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Standards - what do we mean?

GUEST,Howard Jones 15 Dec 08 - 07:29 PM
Nick 15 Dec 08 - 08:41 PM
dick greenhaus 15 Dec 08 - 08:43 PM
Nick 15 Dec 08 - 08:53 PM
Jack Campin 15 Dec 08 - 09:09 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Dec 08 - 03:09 AM
Waddon Pete 16 Dec 08 - 04:05 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 16 Dec 08 - 04:14 AM
Paul Burke 16 Dec 08 - 04:24 AM
GUEST,doc.tom 16 Dec 08 - 04:25 AM
MartinRyan 16 Dec 08 - 04:28 AM
MartinRyan 16 Dec 08 - 04:48 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Dec 08 - 04:53 AM
Paul Burke 16 Dec 08 - 04:58 AM
pavane 16 Dec 08 - 05:57 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Dec 08 - 05:59 AM
pavane 16 Dec 08 - 06:00 AM
GUEST,Golightly 16 Dec 08 - 06:18 AM
Richard Bridge 16 Dec 08 - 06:21 AM
Folkiedave 16 Dec 08 - 06:29 AM
Stonebridge 16 Dec 08 - 06:33 AM
Bernard 16 Dec 08 - 07:04 AM
Waddon Pete 16 Dec 08 - 07:08 AM
Gedi 16 Dec 08 - 08:38 AM
pavane 16 Dec 08 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Trevek 16 Dec 08 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 16 Dec 08 - 02:56 PM
GUEST,Val 16 Dec 08 - 05:21 PM
The Sandman 16 Dec 08 - 05:57 PM
dick greenhaus 16 Dec 08 - 06:09 PM
The Sandman 16 Dec 08 - 06:21 PM
Tootler 16 Dec 08 - 06:45 PM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 08 - 03:21 AM
The Sandman 17 Dec 08 - 04:35 AM
George Papavgeris 17 Dec 08 - 08:00 AM
Gedi 17 Dec 08 - 08:23 AM
George Papavgeris 17 Dec 08 - 08:40 AM
Gedi 17 Dec 08 - 08:57 AM
John Routledge 17 Dec 08 - 09:02 AM
George Papavgeris 17 Dec 08 - 09:05 AM
George Papavgeris 17 Dec 08 - 09:17 AM
Folkiedave 17 Dec 08 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 17 Dec 08 - 10:57 AM
Gedi 17 Dec 08 - 11:19 AM
George Papavgeris 17 Dec 08 - 11:26 AM
Amos 17 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM
pavane 17 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 17 Dec 08 - 11:45 AM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 08 - 11:59 AM
The Sandman 17 Dec 08 - 12:38 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Dec 08 - 01:42 PM
The Sandman 17 Dec 08 - 02:11 PM
Stringsinger 17 Dec 08 - 02:56 PM
MikeofNorthumbria 17 Dec 08 - 06:17 PM
Richard Bridge 20 Dec 08 - 06:36 PM
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Subject: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 07:29 PM

There's a lot of discussion going on in several threads about standards, and whether we should have them, or whether anyone should be allowed to sing regardless. But what do we mean by this? How do we judge what is good or bad? Of course, I'd prefer to listen to singers with fabulous voices, great technique and superb instrumental skills. But given that not everyone can attain the highest levels, what should we look for?

For me, the important thing is honesty. That means making the effort to understand the song and get inside it, to find the emotional connection with it. It means making the effort to learn it, and to realise that the point of a folk song is to get the song across, not show off your own virtuosity.

I'd rather someone forgot the words occasionally but communicated the real meaning of the song, rather than merely reading the words off a crib sheet as if they were reciting a shopping list.

I'd rather someone played a simple accompaniment that they can manage comfortably, rather than attempt something flashy which they cannot play without distracting themselves from delivering the song.

I'd even rather listen to someone whose voice is perhaps not the sweetest, or who perhaps is not always quite in tune, but who gets inside the song, rather than someone with perfect technique who has no understanding of or connection with the song.

