Cold shoulder

Cold shoulder

From what I observed in several discussions now, if someone is coming over to the session and spoils the fun, or is just not wanted, many people have this tendency not to state this overtly but to engage in a strange game of giving ‘cold shoulder’. Seems like people see the two ends of the scale as ‘submissive’, which no-one wants to be, and ‘rude’, which only some decide to be, and the rest oscillate somewhere between these two points, not wanting to be passive, but neither to lose face.

But what about just being plain with the lad/lass? I know, this might lead to a conflict, verbal abuse or so, but so what? Don’t you feel that this game of saving face is a bit awkward? In my opinion it is the worst of the things you can do. I’d prefer to have an open dispute with the guy rather than trying to show him in an indirect way how unwanted he is. It seems too much like a lack of courage to me. And a bit childish, too.

A month ago or so, by chance, I sat down in a session with several other players, including two famous pipers. One of them didn’t mind, I guess, but the other one was showing me all the time how unwanted I am there, ignoring me, delaying, engaging in conversations, preventing other players from starting a tune - clearly waiting until I will get his ‘message’ and go. Finally, without joining a single tune, I left, after half hour, which was a 30-minute torment for everybody. I found this deeply offensive, as I didn’t even know for half an hour what is going on - but also rather pathetic. Had he said that a guitar player is not welcome to their session, or that he wanted to show off with his u-pipes on his own, I’d understand, buy myself a beer and enjoy listening to the music for the rest of the night (they played remarkably). What he did was the most disrespectful and cowardly thing he could possibly do.

By giving me a cold shoulder he proved only that he was a pr*ck without guts.

So if I felt it’s not worth a trouble, I’d either bear with the plonker (say, it wasn’t my session, then it’s not my business to push people around) or leave. But usually, if someone new spoils the fun, I’d give him a feedback - without aggression or any animosity, with all due respect, but in plain text. If that hurts his self-love, it’s his problem. But at least I don’t feel I am being disrespectful towards him.

So, is this approach acceptable, or should I don my potato-resistant armour before posting this thread?

Re: Cold shoulder

Sorry to hear that Janek. But as always, it’s a tough one. A while back at the Blythe a pair of people turned up. The guy could sort of sing but his missus, already a not very good whistle player and having shared this lack of talent with us, proceeded to start to shake the egg. When I stopped playing to this accompaniment and said, directly, "No shakey eggs, please." it unleashed all sorts of indignation from them, but as they were outnumbered (only as in outvoted) they finally shut up and the egg was put away. But they were indignant, no doubt about that.

At another more recent session, purely for playing no free drinks from behind the bar or anything, a man sitting in the pub bought us all a round of drinks. Hethen started to make the overtures of singing a song…pretty badly, it has to be said, whereupon we all sat and "cold shouldered" his attempt till one of us hijacked the moment by starting up a tune. He then got the message but was OK about it. We were thinking the drinks bought was going to be a Trojan Horse.
So, as you can see there are 2 ways of dealing with it but with the same prognosis and outcome.

Re: Cold shoulder

I along with many better musicians than myself have suffered from this "cold shoulder" treatment. You know, the circle seems to "close in on itself" and if one or more of the visitors start a tune, they start a conversation and will not play again until you’ve finished.
It can all be very subtle and cliquish. Often it has nothing to do with how good or bad the visiting musician is. You are just intruding on "their session".

Now, I don’t have any problem with musicians wishing to have a more private or closed session as long as this is made clear but I’ve even seen this sort of thing happen in, supposedly, "open sessions".

These days, I’m always careful not to enter a session where I think I’ll not be welcome. It’s nothing to do with the level of musicianship or standard of the music but a feeling you get and its usually fairly obvious. Having said that, I don’t expect to be always welcomed "with open arms" either. It’s usually a lot more implicit than that but the secret is to know the difference. Also, of course, it’s always polite to ask in a new situation.

Re: Cold shoulder

Hi Janek I understand your problem, here in the UK some (a minority) of the people involved in Irish and other traditional genres of music have a serious attitude problem, and seen to need to define themselves by excluding others.
This is not an attitude I’ve come across from the Older Irish players but seems mostly confined to people who play the music but were born in the UK.
I think honesty is the best policy but unlikely to change the attitude of these people. You could adopt some of their strategies, so they find out what it feels like to be on the receiving end; after all they’ve set the agenda.
The main thing is not to let it get to you and keep going to sessions and bringing the music to life. It’s people like you, not the arrogant sh*ts that will lead to new people getting interested in the music so that when your as old as the guys I play with there’ll still be sessions around.

