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Are sessions elitist?

GUEST,American Folkie 23 Aug 02 - 12:33 PM
Nerd 23 Aug 02 - 12:41 PM
fogie 23 Aug 02 - 12:56 PM
Malcolm Douglas 23 Aug 02 - 02:01 PM
wysiwyg 23 Aug 02 - 02:10 PM
curmudgeon 23 Aug 02 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 23 Aug 02 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,American Folkie 23 Aug 02 - 03:22 PM
Chanteyranger 23 Aug 02 - 04:39 PM
wysiwyg 23 Aug 02 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,American Folkie 23 Aug 02 - 05:18 PM
GUEST 23 Aug 02 - 06:48 PM
treewind 23 Aug 02 - 06:56 PM
Chanteyranger 23 Aug 02 - 07:28 PM
GUEST,Colin Manning 23 Aug 02 - 07:56 PM
michaelr 23 Aug 02 - 08:00 PM
GUEST,anon fiddle player. 23 Aug 02 - 08:13 PM
Malcolm Douglas 23 Aug 02 - 08:37 PM
wysiwyg 23 Aug 02 - 11:53 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 24 Aug 02 - 01:26 AM
GUEST,sledge 24 Aug 02 - 02:32 AM
alison 24 Aug 02 - 03:32 AM
GUEST,Allan Dennehy 24 Aug 02 - 06:46 AM
wysiwyg 24 Aug 02 - 10:12 AM
Stewart 24 Aug 02 - 12:26 PM
The Shambles 24 Aug 02 - 12:51 PM
smallpiper 24 Aug 02 - 12:58 PM
The Shambles 24 Aug 02 - 02:33 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Aug 02 - 06:42 PM
C-flat 24 Aug 02 - 07:29 PM
Herga Kitty 24 Aug 02 - 07:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Aug 02 - 08:51 PM
The Shambles 24 Aug 02 - 09:03 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 24 Aug 02 - 09:16 PM
wysiwyg 24 Aug 02 - 09:34 PM
Snuffy 25 Aug 02 - 04:54 AM
smallpiper 25 Aug 02 - 05:58 AM
McGrath of Harlow 25 Aug 02 - 06:45 AM
The Shambles 25 Aug 02 - 07:16 AM
The Shambles 25 Aug 02 - 07:27 AM
Allan Dennehy 25 Aug 02 - 08:55 AM
Melani 25 Aug 02 - 06:11 PM
selby 26 Aug 02 - 04:46 AM
GUEST 26 Aug 02 - 09:37 AM
mooman 26 Aug 02 - 10:17 AM
GUEST,Peter from Essex 26 Aug 02 - 01:54 PM
Malcolm Douglas 26 Aug 02 - 02:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Aug 02 - 02:35 PM
GUEST,anon fiddle player 26 Aug 02 - 04:12 PM
smallpiper 26 Aug 02 - 04:23 PM
Hippie Chick 26 Aug 02 - 05:04 PM
Hippie Chick 26 Aug 02 - 05:13 PM
Rich(bodhránai gan ciall) 26 Aug 02 - 11:14 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 26 Aug 02 - 11:37 PM
smallpiper 27 Aug 02 - 05:28 AM
Declan 27 Aug 02 - 06:18 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 02 - 08:54 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Aug 02 - 10:24 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 02 - 10:38 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Aug 02 - 10:51 AM
Dave Bryant 27 Aug 02 - 10:56 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 02 - 06:12 PM
The Shambles 27 Aug 02 - 06:48 PM
Allan Dennehy 27 Aug 02 - 07:59 PM
Yorkshire Tony 27 Aug 02 - 08:26 PM
GUEST,sorefingers 27 Aug 02 - 08:51 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 02:44 AM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 06:08 AM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 11:35 AM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 11:51 AM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 12:57 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 01:10 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 01:17 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 01:26 PM
harpgirl 28 Aug 02 - 01:34 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 01:46 PM
curmudgeon 28 Aug 02 - 02:32 PM
The Shambles 28 Aug 02 - 02:47 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 03:06 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 03:07 PM
treewind 28 Aug 02 - 04:32 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 07:21 PM
awig 28 Aug 02 - 07:27 PM
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awig 28 Aug 02 - 09:23 PM
Bassic 28 Aug 02 - 10:31 PM
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treewind 29 Aug 02 - 08:30 AM
GUEST,sorefingers 29 Aug 02 - 09:58 AM
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Leeder 29 Aug 02 - 11:16 AM
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Subject: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,American Folkie
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 12:33 PM

It occurred to me just now, having reread the "Is folk music elitist" thread, that perhaps the problem of elitism is really confined to the music sessions held in public spaces, like bars, coffeehouses, and pubs. As those of us with a life time of experience with folk music knows, the music sessions aren't the only place that people gather to play together regularly. But in our post-modern world, the sessions held regularly in public spaces, regardless of the type of music being performed, has become the default folk music community for many musicians with a passion for this particular type of music, especially when no one in their everyday world exists to share it with.

It would be unusual at this point for someone to suggest that the public session doesn't dominate the folk music scene in British North America, as well as in Britain and Ireland. Since folk music historically wasn't usually performed in public places, but rather in homes and other quasi-private/public spaces (ie fairs), I would humbly suggest that perhaps it is this new (as in last half of the 20th century new) development in folk music performance that is elitist, and not really the musicians and dancers and audiences which are elitist.

It is my perception that because the demands upon our time nowadays is so great (and the time and effort it often takes to find a session in sync with what one is looking for), those people who regularly get their folk music fix from sessions do tend to be more selfish about outsiders "wasting their time" in sessions. They only have a limited amount each week or fortnight to devote to performing music with the "regulars" and so tend to be more territorial about it.

It is also my perception that since most sessions tend to be predominately populated by male musicians, that predominance lends itself to a certain relationship dynamic that isn't as noticeably present when the gender mix is more balanced, or the session is predominately female musicians (which we all know is still pretty much a rarity). It has always seemed to me the latter type sessions are more relaxed and inclusive than the former.

Anyone else have thoughts to share on this?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Nerd
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 12:41 PM

I'm not sure I'd call it elitist. Sessions have an etiquette and many sessions encompass established social relationships. I have felt excluded at a session, to be sure, but no more so than when I go into a bar where I don't know a lot of people, and everyone else is a "regular." The solution is to keep going to the session, and keep practicing the tunes you learn there, until you're known and "up to speed."

I guess the question is, is any form of interaction that has rules by which people are supposed to abide elitist? Would we call, for example, a conversation elitist if the speakers resented a stranger who couldn't speak the language but kept interjecting things anyway? If not, then at what point does session etiquette become elitist and at what point is it merely a set of unspoken rules of communication?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: fogie
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 12:56 PM

Having been through various phases of instrument playing, from singing to playing guitar, accordeons, and now saxophones, I am always amused at those who want to exclude those who havent reached their own level of technique, or have an enormous pressure to play and sing in a particular idiom. The session if open should be inclusive, and allow development. Obviously there are limits to what, in good taste, should be allowed, and this is the role of the session host. Those with urges to dominate, or with no sensitivity to what is being played, can be handled in a firm sensible way, by the company as a whole, and those who don't like a particular session often end up running their own. There are lots of potential venues for each persons type of music, and often we evolve and change from one musical expression to another. Cross pollination is good. Fusion is good. Intensity is good within limits, but often groups gather to socialise as well as prove their musical prowess, and should be allowed to- for as long as it lasts.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 02:01 PM

The following comments refer to the regular, "established" session as it occurs in Britain. The Irish experience is not, I think, fundamentally different (I'm not talking about sessions put on for the tourists); I have no experience of how things work in the USA or Canada.

Look at it this way: a group of people who know each other play music in (say) a pub. They do this in a public room. Common interest and mutual consent (whether stated or tacit) will determine what they play and how they play it. At some point, no doubt, strangers will want to join in. How should those strangers approach the business of integrating themselves into an established social unit? In much the same way as it is done in all other walks of life, I'd suggest; gradually and with tact.

That means approaching the grouping on its terms, not on yours. Once an incomer is accepted, they then have the right to participate in the mutual determination of questions of style and repertoire. Somebody who jumps in feet-first with inappropriate material or with an aggressive attitude has only themselves to blame if they receive a less than enthusiastic reception; it's akin to interrupting a conversation between people you do not know and trying to change the subject to yourself.

This is not élitism but the normal process of social inter-action; it's far from being confined to the human species. The fact that music is being played in public does not necessarily mean that it is open for anyone who wishes to participate to do so; one should spend some time getting the measure of the thing before making assumptions. There are many sessions, for example, where beginners are welcome; they may cease to be welcome if they try to dominate proceedings. A primarily instrumental session may listen politely while a solo guitarist sings a song or two, but they will probably be itching to get back to the tunes, in which everyone, provided they have some technical abilty and, more to the point, sufficient awareness to listen to what others are doing, can join.

Those who see any session they come across as solely a platform for solo performance are unlikely to be welcome for long if they begin to behave as if they were more important than the existing social unit; that is the root of the problem, I think, in many situations where an outsider fails to understand (or even notice) group dynamics and blames others for his failure to integrate.

It is perfectly true that there are situations where skilled players may be impatient of the less-experienced, but that again is normal and scarcely a new phenomenon. Some will be kind and helpful, others will simply want to get on with the playing and will not be prepared to set the pace (I don't mean the speed of the music!) according to the slowest runner. It is a question of compromise, and an aspirant necessarily must compromise more than the established players.

The idea that anybody, no matter how untalented, should be encouraged to perform in public, and that this is somehow fundamental to folk music is a recent one, based in large on the radicalism of the early Revival. Traditional folk music belongs to everyone in the sense that it is a common inheritance, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all performances are of equal value. Examine a few situations where music is traditionally sung or played by existing communities of long standing, and you'll find all sorts of unwritten rules as to what kinds of material or behaviour are appropriate in a given situation. These rules are not always immediately apparent to the outsider.

Anyone who believes that the pub session is necessarily going to be warm and democratic may be misunderstanding the normal operation of social dynamics; I have heard sessions described as a "blood sport", and some of them are just that; chiefly some Irish and Scottish examples, though I'd say that the majority are welcoming enough.

