difference between what she was doing and myself was that I let others know what I intended to play next before I started. I’m often putting together tunes on the spot too, or sometimes it’s a group effort, but I will often let others know what the tunes are before starting to play. Despite this discrepancy in session styles, Cait and I are good friends and enjoy playing tunes together.

When I went to Ireland I observed a few different styles and realized that back in SF only one was being used. Since I have introduced the style where one lets other people know what one intends to play, others have found that to be a good way to proceed and have adapted it for themselves. In discussions on the session.org others have mentioned that they have also seen this style in Ireland and prefer it themselves.

The bottom line is that there’s nothing about our session that’s different in essence to anyone else’s. We have the same intent – to share tunes with our friends. Since it happens in a pub, and people are often enjoying it, it becomes a public performance for the same reason any other session in a pub does – regardless of style.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"I’m lost. Is Jack trying to be funny (a la Woody Allen), or is he just being incredibly rude, demeaning, and dismissive?’

No, but I have wondered the same about you from time to time.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Faust, I never said Jack’s session was always that way, or that non band members couldn’t sit in. Read my post more carefully.

And I have to wonder why you persist in telling me what the pub owner in Montana is thinking when I walk in the door.

In fact, I do sometimes just show up and play, quietly in a back corner, without asking permission. And no one’s ever asked me to stop.

When I have talked with the publican, I made sure he understood that we would not be playing rehearsed music. That we might even stop to learn a tune and play it 20 times straight. That sometimes it would be just me and one other player, and sometimes it might be 20 of us, of varying abilities. That we encourage newbies to start a tune, even if their intonation and timing aren’t strong suits. In short, he understood that the music might not always be pleasant to listen to.

The reason he gave me for accepting this, in contrast to the one you assumed, is that he likes the idea of providing a space for a community potluck, one that revolves around tunes and conversation rather than food.

The difference between a "performance" session and a potluck session is that people don’t come to a potluck to watch other people eat. We all bring something to share, and we all participate.

I’m trying to offer this explanation simply to clarify another way of understanding sessions. But the track record here is that someone will nit pick and hair split and willfully misinterpret it, so losing any possible progress in the conversation. I realize that given the general tone in this thread, it won’t be easy, but perhaps instead of attacking my points, you might try to see where I’m coming from. Since you haven’t been to my session, I’m offering a glimpse of how we do things. Maybe you could try to understand that and accept that it works for me and my friends, and apparently for others here at this site, instead of looking for ways to invalidate it.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack, I’m not the one telling people they’re in denial when they disagree with me. That’s a pretty high and mighty thing to do. It wears on a guy after a while.

Try reading my posts as though I’m trying to undertand the same questions you are. That’s all I’m trying to do here.

At times, you’ve offered a very literal definition of public performance: the act of playing music in public. And I’ve agreed that sessions *are* public performances in that strict sense. But I also said it doesn’t add much if any understanding of what a session is. A more robust definition might say things about "a loose association of musicians who meet to play an unpredetermined selection, mainly of dance music." (That’s part of Hammy Hamilton’s definition in Fintan Vallely’s Companion to Irish Traditional Music.)

At other times you’ve said that public performance means playing music *for* an audience. One of the meanings of "for" is intent. I own a hammer for driving nails. I play music for money. And the distinction some of us here are making is that we sometimes do sessions that are not *for* an audience, even when the session happens in a public place (for the serendipity factor I’ve mentioned before). This distinction is important to us because it can have a real effect on what tunes are played, who starts them, and what level of spontaneity and risk the musicians will feel comfortable with.

Now instead of trying to rip holes in what I’ve just said, can I ask whether any of this makes sense to you? And if there’s something you don’t understand in what I’ve just said, can you simply point that out, without suggesting that the misunderstanding is all on my side (i.e., that I’m in denial)?

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

P.S. I appreciate the clarifications you’ve given for how your session operates. It is possible that other people’s memories or impressions are flawed, but it’s also possible that these are the impressions your session creates, even if you don’t mean it to. I’m more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt here—I don’t meant to question your sense of your own session, only to point out that others may view it differently. In fact—I spaced out and should have mentioned this earlier—most people said they enjoy your sessions, just that it’s a different sort of session than they typically prefer.

Yes on Cait Reed, and only pertaining to the spontaneity of tunes. While she may at times string tunes together in the same order she has before, she also frequently pairs tunes in fresh ways. You’ve said a couple of times now that people who think they’re being spontaneous in their sets often play tunes in the same order. Yes, that happens, but myself and other players who prefer the spontaneity are quite capable of totally fresh strings of tunes and we do them that way. In my case at least, more often fresh than not.

