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Complex arrangments of traditional music

GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley 13 Mar 08 - 08:17 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 13 Mar 08 - 12:11 PM
Suegorgeous 13 Mar 08 - 01:12 AM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 13 Mar 08 - 12:34 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 12 Mar 08 - 05:44 AM
Dave Hanson 12 Mar 08 - 04:22 AM
GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley 12 Mar 08 - 12:56 AM
Suegorgeous 11 Mar 08 - 10:01 PM
dick greenhaus 11 Mar 08 - 06:10 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's ungrogged Apprentice 11 Mar 08 - 05:54 PM
GUEST,OLD - TIMER 11 Mar 08 - 04:48 PM
The Sandman 11 Mar 08 - 04:47 PM
The Borchester Echo 11 Mar 08 - 04:32 PM
greg stephens 11 Mar 08 - 04:24 PM
greg stephens 11 Mar 08 - 04:16 PM
Les in Chorlton 11 Mar 08 - 02:56 PM
Grab 11 Mar 08 - 02:40 PM
The Borchester Echo 11 Mar 08 - 02:01 PM
Les in Chorlton 11 Mar 08 - 01:37 PM
The Borchester Echo 11 Mar 08 - 01:19 PM
dick greenhaus 11 Mar 08 - 01:10 PM
The Borchester Echo 11 Mar 08 - 12:42 PM
Grab 11 Mar 08 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 11 Mar 08 - 10:32 AM
Big Al Whittle 11 Mar 08 - 09:47 AM
Grab 11 Mar 08 - 08:57 AM
Les in Chorlton 11 Mar 08 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 11 Mar 08 - 06:36 AM
GUEST,Baroness Thatcher 10 Mar 08 - 08:46 PM
GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley 10 Mar 08 - 08:29 PM
Jack Campin 10 Mar 08 - 08:16 PM
Suegorgeous 10 Mar 08 - 08:12 PM
GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley 10 Mar 08 - 07:12 PM
redsnapper 10 Mar 08 - 06:37 PM
GUEST,Baroness Thatcher 10 Mar 08 - 06:30 PM
Les in Chorlton 10 Mar 08 - 04:34 PM
GUEST,Chicken Charlie 10 Mar 08 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,Bonzo the Troll 10 Mar 08 - 03:17 PM
GUEST,Volgadon 10 Mar 08 - 03:00 PM
GUEST,Bonzo the Troll 10 Mar 08 - 02:57 PM
Grab 10 Mar 08 - 02:44 PM
Folkiedave 10 Mar 08 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 10 Mar 08 - 01:55 PM
Les in Chorlton 10 Mar 08 - 01:42 PM
Jack Campin 10 Mar 08 - 12:23 PM
The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive) 10 Mar 08 - 12:05 PM
Bee 10 Mar 08 - 12:00 PM
RTim 10 Mar 08 - 10:29 AM
Les in Chorlton 10 Mar 08 - 10:21 AM
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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 08:17 PM

Charley: I was speaking as a listener rather than as a performer, but you have a very good point there..

'Modesty is the worst form of conceit' :-)


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:11 PM

SueG. OK, bad choice of words. I admire Mr. Zimmerman's lyrics, arrangements and a lot of other things. It's just that after however many years it's been since I first heard "Ashville Junction," I've come to feel that his voice works on some of his material and doesn't work all that great on other.

As to joining, I joined & on a subsequent trip was not "recognized." I may get around to trying again one of these years.

Sorry for the splutter; didn't mean to do that to you.

CC


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 01:12 AM

Charlie - if you, err, joined up, you'd never need to be in da From place in da first place :)

You think Dylan has no style??!! :0 *splutter*

Brendan - depends on your audience, I guess - and that can vary from 3 people who dig the heart stuff more than anything, to a packed vast auditorium. But that kind of touches on a new thread I've been meaning to start, coming soon. :)


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 13 Mar 08 - 12:34 AM

who can't seem to learn to hit "tab" to get out of "from" but maybe in the next reincarnation ....