Good Luck

PP

Re: Cold shoulder

I think you’re right, PP. It’s something I’ve come across quite a lot over the years, and struggled to understand why this is so here, but not so prevalent in Ireland. It seems to be part of a culture of ‘Wannabee-ism and control-freakery’. I think that the exclusion of anyone new or unknown comes from a failure in social skills and a fear of getting into a situation from which they might not be able to easily extricate themselves. I know that people who are learning have a tendency to ‘latch on’ to decent players - but that’s in part because here there is no structured way to learn apart from grabbing people at sessions and getting as much out of them as possible. The weakness that the ‘cold-shoulderers’ have is that they don’t realise that they are actually very much in control of the situation and don’t really have to worry that they will be stuck with someone they don’t want forever! If someone says, "Do you know The Harvest Home?", you don’t have to be rude to them or laugh at them because it’s ‘not the sort of thing you want to be seen playing’. If you play with them and it turns out that they DO become leech-like and turn up at every session expecting you to do the same thing, then just tell ‘em you don’t want to do it a ll the time - it’s not that scary … is it?

Re: Cold shoulder

Some people think that saying something negative is impolite. On the contrary, as Janek has pointed out, sometimes not saying it directly, and trying to use other methods to let someone know they are unwelcome, can be even more impolite than the direct statement. Don’t be afraid to politely be direct in giving people the feedback they need, or in filling them in on the local customs. In the short run, it is often harder to take this approach, but in the long run, it is the right thing to do.

Re: Cold shoulder

I don’t think I could ever actually say to someone "you are unwelcome". Maybe politely make it clear to that "we don’t really actually ever have F-tubas in Irish sessions, sorry."
‘Unwelcome’ seems a drastic thing to say to someone.

Re: Cold shoulder

I’ve found that it helps to constructively criticize the behavior, not the person. Danny was right and obviously well within his bounds to tell the woman to put the shakey egg down. He didn’t ask her to leave or tell her that she was unwelcome. He simply asked her to stop the offending behavior.

If someone gets indignant and causes a scene, you can challenge them on *that* behavior as well. "Look, now you’ve gone and blown this all out of proportion. All I said was ‘no shakey eggs.’ You seem like a nice person, having a bad day perhaps. Why don’t you take a break and come back when you’ve regained your usual good humor."

All said with a smile and genuine concern for their mental health, of course. 🙂

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Re: Cold shoulder

There’s no universal answer - cultural norms are different all over the world, even among people who are playing the same kind of music. What is said or done in a pub in Limerick might be interpreted completely differently in a pub in Toronto. You don’t have to travel to the Far East to find differences in the amount of "face-saving" that needs to be provided in a conflict situation.

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Re: Cold shoulder

So, are you OK with BBb or Eb tubas?

Re: Cold shoulder

The English are afflicted by the Embarrased and Affronted condition. I read all about it in a pop-anthropology book called ‘Watching the English’ on the plane over here (I picked it up so I could study up on the ‘buying a round’ ritual).

In England, the book says, when somebody enters a particular social dynamic without immediately conforming to the previously existing behavioural conditions, everybody else immediately becomes embarrassed, and will at first ignore the faux pas, but in conversation offer opportunities for the new person to correct their behaviour, through hints - as subtle as possible - and asides. It is not polite to start off passive aggressive - ie, rude, but the longer the outsider continues to ignore the hints, the more blatant and ruder they will become, and the more the embarrassment turns into affront.

Culture thing. Nothing cowardly about it.That’s what the book says, anyway.

Personally, I think the English are just keeray-zee. (though I’m sure they’re very embarrassed about it)

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Re: Cold shoulder

Greetings:

Whew, an intelligent discussion of an important session issue.

>
By giving me a cold shoulder he proved only that he was a pr*ck without guts.< Janek, I couldn’t agree more. Sorry this happened. What on EARTH is so hard about saying, "We don’t have guitars at this session?" in a reasonable tone of voice, and perhaps inviting you to have a seat close in? Assuming I were part of the session, and you chose to stay and listen, I would probably have bought you a drink at a break — and several other musicians I can think of would have had the same impulse, I’m sure. THAT’s how that should have been handled.

Grrrrrr…..

Re: Cold shoulder

I wonder if a newcomer to a session ought to take the initiative and introduce himself, and ask if he may join in.

What if it were a game of cards, or dominoes, or darts - or even just a conversation between a group of friends - would one expect to walk in and join in without asking first, or at least making some sort of introduction?