Ultimately, it is for the incomer to join the group, not the other way around. An interesting study of such things is Ginette Duncan's book, The Fellowship of Song: Popular Singing Traditions in East Suffolk (Croom Helm, 1980). This was based on research done in the 1970s in a small group of pubs which had a singing tradition dating back to the previous century; and where such matters as appropriate behaviour, ownership of repertoire and so on, were quite strictly codified. That is how the Tradition works; it's the Revival that has insisted on a kind of egalitarianism that some people will abuse and others take for granted.

Ms. Duncan, as an outsider who learned to obey custom and practice, was accepted; others were not. She describes an evening when a group of servicemen from a nearby airbase (Americans as it happens, but no nationality has a monopoly on insensitivity) completely wrecked the session by insisting on joining in with their guitars all the time, even when they didn't know the material and the emphasis was on individual performance. That's a phenomenon that many will recognise only too well.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 02:10 PM

We attended a song circle of people who know each other well, whole we were on vacation. In place of a general welcome, they were busy having an informal meeting over an upcoiming festival they are all involved in. (It's a thriving folk community.) I took this not as their being elitists, but as a chance to learn something-- our monthly jam is tonight, with many newcomers due to the PR push I've had going. And we "core members" are going to have a mini-rehearsal ourselves for a gig that's tomorrow, since some of us have been out of twon when we might have rehearsed otherwise. *G* So I will be sure to welcome everyone first, and explain what we are doing. It can be a demo on how to prep for a gig.

These things do not need hard-and-fast judgments-- who's elitist and who's not... it's just that sometimes people do not stop and think, and when something has been going on for a long time it does take on a life of it's own. That's why we have festivals and workshops and folk societies.... because some group or person was willing to take on leadership and start something. And that's fine-- it does not mean anyone is going out of their way to be a**holes (or victims).

You just... DEAL with it, start something else if you like, do the best you can, and be as smart and helpful as you can be.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 02:18 PM

I've been hosting a trad music session now for about 18 years. It started out as a solo gig on Tueday evening then shifted to Friday. One old friend was then able to join me. Soon, a banjo playing singing sailor joined us. Later another old friend started coming. Various and sundry singers and musicians would come by to sit in; still very loose and unstructured. The pub license required live music and I satisfied the law by playing between 5 and 8 PM.

Then the public tv station did a short feature and the flood gates started creaking open. Today we never have les than a half dozen participants, and some nights upward of two dozen (rather awkward in a limited space). No newcomer has ever been turned away, although participation is often limited by lack of space.

Over the years, the openness has resulted in countless friendships, new musical combinations, the inception of a first rate Irish band, and the beginning of a few musical careers.

It hasn't always been easy. We have occasional visits from a singer/guitarist who tries, but just doesn't get it. Her own songs are okay, but her loud warbling "singing" alomg is painful, and her guitar playing isn't always in the same key as others are playing; but she means well and is a fellow human being.

The thrust of the session has always been English, Scottish, Irish, American, and nautical trad songs and tunes. But we have been know, collectively and individually, to wallow in bluegrass, old timey, country, contemporary. Virtually anything goes -- once.

I'm sure that there have been some who though this session to be elitist. I don't always have the time to make sure every newcomer is called upon enough. Lack of seating may be misinterpreted by some. The fact that I frequently have to move people (including some who should know better) out of the paths of the waitresses may be misunderstood. And I really hate having to ask boors to stop talking loudly during a song.

But I am talking too much. Come up to Portsmouth and sit in for yourself. These days we start arround 4:30 and go till nine. Large instrruments can be a problem.

Sing ye well - Tom


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 02:26 PM

WYSIWYG - What arrogance!

Because your clique has not rehearsed, you will subject many invited newcomers, who are expecting a jam session to a private practice session!

You won't see those new faces again, and they won't be the ones considered donkey-butts.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,American Folkie
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 03:22 PM

I generally agree with nerd, fogie, and much of what Malcolm says. Now, I'm only talking about my perceptions here, so please everyone understand I'm not claiming my percerptions to be facts. Having said that...

Malcolm, in light of your post here, I'm curious to hear your take on the situation described at Whitby that spawned both this and the other eltitist thread. Because it is exactly that sort of situation (as described by Mike of Northumbria) that I find elitist and off-putting, as a long time American Folkie. Again, I'm speaking strictly for myself here--these are my perceptions only. But based upon Mike's description of the events at said pub, I'd say it was a textbook case of the sort of elitism in sessions I increasingly hear both insiders and outsiders complaining about these days.

Let me just add, I agree with Malcolm that the sort of session I am describing is one that is common in Britain and Ireland. Irish sessions in North America are conducted pretty much the same as they are over there in my experience. However, I view the British/Irish session as we know it today to be a newer tradition which was created out of the Anglo and Irish folk revivals (again, both sides the pond). I don't view contemporary sessions as an extension of historic traditional music gatherings of homogenous folk communities from which much of the music now performed in public music sessions are derived. I view the contemporary session scene as a very modern (ie post-1950) phenomenon of the revivals themselves, both sides the pond.

I would include both tourist sessions and non-tourist sessions in the discussion, rather than distinguish between the two, as you are. The reason I would do that is because the tourist session is often the first encounter many non-Irish and British attendees first encounter. So IMO, raising the issue of the tourist session is an important dimension of how the non-tourist session is perceived by outsiders with little knowledge of the beast.

It is hard for outsiders to distinguish, at least initially, between a tourist session and a non-tourist session. In my personal experience, the wrath one can at times encounter from the non-tourist session players can be out of all proportion to the alleged "offense" by the outsider. If newcomers/outsiders are to adhere to basic social rules of engagement regarding joining in a group as a newcomer (which Malcolm suggests, if I'm interpreting his post correctly, that newcomers/outsiders do), then musicians in the public sessions need be held accountable to thosee same standards when performing in public spaces. They too must take it upon themselves to behave decently towards outsiders who can't distinguish between the two types of sessions, or who have little experience of any kind with sessions, rather than treat the outsider rudely.

I personally have witnessed some pretty rude behaviour by musicians towards newcomers/outsiders, and in every instance my feeble mind allows me to recall at the moment, those instances were of experienced, advanced players behaving rudely, and not the other way around. Now, I know that goes against the widely held current beliefs among Irish and British session musicians that is the newcomer/outsider who is the problem, and not themselves, that are the problem. But that has been my experience. It is the regulars who I have witnessed behaving badly, not the newcomers.

So, as I said, I'd like to hear Malcolm's take on the situation described in the other thread concerning the pub session at Whitby. I agree with Mike of Northumbria. I don't think that nailing what in essence was a "KEEP OUT" sign on the door of a pub session which has been open and on-going during the festival for years, was a very wise move. I too would hope the group in question would seriously consider not repeating this year's behavior at future festivals.

It seems to me that this sort of behavior among the regulars is on increase nowadays, and I don't understand why that is. It also seems to me that those who most dare to criticize the regulars are people with roots in the revival and with experience playing in sessions for many years--not just whiny, rude newcomers and outsiders who have been treated "fairly" (but rudely) by the session regulars. This attitude that newcomers and outsiders "have it coming" disturbs me.

For those of us with roots in the revivals who consciously made a choice to make the performance of this music more (rather than less) accessible to all, in order to see it live beyond the deaths of those traditional musicians who were the last living vestiges of the traditions in their local areas, I don't think it is out of line to sugggest that sessions should be much more open and inclusive than many currently are. It seems to me the revivalists did intend that the session be democratic and open, and that it has been, in certain areas, largely co-opted as a forum for public performance and private entertainment for ever smaller, elite groups of predominately male musicians who have the best chops. That sort of competitiveness and elitism is the antithesis the revivals' leaders. And I agree again with those above, who said if you want to keep people out of your session, play in a private space, not a public one. If what you want to do is spend a regular number of hours performing exclusively with a small group of fellow musicians on a regular basis, don't meet in pubs, and the whole question of elitism in sessions will cease to be an issue.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Chanteyranger
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 04:39 PM

Some Irish pubs in the states have set up a second, "slow" session, for players who do not yet feel up to the rigors of the parent session, or anyone wanting to slow down the pace of the tunes.

While I don't think an Irish session should make newcomers feel unwelcome, newcomers do have a responsibility to lay back a bit and see what the unwritten house rules of etiquette are. It doesn't seem elitist to me - unless the regulars outright shun newcomers, or refuse to be encouraging to beginning sessioners who observe whatever etiquette is in play, or refuse to help a newcomer observe the etiquette with some gentle prodding. There will probably always be a few clueless extreme examples who take the bull in the china shop approach, won't give a damn about etiquette, listening to others, or judging their own ability in relation to the session at hand. If gentle prodding doesn't work, every Irish session has a right to ask them to leave. The many shouldn't have to suffer the few who chronically refuse to respect other musicians and house rules of etiquette. Elitist? I don't think so. There has to be standards in order to inspire, encourage and draw in beginners and newcomers AND make the session enjoyable for the regulars. Musicmaking takes work and dedication - no less for a successful session.

Chanteyranger


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 05:03 PM

Yeah, it's awful innit, that out of a three hour jam, the working musicians will steal a whole 15 minutes to look over newly-copied arrangements played a thousand times before and agree on intro's and so forth! How AWFUL! I oughtta be SHOT!

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,American Folkie
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 05:18 PM

Attempting to discern "unwritten house rules of etiquette" is too much to ask of newcomers to the music, IMO. It is simply too complex, arcane, and preciously guarded by insiders wishing to maintain the boundaries of their "house session" to be transparent.

It is easy to explain the etiquette to newcomers when one is present. It takes precious little conversation with a newcomer to find out what they do and don't know, what sort of music they play, and what level of experience they are at. Considering that most regular sessions have a recognized leader, there is no reason why that person can't take it upon themselves to greet a newcomer, and make them feel comfortable. Not make them feel at home, but simply welcome and comfortable with a situation that is new for them. If we can't even have the decency to do that for one another, then just what will the long-term outlook be for this music, do you suppose?