I’ve been to sessions where each set is discussed in advance and sessions where they’re not. Both are acceptable formats. I happen to prefer the latter—I like not knowing what might happen next. But I’ve enjoyed playing at both sorts of session, or mixing the two approaches in the course of an evening.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Our sessions are never that way, Will. I’m very surprised to hear that Zina would have observed that, and I’m having trouble believing she did present that description. At our sessions Zina has been invited to start tunes and proceed however she likes — and she has. She has attended sessions that included a lot of people as well as the ones where only a few show up. She never appeared to be disappointed or not enjoying herself.

I have mentioned it before that your session isn’t the same as ours, and Jodes isn’t either. It has always sounded to me that your session emphasis learning — and that’s fine. I’m not putting your session down or criticizing it in any way. I’ve never been to your session so I have no idea what sort of affect it’s having in the public space where you hold it. The way you describe it sounds like it might be a practice session, so maybe that’s different and out of context for my point. I think your session might be unique to the sessions most of us are used to. I haven’t been to Jode’s session either, but his sound more like private events away from the public spaces. Dow’s session he describes sound more like typical sessions, or what I’m referring to. They don’t sound like learning sessions, or practice sessions, and they usually happen within the public space. He describes a few different locations, so maybe some are more private than others.

I’m wondering now if the thing that makes this subject so volatile is that people take it as a personal assault on their sessions. It’s not intended to be, that’s the furthest thing I had in mind when posing the query.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Now I see. I’m talking about most sessions. Will and Dow are talking about theirs. Apologies.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack said of Will’s description: "I think your session might be unique to the sessions most of us are used to."

Not to me. I’ve played them in the epicenters in North America, Ireland, UK, and Europe, and at least as many are spontaneously-composed, do not feature a band playing their stock sets, feature a fair amount of glorious anarchy (but, in Ireland and in Irish-emigrant communities, are usually very sensitive to "who’s the boss"), and are much closer to Will’s than Jack’s description.

I’m also a fan of spontaneous sessions—I like hearing *other* people’s ideas and inspirations, I like not knowing what comes next. And, for me, the most obvious reason to *avoid* always deciding the tunes in a set in advance is that often-times a melodic relationship between the current tune and a possible next candidate will only occur to me *during the set*. In other words, I like to link tunes via melodic relationships, and I don’t always think of those relationships in advance. Spontaneous selection of tunes facilitates this.

Just a random question: Jack, this is the second or third time in my recollection that you’ve initiated a thread that began or quickly shifted into a lengthy-but-static "session vs performance" argument.

I don’t really care *where* anybody comes down in this argument—I don’t really think in these terms—but I’m curious, Jack: why do you care about this so much? That’s a serious and respectful question, not a wind-up.

chris smith

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

The sets that I suggest in our session are a combination of medleys I enjoy playing, medleys that I put together on the spot, and medleys that we put together collectively on the spot. When I go to sessions other people are hosting or anchoring I try to blend in to whatever session style they seem to have established.

I have noticed that most people who’s sessions I visit have more than a few medleys they play “spontaneously” the same way each time. Just like with me, they seem to have some favored tune combinations mixed in with ones that are put together on the spot. The difference is that I like to let everyone know before I start. I don’t always do this, I also have fun with the trading off thing where the medley is formed by passing the baton between players like a relay. This is exciting and fun, but it’s just another way to do it. Viva le difference!

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Is it just possible that, in the end, after tempers have cooled, this topic will go down in Session history as the most violent agreement ever witnessed?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Well, no offense taken at all, but ours isn’t a learning session. (I have run a monthly learning session, and someone else in town runs a sporadic whistle and flute learning session, but that’s a different ball of wax). It’s just that once in a while, we all get an itch to pick up some new tune on the spot. And because we’re not overly concerned about whether we’re playing for an audience, we don’t feel awkward learning a tune when other people might be listening in. Mind you, this doesn’t happen very often, but it is symptomatic of how relaxed and casual our session tends to be. (Interestingly, even the non musicians have said they enjoy it when we pause to learn a tune because they get to see how that works, and they’re usually amazed at how quickly we get the new tune up and running. Apparently there’s no small amount of public performance value in learning a tune *grin*.)

As for our session being unique, I doubt it. We’ve had visitors from sessions in Donegal, Cork, Clare, Mayo, and Dublin, and they all said the exact same thing: "This is just like the sessions back home!" Two told us that ours is more like what sessions used to be like before they became tourist attractions.

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Just for the record, and sorry to repeat myself, but the main session that I used as an example took place in Wisconsin in the 1980s. The building does not exist anymore.