This is why some of the best singers don't always have great voices and aren't always virtuoso instrumentalists. What they have is the ability to connect with the song and with the audience.

What do you think?


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Nick
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 08:41 PM

So would you rather listen to someone (honestly) doing something to the best of their ability badly

or

Someone doing something to the least of their ability well

I know where I stand on that one.

By choice, I'd listen to the first one once and the second often.

Given my inherent Englishness I know that I am condemned to experience the opposite of my choice - and to live with it without saying much.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 08:43 PM

Performance standards are measured at the box office.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Nick
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 08:53 PM

>>So would you rather listen to someone (honestly) doing something to the best of their ability badly

Thinking about it's often not at the best of their ability


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Dec 08 - 09:09 PM

I'd rather someone forgot the words occasionally but communicated the real meaning of the song, rather than merely reading the words off a crib sheet as if they were reciting a shopping list.

Would you rather hear somebody singing a song from memory as if they were reciting a shopping list, or singing them off a sheet and communicating the real meaning of the song?

In my experience it happens that way round just as often.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 03:09 AM

"Performance standards are measured at the box office."
Not with folk song they're not Dick; folk music hasn't made the box office - not in the UK anyway, and the way some people ponce and fart around the music, it never will.
Singing to the best of your ability is, as far as I'm concerned, a matter of respect:
1. For the singers who have made, adapted, carried and passed on the songs so they didn't die out.
2. For the audience who have dragged themselves out from in front of a warm fire to come and listen to you.
3. For your fellow performers who have to pick the evening off the floor when you have mumbled your way tunelessly through a crib-sheet assisted song.
And as much as anything:
4. For yourself - can anybody possibly enjoy embarrassing themselves in public and sending home an audience home embarrassed on their behalf?

I believe that it lies well within the ability of most people to become, at the very least, competent singers providing they are prepared to put in the time, thought and effort into it - the difficulty seems to lie in persuading people that the songs are worth that time, thought and effort.
Thirty years ago MacColl told us:
"Now you might say that working and training to develop your voice to sing Nine Maidens A-milking Did Go or Lord Randall is calculated to destroy your original joy in singing, at least that's the argument that's put to me from time to time, or has been put to me from time to time by singers who should know better.
The better you can do a thing the more you enjoy it. Anybody who's ever tried to sing and got up in front of an audience and made a bloody mess of it knows that you're not enjoying it when you're making a balls of it, but you are enjoying it when it's working, when all the things you want to happen are happening. And that can happen without training, sure it can, but it's hit or miss. If you're training it can happen more, that's the difference. It can't happen every time, not with anybody, although your training can stand you in good stead, it's something to fall back on, a technique, you know. It's something that will at least make sure that you're not absolutely diabolical
The objective, really for the singer is to create a situation where when he starts to sing he's no longer worried about technique, he's done all that, and he can give the whole of his or her attention to the song itself she can give her or he can give his whole attention to the sheer act of enjoying the song."
That statement is as valid now as it was when he first made it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:05 AM

How to you catch the wind?

How do you bottle the seashore?

If every subscriber to Mudcat was asked to learn and perform the same folk song for a grand experiement, I'd guess the range and quality of the arrangement, interpretation and performance of the song would be significantly different in the majority of cases.

In some areas of life standards are vital. In creative areas they are subjective.

I think it would be a good idea if everyone did more singing, playing and promoting of their own activities rather than worrying overmuch about the activities of others.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:14 AM

No, I'm not saying I'd rather listen to someone singing badly, even if it's to the best of their ability. What I'm saying is that I'd rather listen to someone who perhaps hasn't got the greatest voice, but who understands the meaning of the song and can get that across, rather than someone with a beautiful voice who can't do that.

I've never heard someone sing well when reading the words. I'm prepared to accept that it may happen, but in most cases it doesn't. Most singers in my experience only start to improve when they get the confidence to do without the words in front of them.