There are very few remaining indigenous, homogenous folk music communities left today. Folk music communities are more and more often defined by the common love for the music, not by the fact that your family and neighbors all play the same sort of music you play. That means that each of us is responsible for the future of the music, each one of us is a steward of it for future generations. Not just for our own personal enjoyment here and now.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 06:48 PM

15 minutes stolen from 20 people is 5 hours.

Gargoyle is right. Leave your private work until later, after the crowd has left.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: treewind
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 06:56 PM

"Attempting to discern "unwritten house rules of etiquette" is too much to ask of newcomers to the music"

No. Well, yes, but that's not what is being asked, I think.
There is a difference between common sense sensistivity and having to discover arcane rules.

Also, all sessions are not the same.
Sometimes I have taken part is a session and won't go again, not because they were unfriendly, but simply because it wasn't the sort of session I want to be in. I wouldn't dream of interfering with the way it was run. In particular, there is a need for very open sessions where anything goes and all newcomers are welcome, and the musical standard may not be consistently high, and there is a need for better and more experienced singers or players to get together and enjoy listening to each other's contributions, and there is no need for anyone to insist on trying to turn one into the other.

The idea of 'slow' Irish sessions in not new - here in Cambridge there used to be at least three different grades of sessions at different places and times, and you soon found out where you fitted in best.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Chanteyranger
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 07:28 PM

Agreed on welcoming the newcomer, American Folkie. Seeing what the unwritten rules are includes having them welcomed and having someone explain a few basic ones, if the newcomer to that particular session seems inexperienced with session etiquette. Now, if someone is completely new to Irish music and has never been to a session - any session - before, you'd think they would have the common courtesy to observe and ask. The main point is that the newcomer has responsibilities of basic comon sense, common courtesy, and a willingness to observe and listen. The more arcane stuff comes with experience and "gentle prodding." i.e. some initial explaining to the newcomer.

I run a chantey session that has much less rules of order, and those rules are explained to everyone at the beginning. We go around singer circle style, and everyone gets to sing, or pass, or request a song. All levels are welcome - a "safe place to sing" I call it. A simpler form of music, and a different scene.

Chanteyranger

Chanteyranger


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,Colin Manning
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 07:56 PM

My input is based on my experience as both an amature musician, and an Irish person who grew up in Dublin, but has lived in various European countries since 1985, currently living in Berlin Germany.

There are in general two types of sessions, one which tends to be "hierarchical", and into which you must be accepted over time, and another type which is generally "free form", which if you can identify it as such, is very welcoming and a wonderful playing experience.

The sessions I call hierarchical, tend to have a leader who calls the shots. They are usually male dominated, as pointed out in a previous message, and in my experience rather "snobbish" and often also in my opinion rather boring, as they do not provide freedom of expression for all the participants. In these sessions, you have to earn your place, and they can be rather intimidating for new joiners. Often these sessions are run in co-operation with the proprietor of the bar/venue, and one or two "leaders" may be paid a basic "retainer". I personally hate these sessions.

The sessions I call "free-form" often grow out of one or two people wanting to explore their music with others, and find a sympathetic venue. They will happen with or without an audience, and the musicians tend to be focussing on each other, rather on performing. These sessions may start with one musician, and tend to be very fluid and dynamic, so that new people come, and old people go over time. THe session itself often migrates around the locality (my experience is always in cities, so you often find these type of sessions start in one pub, and six moths later move to another pub for all sorts of reasons - sessions may also split, if a "clique" developes, and the more "free-form" oriented members get pissed off if the session starts to become "hierarchical". I personally love the social and musical expericences of these types of sessions.

I hope the above discuorse is vaguely interesting to the people who have partaken in this discussion.

Regards,

Colin Manning (colin@ework4.com)


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: michaelr
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 08:00 PM

Malcolm -- as usual, your post was well-considered and informative. Is that book in print and available?

Am. Folkie -- good point about the rise of a sort of bunker mentality among session regulars. It's a little bit like the Mudcat's member/guest dynamic, isn't it?

Mostly, my experience has been different: Here in NorCal, people are so reluctant to communicate negatively, for fear of hurting someone's feelings, that criticism of other players is extremely rare. At my local Irish session, there's one guy who's been coming for years and making VERY slow progress in his fiddle playing... trust me, he's terrible, while the overall level of the session is middling to quite good. As far as I know, none of the regulars has ever said anything to this guy; but they just started a new Slow session. Should we tell him to attend that instead?

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,anon fiddle player.
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 08:13 PM

of course there are sessions that are elitist. etiquette shmetiquette, Etiquette is just common sense on both the session player and guest. (If you want to have a private session with your clique of friends & dont want other people to try and occasionally join - then dont play in a public place) Ive been playing Irish fiddle for 8+ years and have even started a session of my own that lasted a 2or 3 years - and I still have noticed that of the sessions in our town, some are elitist. One particular session - they are all good players, and like to play tight and 'in the groove'

now, Im not particularly political and want to maintain good relations with the musicians in my community - yet I went to this session for at least a year before I was asked to start a tune. (of course I would start a couple of tunes per night anyway) eventually I stopped going after a while because I like to play more than a handful of tunes.

and yet our sessions by contrast with the 'elitist one' - made everyone welcome... anyone who showed up was asked at least once to start a tune -. (We might not have been as slick but I like to think thats what the music is all about - no one owns it) of course -- if we had someone show up with a stand and sheet music for instance - or a beginner starting a lot of tunes he barely knew (and no one else did for that matter) we would try to discreetly take them aside and let them know.

ANother group in town plays regularly - and anyone who tries to join in is told - you can join us and play along but we play our tunes on our list. (I dont even call that a session) Its like anything else, human nature and just plain common sense.

but which is more rude? the unwelcoming session musicians, or the guest who just wants to play tunes?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 08:37 PM

(Referring just now to michaelr's post)

Unfortunately, the book is out of print (the useful ones always are!) but can be found secondhand from time to time. It really is a very useful look at the way sessions have worked in the (recent) past, and it's a mistake, I think, to assume that there's necessarily a great deal of difference between the internal dynamics of a session based on geographical proximity as opposed to one based on a commonality of interest. The music will be different, but the attitudes won't.

For those who have assumed in contributing to this thread that there is something inherently "Irish" about the session as a phenomenon, I should perhaps make the point that what is often thought of as a typical session arrangement is relatively recent in that country. That's largely the result of geographical and demographic factors. It's England, where population tends to be more concentrated, and where social interactivity has more traditionally revolved around licenced premises, that has provided the model that we're most used to nowadays. Here in Sheffield, for example, we have (believe it or not) a tradition of playing dance music in local pubs that can easily be traced back to the 18th century; not continuous, of course, but with surprisingly few gaps. Same goes for the local Carol tradition.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 23 Aug 02 - 11:53 PM

Love it that poeople want to tell me what to do... who were not asked... and have NO idea what we are doing here. No one who has been here has had a problem, actually, and we had 29 people here, mostly new, and all eager to come back. Sorry folks, you are barking at the wrong tree. We know our people here, as it happens, and how to get along with them, just fine.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 01:26 AM

Crack that Whip!

............................Beat them doagies!

Head Em Up

Move Em Out

!!! Seig Hiel!!!

You must be an XTC-erotic vision in black-leather pants, and high-heeled boots WIZZY-WIgged.....WHooooAAAHHH!!!!

Good Lord knows I won't be dropping by your sessions.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,sledge
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 02:32 AM

curmudgeon, Just a quick one, Which Portsmouth and whats the venue?

Sledge (normally based in the UK Portsmouth)


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: alison
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 03:32 AM

I agree with Gargoyle in this case..... I don't think sessions are the place to practice "chunks" of your upcoming gig material..... not a personal attack WYSIWYG.... but I've seen it done many times and I think its rude to the people who are expecting a session....

now throwing in the odd song / tune set at various stages during the night so that what you are practicing isn't so obvious... that can work.......

I just think people in sessions need to consider the other people there..... I had to remind my club last night when they were all joining in heartily and drowning the poor person singing.... basic session etiquette.... if you can't hear whoever is leading the song/ tune.... back off you're too loud..... worked brilliantly for a few songs.... *grin*


slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,Allan Dennehy
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 06:46 AM

Lost my cookie, thats why I'm a guest. Like it or not, the person/ people who run the session is/are the boss. If they only want trad instrumental, I find that a pain in the arse but I don't have to go. In my sessions, anyone is welcome but the QUANTITY that they are welcome to contribute is dependant on the QUALITY of their skills. A good player is immediatly given as much space as the regulars. A bad singer can sing two songs in the space of the evening but no more than that. A bad instrumentalist or a learner is expected NOT to play as loud as the people who know what they are doing. Democracy? no but the best session in Copenhagen got wiped out a while when democracy was introduced. It only takes one idiot with no self-criticism to scare out the listeners and take all the fun out of the evening for the other musicians. Having said that I believe in trying to be very polite when correcting newcomers, I remember how vulnerable I was when I was starting up and we always give praise and encouragement where due. As regards female musicians, I give them preferential treatment. There are so few of them over here and the crowd loves it when one of them sings. However it appears that most of them aren't prepared to come back on a regular basis. Too bad.

Allan from Copenhagen


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 10:12 AM

NO, you are not HEARING me.

The way we run a jam or song circle (NOT a "session"), the group makes the decisions on what happens. That's what happened last night, about all aspects of it. People here know they can say what they think, and they do, without any sucking up. I htink they donp;t think of themselves as victims, but as good people working together to have a good time.

I think the elitism that is being so decried here is being applied to what we did-- "how to run a proper session." What we are doing is letting a thing evolve based on what is actually occurring, and responding to that, flexibly. It's a brand-new thing we are doing, and everyone here treats it that way. Maybe it's hard to imagine that, without being here. But the people here trust us to lead a good thing, and the only complaints are coming from this thread.

Last month, we had a sub-group of people among us who play together regularly, professionally. I was thrilled, and so was everyone else, when they gave us a taste of what they do, and let us see how they work together. We had two different sub-groups like that last night. One included young ladies ages 7-13 (and their parents) playing fiddle tunes like nobody's business. They ran through their repertory for a good chunk of the time, and people loved it and learned a lot from them. Another grouping, when I called upon them, leapt into some completely different material. Because we had so many young people present (another family group of tiny, just-starting fiddlers), we elected not to do our material, but not becuase the group objected. In fact I never raised the issue, because as it happened there was something more important going on with the yonng people. But I do know that those present would have just as happily heard us work through some of our stuff, because it's from another genre they like a lot.