OK. I was an honest-to-God archivist for the last 11 years of my life as an employed person, but I never think of myself in that category when I get on threads like this. I just imagine myself sitting on a hard stool at any open mic, hoping my axe is in tune.

I don't believe that just because we can now save crap, we will drown in it. I'm hoping that the better performers who actually go to the trouble of researching will have enough sense to choose better rather than worse material to resurrect and perform. On the other hand, what tends to irritate this crotchety old man at open mics isn't usually old material, it's the new material that is either technically horrible, macabrely [neologism?] "dark-side" or just flat lacking in any "redeeming musical value," to parallel the usual excuse for pornographic lit.

Several of you have a great deal of knowledge--more than I possess--about particular bygone singers and songs and the corpus of material preserved from them, but I think you're looking at the "information science" aspect more than the music aspect, and I don't think civilization, as we laughingly call it, will end because we can preserve everybody's farts. Now that I think of it, there's another thread from 2005 that has surfaced again right now, about how "information science" is really so blunted that we're not actually saving a lot of what we think we're saving. We change media faster than we can transfer material, so really the big Cray in the liquid nitrogen pool does NOT hold all past wisdom, and we have to keep on juggling things in our heads.

I applaud Brendan's unequaled sensitivity in this matter, and may I say I'm honored just to be on the same thread with him. :)

Shimrod, yeah; "ya gotta have heart--miles and miles and miles of heart." But Brendan, yeah, you've gotta be able to pull it off with some degree of style. So that's why I like Leadbelly, Guthrie and Dylan when their stuff is sung by someone else. Where's the middle?

Dick Greenhaus nailed it. That's why I go to an open mic with 24 slots and end of really liking about 6 performers. (I'm best, of course, as long as Brendan stays home.)

CC


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 05:44 AM

"complexity for complexitys sake is no more valid than technique for techniques sake."

That's very true, Capn'. A few years ago I was persuaded to spend a few hours at a 'Bluegrass Festival' by a friend of mine. I was dazzled by the technical competence of many of the performers (a hell of a lot more competent than some of the stuff that you hear in folk clubs) but I was totally unmoved - it was all technique and no heart!


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 04:22 AM

Grog tastes like what it is, watered down navy rum.

eric


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangements of traditional music
From: GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley
Date: 12 Mar 08 - 12:56 AM

Sort of.. all music is better when it's heartfelt (etc) but there also has to be some degree of technical skill there to make it tolerable entertainment. Ultimately it's all down to personal taste though, and I'm just glad mine is vastly superior to everyone else's.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:01 PM

Charlies

Actually, think it was more Brendan's point than mine. Is that what you mean, Brendan?


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:10 PM

I said "Whatever works". I should, of course, add "most of it doesn't"


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's ungrogged Apprentice
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 05:54 PM

"Me thinks that Molecatcher wan is "All for me grog" with that kinda remark!---Twenty years a learnin etc "

well all I can say is...I'm not ashamed to say I love Vaughan Williams's music...oh and what DOES grog taste like? I love to hear from the experts.

Charlotte (busy busy)


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,OLD - TIMER
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:48 PM

Me thinks that Molecatcher wan is "All for me grog" with that kinda remark!---Twenty years a learnin etc


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:47 PM

complexity for complexitys sake is no more valid than technique for techniques sake.
traditional music should be like the blues, sung from the heart,often a simple arrangement is all that is needed to communicate emotion.
one of the problems I have with modern jazz is its complexity,and while I can appreciate ther cleverness and slickness of the Musical Techniques,I often find it lacking in emotion,it has become an intellectual exercise.
there is adanger that traditional music can be over arranged and thus lose its emotional impact.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:32 PM

I imagine Grab was referring rather to Mr Carthy's reconstructions from fragments (like Famous Flower of Servingmen).

But Bonny White Hare? Do we at last have a faintly traditional source for the Lakeperson's stab at Best Trad Track at the Smoothychops Joke Awards?

And (Lily Rosemary & The) Ace Of Hearts? Queen, possibly . . .