Technique is not enough by itself. At worst, someone with a degree of technique may be tempted to try something too ambitious (particularly when it comes to instrumental accompaniment) which actually detracts from the song . Jim's quote from McColl about about the singer being able to give his whole attention to the song is spot-on. A singer who can do that will be worth listening to.

The point I'm trying to make is that the best singers aren't necessarily the ones with the best voices, or the best instrumental skills. There's more to it than that.

Examples? Bob Dylan - weird nasal voice, can scarcely hold a note, but a compelling singer nevertheless. Richard Thompson - not the greatest voice, but he knows how to phrase a song perfectly. Any number of traditional singers, who by the time they were recorded were well past their best vocally, but whose singing will grip you.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:24 AM

Anybody who's ever tried to sing and got up in front of an audience and made a bloody mess of it knows that you're not enjoying it when you're making a balls of it, but you are enjoying it when it's working

But there has to be somewhere that people can make a balls of it. That's the problem (I'm reading this thread as a spinoff from that other on about folk blubs dying).

There's no way I'm ever going to sing like Nic Jones, say. My voice isn't strong enough or interesting enough, my control isn't brilliant and the range is a bit restricted. Consequently I don't sing much when sober. (I'm not bad at remembering the words though).

Perhaps I play some instruments better than some others when sober, but that's true of almost everyone. Whatever you do, there's always someone better than you and someone worse.

It's possible that folk clubs have become TOO tolerant, and don't challenge people to go on to the next level of achievement. But how to do that and stay on speaking terms? Should we be a bit more like the Glasgow Empire?

Mike and Bernie Winters started with a bang as Mike dashed onstage playing an upbeat number on his clarinet. After a couple of minutes Bernie's face peeked through the centre curtains with that silly leer. A shout from the audience brought the cry, "Christ - there's two of 'em!"


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:25 AM

"Performance standards are measured at the box office."
No, they're not - commercial success is measured at the box office. And these days the correlation is even more likely to be with "amount of commercial promotion/hype in = box office return.
TomB


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:28 AM

Mike and Bernie Winters started with a bang as Mike dashed onstage playing an upbeat number on his clarinet. After a couple of minutes Bernie's face peeked through the centre curtains with that silly leer. A shout from the audience brought the cry, "Christ - there's two of 'em!"

Brilliant!

Regards


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:48 AM

More seriously: Adjudicators need standards, I suppose. Audiences - and singers - have to make do with "taste". The closer they are (in one or more of several senses) to the community that produces and shares the music, the more that "taste" will reflect the underlying tradition and feed back into it.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:53 AM

"I think it would be a good idea if everyone did more singing, playing and promoting of their own activities rather than worrying overmuch about the activities of others."
Hello - hello - hello it's the boys in blue telling us what we should be doing again.
"examples? Bob Dylan - weird nasal voice"
And a mediocre pop singer.
"But there has to be somewhere that people can make a balls of it."
Does it really have to be in front of an audience who have made the effort to get there?
"There's no way I'm ever going to sing like Nic Jones,"
Good - why not just sing like yourself?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:58 AM

Good - why not just sing like yourself?

Tried it. Not often asked to do another number.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: pavane
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 05:57 AM

There's a lot of us about, then.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 05:59 AM

"Tried it. Not often asked to do another number."
Maybe you're going to the wrong clubs Paul.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: pavane
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:00 AM

Actually, the best applause I ever had was with a Nic Jones song (Edward). We (Dubai-Sharjah Morris) were performing in Al Ain, and I had managed to get our fiddler to accompany me, for the one and only time.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Golightly
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:18 AM

We are not all performers but we are all listeners. All I really ask of performers is that they try to listen to themselves objectively before going public.

It's not just lack of skill/practice that's a problem, though. A good voice does not always mean a good singer, and I see this misunderstanding in all kinds of music. Like the guy on X-factor who could hold a note for ages. Impressive as a technical feat, but awful to listen to.