According to what has been said above, everyone present last night broke some "session protocol." But their faces told another story, and you know, I think I will stick with that. If you can't imagine it, then I am sorry to have described it so poorly.

My from the remarks above is that maybe sessions ARE elitist, and God save me from ever being in one, because I suspect that we are doing something better.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Stewart
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 12:26 PM

Recommended reading - "Field Guide to the Irish Music Session" by Barry Foy ("A guide to enjoying Irish traditional music in its natural habitat!") - a humorous, yet accurate analysis of proper session etiquette.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 12:51 PM

Is it elitist, or would it appear so to try and maintain a tune session as just that?

It would appear to me that some singers on seeing that tunes are what the majority of the players expect, then think that it is almost a duty to introduce a song to the proceedings and that they are the only person present who is capable or willing to do so.

Locally there is a weekly song session that caters perfectly for singers but for some reason, it appears to be an irresistable challenge for some visitors, to try and turn our tune session into a singing one. It places the regulars in a difficult position, when despite the obvious nature of the session, a person starts a song or asks if they can.

Of course if a song is sung, it goes down very well with the listeners, as it is a pleasant change to wall to wall tunes. But the singer is then encouraged and will probably sing another and so on.

In all truth, when asked what do you answer? It is a public house and open to everyone to do as they wish. But I would not dream of starting or asking to start a set of tunes, when it was quite obviously a singaround and I would expect to be given short shift, if I did.

Amazingly the person who has talked all through the tunes, then expects and usually receives perfect silence for their song! Am I elitist in expecting people to respect and to follow the obvious example they find?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 12:58 PM

Well said sir!

There are plenty of sessions going on all over the place, sing at sing arounds and play at musicians sessions do both at mixed sessions and leave it at that.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 02:33 PM

Well said sir! And if you don't like what you find, then leave it and start something you do like.

I would add to that that the concept of 'proper session etiquette' is not helpful. It tends to be not much more than a personal prejudice and it builds in a sort of permission to be rude, when one sees someone else doing what 'proper session etiquette' says that they should not.

Common sense and mutual respect will cover it all perfectly well and it matters little if what is going on has been going on from the year dot, or is a new concept. Whatever is happening in public and for the public, is a fragile thing and a heavy approach places the whole concept in danger.

Let us play and let play!

Or let us sing and let sing!

Or let us play and sing and let play and sing!

Or............


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 06:42 PM

I suppose there must be some sessions that are elitist, but I've never found one myself that I didn't find welcoming.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: C-flat
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 07:29 PM

I have been to one or two folk clubs that, while advertising their event, seemed less than happy that a stranger should appear in their midst.
One particular meeting I recall was poorly attended and I suspected that it was the same handful of folks each week that came together to swap songs.
I could feel their discomfort as soon as I entered but hoped that, after a song or two, the atmosphere would loosen up.
After the first ten minutes I knew it would be a long night.
I'd like to think that in their position I would be happy to have someone new join the group. Maybe a chance to learn a song I hadn't known, or who knows, maybe even make a friend. I am sure that I would be more welcoming, if only as good manners, but then it was my good manners that stopped me getting up and walking straight out!
Needless to say I haven't returned and can count these negative experiences as rare.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 07:43 PM

I've already posted to the other thread, but FWIW, the singarounds in the Tap & Spile at Whitby weren't elitist. It's just that when you've got a small space for a quiet singaround you can't get everyone in the room, let alone everyone in the pub to sing a song. There are loads of thrashes in the pubs at Whitby, but not many where people will listen while you sing an unaccompanied song.

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 08:51 PM

"I've never found one myself that I didn't find welcoming." Of course it may just be that I'm insensitive and don't pick up the hostility...

But I think so long as you recognise that you are a guest, and that that means respecting the way people do things and not try to bounce in and take over and show off, it's very rare for newcomers to find anything but a friendly welcome.

That applies to guest and GUESTS.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 09:03 PM

There are loads of thrashes in the pubs at Whitby, but not many where people will listen while you sing an unaccompanied song.

Talking festivals generally, it is my experience, as detailed above that practically every pub that has a session will sit and listen while you sing an unaccompanied song - but perhaps not exclusively this style of music making all night?

Is it the perception of an intolerant attitude on the part of unaccompanied singers that is causing this elitist problem? I am thinking of the 'middle bar singers' at Sidmouth and the forthcoming Wareham Wail, where instruments are not encouraged.

If it is perceived as this, then maybe one should expect some form of a 'backlash' from generally tolerant folkies?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 09:16 PM

Snuzy Suzy

So happy that you listened to the voices of reason - and had a wonderful session.

You arn't as rigid/frigid as you sometimes appear.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Oft Times Go Astray

Practice Hard, Have Fun, A be ready to Improvise

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 24 Aug 02 - 09:34 PM

No, you idiot, I decided it all by myself without any of the input here distracting me from listening to the people who were actually HERE.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Snuffy
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 04:54 AM

From: The Shambles Date: 24-Aug-02 - 12:51 PM

Is it elitist, or would it appear so to try and maintain a tune session as just that?

----------------------------------- From: The Shambles Date: 24-Aug-02 - 09:03 PM

Is it the perception of an intolerant attitude on the part of unaccompanied singers that is causing this elitist problem? I am thinking of the 'middle bar singers' at Sidmouth and the forthcoming Wareham Wail, where instruments are not encouraged.

----------------------------------

So it's not elitist to keep a tune session as just that, but it is to keep a song session as just that? You can't have it both ways, Rog!

Wassail! V


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 05:58 AM

In my experience, as I have said in another thread, I find that singing sessions are elitist. Everyone can join in a tune session even if its just by clapping along, but not so with singing. Singers demand respect and quiet (as it should be) but will talk all the way through a set of tunes. Its just basic good manners in't it.

(And before anyone bites my head off this is from MY 44 years of experience in the fok world and I am sure is not everyone's experience nor am I condemming anyone!)


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 06:45 AM

People are confusing three different things here. Elitism is where people are excluded because they aren't seen as up to the mark. There's a place for that, but not in public sessions.

And it's different from a sirtuation where people are unwelcome for olther reasons, maybe because they are strangers.

And both are completely different thing from a situation where a boundary is set on the type of music or whatever that is welcomed in a particular session.

"You're welcome to take part in our game of football - but just remember it's football we're playing, not cricket." Nothing in any way elitist about that.

As for the business of unaccompanied singing, that's the least elitist type of session you can have. It gets away from a situation where people who don't play an instrument are marginalised. Instruments are great for tunes, but there are very few people whose singing is really improved by musical accompaniment, and any number of singers whose songs get pretty well lost in the sound.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 07:16 AM

So it's not elitist to keep a tune session as just that, but it is to keep a song session as just that? You can't have it both ways, Rog!

Good point but I think there is a difference in expecting folk to respect what they find, and generally I feel that instrumental players just expect this. I did point out the difficuties when one is asked if someone can sing at a regular tune session. However, I feel that there is beginning to be evidence that some unaccompanied singers believe they are on a crusade.

I feel there is a difference at general folk festivals, in taking steps to ensure that seats are reserved and other types of music making are excluded in what are public places. Not sure if this was the case at Whitby but it can add to the problem if it also states in a festival programme that the pub is a venue for a particular form of session, or is to be led by such and such, as many may not have read this and wonder why an individual arrives and starts to boss them around.

This would appear to be the case in the issue at point, if not at a festival organised and devoted to a particular form of music making, like the Wareham Wail, this I use more as an example of an attitude that would appear to be gaining ground. In the latter, one can decide to attend or not but in the former, no one (but the licensee) has the really right to insist on excluding anyone.

Is it not a question, as it is when you are not making music in a pub, of first come, gets the seats? If the 'regulars' arrive to find a 'old time' session in progress, or whatever, should they not just respect what is going on?

The alternative is to hire a room as a private party and then you can invite or exclude who you wish. Some folk were under the impression that this event (at Whitby) was a private affair. That would be elitist but it is at least fair. For the self-appointed public to choose which of the public is admitted to a public party, is not fair.

At a festival recently I found an empty bar (one that had been empty for some hours), and asked the licensee if I could use the room to make some music in. He was more than happy and I started playing and was soon joined by a few young musicians (escaping from the outside massed melodeons).

A group of people later arrived 'en masse' and without speaking to us or recognising and respecting what was already going on They effectivly took over both the room and the nature of the music making. I suspect that they had probably used the room previously. The issue here is less about music but one of territory and I have not found this determined defence of territory to be confined to the male gender either.

It is pefectly understandable, if you have had a good night or even a previous week at a pub, to wish to repeat it, but then the onus is really on you to get there first and set the tone that later arrivals can respect.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 07:27 AM

Is Folk Music Elitist?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Allan Dennehy
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 08:55 AM

I don't think that it's wrong to have a tune only session, but generally speaking, I don't think that we are good enough at giving clear ground rules to newcomers. It's ten times more considerate to take a newcomer aside and explaining what the story is than saying nothing and just freezing him out, which I have seen manys the time. Mc Graths description of football and cricket is very good. And I will stick to my guns and say that somebody who is thrashing the livin' shite out of his guitar/bodhran or whatever in the wrong key/tempo and murdering another players rendition has to be told (politely at first) to take it easy. Personally, I use an ultra-light pick with my guitar when I'm trying to accompany something that I'm not quite sure of. I might learn something but I won't be screwing it up for someone else whilst I'm doing it.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Melani
Date: 25 Aug 02 - 06:11 PM

On the subject of practicing new material at a session--some friends and I have established a monthly session for the very purpose of practicing new material, but it is held in a private home and is invitational, though we continually invite virtually everybody we know. So far a grand total of seven people have ever participated, and usually four or five. The idea behind it is to have at least a couple of other people at chanteyranger's open session who can sing along on the first run-through of songs with more complex choruses or unusual tunes.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: selby
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 04:46 AM

When you read the 2 threads that are running in the same vain, it realy shows up how people involved in folk music have difficulty in keeping to a narrow path. That I think is the essence of what we all enjoy, there are so many areas in the tradition that they are bound to overlap, bound to ignore each other and have jelousies about their own individual prefrences.I always woory that in fighting will eventualy kill the tradition,therfore my view is enjoy it all while we can.In a session at WFW in the Plough a group of musicians played and sang any one was invited and encouraged to join in a gentleman a little worse for wear sang Wild Rover to the tune Ghost Riders in the Sky somthing I have never heard before.No elitism just enjoyment surely thats what folk music is all about. Keith


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 09:37 AM

I'm wearing my best asbestos suit as I venture forth here. In my experience, there is often an intolerance of singing and dancing at sessions where instrumental players dominate. The downside of this, as far as sessions go, is that there is a direct correlation between the ill health of the dance and song traditions, and the robust health of the tune traditions.