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:24 PM

Grab makes a rather remarkable statement in his recent post:

"Martin Carthy and others at the time built their reputations on arranging and performing broadsheet songs which were in the archives but hadn't been sung for centuries"

I can remember well Martin making his name in the 60's. Now, "centuries before" that goes back to at least before 1760.So which were the songs that he he made his name with, that hadn't been sung since before 1760? There may well have been one or two, but hardly the core of his repertoire. I seem to recall some big hits when he was making his name were The Bonny White Hare, Lord Franklin, Scarborough Fair,The Ace of Hearts,Davy Lowston. Not sung since before 1760??? Come off it.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: greg stephens
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 04:16 PM

"Up to a point, Ms Easby": one of the tunes(Canny Cumberland) in John Offord's book is far from being from an old book/manuscript of 1750. It is a rather inaccurate transcription(not by John I should add) of my banjo playing, c 1977.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:56 PM

Just a minor point before Roy Clinging sends the boys round, I did actually say above that Cheshire has a tradition and Roy is a great exponent of it. I grew up in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Ellesmere Port has no tradition that I ever found. Ellesmere Port is not much like the rest of Cheshire


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Grab
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:40 PM

Diane's absolutely right that we can't get back to where we were.

But where does that leave us with other older songs which the "tradition" forgot? o'Carolan was known to be a mediocre harpist; it's only because someone wrote his music down that we've got it now, when all the work from the better harpists of the day has long since vanished. Paganini (possibly the greatest folk musician ever) was famous for his virtuoso improvisation - but all that survives of his work is one little theme from one tune, preserved by the classical music system. So the problem of survival of the work of mediocre musicians isn't a new one, and it was created by the invention of the printing press, not the invention of vinyl records or the internet.

It's a bit like the herd of Pere David's deer at Woburn - ideally we'd like them to all be out in the wild, but if someone hadn't found themselves a few to keep locked up then they'd now be extinct for good. And locking them up for a while means that now they can be released into the wild again. Which makes the point that having stuff available behind locked doors (or in a locked CD cabinet) doesn't make it alive in the wild; it *survives*, yes, but it doesn't really *live* unless someone plays it.

If we look at the people most associated with the "tradition" from the Second Revival, Martin Carthy and others at the time built their reputations on arranging and performing broadsheet songs which were in the archives but hadn't been sung for centuries, songs which couldn't have been revived unless they'd been recorded. It's safe to say that Scarborough Fair wouldn't be in the oral tradition today unless Martin Carthy had put together that complex guitar arrangement to it, for example. And because these broadsheet songs hadn't been sung for so long, any modern version can only be an approximation of what the rediscoverer thinks it should sound like.

In fact we're actually better off now we've got *everything* archived, because we no longer risk losing material from our generation of Paganinis. Not only will the material survive, but future generations can hear the original singers performing it. The next generation can reinterpret it for their environment, sure, but the original versions will remain - unlike historical folk tunes where Grainger and co had to try and guess at how original versions might have sounded, based on the distorted mirrors of multiple different modern versions.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 02:01 PM

Cheshire has no living tradition?

Well John Offord's recently republished fiddle tune book John Of The Green - The Cheshire Way should help put that right. It's a compiltion of tunes culled from old books and manuscripts up to around 1750, most of which seem to be in 3/2 or 9/4 and are very difficult and complex.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 01:37 PM

I guess I should have pasted the rest of Diane's post:

"However, three factors in the current revival are forcing ever more rapid and inexorable changes:

(a) digital archiving
(b) writing, consciously, 'in the tradition' and registering the result with MCPS/ PRS
(c) population mobility resulting in monumental cross cultural influence and collaboration.

It will, thus, never be the same again. 'The tradition' will remain that static body of information that has been quite literally passed down before the irrevocably altered times put an end to the centuries-old process (cue Richard Thompson . . . ). What is NOT traditional, by definition, is a recently composition of known origin. Even if you call it The White Hare."

The last sentence gives the context to the quote.

I saved Diane's definition, if that's what it is, because it is a good one. I know editing is dangerous but:

"'The tradition' comprises art forms of a ……. group rooted in that community's lore and customs and passed on orally, aurally or by demonstration …….. It has thus belonged collectively to that community…….. ."

