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Do you sing from Memory?

M.Ted 20 Nov 07 - 08:02 AM
Ian 20 Nov 07 - 08:14 AM
Barry Finn 20 Nov 07 - 11:32 AM
M.Ted 20 Nov 07 - 12:15 PM
M.Ted 20 Nov 07 - 01:03 PM
Joe Offer 20 Nov 07 - 02:51 PM
PoppaGator 20 Nov 07 - 03:27 PM
Ferrara 20 Nov 07 - 11:09 PM
M.Ted 21 Nov 07 - 12:16 AM
Barry Finn 21 Nov 07 - 02:22 AM
My guru always said 21 Nov 07 - 05:02 AM
GUEST,Santa 21 Nov 07 - 05:43 AM
GUEST 21 Nov 07 - 08:33 AM
GUEST,Young Buchan 21 Nov 07 - 08:38 AM
M.Ted 21 Nov 07 - 10:13 AM
M.Ted 21 Nov 07 - 11:06 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 21 Nov 07 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,Ermintruder 21 Nov 07 - 12:18 PM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 22 Nov 07 - 03:04 AM
M.Ted 22 Nov 07 - 03:45 AM
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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 08:02 AM

I'll let you in on a secret, Barry--I can generally sing, or play along with anybody, without benefit of notation. I am tired of hearing people who claim to love folk music get all upset because their numbers are dwindling. This is why--

And by the way, the word is "acceptable"--


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Ian
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 08:14 AM

To add to my previous.
There is no need now ever to forget words or tune. Just record your self on an i pod and put the ear piece in (suitably hidden under long hair)and press play. As you just sing along with yourself you can pause to suit your performance or prompt your self with an introduction.
Eye sight and memory probs solved in one.

I know what you are going to say; the only draw back is that as you get older along with eye sight and memory goes the hair. Theres no hiding place for the wire.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 11:32 AM

Ted, thanks for letting me in on your secret & the spelling of "acceptable", you're a sport.

You haven't heard me claim or complain that folk music numbers are dwindling nor that I'm upset with the folk sing scene, have you? I don't find that to be true where I frequent.
A suggestion M Ted. When there's a club or venue that doesn't like book singers leave your book at home & go out anyway & when it's "acceptable" by all means bring your book. But don't spite yourself by staying home because you don't agree with those that find reading from books unacceptable.

I do, once in a great while pull out the words to a new song I'm working on, espically if I just wrote it but still not in a place where the written worte in not "acceptable" & I do ask & warn all before hand.

Hi Joe
I figured I'd be hearing from you about RUS. I'm not against RUS or groups singing mostly from books or the printed page, I only mind it when they come into another club/venue & desire to create the same atmosphere. There are lots of groups & people that leave those sings because it's not for them. You had the same situation out in San Francisco, yrs back. The folk society there had many very talented singers within their ranks. When I lived there I frequented those sings religously. Then came the books & all your talent left & orginized their own session. When I attended that sing last June no one I knew from the old days was there but I did find them across the bay & elsewhere & the old sing I attended was awful, it was painful to see what had happened. What would happen at your SF Shantey sing if they all started bringing in books? A cheat sheet here & there, ok.
Same thing happened in Boston. Their sings are just as painful. What was once a lively & colorful sing went boring & stagnant. It was a matter of bringing the sing down to the lowest common denominator instead of firguring out how to,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.
Joe, the next time I have the pleasure of singing with you I'll want to borrow your penthouse for a peek, didn't see it this last time, you are good.

There are places that I go where some folks use books or pages, I don't care. Some of them are learning, some feel better doing it that way, I don't care. I like to hear the new kid on the block, one can always learn from them & the older kid owes I to them to help them along if they want the music to continue.

I also attend some sessions where the written word is the "kiss of death". I've never been to an Irish session where if asked to sing you'd ever get asked again if you sanng from a sheet.

Once every 5 or so yrs I attend a book session. At a "book session"
the group absolutly offers no incentive for the sessioned singer to come back, they've bored them to tears & they never lave room for their own improvement.

So you can have it in 3 ways, your choice. I settle for 2 of those.

Does anyone care to dicuss how they think that these different singing worlds could meet & co-exist, where all could live & grow hapilly together instead of how we can exist apart?
New thread anyone?

Barry


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 12:15 PM

It isn't about books, Barry--it's about groups of people who do have the "My Way or the Highway" rule--it's about "This is what we do, this is how we do it" and it's about "if you do things differently, you're not welcome".