As several people have pointed out, sessions as they exist today have a new "etiquette" (if that is what people wish to call it) that usually only allows for tunes to be played in sessions. There are usually separate sessions for dancers, and then again, separate sessions for singers. I know that is a Sweeping Generalization (tm), but it is pretty much the case no matter where you go on the Anglo, Scots, and Irish folk scenes. This segregation of the music is roughly the equivalent of musical apartheid, with the boundaries being patrolled by session fascists. [Won't that get them going, he says to himself.]

In my experience, it seems the instrumental players are much less tolerant of the singers and dancers than the other way around. Now, some sessions will invite a good, known singer up for a song or two. But I've sat countless times in pubs and bars where the well known singer can sit all night in a tune session without ever being invited to sing. In other words, they are intentionally frozen out by the session players (who know full well when the singer is present), who are adamnant about their "tunes only" rule of law. While people dancing at sessions is sometimes tolerated by the session players, it usuaally isn't. Just as with the singers, they freeze the dancers out by refusing to make the next set a danceable one.

Considering how healthy the instrumental session scene is, and how precariously the song and dance traditions are teetering on the brink of extinction, I would think those with a supposed "love for the music" could find it in their hearts to be a bit more accomodating to the singers and dancers. Session players, in my experience, are much more interested in their personal satisfaction level on the night, than they are in the music or the traditions. But that is just one man's opinion.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: mooman
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 10:17 AM

It depends on the character of those present. Some are elitist (I particularly remember a couple of sessions run by two...(oh forget it, it's a long time ago now!) in London)....most aren't. I don't bother with the former sort any more as life's too short!

Sensitivity, tolerance and good humour tend to characterise a good and welcoming session. Excellent music and/or singing is an added plus. When you get all this together a session can be mighty indeed!

Peace

mooman


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 01:54 PM

I'm not sure what Guest 26-Aug-02 - 09:37 AM means by the ill health of the dance traditions. Social dance is not, and never has been part of the English session tradition and judging by the age range and turn out at ceilidhs like Oxfolk is in very good health. There is a definite revival in stepping and I have always found musicians very supportive. Partly due to the face that some of the best step dancers are also fine musicians.

This photo of a session in 2001 is an example


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 02:18 PM

Quite apart from anything else, there isn't room in the average bar for much in the way of social dancing, though we've managed to fit in the occasional Rapper team at a pinch. The only session I get to regularly at the moment is primarily instrumental and English (Anglo is the wrong term to use), though people sing if they feel like it. We got some interesting songs out of a group of Taiwanese students who wandered in last week, though they had come to listen and were a bit shy at first.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 02:35 PM

Nothing intolerant about having separate tune sessions and song sessions. I like a bit of a mix myself, but mostly they tend to be predominently or or the other, with the occasional song, or the occasional tune there as a bit of variety.

Most singing sessions I've been to are quite accepting of it if someone wants to accompany themselves on some musical instrument, maybe because they lack the confidence to sing without it, or have a song that they feel goes better with an accompaniment. Quite rightly there's less tolerance of people who try to play uninvited accompaniments to other singers who don't want it. (One confusing thing can be when, knowing a particular person does like an accompaniment, someone play one for them, and that is then misunderstood by a visitor as an indication that doing this is normal practice, and that most people like it when they are singing.

I think we should dump this idea of formalised rules of "etiquette", and replace it by a committment to just showing respect for each other, good manners.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,anon fiddle player
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 04:12 PM

that book on session etiquette belongs in the bin. the people Ive seen touting it and 'session etiquette' are the same ones that phoned up a friend of mine and told him not to come again. (my friend was quite hurt by that and almost stopped playing as result.) (and yet hes a fine player, has a huge repertoire, and more experience than any of them, but he didnt fit in to their 'groove')

(the other guy in town runs a session where the only tunes that are played are ones on their list - youre welcome to join in but dont expect to start a tune- this is the same guy that came to my session and played his tunes for over an hour.) as Ive said before etiquette is just common sense - being mindful of others.

Ive played in many sessions, in Canada, US, Scotland and Ireland - and still I consider calling someone up and telling them not to come again worse than any breach of 'so called etiquette'.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 04:23 PM

Too true its just plain bloody rude and clearly the guy who did the calling was clearly threatened in some way. His loss I think - your fiddle player will be welcome at our session


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Hippie Chick
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 05:04 PM

Tunes vs. songs is actually pretty simple, if the person in charge just asks what's wanted. We had about a 70/30% split, in favor of tunes, as we went around the circle last week. I asked if, next time, we should have two rooms, and split up into two groups-- an advantage of having the thing at home, since we do have the space. We decided on a one-group beginner's jam, a split into as many smaller groups as people want for the second hour or so, and then a final round back all together for farewell tunes or songs before departing. I think the problem is just that people who are leading are not always communicating with the participants-- it's not that hard to just see what people want and then organize around that.

Of course we also have the advantage of being in the formative stage of a brand-new thing here. We have no long-held, rigid ideas about how it's always been done.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Hippie Chick
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 05:13 PM

That was me, WYS, on HC's cookie, who is visiting here. Sorry!

~S~


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Rich(bodhránai gan ciall)
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 11:14 PM

This question is about the same as asking "Are people elitist?"

Without question, some are. Some people whether they have anything to strut about or not, don't want to play with weaker or inexperienced players. Sometimes with good reason. I'm visiting a friend out of town this week and we went to a session last night where I'd played on a previous visit but hadn't played with any of the people there. One person visibly winced when I asked (and I always ask at a new session) if I could sit down (a bodhran, oh dear), but nodded me in. Once I played without being disruptive, they were ok with me. Then some new bodhran-owner (not my term)who's been casing this session, used me as his "in" without asking any of the regulars, as if I were in any place to invite anyone else, and proceeded to demonstrate why people are sometimes skeptical of letting new people into a session.

IMHO a session should be reasonably inclusive but one should meet some standard of competency to be included. How high the bar is at a given session varies but a general working knowledge of one's instrument(s) is not too much to ask.

Rich


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 26 Aug 02 - 11:37 PM

Suzzy - YES that people who are leading are not always communicating CLEAR COMMUNICATION - appears to be one of your problems.

Why are you so defensive and "macho" - the voices of reason in my postings was in reference to the poor souls who attend your sessions - you DID listen to them - that is GOOD. If your had continued with your pre-planned authoritarian agenda there should have been a mutiny.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 05:28 AM

Oh dear here we go with the personal attacks!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Declan
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 06:18 AM

A session with a leader or host who calls the shots sounds like my idea of hell, but if it works for you thats fair enough. Sessions vary, some are more open than others. Sometimes people are interested in playing music they like with people they know and the quality of sessions like that can sometimes be excellent. I don't agree that a session like this should take place in private. When they take place in public more people can get to hear it, which has to be good for the music. I play in a lot of sessions, but will often make a judgement that I'm better off to listen than join in a particular session, where I don't feel I'm going to add anything to what is already going on.

Pied Piper spoke eloquently a few days back on the 'eyes open or shut' thread about the great experience that can happen when the music transcends the session and seems to take over. In my experience this rarely happens in a free for all session. Sessions that are welcoming can be very enjoyable and I'm all for them, but sometimes a session is best left as it is. They can be very delicate things and sometimes it doesn't take much to f**k them up for everybody.

As others have said its a question of courtesy manners and judgement. If someone is new to a session they should exercise judgement about whether they should join or not, based on a number of things including the standard of their playing relative to the others in the group, the instrumental mix in the session, the pace and style of music being played etc. In general its nice if musicians in a session are welcoming to new-comers, but if someone is behaving insensitively and messing things up they need to be told, as politely as possible.

Ringing up someone and telling them not to come back seems way over the top to me, but I'm only hearing one side of the story. Depending on the situation it might be a better thing to do than bawling the person out in the middle of the session.

If these are elitist views then so be it. I love to hear music played well by great musicians, and to be able to go into a pub to hear it. The pub may be a public space but the session is the collective property of the people who play/sing in it. Its up to them to make the rules.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 08:54 AM

Apparently, Malcolm and Peter still are operating under the assumption that England is the centre of the universe. Social dancing is very much a part of the Irish scene. The session, as it is known today, is largely a result of the British influence on Irish music in Ireland, where music was a part of broader social gatherings in people's homes, or at specific locations (such as the crossroads dances). The session is another extension of the empire, and the rise of it in Ireland is in direct proportion to the decline of the song and dance traditions in favor of the tune sessions in pubs.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 10:24 AM

I have no direct experience of the typical session in Ireland, and have therefore restricted myself to examples of the session in England, where I know what I'm talking about. To describe the session in Ireland as an extension of empire is further, I think, than most people would go; though there are certainly places where it is an extension of the tourist trade.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 10:38 AM

If you have no experience of Ireland Malcolm, then why are you commenting upon it? The problem I have with yours and Peter's posting is that you have this annoying tendency to speak as if your experience in the UK should be considered the universal standard to which all other music be compared. I call that an imperial mindset. You in particular seem to never be at a loss for making questionable comments, laden with your British value judgments, about the Irish people and the Irish music scene. You appear pretty bigoted to me in that regard.