0.02

Re: Cold shoulder

It’s always good to ask. You have more chances of gaining their acceptance.

Re: Cold shoulder

Indie stated that he could never say "you are unwelcome" to someone, and I agree—my use of those particular words in my posting were probably ill considered. That phrase is way too general and could easily be taken wrongly. But you could say "I’m sorry, but this gathering is not open to all." Or, "Excuse me, but we don’t care to play with a guitarist, it throws us off, especially when it is a stranger joining in." Or, "We allow players here by advance invitation only." That might raise some hackles, but at least it is direct and honest.
It was showaddydadito who hit a key point—I went back to Janek’s story, and it doesn’t include Janek asking "Do you mind if I join you?" before sitting down. This question should be a must for EVERYONE who wants to join a session. Otherwise, your actions indicate that you are demanding a right to play, which doesn’t always exist (we could argue that in a perfect word, that right would always exist, but we are not in a perfect world).
Q—Interesting anthropological stuff about English behavior there. I was going to say "about English manners" but that kind of "embarassed and affronted" behavior always strikes me as more unmannerly than honest directness.

Re: Cold shoulder

Yes, but you’re American - which, to the English, is very embarrassing indeed!

The book stereotypes a lot, but it’s very very funny.

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Re: Cold shoulder

Good point, showdaddy — addy? Ah well; someday, I’ll get it.

Re: Cold shoulder

I agree with a lot of the points made. Rudeness is just plain rudeness. It is never acceptable. This music has its roots in sharing and inclusiveness. People who do not demonstrate this fundamentally misunderstand what the music is about.

That said, and this does logically follow, believe me, there is a a particular problem with pipers. All instrument players are primarily interested in people who play their own instrument. Fiddle players are bad. But pipers are worse. They so obsessed with ghost back ds, popping straps, regs, bags, tubes, they really can’t see the point of other instruments. One of my claims to fame is they have completely ignored me when I played two instruments, guitar and then fiddle.

But is either of us had been playing the pipes…..

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Re: Cold shoulder

Pol — your comment reminds me of a story. I was at the San Francisco Tionol several years ago. As you know, a reed making workshop is ALWAYS part of the weekend. Three of us fiddle players decided we would drop in on the workshop and see how everyone was gettting along. So, we’re standing outside the door of the workshop and we hear the little saws sawing, and the little clamps clamping, and the pipers who-whooooing away. We walked in. Everyone stopped what they were doing and sort of hid what they had in their hands. All talked stopped. We walked around for a few minutes saying hello, hows it going, what’s up, etc., but it was very clear that these reed makers wanted nothing to do with us fiddlers at the moment. The unspoken question was "when are you leaving". So we left. Closed the door. And all the little noises started up again, along with the loud who-whoooooing!

Re: Cold shoulder

Just to clarify a bit, I was invited to sit with them by their fiddler - it’s my policy never to join without asking. And I didn’t try to steal the show, I wanted to listen to a few sets first, just to get the gist of the session, before even starting to play - but I was never allowed to. As I said, other guys were really welcoming

Q, this piper was French, the setting was Brittany, and other guys included several mighty Irish players and one Asturian fellow. No English. This book is a great read, though - I use it a lot in my work (which is all about understanding the English 🙂 ). Also, there is a difference between feeling embarassed and inhibited the way the English do - you can see it straight away and it tells you that you did something wrong, if you are sensitive enough.

Re: Cold shoulder

Hey Janek - let’s look on the bright side.

You say this guy was a famous piper - so if ever anyone "snubs" you in future, you can stand up, and before you leave you can say "I’ve been cold shouldered by better players than you!"

If anyone is so good as to be ‘famous’ - there is a risk that he/she has achieved this by being obsessive/focused to the point of excluding social skills. Remember - high fliers (in all walks of life) comprise a excessively high proportion of self-obsessed people - who didn’t get where they are by being nice.

Me - I’m not so good at the playing, but … . what a lovely guy!

Re: Cold shoulder

French, oh there you go then! The French aren’t crazy at all - they’re just, well, French.

I for one would probably never be welcome in Brittany if it ever came to light that my direct ancestors were responsible for decades of feudal oppression there. But that won’t happen, cos nobody here is going to tell, ARE THEY?

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Re: Cold shoulder

Hey Q — (puffing up and going scarlet with fury and indignation) who the fuq are you calling English, pal?

Re: Cold shoulder

Danny, Danny Danny.. easy on there. When I said the English were crazy, I didn’t mean that everyone who was crazy was English!

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Re: Cold shoulder

Touché, Matt!