It's about narrow-minded people, entrenched people who have made up a lot of reasons for not accepting others--


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 01:03 PM

Incidentally, to be fair, I don't really know if people here are really as cold as some of the comments would indicate. And I don't know if your groups and circles are really as intolerant as you make them sound. Maybe some of you are just venting frustration--maybe you are overstating things to make a point--I hope so.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 02:51 PM

Hi, Barry-
I'd agree with Ted: it isn't about books. It's more about the quality of singers. Many of the people in my song circle sing once a month - I sing every day, and that makes a difference. I usually show up late for the Sacramento Song Circle because it's a 40-mile drive from my home. I have to admit that many times when I walk in the door, the singing is pretty lame. The real singers show up late, and then stay to the bitter end. There may be only half a dozen singers left at the end of the evening, and the singing can get really good. But in the meantime, we've given a number of nonsingers a chance to sing. In the 15 years I've sung with the Sacramento group, I've seen a number of people become pretty good singers - and a number of other people are just as hopeless as they've always been, but they have a good time.
And having a good time is what it's all about, I think. I believe that if we singers really believe in "folk" music, we have an obligation to include and encourage everyone, no matter what the quality of their singing. Sometimes, that takes patience and tolerance. We also need to work hard to improve the quality and variety of singing in our groups, so they are gatherings where both singers and nonsingers can feel comfortable. Chantey sings work perfectly for that, but not everybody wants to sing sea songs.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 03:27 PM

The reason that so many of the ancient story-song ballads were written in rhyme and set to music in the first place was to facilitate memorization. Shared folk culture, or "lore," survived only because the bards or troubadors within a society held the words within their minds and were able to pass the material on down, generation after generation.

It boggles the mind to realize that even tremendously lengthy epic poems (like the Iliad and the Odyssey) survive to this day only because successive generations of pre-literate balladeers were able to commit them to memory.

Of course, in today's world, we all have way too much stuff cluttering up our brains to even consider learning such humonguous texts verbatim. Also, precious few of us seem to be in a position to make a full-time profession out of preserving and performing traditional song.

I agree with MTed ~ live and let live ~ but while I encourage tolerance of singers' rights to use notes or not, I do think we should all repect and be conscious of the notion that learning and knowing songs is part of folk-music tradition and history, and that visibly reading either words or music, while entirely normal for classical performance, choir singing, etc., can justifiably be seen as inappropriate in many folk-music contexts.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Ferrara
Date: 20 Nov 07 - 11:09 PM

From M. Ted:
It isn't about books, Barry--it's about groups of people who do have the "My Way or the Highway" rule--it's about "This is what we do, this is how we do it" and it's about "if you do things differently, you're not welcome".

It's about narrow-minded people, entrenched people who have made up a lot of reasons for not accepting others--


You know, I think I've said here, in a number of ways that I believe a firm "no song sheets" rule, no exceptions no matter what the context or venue, doesn't make sense and I do not support it. I've named a number of situations where I think it's fine and disagree with people who want to prohibit it across the board.

Now I want to say that "This is what we do, this is how we do it" is a perfectly legitimate sentiment. If I give a singing party and someone wants to divide everyone up in groups and play Trivia and Monopoly, I have the right to say, "Sorry, that's not what we're here for." Similarly, I hope the folks who started a venue and are regulars there have the right to say "Sorry, that's not what we're here for" to folks who want to read songs.

It's a matter of community in a way. A community of strong singers who like spontaneity do not have an obligation to encourage weaker or less spontaneous singers at their session.. Their community formed because of a certain commonality of approach and they have the right to keep it that way.

BTW folk music has probably always had an element of exclusivity. (I've talked about this before, I think.) In many musical traditions and groups, the "junior" people were supposed to be seen and not heard until they were formally recognized by the "senior" people. It hasn't destroyed folk music yet.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 12:16 AM

I am appalled at these "ideas"---and I have heard them before, and not from Pete Seeger.

"A community of strong singers who like spontaneity do not have an obligation to encourage weaker or less spontaneous singers at their session.."

"BTW folk music has probably always had an element of exclusivity. (I've talked about this before, I think.) In many musical traditions and groups, the "junior" people were supposed to be seen and not heard until they were formally recognized by the "senior" people."