It is not at all uncommon to hear such subtle anti-Irish sentiments among the English folk cognates, who begrudge the Irish folk their well-deserved musical successes of the past decade because Irish music, for the first time in music history, surpassed Anglo folk music in popularity among the unwashed masses of North America, Europe and certain parts of Asia. Unfortunately, the arrogant elitism of the imperial British session has carried over into the session scenes elsewhere in Europe and North America. It matters not one iota if you think that describing the session as an extension of empire is further than most people would go. Any musicologist worth their salt who has made a serious study of the music traditions of those islands knows this, and your protestations to the contrary will not change that.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 10:51 AM

I think we all know how much weight to attach to your opinions.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 10:56 AM

The best examples of nearly any sort of art are likely to be elitist, poorer examples will probably be less so.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 06:12 PM

Presumably, you are referencing once again your royal British "we" in that "we all know..." sentence of yours Malcolm?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 06:48 PM

The pub may be a public space but the session is the collective property of the people who play/sing in it. Its up to them to make the rules.

I suggest it would work far better if everyone recognised that they were, and all acted like guests (not, I would add in The Mudcat sense of that word). And that the sessions were taking place on premises were neutral territory and not ours to defend.

The music being made does not belong to anyone but everyone and the only rule that is really required and will always work is - if what is happening (or not happening), is not to your liking, then YOU leave and find, or start something that is.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Allan Dennehy
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 07:59 PM

Sounds to me like our new guest has died for Ireland once too often. Of course Malcolm is talking from his personal experience you moron. What the hell are any of us doing here? That you detected a whiff of colonialism from his input is only a sign of your sick paranoia.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Yorkshire Tony
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 08:26 PM

My experience of sessions has been mixed. Sometimes I have felt welcome, other times not. The most extreme case was where my instrument was sabotaged while I was in the Gents - not irreparably but I couldn't play any more that session.

The thing that irritates me most is the double standard of many musicians with regard to dancers. They expect inexperienced musicians to sit at the back of sessions and not cause any disruption but the suggestion that a dance should be geared to more experienced dancers (rather than the lowest common denominator) is met with howls of "elitism!".

I think the best comment was from a friend of mine while a folk festival was in the planning stages. The idea of a "dancers dance" was greated with the usual howls of "elitism!" from a number of musos. My friend, who is a skilled mashall arts student as well as a dancer, said "OK, if I can't have a dancers dance, I'll just come to some sessions and bring an accordian".

Muso: "I didn't know you could play the accordian" My friend: " I can't!"


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 27 Aug 02 - 08:51 PM

Dear Guest, Micko RUSSELL, Michael COLEMAN, Tommy PEOPLES, need I go on, Oh and Tommy POTTS.

Each and every one of them like most of your heros of 1916 were BRITISH -

In short you are a total disaster when it comes to Irish stuff, take that and shove into your arrogant pipe and then if not already choking, smoke it.

Agus pog mo ...ykw...


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 02:44 AM

ykw

Aye tharr bloody rot

Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 06:08 AM

Dear Guest I find your comments most interesting and have never thought of the session as an extension of british imperialism. Very thought provoking..... but in my experience (an Irishman abroad, you know the sort born in forn parts to Irish parents, that so many Irish born look down upon as lesser beasts)it was the other way around and the tune session came from Ireland and was exported to britain in the 50's and 60's. So if that is the case and I am right then isn't it a case of Irish musical imperialism?

I personally play british music (and by british I don't mean english)as it better relects my heritage and the limitations of my instrument. regards John


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 11:35 AM

Anytime one is looking critically at social history (which is where I am coming from), one need take the history of academic disciplines writing that history into account. In Social History circles, we first notice the significance of national differences in the organization of "cultural" knowledge. Secondly, we look to the "transdisciplinarity" of culture study just now--the European ethnographers tend cross disciplines differently than do the American ethnographers, for instance.

But within the European context, let me use one example of the differences between British and Irish in this regard. Not all that long ago, at University College at Cork, Ireland, when their Folklore Studies program was being established as a centerpiece of their Cultural Studies program, while Folklore Studies largely did not figure at all in the version of culture study developed at Birmingham. Similarly, Folklore Studies while a presence in many if not most European countries, in different national traditions, it has different degrees of prominence and variant relations within and without the academy.

There's been no systematic or sustained dialogue between Cultural Studies and Folklore Studies in England. Folklore Studies does not figure in the interdisciplinary clusters within which Cultural Studies is taught, nor is the field acknowledged in the historiography of Cultural Studies. The English folklorists who helped found the discipline in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were largely cultural activists, not scholars, and so the study of folk song in England has been largely considered a bastard child by historians and Cultural Studies intellectuals and scholars.

As English historians and cultural studies intellectuals (and believe me, many are not found in the universities!)approach modern, industrialized society, exchanges with English Folklore Studies seem blocked by the English folklore activists, some of whom are quite active in the Internet folk music forums. This is largely because the early English folklorists and antiquarians fascination with and love of folklore has resulted in a sorry lack of critical analysis of the subject in it's historic and political contexts, with few exceptions.

One such exception among the academically inclined intellectuals was the History Workshop Movement. The folksong revival of the 1970s was part of the political culture from which the History Workshops arose. The History Workshop Journal carried interesting articles by Alun Howkins and others on English folksong, the folksong collectors, and the folksong revival. Peter Burke's discussion of popular culture and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century nationalist intellectuals in one workshop did throw light, incidentally, on the origins of British Folklore Studies. So apparently it isn't just foaming at the mouth Sinn Feiners who have such an interest after all.

Many intellectuals with an interest in the study of folk song live half inside and half outside the academy. They seem to operate with cultural blinders in this pursuit of the pure English folk song, and tend to ignore completely the cultural significance of many popular practices that have become trivial, irrelevant, and are perceived as hopelessly conservatively "English" in today's diverse British society. It is this sort of uncritical "popular history" that is central to arguments Malcolm and Peter (along with the rest of the English identity culture of the post-WWII folk music scene in England) are making in this thread.

I myself have a critical social historian bent, as I said. Which means I am more interested in discussing the power relations involved in historical research and questioning the complex political relations between history and folklore studies (of which folk song is a part). Moreover, I am not interested in histories presented by folklore amateurs that (re)presents mainly "leading men" as the only significant actors of the past. As someone with an interest in the folk music of marginalized groups, I am drawn to the contrary strands, and unknown perspectives being explored by intellectuals with an interest in social history and cultural studies, not in quaint, romantic nationalist reliques, which historically has been the focus of British folklorists.

The "pop folklorists" (as I would refer to the amateur and armchair sorts of folklorists here in Mudcat) are stubbornly continuing to remain politically unengaged, in contrast to the majority of intellectually and academically inclined British folklorists who are their contemporaries. The pop folklorists are not the least bit interested in freeing themselves from their uncritical, romantic nationalist English past, but rather are stuck in a past that looks rather Reagan/Thatcher-esque. They continue to espouse their romantic nationalist beliefs without even being aware of what they are doing, of how they continue to take an activist approach to defining their folk as "the folk".

Defensively, armchair amateur folklore scholars are the ones who entrenched themselves in an ivory tower, not their academic counterparts. There is a new generation of politically engaged British historians, anthropologists, and students of Cultural Studies who are interested in breaking down those English romantic nationalist walls, and bringing in much needed criticism of the field of folk music studies in Britain, which goes beyond the essentialist notions embraced by "the common people" of the contemporary British folk music scene who love nothing more than to view themselves as The Great English Anachronists.

Three newer concerns emerged in European culture studies at the beginning of the eighties. As critical post-colonial and cultural studies perspectives were brought to the study of national histories, the relationships of power and difference within larger social and cultural formations began to catch the scholarly attention of some British post-colonial intellectuals, and shifted the focus of study from the social, towards the cultural and politcal. European scholars and intellectuals with Cultural Studies and Social History itnerests intensely debated the official histories, and began to rewrite theory, epistemology, and orientations to the past, present, and future.

It was at this time in the 1980s the issue of nationalism came to the fore again across Europe, as an issue and a problem. More specifically, attention focused on the articulations of nation, ethnicity, and "race." National identity was also rethought as a strongly gendered process involving the constitution of gender differences and of sexual identities. Globalization and moves towards European unity, together with the ending of Communism and the Cold War, both unsettled and revived the national question and reorganized international relations. In terms of the British/Irish relationship, the Troubles began to influence the debate as well. The longer-term impacts of post-WWII migration and settlement-- often from ex-colonial countries to the old imperial metropolises--undermined the whole conception (never very real) of the nation as an essentially homogeneous entity.

In Britain, black intellectuals involved in Cultural Studies played a leading role in questioning the hidden assumptions of white English and British ethnicity. Scholars also increasingly recognized how gender relations and sexual questions were ways of policing national and ethnic boundaries. Yet, the British pop folklorists kept their heads stuck firmly in the sand, and retreated from any engagement in these debates. It wouldn't be until the publication of many academic journals in the wake of the 1994 IRA ceasefire, that British folklorists rooted in English identity culture would be forced to confront their policing of the folk music borders by the non-white British "world" and "roots" music explosion.

It is important to remember that neither Social History nor Cultural Studies has been exempt from the historical connection with ethnicized nationalism that has so often haunted Folklore Studies. Perhaps we can all learn from the different histories in order to go beyond ethnic or nationalist limits. The connections between nationalism and racial and ethnic identities are today, for instance, played out within "heritage": public representations of the past, from the world of museum work to commercially organized visitor sites at places of historical interest to the PEL controversy of singing and playing in pubs.

Along with gender and class, "heritage" is a very significant area of intervention for critical intellectuals today. I'm not the lone wolf in broader society that I am here in Mudcat, where few if any of you have even considered the links between nationalism, imperialism, and the study of popular cultures from the late nineteenth century onward, and how the dominant imperial culture has viewed "the other's" (ie everyone in the world they conquered and attempted to pacify) indigenous folk music and song. "Rough music" is what some British folklorists used to call it. But it was also often referred to as "savage music" (quite common in British references to both Irish and Native American music traditions they encountered in their empire building days).