My main session is at Kieran’s on Wednesdays. Most of the sessions around town these days are held in pubs that have other people in them, some who are listening to the session. So our sessions are pretty similar to others. There are no paid sessions in the twin cities, however.

Oh and Bobhimself, I disagree.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Hi Chris, I have pointed out that there are many different session styles and they all have their own qualities. I haven’t played in any sessions across America’s heartland or any other country besides my local and Ireland — so I plead ignorance to session styles that are predominant outside of my own frame of reference.

On my recent trip to Ireland last November I was in Ennis for about three and a half weeks and experienced for the first time any kind of festival. (I usually visit Ireland in the winter and not during festivals.) It was the Trad Fest and I was there a week before it started and a week and a half after it concluded. I did notice a shift in session style as the people from out of town and other countries began to flood into the town for the festival. The shift was clearly away from any session style like what I had observed where tune medleys might be known before starting. The influx of outsiders definitely had an effect. This might alter the perspective for visitors on what session styles are in operation during festival times as opposed to the norm. I’m not saying this is the case for you; this is just my own observation.

As for your question, this thread started out on a different topic all together. It was Kerri that brought up the "public performance" topic. I commented to what Kerri had said, and others chimed in as well. Very often these threads divert from their original topic, and I am not in control of it when it happens. Obviously people find the topic interesting for whatever reason. I only have no more or no less interest as anyone else who’s contributing here.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I don’t recall the producer of that particular festival ever calling his sets out in advance on the many occasions I had a chance to have a few tunes with him.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Yeah, I’ve read a couple of "well I don’t care what you think" oriented responses and can only conclude from the sheer number of counter, reprise, parry, thrust that this is a topic of some import to everyone responding. Particularly the easily offended who are no longer interested in my "flaming tactics" whatever that means. I only read and respond because I’m interested in what people have to say.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

For that matter, I don’t recall sets being called regularly in house sessions with Ennis locals either.

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By the way, and before that comment gets thrown waaaaaaaaaaaaay out of proportion with reality, it is meant only to illustrate that my perception of / experience in Irish sessions was not the same as Jack’s, and I did not draw the same conclusions he did. The obvious explanation being I did not play with the same people, and that the people I played with did not have the same style as those Jack played with.

I can’t see how anyone could possibly find fault with the above paragraph. I’m tingling with anticipation to discover which part could be used to make me look mentally deficient, lazy and inexperienced.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

LOL Bob, it’s probably my failure as a communicator that gave the false impression that the query was an assault on people’s sessions. Once we get by that misconception perhaps we’re able to discuss the actual point.

After hearing you describe your session, Will, it doesn’t sound that different than ours. We will sometimes play tunes many times for the sake of learning, and it has likewise provided onlookers with some entertainment about the inner workings of playing the tunes. We have also had many visitors from Ireland pass through and make similar comments about our sessions. And I’ve also noticed different session style preferences between the different Irish visitors as well.

In the old days when the only local session style was the spontaneous type that musicians like Cait prefer (she was here long before I was) I remember hearing the comment, "Back home our sessions aren’t free-for-alls like this." I had no idea what they meant until I went to Ireland and saw it for myself. I also remember a very famous accordion player hosting our local session who preferred the snippet in advance style. All present that night were aware of this concept and cooperated. Later that night one of the stronger and more stubborn players came in and started op the default style seemingly oblivious to the established style that our host for the night had initiated. Before long our host was at the bar and that was that — pity.

On other nights the visiting host de jour would commence with a session style that was more similar to the default style, but I still noticed frustration when any hijacking (locally acceptable) would occur. I have noticed that the visiting musicians from Ireland have been most comfortable with a mixed style, and the compliments have come during these sessions for the most part.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Kerri, I played in a pub session with him, and a very well known fiddler, and an excellent and well-known guitar player — and they were sorting out the tunes first. This session happened before the festival started. Later during the festival I found them both mixing it up more in sessions around town. But I never implied that this was an exclusive style anyway, I just noticed it was in use, sometimes more, sometimes less. The contrast was that back home there seemed to only be one style, and to suggest anything different was considered subversive.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

OK, so perhaps I was offended that people were insisting that my sessions were performances. Why? Because I do think of them as separate things. The intermingling of them makes me react negatively.

Personally, the Madison session I mentioned above was very formative for me, as it was my first regular session. But I also experienced spectator-free sessions in St. Paul and Belfast. And I cannot forget the one where the setting was downright hostile. None of these were "closed door" or private sessions.

So, from a experiential and formative standpoint, sessions were always just about going out to play music with like-minded individuals. There was never a thought given to entertaining others. The sessions did not die because we never "attained an audience". Nor did we necessarily want to attract an audience.

