The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #99782   Message #1993261
Posted By: treewind
11-Mar-07 - 05:05 AM
Thread Name: virtuosity and traditional music
Subject: RE: virtuosity and traditional music
I was thinking of Eastern Europe too. No stigma in being able to play your instrument properly there!

"classical musical education seems to destroy the ability to perform folk music with feeling"
A classical music education doesn't do that by itself, but it's no substitute for learning folk music from folk musicians. You have to immerse yourself in the culture for long enough to understand it. What a classically trained player can do is sight read very well, so you can put a page of jigs and reels in front of a violinist and they can play them straight off and then remark that folk music is "easy", but what they played wouldn't usually sound like folk music. On the other hand if they've also spent some time listening to and playing the real thing they CAN do it. The fiddler in my band could hold his own in a string quartet and sailed through Grade VIII violin years ago, yet you can put a tune in front of him and he'll not only play it right (as a folk tune) but make up harmonies and variations as he goes along if he's in a group of players.

Musicians and singers do sometimes have difficulty in moving beteen different styles though. I know someone who plays viola in a local amateur orchestra, but can only play from music. Meanwhile in a separate compartment of her brain, she plays whistles very well but can't read music, follows tunes by ear with ease and can make up accompaniments to a song instinctively. She can't do any of that on the viola.

I also know a member of a well known band who has a background of Oxford college choral singing and had to re-learn singing in a folky style, and now finds if he rejoins his old choir he's lost that classical singing style.

But the thread's about virtuosity in folk music.
I agree that there's no limit to technical ability that's acceptable in folk music, but technical ability (like a classical training) isn't enough by istelf.

Folk music is unusual in that there are also some situations where lack of technical skill doesn't matter too much. That's not to be confused with any notion that technical skill is somehow actually bad.

Finally, showmanship isn't quite the same thing as technical skill, and I think it is an important part of folk music if you're a performer. Having a few showmen around makes it so much more fun!