I guess what I'm saying is, without self-censorship we are just show-offs. The really bad performers are simply discourteous, both to the audience and the music. But more than that, for me the good performers are the ones who convey their love of the music, not just their good memory, strong lungs or grade 9 diplomas.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:21 AM

I was vaguely thinking about a perhaps related topic. I was asked "If you could have the voice of any folk singer (broad sense) you've ever heard, who would it be?"

I don't know. I can think of one regular 'catter and another legendary voice who does not post here (AFAIK) - but both are a bit too pure and clean in voice to be who I really, really want to be.

I suppose it differs. Many think Johnny Cash is a great performer - to me he is just a nasty out of tune noise, can't play, can't sing. We even have it asserted above that Dylan, for all his technical limitations, is a great deliverer of a song - but I don't think so - I find his nasal whine (nothing necessarily wrong with nasal, I've heard some great nasal singers) monotonic and boring and expressionless.

Peter Collins is great - but not necessarily what I want to sound like. Tom Lewis, ditto. Mike Nicholson, likewise - but I will single him out as a great interpreter and deliverer of the meaning of a song.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:29 AM

can't play, can't sing cant tell jokes either...

Could be another Des o'Connor.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Stonebridge
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:33 AM

I think there are two aspects to this.
1. Experienced (not necessarily professional) performers who have not rehearsed and not learned the song. Forget the words etc.
2. Youngsters or new performers who have not sung in public before.

Both can produce a "poor" performance.

At the club I run, I cannot excuse the former. I will not ask people to sing again if they cannot be bothered to make an effort.
I believe one has to encourage the latter, especially the youngsters.
You have to start somewhere, and a good audience at a club will understand that. After all, we are just a bunch of people sitting in a room and playing. I don't charge at the door. People vote with their coins in the hat.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Bernard
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 07:04 AM

I love standards... there are so many to choose from!


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 07:08 AM

"The boys in blue are here again"

No they're not Jim....too many people are fascinated by how many morris men can dance on the head of a pin...that's all!

....Some come to work* while others do play
        Some come at evening to pass time away
        Some come to laugh, their voices do ring
        But as for me, I come for to sing (Bob Stuart)

*whinge?


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Gedi
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 08:38 AM

I think, as has been expressed many times in this and other threads, that anyone who wants to get up and sing/play owes it to themselves and the audience to do a reasonably decent job of it.

I personally go to (and perform at) a couple of clubs and singarounds and I will practice for hours to get the songs right. I hate it when I forget the words, sometimes to songs which I have known for years, due to nerves etc, but unfortunately this happens occasionally. I could, I suppose, use a crib sheet just as memory jogger but like many here I don't really like to see these used by others so it would be hypocritical for me to use one.

I find that there are many people who may not be classed as a 'good singer' or a 'great guitar player' who nonetheless give good performances at these kind of venues. It is people like these who are the backbone of the folk scene as I see it. What does annoy me though are those who simply cannot sing a note, or who have obviously not practised a song at all, or have simply not mastered their chosen instrument. These are the ones who need to be guided to improving and not just be allowed to continue without improvement.

I don't want to sound harsh but I would not dream of attempting to perform something which I was not reasonably confident of making a good job of, and I think really poor performers are one of the reasons why people stop going to clubs. Obviously this involves making a judgement about peoples' abilities on the organisers part, but I really believe there has to be some form of quality control otherwise it just becomes a laughing stock.

On a slightly different note, as a floor singer there is no way I would 'expect' to be given a spot on a guest night. To me a guest night is a completely different type of evening to the normal singaround night.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: pavane
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 09:01 AM

Many people are totally unaware that they can't sing, and cannot be pursuaded of the fact. You only have to watch the X-Factor auditions to see this.