Also, the whole idea of performing in a session puts me off and goes against the idea of approaching a session with humility. Performance, to me, speaks of grandstanding, of over-indulgent soloing, of showing off. A performance makes it sound like a gig where you pedal your wares, or promote yourself or your band.

Haven’t any of you experienced that guy who sits down in your session and suddenly its all about him? He starts sets with his own tunes. Plays tunes that people don’t know in long strings. Really showboats it. Next he’s telling everyone about his gigs and filling everyone in on the news that he’s recording a CD. It’s a rare event, but this is what I think about when I hear of someone "performing" in a session.

Performance also goes against the thought that a session is neutral ground where musicians come just to play music, where they play together within the session. Where even people that don’t really like each other come together for a few tunes.

So when you call a session a performance, these are the things that I think about. This is part of the context of the terms "performance" and "session" to me.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Just a hunch, but based on my experience in various sessions, the mixed approach—calling some sets and randomizing others—is both common *and* well liked among musicians.

Maybe I’m wrong, but to me this thread illustrates that generalizing about sessions is a risky business. I think sessions tend to be individual creatures, shaped more by local customs and levels of experience than by broader norms. And any one session can morph through a range of formats and tastes over the years, or from week to week, or even on a single night as players come and go or the mood shifts.

Thank goodness—never a dull moment.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Right, Jode, that’s what I meant when I said the word "perform" had guilt by association. What you’re connecting to it I would consider to be grandstanding or showing off. My use of the word only related to the innocent act of playing music.

If I was going to distinguish a show from a session, I would also call it a "public performance," but I would embellish it with terms like "formal" "production" "proffesional" etc. A staged production is a distinctly different sort of public performance than what I was referring to, but they both could be considered public performances.

Having said that, I don’t think of our session in those terms anyway — it’s just getting together with my friends and sharing tunes. We happen to be in a pub, so if I think about what’s happening — it’s a type of public performance… sort of, but not that type.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I too have seen the situation Jode describes—of a single player or a clump of bandmates taking over a session. At best, it’s less fun for the other session players.

Sometimes, less experienced players feel like this is happening just because a ‘big name’ player is in the circle. I’ve sat in sessions where a ‘big name’ or professional musician is handed the reins even when they don’t want them. The other players defer to the name. Sometimes the pro takes the reins and runs away with the show. But more often (in my anecdotal experience), they graciously hand the reins back to the group.

One of the things that attracted me to Irish trad was the abiding humbleness of many of its best players and their approach to the music. The recording industry and commericalization are changing this, but I still find humility to be a common mindset among even the best players. And I agree with Jode — the gig sense of "performance" does not square well for me with this old school humility.

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LOL, well there you go, my paid gigs are anything but formal and professional. The only difference between them and a session is that I have some idea where the tunes start and end, and my relationship is with a passive audience rather than other musicians. Other than that I’m just as sloppy, informal and inconsistent as ever. It’s just that when someone says "so, are you performing anywhere?" I say "no, just ‘jamming’ with friends" if they haven’t got a clue what a session is or "no, just going to sessions" if they do. If I have a "gig" (or for me, a "performance") coming up I’ll tell them all about it, pass out flyers, try to sell them a ticket on the spot, put it on my website, etc.

So since I’m as careless onstage as off I suppose I really NEED that word (performance) to indicate to me whether or not I’m supposed to be phoning all my friends and reminding them to come watch me play.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

That’s just it, Kerri, I never use that word in relation to what I do at sessions — it’s just a definition of an activity. I was never suggesting that we start using it or even thinking it when we’re playing in sessions. It just occurred to me during the course of a discussion that took place way back when I first joined the site. But the word obviously is drenched with negative associations. I regret asking the question in the first place because I had no idea it would conjure up so many demons.

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Jack, I don’t think of performing with any negative connotations. I love it. I’m all for it. Watching it, doing it myself, whatever. I just think calling a session a performance is like calling a tomato a fruit.

(Yes, I realize a tomato *is* a fruit, but who really thinks of it that way, deep down inside?)

"Hm, I’m feeling peckish."

"Well, I’ve got some fruit in the fridge"

"Ooh, FRUIT, that would be perfect! What have you got?"

"Tomatoes."

"Um… you know what, I’m not that hungry after all."

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You see… tomatoes have the negative association of being used to throw at bad public performances. hahahaha

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And Jack, I am saying that your "guilt by association" is the context that we are seeking for the word "performance".

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Right, Jode… understood.

Too bad Dow isn’t here to witness this upwelling of mutual understanding.

BTW, my comments about him were meant to be sarcastic… not "incredibly rude, demeaning, and dismissive." Dow and I usually get on just fine, even though he’s a brit-box player. 😉

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Wouldn’t it be called "downwelling" since he’s down under?