You make folk music sound elitist and paternalistic. I hope you have simply expressed your thoughts too hastily.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 02:22 AM

This past Monday I attended an Irish session, I do this weekly. From 7:00 pm to 9:00pm it's a slow session (no singing ever happens here) after that it's a regular session. There were plenty of teens, maybe 5 or 6 all very good, plus a number of college kids (Boston College is close by) 1 an all Ireland junior fiddler, sometimes there may even be a couple of good to very good pre-teens (the average # is probably 20-25 playerss at the height of the session). They get called on to lead or lead as they see fit & play with their elders (the oldest regular, a bones player, probably in his 90's) who treat them as musical peers. Musicians that can't keep up with the session either wait until there's a tune they can keep up with or sit back for a slow air otherwise, they only play in the slow session. As for singers, you sing when you get invited, once a woman used a sheet, she was never asked again. The older group are musicians that are maily Irish born & bred & learn their music in the old way, some are from the old Dudley Street dance tradition of the 40's & 50's.
I bring this Irish session into the discussion because I believe what I'm presenting is the norm, at least for Irish sessions (except for the age) in the USA that I've heard of. Why is it that this is common & OK for Irish sessions but some think it's not ok for singing sessions? What are the different dynamics? Irish sessions are a bit closer to a living tradition, no? Do those sessions retain a higher quality of musicianship while encouraging players to practice at home & to learn their music in a traditional oral way while not discouraging them at the same time. Suppose they encouraged beginners to bring in sheet music & they can learn as they go, how would those sessions survive? They would not!
The more you have books & notes, the more the singing session becomes a practice or a learning session, a little is ok, sometimes in someplaces, IMHO, maybe in many cases but not all, to much & you drive out the backbone and you end up dumbing it down. Is it fun when it becomes a learning or practice session? Fun for who? Want a teacher, where do you go to find one? At a session? Is that where they teach? Where do you go to learn or practice at a session?

Barry


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: My guru always said
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 05:02 AM

That sounds like a fantastic session Barry & one I'd like to spend an evening in though I'm not a musician. You also make some really good points there about each person being driven by their desire to improve their art, and this type of session would actively encourage people to practise, practise, practise!!

For sure, there are different types and 'levels' of Sessions, Singarounds, Song Circles, Campfire sessions and Folk Clubs in the UK, USA or anywhere else in the World. Again I see that we are all different and that is shown strikingly in this thread. Each person has his/her own reasons for singing or playing music, whether it be a love or talent for the songs or music, a desire to offer those songs, stories and pieces to others or a need to spread the word about their own particular joy and lifestyle and hopefully encourage others to join them.

If we're talking about Performers, whether paid or not, surely it is only right that they should be practised in their Art? To entertain or perform in front of others a person should be capable of doing so. Certainly an aide-memoire could be to hand (and a set list) but I feel that the performance should be done from memory as a matter of course, unless exceptional reasons, such as failing memory for aging performers, prevents this.

Where singing or playing music for sheer pleasure amongst your friends or peers, then surely the 'book/cribsheet' question would have been answered during previous enjoyable evenings.

If one is visiting another club or singaround then is it fairly normal to either check first as to what is normal for the participants regarding the standard of performance and one can make the decision whether to join in their 'methods' - preferential to 'rules'.

We are a diverse world-wide Music Community, I am minded of an old saying: You cut your coat according to your cloth.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Santa
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 05:43 AM

I don't think I've ever actually encountered a club that forbade singing from the page, but think that they would be well within their rights to do so, if that was their approach to music. It is not as though there was only one club in the land, one place to play/sing, and some overall gauleiter was dominating the land. It isn't that way, and to argue it is can only weaken whatever case is being made.

I go to a club to hear singing and/or music. I believe that the relationship between the performer and the audience, from the highest professional to the most embarassingly amateur, is part of the performance. I don't believe that you do get the same quality of performance if the performer has to consult the words. I do believe it shows arrogance by the performer and is derogatory to the club audience. (I don't need to learn, I can do my practicing here, the audience doesn't matter a **** anyway.)
I thought the whole point was to step up and show something you had learnt, something you could do, not one step in the learning process. Is this the "me, me, I want it NOW" generation in action? Or just everyday selfishness? You want the public acknowledgement of performance, the respect, then you have to learn it and earn it. Not that the ocassional example (whether through age or whatever) is going to destroy traditional music, or any such nonsense, any more than any single poor performance is, but a widespread adoption would.

As for closing your eyes to tell them apart - well, I might if the sound was particularly good, but why should I? The performance is more than just the sound produced.

Art isn't paint-by-numbers. If I want to see people reading I would go to a reading club.