Folklore Studies had a heyday in England during the period before World War I. Analysis of its subsequent decline might center not only on the social history of the pre-war theorists, but also on the rank and file participants in folklore festivals, performances, and collection in the inter-war decades. Was there a particular social mix of relatively leisured groups involved in English folk music productions whose social conditions had changed by the end of World War II? What part did changing patterns of work, leisure, and domestic service (a major provider of leisure time for middle-class men and women) play in this process? The fortunes of colonial empires, and therefore the making and breaking of connections between imperial collectors and the anthropological and folklore theorists in the imperial metropolis, are another important dimension in the English and Irish cases. What seems clear is that the interest in folklore in England, though not in Scotland, Wales, or Ireland, was in relative decline through the inter-war years, only to be revived again (often in association with Left Wing politics and an anti-nationalism) in the new conditions of the 1960s and 1970s.

The growth and the decline of Folklore Studies as a cross-class, extra-academic intellectual enthusiasm predated the post-war growth of the contemporary academy, and in in England, Folklore Studies failed to gain an academic foothold or much official recognition. Cultural Studies, by contrast, developed as public education was being democratized. Its growth in Britain was associated with adult education in the 1950s, with progressive curriculum reform in the schools, and with university expansion in the 1970s and 1980s.

So while Folklore Studies in England remained extra-academic and somewhat cut off from critical academic discussions, Cultural Studies and the new Social History became link points between the expanding academy and the social movements of the day. It is unlikely that exactly this pattern will fit other national histories, not least because of differences in academic traditions and the ways they have changed--or not--from the pre-war years. But this account does bring to view the importance of histories of the academy of the British empire as an institution for understanding differences and silences between folklore disciplines between Britain and it's colonies.

It is clear, for instance, that the effects of the institutionalization of knowledge within the British academy may cut both ways, providing the means for the development and reproduction of critical intellectual currents as well as divorcing them from their points of genesis in popular romantic nationalist movements, be they English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish.

The period from 1990 onward is often seen in terms of the de-politicization of academic disciplines. Postmodernist thinking and the awareness of ever-changing and overlapping positions and perspectives meant the end of a straightforward racial "identity politics." We welcome this development insofar as it helps us think about the extreme complexity of political struggles rooted in cultural rather than political differences.

So while Folklore Studies in England remains extra-academic and somewhat cut off from critical academic discussions, Cultural Studies and the new Social History in England have became the link points between the expanding academy and the social movements of the day. I don't know if the English folklorists, both popular and academic, will ever catch up with the rest of the world. They seem very entrenched in their romantic English nationalist views of the past and present. As early as 1968, in a subtle article on the differences and connections between American anthropologists and European ethnographers, Tamás Hofer argued that the "books of ethnographers may be compared to icebergs: besides the facts on the printed page, there is a lot which does not emerge above the level of the water. In America, on the contrary, the glittering hypotheses and theories are on the top and most of the factual material is forced below the water level".

This difference involves intellectual styles and levels of abstraction more than some essential difference of value or truth. In all disciplines, the best work perhaps moves between these levels, making both theoretical assumptions and their referents in observation or narrative equally visible. In many ways the "political epistemologies" that have emerged from Marxist, feminist, and other critical debates--and from everyday intellectual practices (often outside the academy)--in the last twenty years are relevant to the dialogue across ethnographic disciplines and national traditions. Communication and dialogue themselves are strongly stressed in these debates, so that thoughtfulness and a "self-reflexive" explicitness about our cultural and political assumptions, methodologies, and social positioning are seen as ways to enable dialogue across social positions and intellectual traditions, rather than as oppositional and confrontational "points of view".

Finally, there are some issues of power, possession, and "territory" inherent in a discussion like this. Like free trade in economic goods, "the free flow of ideas" tends to favor powerful positions (such as the British and American) in the world economy of ideas and theories. That privleges the British ideas above the Irish, for example, as I have pointed out in this thread. It is a common practice in the chat forums where the British and Americans dominate. That is the imperial mindset I'm railing against here. While it would be wonderful to see some posters emerge out of the woodwork who understood this dynamic, and felt free to enter this discussion, I would be quite surprised myself to actually see it happen. I've seen very little evidence of such critical thinking in the British dominated folk music chat forums vis a vis the Irish folk music scene. What I have witnessed is a tremendous amount of sometimes veiled, and sometimes not so veiled hostility towards the Irish and Irish music, which is obviously rooted in the political hostilities between the two countries. Obvious to those of us who are looking for it, that is.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 11:51 AM

Apologies for the duplicate paragraphs at the end of the above post. I apparently hit the paste button one too many times.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 12:57 PM

Wow! But I still think that you are missing the point, of course the English havn't included studies on folklore they are afterall ashamed of their folk history - look at the popular characterisation of Morris dancing for a kick off. But the question is still "are sessions elitist" and none of the wonderful stuff you have written answers that question.

There is a predominance of fast and furious Irish music in sessions in the North of the UK to the detrement of other forms of folk music. Some people are trying to redress this and I don't think that that is elitism but rather an attempt to encourage diversity and revieve other music which is in danger of decline. If it takes elitism to keep the music alive then so be it.

Keep it coming but don't get nasty.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 01:10 PM

What right do "some people" have to determine for those who wish to play Irish music in the UK, that the Irish music is being played "to the detriment of others forms of folk music"?

Talk about sheer bloody arrogance! Do you know how large the Irish population in Britain is? Are we including Northern Ireland in the "North of the UK" in our geopolitical definitions here? What happened to the "if you don't like the music being played in one pub, it is your responsibility to find another one that suits you" argument? Is there an unspoken Irish music disclaimer here, ie that if the session is an Irish one, you should do your best to close it down so more "diverse" music (read: music close to the heart of all English folk) can be played in said pub?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 01:17 PM

Oh bollox - I know how big the Irish population is as I am a member of it! whereas you clearly do not understand what the state of other music is in the Uk. I am in no way challenging peoples right to play Irish music - I love it- and as for closing Irish sessions down thats pure shite - the number of sessions I've seen taken over by Irish music yes to the detriment of other forms of music is quite high so get your facts right.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 01:26 PM

Smallpiper, I'd like you to provide us with some facts to back up your assertions about the "takeover" by musicians who prefer to play Irish music, and explain just how this takeover has been to detriment of say, West African folk music being performed in the UK? Since you seem to be suggesting that Irish music is now the dominant form of folk music being performed in the UK, tell us, please, just whose folk music traditions are suffering as a result of this awful development?

You see, this is just the sort of nationalist folk music activism I'm criticising here. Because some on the British folk music scene see Irish music being embraced more widely right now (and we all know that certainly wasn't the case 20 years ago in the UK or in North America), they are claiming that the current popularity of that music is "killing" their national folk music traditions. Irish music isn't what is killing English folk music, the associations between conservative English nationalist folk musicians involved in the heritage debates is what is killing English folk music. Very few people nowadays are willing to be associated with communities with such strong historic ties (even in the recent past) to reactionary English nationalist causes, be it the Falkland war or folk music. And for good reason, I might add.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: harpgirl
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 01:34 PM

...your turn, smallpiper!!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 01:46 PM

There are certain people in this forum who have a real problem with any sort of intellectual debate taking place in their midst, and who will do almost anything to derail it. Ah, look, there is harpgirl now. Readying the guns to start a flamewar perhaps?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 02:32 PM

I have really been enjoying this thread. Even though I've been hosting a session for a long time, there is still much to be learned. Thank you to those who have made meaningful and thoughtful comments. Its always refreshing to discuss personal musical proclivities on a freindly personal level.

But, alas, the camel now has gotten into the tent. And by so doing, Guest has clearly illustrated in words, that which smallpiper discussed in terms of music; he/she has moved into this session and almost taken it over, attempting to change the direction, style, and thrust of the music to suit his own taste.

I would certainly be the last to wish to stifle any intellectual discussion, so I offer this thought. Could some clever Joeclone perhaps take guest's Meaningful Meandering Massive Missive and make it the mooring of a new thread, and at the same time resurrect this thread with a new beginning?

Last post for this thread -- Tom


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 02:47 PM

There is a predominance of fast and furious Irish music in sessions in the North of the UK to the detrement of other forms of folk music. Some people are trying to redress this and I don't think that that is elitism but rather an attempt to encourage diversity and revieve other music which is in danger of decline. If it takes elitism to keep the music alive then so be it.

I know the point you are making, but I question if "making fast and furious Irish music in sessions", is in itself causing any detriment to other forms. The more music making of any form must be good and this form is very exciting and popular for this reason.

If the steps taken to redress this consist of only encouraging sessions for other lesser known forms, this too is good. It should not take the form of disparaging Irish or any other form of music. Not that I am suggesting that anyone has done that here. Too often I feel it does and there is room for all.

I have been in many sessions (not in the North) where there is a struggle and Irish tunes usually win the day, because they are first exciting and secondly, better known generally. English tunes can be exciting too but too often are not played for excitment and 20 melodeons wheezing away are not to my ear, the best instruments to be playing them on anyway.

I don't think that playing music simply because it is felt it is in decline, or playing it very seriously because it is worthy, is the best reason, if you really wish it to be as popular as other forms.

The love of playing Irish or old time tunes, usually comes across, no matter how raggedly played. I would suggest that the love of other forms like English and French tunes, need to come over more too.

And more fiddle - less boxes.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 03:06 PM

Tom, I am both the Guest who typed the missive, as well as Guest American Folkie, who started this thread, so I find your suggestion that I have taken over a thread I started to be amusing in an ironic sort of way. Yes, I am guilty of attempting to direct a thread I began, and keep the discussion focused on the issues I wanted to discuss.

The thread is not in need of a joeclone to censor a poster's contributions by deleting their post, or "redirecting" the thread. There is room here for everyone to express their point of view, regardless of how controversial it might be, or how uncomfortable it might make some readers. If opinions are expressed in largely civil tones, even with the occassional lapses we have seen here, I believe adults are perfectly capable of sorting the wheat from the chaff without censorship and "redirection".

I would suggest that if you have such an extraordinary need to control the issues and direction of a thread on this subject, you remove yourself from this thread and "redirect" yourself in a thread of your own making.