Mrs Pavane, in her career as a club singer, has encountered a few aspiring performers who have about zero chance, in one case a girl being supported by a father who was equally unaware of his daughter's shortcomings as a singer, and couldn't understand why we could not recommend her to agents.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Trevek
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 09:20 AM

I remember once in Galway (Crane Bar) when a Dutch chap started singing. He was not the greatest... mainly because of his hesitating English and pronunciation, which affected the songs (he might have been great in Dutch). That said, everyone paid him the compliment of listening. I sang a reply. He then tried to sing Rocky Road to Dublin and I think we all felt every bump of the rocks! My firend, who was leading the session, told me not to sing another after him.

I thought it was just to let the chap have his moment and not to show him up. In retrospect, I think it was more that she didn't want the rest of the pub to have to sit through another of his songs.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 02:56 PM

Stonebridge,

I completely agree with your post. No-one wants to discourage newcomers but 'experienced' singers who are still crap after a reasonable period of time are just hogging the stage and probably alienating the audience - especially if it's fairly obvious that they are not putting the work in.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Val
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 05:21 PM

Is this a case of taking Democracy to an unfortunate extreme? Going from the ideal of "All men are created equal" to "Everybody must be treated equally no matter their ability or talent."

Courteous audiences listen even when the performer is lousy, and applaud out of habit or a feeling of social obligation. Discoureous audiences ignore good performers as often as bad ones. So you can't count on audience feedback to tell a performer when he/she needs to improve.

The stage is getting kinda like the Internet - anybody and everybody can and does put their work out there and expects to be praised because they are "contributing content". There are no professional editors to filter the garbage from the good.

There... I just "contributed". Aren't you proud of me? Where are my applause?

(on a little less sarcastic note...)
If I were running a venue where musicians performed for a paying audience, (or even a pub where they're paying for drinks and "atmosphere") I would want to review the quality of an act before I booked them. An Open Mic night might be different - there, the audience probably ought to expect a wide range of ability. But "headliners", "opening acts", and "guest performers" would be checked out ahead of time. Not saying that would prevent the occasional lousy performance, but it should separate out most of the chaff from the wheat. And a "session" could be open to all comers, but I'd hope for and encourage a core of competent players to keep the general quality at an "acceptable" level.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 05:57 PM

my own standards that I set myself are demanding.I practice every day for several hours.
I dont always achieve the performance I would like,[we all have off days],but I know that when I perform and do a paid or unpaid performance,that I have put every effort into trying to do my best.
I love the music I play,and want to give it the respect I think it deserves,those are my standards.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:09 PM

Since when is folk music about performing? Once you create a separation between a singer and the people listening, it's performing. And success at that is measured at the box office.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:21 PM

Since when is folk music about performing? Once you create a separation between a singer and the people listening, it's performing. And success at that is measured at the box office.
are you a performer? every performer worth his/her saltknows that pervorming well means involving the audience ,it means interaction,between the performer and the audience.
your statement is the biggest load of nonsense,why do you assume performing involves a separation between a singer and people,good performing does not do that neither does good acting,good storytelling or good singing,if done well we say that was a good perfomance.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Tootler
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 06:45 PM

I can see what Dick Greenhaus is getting at, but the Cap'n is right. If we sing or play in front of others we are performing - even in a situation like a singaround where we are entertaining each other. In a singaround or a similar situation the issue of box office does not come into it.

Even when there is a paying audience, success is not wholly measured by box office, though that is one, important, measure. Another very important measure is whether those who paid enjoyed themselves.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 03:21 AM

Let's take the real situation of most (English) folk music over the last 100+ years: where the performer is competent, loves the music, is a talented and sensitive interpreter, remembers the words, has a wide repertoire....


and the punters hate it, the ones who pay at the box office. It doesn't sound like music hall/ ragtime/ crooners/ swing/ rock and roll/ what have you, the stuff that they want to listen to. By their standard, any pop, however naff, is better than any folk, however good, and the takings bear them out.