It seems to me that what most of the "complex arrangers" have done has little to do with 'the tradition'. Please remember I enjoy a lot of it but that's not the point.

This leads me to another related point:

I, and most of the people who sing 'traditional songs' - songs that come from that tradition described by Diane - are quite unrelated to that tradition.

I grew up in Ellesmere Port. As far as I can tell it had no living tradition. Roy Clinging has made a strong case for songs collected in or related to Cheshire and is worth a good trek to see.

The tradition, if that is the correct word, to which I belong is wrapped up with the Second Folk Song Revival. I think I feel a new thread coming on.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 01:19 PM

But it isn't any longer.
The corollary of the point I was making is that stuff DOSN'T survive any longer (necessarily) purely on merit.
The fact that anything and everything can survive (because it is digitally archived whether it deserves to be or not) has changed everything.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 01:10 PM

Whatever works. And the test of whether or not it works is whether it survives.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:42 PM

the banjo player trying to insert bluegrass breaks into "Ashokan Farewell"

Now that sounds a jolly good idea, It can't, after all, be made to sound more shit than it is already.

As for Les quoting my "definition" (good grief I really hope it doesn't get enshrined as such, can you imagine Richard Bridge incorporating it as a mantra in parallel to the "1954" one), that's only part of it.

I went on to point out that advances in electronic archiving cannot be reversed and how tunes have been played since the dawn of recording is now enshrined in digitised 0s and 1s. The 'evolving tradition" is no longer that we don't actually know (or can't remember) exactly how it went so we'll make it up but "let's do an arrangement".


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Grab
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 12:25 PM

A quick PS. In case anyone thinks I only like complicated music, my favourite song of all time is "Almaz" by Randy Crawford. :-)

And seconded with WLD. If you *can* do the complexity thing and make it sound good, go ahead. If you try and it all turns to worms, either try harder or quit buggering it up. That's as true for someone arranging a full-orchestra version of "Swanee River" as it is for the banjo player trying to insert bluegrass breaks into "Ashokan Farewell" in a tune session.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 10:32 AM

Amen to weelittledrummer on leaving it up to the individual to decide which way he/she individually wants to go.

That doesn't detract from the interest inherent in Les's original question.

Now, it seems to me that we've stopped responding to Les's question and we're being pulled back, as all Mudcat themes seem to be, into the Black Hole of What's Folk? IMO that discussion will never end, and there are already lots of threads on it. As the demon told Jesus, "My name is legion, for we are many."

SueGorgeous raises a point which IMO is valid but doesn't directly bear on the issue of simplicity/complexity. There is no one more "heartfelt" than Leadbelly, Woodie Guthrie, J.J. Niles or even, arguably, Bob Dylan. But honestly, weren't/aren't they all rather challenged either vocally or instrumentally? I'm not out to murder any sacred cows here, but seems to me there's more talent (the originals had genius, which is different) on the various "tribute" projects that these guys inspire than there is with the original. Don't get me wrong, we are in debt to these people, deep debt, but Sue's right. But again, I don't think this bears on the issue of complexity per se.

And finally, in defense of "simplistic" melodies carrying "irrelevant" messages, let me express my hopelessly deluded folkie belief that "Jesse James" rocks.

Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 09:47 AM

Can't we all just do what we want.Some people like to deepen the plot by doing complex stuff. Others don't.

its this bloody business of someone deciding theres a right way to do folk music that is buggering everything up - really souring the atmosphere.

I'll stick with my three chords.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Grab
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 08:57 AM

I find the business of 'reading the dots' to be a baffling mystery.

Get yourself to a music teacher (or just read a book) and expand your mind, dude. :-)

"Simple" doesn't mean "bad" - there's lots of simple tunes and songs which are very satisfying to listen to. Your question seems to imply that the songs aren't simple because collectors wouldn't have bothered looking for simple songs. This misses the point that it's precisely *because* of their simplicity that they collected them - these people noticed that an entire class of music had been missed from formal musical study because its simplicity had kept it below the radar. Not only that, but it was a class of music which had provided grounding and inspiration for earlier composers, so it would give a new way of looking at their music.