Re: Cold Shoulder of Ham&Turkey by Nordic French in ye olde England

well,Q,you could always rattle on about the centuries of feudal oppression of the poor old saxons by the french from 1066(& all that) onwards.
not that anybody would give a monkey’s (go to hartlepool for that btw) but it would make a change i suppose.

Janek,re yr original post,i don’t think it’s acceptable behaviour but don yr spud resistant armour just the same.

and just because there’s no smilies here does n’t mean i’m not

Re: Cold shoulder

Hi Dave! Yebutnobut, Willie the conqueror was a Norman, ie a french speaking Norseman, ie a Viking. AND he had a claim to the English crown (in fact was guaranteed it) anyway. Apparently he and Harold were good mates before 1066 - he had in fact promised William the crown when he got shipwrecked in Normandy!
And in any case, England had really only been united for a few years before 1066. Remember, part of the reason Harold II got beat (apart from crap military strategy — the Normans pretended to be defeated, thus luring the Saxons into a trap, and the Saxons fell for it) was that they had marched non-stop down from the North of England, Stamford Bridge, near York, to see off of the remnants of Danelaw (Harald III Hardraade, king of Norway and his own brother Tostig.) So he was doomed. Let’s face it, 1066 was just one landmark — what about the aboition of the monasteries carried out by good king Henry VIII?

Re: Cold shoulder

yes,Danny,the victor gets to do the write-ups!
but i do wonder how what the history of these islands might have been if william had been defeated.
obviously,i’ve got a lot a time on my hands.
re william the bastard (look up the refs!),he was a particulary vicious entity even for his time viz. the near complete destruction of life and property in the north post 1066.

as for henry tudor,i think it was brendan behan who said that the church of england was founded on the crap of henry VIII,tho he might have been quoting someone else,i don’t know
either way,he was n’t a patch on charles V.so they say…!

Re: Cold shoulder

i did not write ‘crap’.
i wrote b-o-l-l-c-k-s because that is the proper quote and it makes no sense otherwise.
is anyone really offeneded by that word anyway?

Re: Cold Eye on Life and Death Passing by Swine

wow,that’s really top-notch informed and impressive comment there.
watch you don’t cut youself on that razor wit

Re: Cold shoulder

Janek,
Sorry to assume that because your story did not include your asking to sit in, that it hadn’t occurred. I can understand your discomfort, invited by some in the circle, while actively snubbed by others. Ouch.

Re: Cold Comfort

Showaddydadito- i did n’t and it has.
and that’s a much more helpful comment than yr previous one so thanks.

Re: Cold shoulder

oh good - and now you’ll understand what happened to Henry VIII’s genitals too.

I do love a happy ending.

Re: Cold shoulder

Dave-showaddy - our big Dave is no eejit. He is a top man intellectually and fiddlectually. Actually. Just so’s ye know. Thanks for aski—-sorry, I mean, making me say that.

:~}

Re: Cold shoulder

I know Danny - I can tell that from:

1) the name Ursus Maritimus

2) the words "so thanks" on the end of his last posting

He now understands that the "eejit" reference was a remark about the work of the "anti-profanity elves" who had removed Henry’s testicles, and that I was certainly not casting nasturtiums at him.

I don’t think many people miss the subtleties of the banter on this site - although obviously some do, and go away hurt. Sometimes things get a bit heated here, and there’s blood on the walls, but I learned to get out of those threads. Once in the middle of a long thread in which several of us were exchanging "light hearted banter" which took the form of apparently vicious abuse, one of the "hard men" on this board emailed me privately to check that we were still in the land of banter, because he didn’t want it to be any more than that. I was able to reassure him. If he’s reading this he’ll be tittering at the description "hard man".

Now it’s time to do these photos of my grandad for my auntie Dorothy.

Re: Cold shoulder

I have read any number of threads on this site concerning what is or is not polite to do or say at a session, whether the person joining or the person already part of the session.

Situations vary, and many have offered good advice for handling them, but I would like to introduce something I’d like to see adopted by all good session participants:

Never, ever, presume to speak on behalf of other participants in a session.

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Re: Cold shoulder

…unless you have their prior approval, usually on a specific issue. Session leaders sometimes do this, to curb what the group sees as disruptive behavior. The message carries more weight if it comes from someone acting as the spokesperson of the whole circle. This also makes it easier to deliver in a diplomatic way, as in, "We’re happy you could join us, and certainly appreciate the round of drinks you bought last week, but the folks in our session are in agreement that steam calliopes are simply too loud to work in the confines of our little pub. Perhaps you’d like to take up whistle?"

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