Singers do what they have done for the last 100+ years- retreat into a self- selected community where their kind of music is appreciated. Unfortunately, or not, this is a heterogenous community, where several different minorities collaborate. If you don't want to sing exclusively to yourself, you have to put up with other people singing stuff you aren't that fond of. And because it's a small community, there isn't the depth of quality to draw on that you get in most other sorts of music. Most pub bands, however naff, are at least slick.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 04:35 AM

yes, but slickness,is not everything.
as I said somewhere else,I prefer badly performed folk songs to competent Britney Spears imitators,but what gives me the greatest pleasure is a folksong performed well.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 08:00 AM

Standards, yes, we need them. And once applied, we can exclude anything or anyone that falls short of those standards. It's OK, there might be some mistakes at first, but with years and experience we will adjust the standards to the ideal levels.

In fact, we should take a leaf out of the EU book. Take apples. Brussels has set standards, and the supermarkets (read: box office) will not touch apples that fall short of those standards. As a result, in Kew Gardens is one of the few places where one can still find those varieties that for one reason or another (usually iability to keep to the same size or colour, or too many spots) have fallen short of the standards. Apparently some of those varieties are right tasty too, but hey, the didn't meet the standards so they deserve to die out, right?

Same with songs/singers.players. You don't meet the standard, even after a decent time of trying, well sorry mate, but you're out. Not popular, or commercial, or standard enough.

Bohemian Rapsody, you say? What crap title is that - and the song is 8 minutes long, it would never fit onto a 45rpm. Sorry, scrap it. How many verses in Tam Lin? Jesus on a bike, do you want the audience to fall asleep? Sorry, out it goes. As for this Leonard Cohen guy, what is it with his voice? Has he had a cold? You say the song is good, but I can't get past his performance - way below standard. So, "Hallellujah"-"Mallelujah", scrap it.

Yes, we need standards in music - and especially in folk or whatever you want to call it. Wrap me a dozen to go. And a hole in the head with it.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Gedi
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 08:23 AM

Of course one can always take any scenario to ridiculous extremes. But what's the alternative? No standards at all where anyone can walk into a folk club and demand to be heard even though they can't hold a note, haven't prepared or practiced and sound bloody awful. And that they can come back week after week peddling the same god-awful rubbish with no improvement?   This, from what I have heard and to some extent from my own experience is the current situation in some clubs.
Do you really expect people to put up with such 'performances' for any length of time and say "Oh but its Folk Music, how quaint, how wonderful"? I know I wouldn't.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 08:40 AM

Anyone can demand what they like, it doesn't mean that they can have it. In the right place, at the right time (which are not "right" because of adherence to any standards, by the way), I will happily sit through one or more songs that I would consider poorly performed, simply for the joy of allowing someone to "have a go". In a song circle, a singaround, a singers' night, I will impose no "standards" on the performances. If I don't like it, I can walk out, or I can never visit that place again. That's my choice, and I do not need any standards to justify it, just my personal taste, which of course can differ wildly from someone else's.

The trouble with standards is the need to keep their definitions simple, if they are to be implemented (and "policed", which you must do, otherwise why have them in the first place?). But tastes, especially in art, are complex and do not lend themselves easily to definition. Which is why we have such trouble with labels. And standards of course lead to labels.

Standards do not need to be extreme to be mis-applied. All it takes is for someone to put a definition down in writing, and for someone else to interpret it their way, and you have the makings of a disagreement.

What's worse, standards do not need to be strict before they can stifle creativity. Ask Wella of this forum what were the standards that resulted in her only ever singing to herself in the kitchen for the first 60 years of her life - only for the rest of us to find subsequently that she has the most wonderful alto voice.

It's only my humble opinion, but I stick with it so far. Until someone persuades me otherwise.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Gedi
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 08:57 AM

George, I take your point and to some extent I do agree that it is wrong to stifle creativity in such a way, and also of the difficulties of defining standards. I too am quite willing to put up with the occassional poor performance but the problem arises when say 50% of the performances are poor. As you say I can (and in fact have) walk out of such places but, if everyone walked out for that reason you are then left with a club of nothing but poor performers. Surely it would be better to excercise some judgement in order to keep the club alive? Also, by allowing such performers to continue then they think 'oh I always get a nice round of applause so I must be OK', and thus never have the incentive to improve.