Tonight is a singer's night: I'll see if anyone reads from notes whilst singing/playing.

re the Romans: it is a gross misunderstanding to suggest they were rigidly unchanging. Archeologists can detect different periods in the Empire from the pottery, or from the Army's uniform and equipment, to name but two visible areas. Change was slower in those days than nowadays, but it certainly still existed. If you wish to quote an attempt to freeze society, then perhaps Japan's Samurai culture was one notable attempt.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 08:33 AM

This may sound like pedantry, especially since we are a folk network rather than The British School At Athens, but I think there is a relevant point:
PoppaGator says that the enormously long Homeric epics were memorised. It is probable that this was true only in the last and most degenerate stage of their pre-written transmission. Until then it is likely that the process was as described by Milman Parry and others as still surviving in the Balkans well into the twentieth century, namely the epic bard memorized a number of 'set scenes' e.g. fights of different kinds and with different numbers of participants, and full lines, also a vast number and variety of part lines. The skill of the bard lay in improvising a story by e.g. starting with details of a character or an action, and then pulling out of memory an appropriate scene, line or end of line if at any point his ability to improvise in the correct metre started to run out. It is exactly this creative change in telling a story which I have argued in a previous contribution to this string is both the best feature of folk music and the one most completely destroyed by reading.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Young Buchan
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 08:38 AM

Sorry. The last contrib. was from me.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 10:13 AM

The session Barry describes seems to be considerably more tolerant and open a place than he allows--they seem, in fact to allow people to practice, learn, and play--to fit in whatever way they want or can.

It isn't, as Santa seems to think, about "stepping up and showing what you had learnt"--it is about sharing, and taking part in a community experience. People who have songbooks are, after all, simply trying to participate, in the best way that they can. Good leaders find ways to include people--songbooks aren't the only way, but they work.

I mentioned this discussion to a neighbor who said, "I sing from a songbook in church. If it's good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for the Folklore Society of Greater Washington."


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 11:06 AM

Young Buchan: Epic bards are not fto be confused with folksingers. The epic singers are meticulously schooled in their art, and are held in the same regard as fine artists and historians.

As relates to this discussion, I've heard of a person who took his gusle to a sing around and endeavored to perform excerpts from "The Battle of Kosovo"--in spite of the fact that he knew the text as if it were his own child, and bowed his instrument with a firm and confident hand, he was cut off, and asked never to return. So much for multiculturalism;-)


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 11:55 AM

By all means, use your memory. I can't think of much to add to Don Firth's take on this. I always felt that the audience deserved to see a performer who appeared to truly care about the content of the songs he or she chose to sing. In a way, singing with feeling and respect for the content is also acting. I have seen singers - vocal groups seem more guilty of this - that do a very polished and professional act that looks and sounds exactly the same every single time. They have memorized the material, but to what end?

It takes a lot of preparation and practice to look at ease and comfortable on stage and with the performance. That preparation should also give you the freedom to improvise and vary your performance enough so that it doesn't become stale for you or the audience. Also, I personally like to see performers who don't appear to take themselves too seriously - who seem to really LIKE what they are doing and are happily sharing it with the audience.

Of course, at Don's age and mine, you start to become more and more grateful for retaining the ability to memorize anything longer than your driver's license number...


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Ermintruder
Date: 21 Nov 07 - 12:18 PM

I reckon that about a quarter of the people who sing regularly at the singaround I attend use lyric sheets but this doesn't stop it from being a tremendously enjoyable night. The fact that it's all free and easy encourages people who have just popped in for a drink, to try a song (often by borrowing someone's songbook). As M Ted said, it's all about the community experience. It's not performing, it's sharing songs.


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Nov 07 - 03:04 AM

"Young Buchan: Epic bards are not fto be confused with folksingers. The epic singers are meticulously schooled in their art, and are held in the same regard as fine artists and historians."
Do you believe that at the height of the tradition, traditional singers weren't? Hmmm!

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Do you sing from Memory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Nov 07 - 03:45 AM

I would say that the traditional singers that you are referring to would be much akin to the epic singers, both as fine artists and as stewards of a cultural trove. I am speaking of folksingers either of the sort that we find in contemporary song circles and such places, or of the sort that sang informally and socially in the past (though many were valuable repositories for folk songs).

In my mind, everyone and anyone may sing a song, but only a few skilled and gifted people are the active bearers of any given performance tradition. The greatest voices are echoed in every heart, as the prophet said.

I love both story and song, so I like epics, and tend to think of the epic as the essence of literature, theatre, and music.--and must confess that Young Buchan's broaching of the subject caused me to dig out a copy of "The Battle of Kosovo" and to thumb through it when I should have being doing chores today.


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