As a new way of looking at existing classical music, it becomes clear why tunes would be so important, even more so than words. It's dead easy to write new words to old tunes or to move words from one tune to another, but the tunes themselves are often recycled as "quotes" in other tunes.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 07:16 AM

Another way of looking at this issue is to consider what we think of as traditional music. This is a definition posted by Diane Easby sometime ago and although it won't everybody it looks to me like it does the job:

'The tradition' comprises art forms of a distinctive national, ethnic or social group rooted in that community's lore and customs and passed on orally, aurally or by demonstration rather than by written/recorded or formal didactic means. It has thus belonged collectively to that community, rather than to individuals or the state, and tells the history of the people from their common experience.

In the case of music, its platform has been predominantly the informal social gathering, the workplace or the home rather than the theatrical stage or concert hall, and pieces tended to be known by what or who they were about rather than by composer. This is not, of course, to say that trad musicians have not borrowed and adapted from formal composers or from other cultures. Obviously they have, and do, which is why the tradition continues to evolve.

Where does this place the music of some current bands who have a deep understanding of musical theory, written and otherwise, and are not afraid to use it.

Before we all jump up and down let me restate - you hear it and you either like it or you don't but that is not my point. My point is how does this complex music relate to the oral tradition?


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 11 Mar 08 - 06:36 AM

"Trad folk tunes are simple - many (perhaps the majority) could even be called simplistic. Certainly there's vanishing few folk tunes whose dots couldn't be played by a competent grade-2 violinist."

Now, there's a musician, trained in the classical tradition, talking if ever I heard one!

I am someone who has had no formal musical training and I find the business of 'reading the dots' to be a baffling mystery. Nevertheless, I find many of the tunes to traditional songs to be very beautiful. They provide me with much of the 'musical sustenance' that I need and I find them much more satisfying than much of the complicated stuff involving harmonies and complex arrangements etc.

I note, also, that many of the Victorian/Edwardian collectors, from Baring Gould through to Percy Grainger appear to have been more interested in the tunes than in the words. If the tunes were so "simple" why was this?


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Baroness Thatcher
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:46 PM

Jack, you are quite right, but I was talking about the ones they DID use. My point was made purely to illustrate the validity of different creative approaches and their equal importance to the music itself and its preservation.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:29 PM

Sue:
It can indeed be both, and often is. But sometimes it isn't.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:16 PM

Vaughan Williams (no hyphen) actually didn't use folk melodies in his own compositions very often, and the vast majority of the folk tunes he knew about he left to their own devices. Some of his compositions ("The Lark Ascending" being the most successful) are a kind of PR for English music, but that's a very different project from trying to use his own oeuvre as a sort of artistic embalming fluid for moribund folklore. His best work is also his least folky - things like "Job" and the 4th Symphony.

Same goes for Beethoven. There are a few folk tunes in his work, rather more that sound like folk tunes but aren't, and a large majority that just sound like Beethoven.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 08:12 PM

Why shouldn't it be both?


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Brendan/Barnsley
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 07:12 PM

Because that doesn't necessarily make it a pleasant experience?


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: redsnapper
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 06:37 PM

Why would anybody want it other than honest and from the heart?

RS


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Baroness Thatcher
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 06:30 PM

Beethoven's 6th was a complex arrangement of traditional music, as was Tchaikovsky's 1812. Those arrangements have ensured that the melodies used will never be forgotten. There are many other examples of this. Vaughan-Williams was trying to preserve music which he loved and considered too precious to be lost. Whether one prefers complex or simple arrangements is an entirely subjective matter, but both are equally valuable.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 04:34 PM

Thanks Charlie, I think you are onto something. Some songs are most effective when one person sings them unaccompanied. Having the song arranged for any number of instruments spoils it for me.

I need to say that my base line is simple - do I like it - does it do something for me.

I have heard some great jigs and reels played on a whistle and a Bodhran and that is spot on. I have some tunes played with dozens of people but it adds nothing. This summer I heard Bellowhead, Peatbog Faries and Salsa Celtica and I really enjoyed them all. I heard some pretty impressive songs groups - Crucible for one great songs, great arrangements.