Wait, here’s a joke I am making up just now:

How can you tell the difference between an Aussie nerd and a Yankee nerd?




The swirlie twists the other way.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

That’s it, Jode! For Dow the conversation has gone down the toilet, but it swirled the wrong way. 😀

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LOL! That’s hilarious!

Okay Jack, sarcasm I can live with. I just wasn’t sure how far you were going. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Maybe Jeremy could make the screen color reflect our emotional state when we type, like those mood rings from the 70s. 🙂

(Although maybe he settled on bile yellow because it seemed to fit more often than not…hahahahaha.)

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

The only question I have left is —-

Did we make 400 posts yet? 😀

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Yours was 343. We’re mellowing in our dottage…. *toothless grin*

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"Why do we always come here
I guess we’ll never know
It’s like a kind of torture
To have to watch the show"

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Have you ever noticed that after just hearing a tune start up folks will pick up their instrument and start fingering notes, or put a whistle of flute to their lips?

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No I haven’t.
It seems like a public performance, though.

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Hardy har har *smirking emoticon*

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Is this how the thread performance is being brought to a close. Can’t I have the last word??

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How appropriate it is to devote so much time to defining aspects of what sessions are all about, on a website called The Session.
From the origins of the word “perform” it appears that it meant: to do, carry out or accomplish. From Par – completely + fornir – to provide. Since then it has evolved to have many meanings and I must concede that according to one of those definitions Jack, you are unequivocally right in all your assertions.
However one of the connotations of the word perform is ‘entertain’ and that is where people do indeed have differing views about sessions.
I can ‘perform’ the task of accompaniment for a melodist with or without entertaining anybody else.
I cannot be entertaining someone who is oblivious of what I am doing even if it is in a public place, even if by your definition I am performing.

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Err, excuse me, don’t you think you should be leaving the last word for Dow the Magnificent? 🙂

I love the way Jack and Faust got their flames in while I was in bed asleep, so I would read them in the morning. Hah! Love you too!

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Well… sort of. My point had little to do with the intent of the musician performing the tune, but everything to do with the circumstances surrounding the location. If there are people at large in the pub, they are the public. If they can hear the music, they are an audience, regardless of their intent. So you have an unintentional public performance. Sometimes the public intentionally steps into the role as audience, but it’s not necessary to fulfill the definition.

The problem with bringing this up is that people in sessions don’t see themselves as performing for anyone’s entertainment — and I agree. They even have distain for the concept, and the reaction to my query was swift and brutal. But the person on the public end doesn’t need to know this to be entertained. They are innocently enjoying the performance of the music regardless of the musician’s intent. They might even harbor negative connotations about the concept themselves, but it doesn’t change the baseline fact. In my dictionary it says an audience is the act or state of hearing, and then it elaborates from there. One of the examples it gives is listening to music.

My whole point was that the session unwittingly risks becoming a public performance when it happens in a public space. To arrive at this point with a semblance of mutual understanding took over 300 posts.

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Good morning your Lordship. 😉

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Bring me some coffee and perform some music for me, lowly ones!

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Let’s have another quick 100 posts before Jack goes to bed.

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Donough you are such a post whore. Unlike myself - I post only deep and meaningful words that will help people reach enlightenment and true authenticity if they open their minds to my greatness. Getting thirsty here. Where’s that coffee?

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Now here’s your coffee and don’t tell me you don’t post 3-4 times in a row
"Post whore" really conjures up some pretty unsavoury images in my mind - whatever.
I know I’ll never reach your level of deep meaningfulness.
I’m enjoying my coffee, how’s yours?

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Yes I do post 3 or 4 times in a row, but that’s because I have an awful memory, and I have to tag on afterthoughts to my posts instead of it being just one coherent outburst of pure truth. I might be generally Magnificent, but my memory isn’t 🙂

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Kind of like the Emperor’s new clothes, Dow?

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Jack one day I’m going to turn up unannounced at your session with my instruments, and I’m going to expect to see a truly authentic, welcoming session happening, so you’d better change your ways or you’ll give me ammo for my next sarcastic online assault on you. You’d better put those mics away for a start, get down off that stage, and try and get your fans to stop asking for your autograph at the end of the perfor… I mean session 😀

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Let’s debate the nuances of meaning behind the word "audience"…

er, not.

But I do have a serious thought. I make my living as a writer, a wordsmith. My various dictionaries and thesauri are valuable tools of my trade. But I’d caution anyone (not just aiming at Jack here) against banking on them too heavily when trying to suss out the meanings behind words as they’re used in everyday situations. Even the full OED can’t get at every connotation and shade of meaning behind some of the most common words in our collective vocabularies—so much depends on context and the ongoing development of understanding that emerges when two or more people try to communicate. And dictionaries can’t help but lag behind actual usage.