Like I say I do have some sympathy with your point of view but I do wonder whether it does more harm than good in the long run.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: John Routledge
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 09:02 AM

If all floor singers put in even a fraction of the effort into learning words and tunes and interpretation that Willa does these related debates would not still be continuing :0)


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 09:05 AM

Sorry Willa, for calling you after a hair product!


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 09:17 AM

I know what you mean Gedi... Been there myself. I guess where we may differ is that I prefer to let market dynamics do their work, i.e. allow such clubs to close, if they cannot be run properly or in a manner that is still attractive to paying punters. But lack of standards does not tie the organiser's hands; they can still ask someone not to sing any more, and it is fine to say "because I don't like what you do", or "because the others don't like what you do", or "because I don't think your material/performance/face is right for this club". No need for "standards" to hide behind.

And I have seen "standards" being used precisely for that reason (i.t. to hide behind) too often. In my early days I had several rejections based on the "we don't book songwriters" pseudo-standard, when the club's website boasted at least three such in that year. And I was of course miffed at that lame excuse. It would have been braver but ultimately kinder to have said "we don't know you from Adam", or "I like what you do but you are not well known enough to bring in bums on seats", or even "sorry, I listened to your demo and don't like your stuff". No need to lie, no need to hide.

Organisers can exercise personal judgement, and then stand by it. They don't need standards to help them. The best ones will thrive, and the weak ones will die out over time. The market (and Darwin) speaks.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 10:44 AM

George - if only singer songwriters were all as good as you.

I feel a new standard measure coming on..........


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 10:57 AM

Jim Carroll: re your advice about trying to sound like yourself. It's interesting that Nic Jones should be mentioned in that remark as, surely, he was a copy - or pretty close to it - of Martin Carthy.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Gedi
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:19 AM

George, yes thats a fair comment. If people, ie organisers, would only be honest and say such things then maybe the problem would not be as pronounced as it is.

I think part of the problem (as I see it)as well is totally inappropriate material being put forward. I see folk clubs as being for folk/folk style music & song, not as a Jazz club, or a place for 60's pop songs etc. Then you have a situation where not only is the performer poor but the material is in no way folk material which just increases my discomfort/annoyance even more.

But I guess that's another thread entirely.

Ged


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:26 AM

What - do you mean to say I can't play "Ferry 'cross the Mersey?"
Agree - let's not go there, that way lies madness... And there are plenty of threads dealing (or not) with the issue.

Of course, in case anyone misunderstands my position (I know you did not, Ged): There is still good (performances, material etc), and there is bad, and all the shades in between. Absence of standards does not negate that, it's just that you only have your personal criteria to judge it, not some agreed standard.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Amos
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM

The key thing, to my mind, is the effect of the communication produced. WHen Rick Fielding sings one his go-to-glory Christian songs, I am moved and uplifted by the emotions revealed despite my firm contrary convictions as regards Christianity itself. When Frank Warner sings The Rebel Soldier, I am full of the feelings of the moment he creates, even though I am not Southern born. The realities of the song impinge and penetrate.

When a self-involved, half-practiced amateur stands up to do a song, it has one of two effects. If they do it with courage and intent, even though they do not execute it well technically, I am full of admiration for the effort. But what is being communicated, in net, is the story of a shy person summonsing the courage to perform, no matter what the song. If they do it with egoism and disregard for their insufficiency in musical skills, or with arrogance, my net experience is one of dismissal of a showoff.

Obviously, some venues and some audiences are more compassionate about the awkwardness of the unskilled performer than others; but even the unskilled can reach an audience if their heart is in what they are trying to do.

