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Lectures on folk: live or records?

MGM·Lion 09 Nov 14 - 06:39 AM
MartinRyan 09 Nov 14 - 07:59 AM
Newport Boy 09 Nov 14 - 10:13 AM
ripov 09 Nov 14 - 11:45 AM
Steve Gardham 09 Nov 14 - 01:04 PM
GUEST,Rahere 09 Nov 14 - 01:14 PM
Brian Peters 09 Nov 14 - 01:14 PM
MGM·Lion 09 Nov 14 - 01:33 PM
Brian Peters 09 Nov 14 - 01:39 PM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 09 Nov 14 - 02:03 PM
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Subject: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 06:39 AM

Spin-off from the "traditional music is for entertaining" thread. Brian Peters agrees with me that the two aspects, the entertaining and the scholarly, overlap, and mentions a series of further education classes on English folk song he is currently giving. I have in the past done the same sort of course, or lectured as part of other people's.

Much to my surprise, I have invariably found that classes or lecture audiences seem to prefer hearing me perform the songs used to illustrate the classes, to listening to records of even the best performers. It always amazed me that they would rather listen to me singing live than to a record by Ewan or Bert or Martin or whoever; but, when asked after a class or two, they have always said that this is the case, tho have never been able to explain quite why. It seems they prefer direct experience to the obviously superior quality that can be afforded by some of the best recordings.

Not that they are necessarily exclusive; I have generally tried to include a mixture of live performance and recordings. But the former do seem to me generally to go down more favourably and make the points more effectively.

I wonder if the experience of anyone else who has given such courses, lectures, &c, has been similar. And, if so, if they have any opinion as to why this might be.

≈Michael≈


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 07:59 AM

I used to give a short set of lectures on Irish traditional music and song to groups of international students. For the singing, I mixed recordings with my own puny efforts. For the instrumental, I stuck to recordings for the early talks, then brought in a guest to play live - and to talk about the music from a musicians's perspective. The mix seemed to work well - but it does, of course, depend on the course/lecture objectives and the available resources.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: Newport Boy
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 10:13 AM

I have done the same in a more informal setting - 90min talks on various aspects. I did one using only recorded items - the other two mixed my singing with recorded items. A number of the regular audience said they preferred the mix. I haven't dared try them with only my singing - Anne tells me that would be boring.

Live performance makes it easier to illustrate variations - alternative words, tunes, etc.

Live performance involves the audience more effectively. I know that I have enjoyed many unusual classical works in the concert hall which I would probably have turned off on radio. Seeing the performer in action makes a big difference and probably outweighs the possibly lower quality of the performance - a matter of taste, anyway.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: ripov
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 11:45 AM

At one of the best workshops I have attended, at Sidmouth, rather than have performers or recordings, the musical illustrations were projected on the wall so the audience could sing them. This does of course presuppose that a good proportion of the audience will be able to sing at sight. But they were, and what a great sound they made.


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 01:04 PM

I find a mixture of the 2 goes down best. The mixture adds to the variety and it can also save time in searching for a recording if you have gone off at a tangent or as I like to do, interact with the audience and let them to a degree lead the presentation.


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: GUEST,Rahere
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 01:14 PM

It's because it's the people's music, not Martin's or Sam's or Jon's (much though...) - and that means it's yours to pass on to them. The old lags who dated from the turn of the last century who passed it on to the older members of this community who passed it on to you weren't any better than the worst of you, some of them were truly appalling - by modern standards. But they were them, and you is you, and it doesn't matter as long as you pass the ball along, if only because the audience is mostly worse than any of us - at the moment.
So however much you like that particular turn, or this line, the important thing is what you do with it. you wouldn't be a musician if you didn't have your own ideas about what to do with a tune, so JFDI.


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 01:14 PM

Good question, Michael.

There's a lot of power in live performance, particularly in the case of folk song IMO. However, I didn't want to turn my own course into a series of concerts and, more importantly, I wouldn't be doing my job properly if I wasn't getting people to listen to some of the great traditional singers of the past.

So, with three down and four to go, I've had one evening devoted entirely to 'The Singers', which included several recordings each from Sam Larner, Queen Caroline Hughes and Phil Tanner. I chose them partly because their singing is powerful and their repertoires remarkable, and partly because all three have interesting and well-documented life stories. I've also played recordings of Phoebe Smith, Joseph Taylor, The Coppers and others (bear in mind my topic is 'English Folk Song'). In the talk on 'Folk Revivals' we'll have everything from Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow' to Bellowhead.

How do the recordings go down? Well, I dare say a few people are baffled or even shocked - Queen Caroline is a bit of a jolt if your idea of a female folk singer is Maddy Prior. On the other hand, people have asked, "Where can I get hold of recordings?" and "Is this kind of stuff on Youtube?" and, when I asked what they thought of the first Sam Larner recording, I got back "He's a good singer!"

I do also sing a couple of things in each lecture - probably more in the next one on Child Ballads. But I think it's important to show my (mostly non-folk) crowd what the songs sounded like before Cecil Sharp and Bert Lloyd got hold of them, and to illustrate the wonderful craft and artistry of musically untutored fishermen, farm labourers and gypsies.


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 01:33 PM

And good answer, Brian.


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 01:39 PM

On a technical point (re Steve's post), at one time I had a pile of CDs and used to pick tracks off each - which was time-consuming, error-prone and panic-inducing. Then I burnt CDs with the tracks roughly in the order I intended to use them. Now I pre-embed the sound clips in the Powerpoint that displays the pictures of singers, song lyrics, broadsides, weird ballad illustrations, etc.

I also edit some (though not all) of the recordings. You don't really need to hear seven comparative versions of 'Cambric Shirt' from beginning to end.


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Subject: RE: Lectures on folk: live or records?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 09 Nov 14 - 02:03 PM

A few years ago I did a talk on Vaughan Williams and the songs he collected, especially where the themes then found their way into his compositions. I played traditional singers where possible to illustrate the music (as well as RVW compositions to show where the tunes occurred). These were to non-folk audiences, generally classical music people (including one at the Finnish Embassy to an audience of RVW Society and Sibelius enthusiasts - that was nerve-wracking!), who all seemed very interested in the older recordings.
But looking at the original question, generally, I would guess that audiences have little experiences of the immediacy and intimacy of unaccompanied singing, in "your own voice" that live singing can give. The Finnish embassy talk included a classical singer who sang some of the RVW folk song arrangements with piano accompaniment.
Derek


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