In short, the meanings of words are not limited to the rigid definitions we find in dictionaries. Even the best dictionary is more of a history book than it is a legal code, and inevitably out of date before it goes to press.

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Hey Will that’s ‘sick’!
Which means ‘great’ to my teenage kids.
Having said I agree with you Will I also feel it is useful to go back to what the word originally meant to try and understand the context of how the meaning came to evolve to what it is today. But I do agree that usage takes precedence over everything else. In other words if I use a word with a particular intention, as long as that sits well with how other people see the same word - it’s fine to do so.
Which brings me back to how ‘intent’ does matter when describing an action as perceived by the person rather than their so-called audience.
Now there’s a word ‘audience’. The root of that word suggests that to be an audience you have to be listening. It’s not enough to just be there having a pint in the same pub.

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Point taken, but I was using the dictionary to explain what I meant by the word. I realize that people have different meanings based on context. I made the statement, so I was trying to explain what I meant in the context I intended. Heck, it only took 300+ posts.

I think the main problem is that, as ITM sessioneers, we see session and performance as an oxymoron. My point was based on the situation without taking the negative connotation into consideration. I think once I managed to get that across, you folks stepped back from the negative associations of the word and realized I was just talking about the situation. It turns out we have a mutual understanding of what a session is, but I wasn’t trying to define what makes a session unique, but rather how it fits into the general scheme of things when it happens in public.

I’m not a writer, so I’m certain I probably flubbed up my point here.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Jack, I happen to think this has actually all been very worthwhile. How come Zina never gave us her opinion on all this -where is she?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Dow, valient sir, can you please open the point up to more discussion please?

The meeting point was the definition of session/performance with context. What you describe as "negative connotation". We ended up agreeing that there were different interpretations to the word "performance".

We did not agree that a public session necessarily equates to a performance. We differ on the point of intent.

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I think you’re all being far too nice to Jack now that he’s backing down and finally seeing that he’s wrong. Why do we feel this need to agree? I’m not budging - I still disagree totally with what Jack has said and can find no common ground whatsoever. I’ve run out of insults just for the moment, but by the time he starts up another one of his legendary threads, I should have thought up some more. Can we have one on noodling again sometime, Jack?

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This niceness is making me puke.
I’m off down the river to tickle some trout.

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Ooh, yeah! Noodling! Bring it!

For the record, I still don’t think anyone ever said anything "negative" about performance. A lot of us do it and were trying to express why it’s not the same thing we do at a session. How is that negative?

Whip out your dictionary, maybe it defines a "negative" statement as one that is diametrically opposed (contrary) to a positive (affirmative) one - as in "jack IS a pain in the ass" (positive / affirmative) and "no, he is NOT" (negative / contrary.)

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I’m stir crazy about noodles - positive statement
Actually the dog (Pavlov’s) ate the noodles.

How often as a percentage, have punters enhanced your session?
My only example was on St Pat’s day in a busy pub where the visiting Irish guy playing the flute was being entertained by this girl who seemed to be dancing in a chemically enhanced state specially for him. When all of a sudden she collapsed to the floor next to him and proceeded to stroke his leg while he endeavoured to continue playing and keep a straight face. The rest of us just dragged the set of tunes out for as long as we could to see what might happen….

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"How often as a percentage, have punters enhanced your session?"

Interesting question, to which I think we might see contrasted responses which are possible region-specific. What I mean is this:

Donough’s response is cite an "only" example, from which I infer that the punters don’t often enhance his sessions Down Under. If I’m thinking of the sessions I’ve played in the epicenters where I’ve lived (Boston, Chicago, NYC), overseas (Clare, Galway, Mayo, Dublin; London, Liverpool, Glasgow), I’d tend to agree with Donough. That is, in those places the session culture is alive and well and has a substantial population, so whether any given session is "enhanced" by punters isn’t essential.

On the other hand, in places I’ve lived and/or sessioned which are far distant from the epicenters, where a given session may be the only game in-STATE much less in town, responses from punters are both less well-informed and more important.

Where I live now, there’s not another true tunes session w/in 300 miles, other than the one I founded. So the locals are obviously unlikely to be familiar with the music OR to know how to respond or even just co-exist with it.

On the other hand, this same region has a very strong live-music culture—one of the few places I’ve lived (outside of New Orleans) where a substantial percentage of the adult middle-class population make hearing live music their principle leisure activity. Certainly this is one of the only areas in the US I’ve lived in which simply walking into an unfamiliar pub with an instrument elicits requests to play, offers to unplug the jukebox, rounds bought for us, and so on.