But somewhere I feel their is a beauty and simplicity that first attrcated me to folk music that can easily be lost.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Chicken Charlie
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:39 PM

Les--

I don't think I have ever consciously asked myself whether a multi-instrument arrangement I was trying to set up was true to any particular tradition, but I guess I have done it subconsciously.

I have heard no end of very well executed recordings of Stephen Foster, for example, done in lovely choir-type settings or else seeming to come from the soundtrack of a musical comedy. They're all very lovely, and melodic and harmonic and choral, and they leave me totally cold. But give me an arrangement that's complex as a result of having a lot of different "folk" instruments in it--the classical bluegrass five plus dulcimers, etc., and that is what does it for me.

I have heard "William Tell Overture" played on a mandolin, but I would say normally it's hard, ain't it hard, to do classical WELL with a folk ensemble, or to do folk CONVINCINGLY with a Mormon Tabernacle Choir type group. And it's frustrating to try to produce the type of arrangement I describe because bone players are few and far between and GOOD bone players are even fewer and farther, and then there are good bone players within driving distance who have time to work with you.

I remember a cartoon, I think in Playboy way, way back, about a group of affluent, up-scale Anglos singing "Dere lies a steel-dribin man, lawd! lawd!" The incongruity is something like what I feel when I here a full orchestra doing "Suwanee River."

That was a good question, probably better than this mediocre answer.

CC

PS. I wouldn't know Von Wylems from Adam's off ox.
                            --Bill Clinton


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Bonzo the Troll
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:17 PM

Or pretentiously gratuitious simplicity..


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Volgadon
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 03:00 PM

As long as it isn't complex for complexity's sake...


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Bonzo the Troll
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 02:57 PM

Surely there is ample justification for both complex and simple arrangements as long as performers and listeners derive pleasure from it. Some music can be seen as over-complicated and some over-simplistic, but without those extremes there would be precious little inbetween to feel comfortable with. The variation ensures the survival we all desire of 'folk' music as the living form that it is, however vaguely defined.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Grab
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 02:44 PM

Trad folk tunes are simple - many (perhaps the majority) could even be called simplistic. Certainly there's vanishing few folk tunes whose dots couldn't be played by a competent grade-2 violinist. So I can't see a folk tune as "something sweet". Every thread on Mudcat about trad folk has made the point that pure-classical players can't play folk well because there *isn't* anything inherently strong in the tunes. A folk tune is more like a slice of bread - it might be moderately tasty for bread, but it's nothing compared to what you spread on top of it.

So that leaves us in starting from a position where the *point* of a trad tune is variation from the tune as written. Many favourite folk tunes are favourites precisely *because* they're such good jumping-off points for melodic variation. This variation may be individual spontaneous variation, but anyone who improvises will tell you that the trick is to practise and have a repertoire of stuff you can use, and generally if you know a tune, you'll use the same (or at least similar) moves each time you play that tune. So we've now moved from spontaneous individual variation to pre-arranged individual variation. Then if we're performing, we might decide who takes lead at which point. Now we have pre-arranged individual variations in a pre-arranged group structure. And then we start putting harmonies in every which way, and suddenly we're in Vaughan Williams territory. So it's not a step-change, but rather a progression of complexity.

I think more important is remembering what the original tune was for. In my mind there are two major classes of tune: tunes for dancing to, and tunes for listening to. Vaughan Williams took the former and generally turned them into the latter. This is fair game, but as a listener you do then need to realise that you're not going to be able to unleash your feet (or rather, the arranger doesn't intend you to). If the result is good to listen to, then it's worked. If the result is neither flesh nor fowl, then it hasn't. (The other direction is also possible, incidentally: rock arrangements of Bach's "Toccata in D minor" are generally great for dancing to, for example.)

My problem is with *performers* who take dancey tunes and *unintentionally* turn them into listening tunes. This particularly annoys me with Bach, Handel and other older composers. Some of this stuff really rocks if you put a bit of lift into it, because it was written for dancing. But it's rare to find it done that way, because the environment for that music now is all based around "sit down and listen". In a similar vein are the tune session players who insist on burning through tunes at such speed that all the lift (and life) vanishes.