A


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: pavane
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM

A little bit unfair on Nic Jones. Similarities, yes, in genre, style, both guitarists, both researched traditional material, adding tunes but not a copy.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:45 AM

You could probably create a laundry list of performers with voice characteristics that would guarantee they would never perform grand opera or standard pop material, Broadway show tunes, etc. But with the right material, musicianship, charisma, stage craft and "heart," I have seen a lot of these same people move audiences to tears, laughter or deep reflection.

I believe that "integrity" is the core value. Rod Stewart comes to mind, as does Dylan...many others. Maybe it's a combination of chutzpah, confidence and a "what the hell; here I am, take it, or leave it" attitude combined with material that resonates. You know it when you see it.

I don't think you could easily define a set of standards that fit. The audience, just as a jury, is the ultimate "tryer of fact."


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 11:59 AM

I think there's a bit of cross- purposes regarding the meaning of the word "standards". Some people are taking it to mean an externally- imposed way of doing things, others a bit more like "Mrs Bucket's housekeeping standards are very high". Who decides what the standards are? In Mrs Bucket's case it's the neighbours, in other cases it might by Comhltas competition adjudicators. But are the adjudicators right? Dick Greenhaus suggested that the market is an objective criterion. Is the market undistorted? If you can make 50 million quid from one kind of music, and a pint of bitter and a plate of tater hash from another sort, is the first sort intrinsically better? What do we even mean by better?

I get thoroughly bored by some musicians who never seem to learn anything new, but the punters in the pub definitely prefer their repetitive, unadventurous, poorly- delivered, but familiar stuff, in a familiar format, to any amount of well- played music of a type they see as alien, judging by their reactions.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 12:38 PM

tunesmith,
nic jones sang like himself, he sounds nothing like Carthy,and his guitar style is completely different from Carthys,apart from the fact they use open tunings.
Paul Burke,quite right, just because Britney Spears/DanielODonnell are popular doesnt mean they are any good,or any better than HarryCox.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 01:42 PM

Look'ee here-
Every sort of venue, whether it be a paid club performance, an informal singaround or a concert hall, has its own standards....based on what works for that venue. For professional performers, the box office is the gauge; for other venues, it's whatever works. Clearly the aesthetic for folk music is not the same as that for, say, grand opera or jazz; that doesn't mean it's worse...just different.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 02:11 PM

lets take Jazz,no way are incompetent performers asked up to do a spot with the gigging band.
for professional performers the box office is not necessarily the gauge.
an arts centre which is heavily subsidised,can pay more for a performer than a folk club,and still pay the guest,even if only three men and a dog turn up.


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 02:56 PM

My two cents: Do the homework. Study the song, style, phrasing, history,culture and if it comes from your own personal cultural background, so much the better. Get behind the words. That's part of the research. Know what you're singing about and why.

Standards are arbitrary and kind of like navels (you know that one). There too many self-styled authorities. The audience will often tell you eventually.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 06:17 PM

"… the punters in the pub definitely prefer their repetitive, unadventurous, poorly- delivered, but familiar stuff, in a familiar format, to any amount of well- played music of a type they see as alien, judging by their reactions."

Yes Paul, I've encountered that attitude too, and sometimes suffered as a result. Nevertheless, those punters are perfectly entitled to continue enjoying their "familiar stuff" – just as Linus (in Peanuts) is entitled to keep holding his blanket and sucking his thumb until he feels grown up enough to stop.

In both cases the underlying cause is insecurity, manifesting itself as a hunger for reassurance in an unpredictable world.   And if the world around you seems to become more alien and more threatening every day, then holing up in the pub and embracing the old familiar formats may be the simplest answer.

Only two ways of dealing with this situation have worked for me. One is to begin by giving the audience what they want (or think they want), and then gradually introduce them to material that's less familiar to them, but more satisfying to me. If that doesn't work, then the only other option is to walk away, and leave them to carry on doing their own thing – which in a free society is their undoubted right.

Wassail!
Wassail!


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Subject: RE: Standards - what do we mean?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Dec 08 - 06:36 PM

I have today concluded that the music is not dying,

See my recent post here


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