In the epicenters, audience development and respectful/unobtrusive punters are non-essential. In the outback where I live now, the punters know less but respond more—and, as a result and in response to Donough’s apt question, the outback punters are much more likely to enhance my session.

Interesting, as I said. The question might help illustrate the contrasting roles played by punters & musicians in epicenters versus isolated environments.

chris smith

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Dow’s last comment is too troll-like to respond to, but I’ll try to address Kerri’s question even though she seems antagonistic towards me.

The negative connotations of the word "performance" were in relation to what a session is. People implied that using the word in the context of a session was incorrect because it could refer to showing off, showboating, etc.

Jode indicates that the point of disagreement over the term has to do with intent. Some people feel that one can’t perform without intending to, others interpret the definition to be less contingent. Based on the reading of my dictionary, there’s no reference to intent for either the audience or musician, so I fall into the camp of the latter. Because of my understanding of the word it supports the assertion that when you have your session in a public place it risks becoming a public performance. If you believe that there has to be intent to do so, then you believe that even though music is being played where the public might hear it, and even be entertained by it, it still can’t be a public performance unless the musician decides to perform rather than just play. Personally, I couldn’t tell when the playing stops and the performing begins. Maybe Jode can explain that part.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I think the difference between playing music and performing music is *all* in your intent. In other words, it’s all in your mind, whether you think you’re perforrming or just playing music *for* no one in particular—perhaps for the sake of the music itself (which is an old idea I’ve heard passed down from earlier generations of trad players).

And I think that this intent influences what tunes we choose to play and how we play them.

Also, I suspect the negative feedback people gave in response to "performance" came from two sources. First, some of us enjoy performing, but prefer to keep it separate from sessioning. As Jode has pointed out, in some cases, the quality of a session can be jeopardized by "showmanship."

The second source of negative feedback stemmed, I think, from the misunderstanding itself—not the topic, but the clash of stubborn wills (er, awkward word choice there 🙂 — Jack, Dow, Kerri, and others were stubborn too, not just me. *grin*). We were able to get around that by reframing the discussion toward the end to focus again on the subject at hand, rather than attacking and characterizing each other. One of the groundrules I use in conflict management is to challenge ideas, not the people who voice them. That can be difficult when people don’t participate in good faith or they use "dirty" tactics to make their point. I think we saw plenty of that from all sides. Thankfully, when we refocused on the real substantive issue, we were all able to rinse off the dirt and forget the bruised egos long enough to reach an understanding.

Posted .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

True, Will… when people are slinging mud at you, and you don’t run away — you’re going to get dirty. 😉

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In my defence, I was trying to be facetious and annoying, not to make a point. If I happened to make any points in the mean time, it was entirely unintentional. 😀

Go on, just TRY to bruise my ego! I dare you!

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Will, I’m NOT stubborn. I refuse to accept that I’m stubborn. Sorry, I just won’t.

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PS Jack, that’s what we humans call "light-hearted humour". Now you can phone home and tell your tentacled friends all about it 🙂

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My my my… look how defensive everyone’s getting.

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*Looking… not seeing…*

Dow, somebody better beam him up - earth’s atmosphere seems to be getting to him…

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Let’s hope he has an audience for his departure or he’ll have one of his tantrums 😀

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Better not slander him by claiming he has tantrums, that’ll REALLY make him fly off the handle…

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I can say what I like cuz he never listens to me anyway.

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By the way, Dow, since everyone else has moved on, did you ever sort out the 9 to 1 substitution mystery? I can’t remember what thread that was in, but I know you’re a filthy tease for plopping that in and then going to bed.

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If you guys are going to stay in this thread, could you at least pick up the empty glasses and put the tables and chairs back in the upright position… a little sweeping might help too you know.

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Later, jack, i’m still looking for my rosin. Hey, does that half-empty glass belong to anyone we know?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I think I did confirm that BegF was right in his assumption, but we cross-posted and it got swamped by other posts. Basically it’s just where you play a chord progression starting on e.g. Am in a Gmaj tune where under normal circumstances you’d play a normal Gmaj 3-chord thing. It kind of forces the G of the melody to become the 7th and makes a Gmaj tune into an Am-sounding one. I can’t think of a single example of a tune I’d do it in at the moment. I dunno why it has to be 9. A guitarist was talking about it one night at a session and he said that that’s what he’d heard a jazz guitarist call it. I just think of it as 2 rather than 9. Maybe it’s 9 because of some chord extension rule in jazz theory. I’ve not given it much thought, and am too tired to do it now. I don’t find calling it 941 very helpful for trad purposes anyway, but now I know what it means, and I know this other guitarist knows what it means, I could potentially use it as a common shorthand for "that thing we sometimes do in the B-parts of tunes where you make the bass go to the 2".