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 02:08 PM

I was at a concert last week with traditional players (Donald Grant, Jenna Reid, Catriona MacDonald, Fionan De Barra). They played as solo, duos and as a quartet. They also played with four classical musicians.

Each was equally as good.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 01:55 PM

To me a lot of 'complex' arrangements of trad. songs are like taking something sweet and then dipping it in honey, sprinkling it with sugar, adding a coat of treacle and then dusting it with icing sugar - enough is enough!!


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 01:42 PM

Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,Vaughan,

Thanks Jack, I shouldn't make that particular mistake again.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 12:23 PM

I'd have thought EVERYBODY here would have learnt to spell Vaughan Williams by now. It gets very boring seeing the same silly mistake repeated and corrected over and over again for years.

The shift to complex arrangements is one that has been made in many parts of the world - there are many folk music genres in Asia, Africa and Polynesia that are never performed except by groups, and some cultures (Georgia, for example) that have practically nothing except arranged multi-part music and seem to have been that way for centuries. The West's version of that is the rock band, and that's the tradition the folk arrangements come from.

Most of the Scottish dance repertoire was intended from the outset to be played either by a full dance band like Nathaniel Gow's, or with piano/harp accompaniment, or at least with a cello doing the bass line. It just doesn't sound right as a solo melodic line.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: The Mole Catcher's Apprentice (inactive)
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 12:05 PM

"Are these groups part of some living tradition or are they closer to Vaughn Williams and his arrangements of folk songs?"

I'll stick with Vaughn Williams myself, he always did it well

Charlotte (traditional serenade)


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Bee
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 12:00 PM

Disclaimer: not much of a musician.

Isn't there plenty of room for both complex and simpler or more traditional arrangements? If you take, for example, the situation with Gaelic singing in Cape Breton in the 1950s and 60s, in terms of publicly heard (on the radio) music, you would have heard almost exclusively what might be termed 'source' singers, that is, mostly senior citizens (and most of them men), singing unaccompanied. Sometimes you'd hear recordings from the Mod(sp?), where women would be included and percussive rhythm was provided per the pounding of the wool. That was material barely hanging on, on its way to prehistory. (Not addressing fiddling and bagpiping, just Gaelic songs)

Along came John Allan Cameron and others, adding guitars and English and harmonies, yet still being inclusive of the Gaelic and sparking a great deal of interest in the fading Gaelic source material. I would think the perception that any music can be interpreted as the creative musician sees fit at least ensures that interest in the original material continues. Whether the resulting arrangements and permutations are something one would care to listen to becomes a matter of the skill of the musicians and the tastes of the listeners.

Family story: My grandparents were all Gaelic speakers who refused to teach the language to their children, who picked up a smattering anyway, but were never fluent. Nevertheless, my father had a great interest in Gaelic songs, and never missed the Sunday afternoon radio broadcast of old Gaelic singers. His younger sister took delight in teasing him by coming in singing "Croakin' Ian, Croakin' Ian, some were dead and some were dyin'..", in reference to the quality of the old fellows' voices and their age.


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Subject: RE: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: RTim
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 10:29 AM

I sometimes feel that the modern day bands have TOO complex arrangements on TOO many tracks on a CD. I think it is OK to do maybe one or two per CD, but every track is a little over the top.
Often I find the arrangements get in the way of the overall song, and it loses something of the essence. However, I have to add that it is great that young bands are doing traditional material and I am all for it moving forward and not being stuck in the past.

Tim Radford


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Subject: Complex arrangments of traditional music
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 Mar 08 - 10:21 AM

Their is currently a trend for groups of folk musicians to gather together and play complex arrangements of traditional music and song. I have enjoyed a great deal of this and trust the trend continues.

But when we bore each other to death of the nature of this, that and the other where do we feel this music lies with respect to living and or other traditions? Are these groups part of some living tradition or are they closer to Vaughn Williams and his arrangements of folk songs?


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