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"If you guys are going to stay in this thread, could you at least pick up the empty glasses and put the tables and chairs back in the upright position… a little sweeping might help too you know."

If Jack’s going we can clear the mics away and have a proper session, eh Kerri 😀

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This confirms my suspicions about you, Kerri, I had you pegged as one of those people that comes to the pub and finishes other people’s abandoned drinks.

Oh, Dow… you’re on the wrong thread. Is all of this technology getting out of your control?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

I guess calling it "2 for 1" would cause a massive exodus from the session table over to the bar.

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Yea, why did Will bring all these mics? I guess he wanted to have a public performance.

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No, *you’re* on the wrong thread. Kerri and I have now hijacked it and are talking about chords. Unless you want us to get back on topic and start insulting you again, of course. I’d be quite happy to oblige.

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Oh… sorry. (puts the mic back in front of Dow the Magnificant)

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To be perfectly honest, this thread wasn’t about what it was supposed to be about anyway, which gives us full license to talk about whatever the heck we want.

Take our message of peace to the mother ship on your way out.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Anyone found a pair of Foster Grant +2.25 wire rim reading specs?

They’re here somewhere.

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Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

"Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3, okay guys, this is the one we’ve all been waiting for, we’ve counted all the votes, and in this envelope is the name of the winner of the prize for the biggest post whore… that prize goes to… JACK GILDER!"

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Whose latex face mask is this?

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**strutting across the session stage in a sparkly ball-gown, carrying a big concertina shaped trophy…**

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Is that awarded by weight or volume?

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Thank you… thanks… I really didn’t expect this. (wipes tear) I’d like to thank the Acadamy, and all the great producers… thanks Jake, (waves) and of course my Mom who always insired me to reach as high as I can. (looks up and winks) And of course I’d like to thank Jeremy and everyone here at thesession.org… you know who you are. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it’s the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush.

Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you.

And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you,
your time is up.

Thank you very much.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Back in a moment after this word from the makers of Sprite.

Posted by .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Hey guys, we caught up to the original public performance thread. This is post #403. Kerri, break out the champagne!

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

woohoo!

Posted by .

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Let me finish my beer first.

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Am I too late for a glass of that champagne?
Dow, did you ever drink that cup of coffee I poured for you yesterday or has it just been cleaned up along with the beer glasses.
As for "9" I always thought you use the number 2 if it’s on the bottom and 9 if it was on the top 3 strings. In other words the A on the bottom (5th string in std tuning) of a G chord is a ‘2’ inversion. Whereas a Am9 refers to that ‘B’ usually played on the 3rd string. I guess it all comes down to terminology and INTENT. - See this was relevant.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Shut up and have a glass of champagne for feck’s sake.

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Oo Jack you loved all that attention didn’t you - all those people clapping when you took the stage. Well your moment of fame is over now, and the adults are talking 😉

No, it has nothing to do with which octave you’re playing in, Donough. There seems to be a rule that if there is a 3rd in the chord, you call the 2 a 9, but if not you call it a sus2, like GDF#A is Gmaj7sus2, but GBDF#A is Gmaj9. But that has nothing to do with substituting a 2 for a 1 chord. I would have thought that the 2 bass is so prominent that it makes no sense to relegate it to being thought of as a sort of "extra". It’s a mystery to me. I guess a jazz guitarist would know.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Well you and Donough carry on then with your little string chat and let me know when the adults get here — I’d be interested to hear what they have to say.

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We’re talking about chords, not strings. But you wouldn’t know about chords because they have more than one note in them. Go to your room and play with your toys - what about that anglo concertina auntie Pam bought you for christmas? Go and amuse yourself with that. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Something you don’t know about me is that I played b-bop period jazz piano for many years before taking up the concertina. I also studied music theory in college and studied classical piano and baroque harpsichord, among other things. Anything you’d care to ask me about?

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I know you’ve studied music theory, actually, Jack. I didn’t know you played jazz piano. That’s pretty cool. Can I be one of your adoring fans?

Why did you take up the anglo when you could have just carried on playing jazz piano which is way cooler? 🙂

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Oh actually if you’re a jazz pianist, I do want to ask you something, quite genuinely. Why would a jazz muso call it 941 and not 241?

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

If you’re good you can sleep on my door stoop and do my dishes and cook for me. Every once in a while I’ll diddle a tune to you and you can spend your free time between running errands for me practicing it. But you can’t practice whilst I’m asleep.

I think the music I’m playing is quite way cool enough. 😉

Re: ITM and Pavlov’s dog

Spell out the chords for me.