Just what is it about this subject matter that has some of you so deeply disturbed and agitated, anyway?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 03:07 PM

I love fast and furious Irish music and indeed play it myslef, but I wasn't thinking interms of west african music but more indigenous forms such as scottish or northumbrian music. I know of two sessions in Hull that died as a result of the influx of the faster Irish stuff, sessions that were doing their bit for bringing people into music and encouraging them to play,to play music that matched their talents, tasts and capabilities - some of whom have moved on to play the more exciting Irish stuff . A similar thing happened in Durham and I am sure in many other parts of the north. There is a place for all you just have to find it.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: treewind
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 04:32 PM

I share the view of Smallpiper and others that nobody is trying to eradicate or even criticise Irish music. But nevertheless there is some education needed.

The popularity of Irish music and the relatively unknown state of English music *are* having an effect on the typical onlooker in a pub who isn't particularly interested in folk music but enjoys listening to it. Many's the time I've been in a English music session and someone has come up and asked if we were playing Irish music. They didn't really want to take it on board when we said, no it's English - "oh, is that like Scottish, or Gaelic or something?"... "No it's it's English music, from England, you know, a small third-world country you may have heard of in a remote North corner of Europe."... "Oh... it sounds like Irish music..." [FX sound of hair being torn out....]

I've got nothing against Irish or Scottish music, but I would like people to at least believe that there is an indigenous tradition of folk music and dance in England too. As far as the music's concerned, it's England that's the minority group here.

However, the way to strengthen and preserve that tradition is not to exclude others, but to make sure that it is strong and recognised in its own right. If the English traditional music scene had some pop heroes - some visibility like Riverdance, The Coors etc.it would a big (if somewhat inaccurate) push in the right direction.

Meanwhile it's happening, slowly. There are some young singers, players and bands here who have not been seduced by the technical wizardy of the Irish reel olympics, whose heroes are people like John Kirkpatrick. Playing standards are getting better. There are those who are researching the music of the 19th century village dances. Just a few examples.

So, coming back to the topic, my attitude in a session that is designed to be English (like the Rickmansworth one that was publicised on Mudcat earlier this year) or at least not exclusively Irish is to have some cracking good English tunes to play and to make sure they get heard and try to convince others that they are worth learning. It's struggling against the tide, but it's what I enjoy doing.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 07:21 PM

Well said and thank you


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: awig
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 07:27 PM

Anahata, you took the words out of my mouth (or off my keyboard) with your comments about peoples perceptions and the musical forms we are expected to follow. Music in a pub? Ah, that will be Irish.

I've played in many sessions in Coventry (in England) including many Irish sessions. There is a large Irish community in Coventry and I love playing the music.

However (here it is), here is a story about one particular session (no names of course) which because of it's origins has a particularly English flavour.

It started a few years back when a local Northwest Morris team (I was one of the musicians) used to frequent a particular pub for after practice drinks. We got friendly with the landlady and started to dance out there quite regularly, alway ending up with a session. The session was eventually set up as a regular fixture, with a few other musicians from outside the Morris side joining in as well.

Not surprisingly, most of the musicians were linked to the English dance scene (both Morris, step and social dance) and that's where the repertoire of tunes were mostly from. Not by deliberate, conscious design, it just happened that way.

The odd Irish/French/Scandinavian/French Canadian etc. tune crept in, but of course that is in the nature of English dance musicians.

I don't think any of us really noticed what we had done until members of the "audience" (it's a city centre pub and always full for session night) started asking us if we were Irish, congratulating us on the excellent Irish music etc etc, as ably described by Anahata.

Then the local paper included us in their "What's On" column (as an Irish session of course), some local theatre and arts people got interested in us because it was an "Irish" session, and even the blinkin' landlady started advertising it as an Irish session. We tried to explain the best we could and played and sang merrily on.

Musicians come and go, some have been fleeting visitors, some have become regulars and some have even been genuine Irish (as in IRISH/IRELAND....). We sit and listen to, and enjoy, what we don't know and join in with what we do.

But the core remains English. It's not that we don't like or play Irish/Scottish music, it's just that in that place, with those people, on that night, English just "feels right."


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 08:24 PM

So in another words, all of you, without exception, feel you need more English music, less Irish music, but you don't see how you are seeking to define, practice, and regulate music rooted in nationalist identities? You are defining the music according to national boundaries. You don't seem concerned with the loss of music traditions within the Irish national boundaries, though. Just the English ones.

Sure, no nationalist prejudices there!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: awig
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 09:23 PM

Gosh, you have to smile sometimes.

GUEST says "Sure, no nationalist prejudices there!"

I am no "nationalist" or xenophobe, but also cannot help being what I am.

I did not have English, Irish and French grandparents for any nationalist reasons and am perfectly aware of social history etc.

How about having a look at my post in another thread re:Help: Is Folk music in England Celtic? and then start making your comments on the reality of peoples positions rather than your own prejudice or wish to have silly flame wars.

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Bassic
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 10:31 PM

I claim the right to hear and help perpetuate the music of my culture. That music is, in aproximate order of its influence on me, European Classical, North American Popular,North American Big Band, English Popular, Scotish Traditional, Reggae,Latin Dance, French Traditional, Irish Traditional................. the list is endless, and in order of its influence, English traditional is the most recent! Every one of which I claim the right of including as part of my culture. I am sure I will discover many more before I die. I am a middle aged englishman born and bred and yet I have only just discovered the traditional music of the region where I live! Why should I be made to feel guilty of appreciating the music of any culture? Yes I agree that English music needs to get its politics sorted and only then is it likely to enjoy an "established" position within English culture, but to supress it in favour or other music is to "throw the baby out with the bath water" and to simply repeat the mistakes of the past. eg the Victorianisation of "Scottish" culture and the supression of Irish culture be it for political, religious or other reasons. At the end of the day we are talking about the music of the people not the ruling elite in our various societies. I find myself feeling quite anoyed that music from 2 miles down the road from where I live (eg The Watersons)has had so little influence on me in comparison to Bach, Glen Miller, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, etc etc etc (All of which I love incidentaly)What is a simple working class lad from Hull with a modest musical tallent suposed to do Mr Guest? Tell me in words of few silables cos I dont have a degree and right now I am just confused.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 02:27 AM

What is a simple working class lad from Hull with a modest musical tallent suposed to do Mr Guest?

Sing in a Rock and Roll band?

Forgive the jest. I think the answer is to just enjoy the music, where ever it may originate. We get tied up with this tradition thing so much, when it is mixed up with national pride as well, it is a disaster.

For what is played now at sessions IS your tradition, wherever it is played. That is what it means, to continue the way it is done now, not the way it was done ??? number of years ago. A good tune, played with love is all that is required and I challenge most folk to be able to correctly tell the nationality (if it has one) of any tunes played at sessions with any consistent success.

For the purposes of enjoying the music, it matters little, if at all.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: treewind
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 04:36 AM

Anonynous GUEST, I am concerned as you are about the loss of music traditions anywhere, but:

(a) not being Irish I am not so aware of specific problems of this nature within Ireland

(b) Likewise for any other country (why exclude the rest of the world?)

(c) if there is an issue of this sort on my own doorstep it surely makes sense to deal with that than to abandon it while I go out on an arrogant mission to "save the rest of the world" or some specific part of it that I don't really understand.

Anyway, I have already said (as have others) that my desire for "more English music" as you so crudely put it does not go hand in hand with any desire for "Less Irish music".

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 05:27 AM

Guest you are mixing style with nationality. The cross cultural influences within traditional music is phenominal in the UK. There are a great many different tunes that when played one way are Irish, another English and another Scottish. Its the style that needs protecting because that is what makes it unique, yet at the same time we must encourage diversity and change. This is not about national identity but about musical identity.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: treewind
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 06:36 AM

I'd like to pick up on a detail that went past earlier.

Some Guest poster (I don't know if our GUESTs are all the same in this thread) was concerned about a tradition of social dance in pubs being pushed out by playing-only sessions. (Maybe the same) Guest posted later about the "loss of certain music traditions within the Irish national boundaries". Are these references to the same thing? In between, Peter from Essex also stated that social dance isn't part of the English session tradition.

I was in a session in a pub in Ballyvaughan (W coast of Ireland) about 25 years ago with local residents Chris and Ann Droney (concertina players both). After the music had got going and warmed up a bit, I was amazed to see sets of people from the village, who had been sitting round tables listening to the music and were just out for a social drink, suddenly leap to ther feet, forms into small sets between the tables and start dancing. It was quite clear that they were used to what they were doing and spontaneous dancing in pubs was alive and well then, but I can believe that such traditions may not be so healthy now.

In England, Peter is not entirely right. The Dorset four hand reel is an example of a traditional pub dance, and I'm sure that the sessions that continued into the 1950's in East Anglia included some social dancing as well as the song, stepping and pure tune-playing.

I'm all for this, as I see all traditional music as an accompaniment to (or integral part of) either dance or song, and I think if you take it away from those contexts for too long it dries up and risks turning into something different: refined, artifical, competitive and possibly elitist, that may sell CD's but is losing its traditional roots.

Personally I have been thrilled to bits on the rare occasions when I'm been playing a tune in a pub and people have spontaneously got up and danced. It's actually happened to me twice in what was normally considered to be a folk song club.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 07:19 AM

Dancing is a fine thing of course but because sessions tunes were originaly tunes for dancing, it does not mean that it should be limited to this. It has indeed already turned into something different. Just try dancing to your average session reel. Playing for dancing can become a little tedious too.

Possibly because they have moved on from being just music to dance to, is why fast 'Irish' sessions are more popular than 'English' or 'French' (danceless) sessions?

Old time sessions still seem to combine the dancing and the music pretty well however.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: treewind
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 08:30 AM

You say that Irish music has "moved on" from "just" dance music, but that's exactly what I'm talking about and I'm not sure that it's ultimately a good thing. It's popular with the musicians, for sure, and those musicians are probably amongst the worst for being elitist, which was my point. It's also popular because the rest of the public has been spoilt with access to recordings and TV shows of the absolutely best of everything and takes technical wizardry and perfection for granted. But it's turning into a commodity for purchase, not folk music.

Also the high speed Irish session would be a lot less popular if the audience were expecting to be able to dance to it - as you say, they couldn't now, but as it happens that doesn't matter because they don't want to.

By the way, I don't agree that playing for dancing is tedious. Playing well for dancing is a whole different craft from playing music for listening to, and I've done a lot of both, including orchestral and chamber music as well as folk dance (morris and social) and song accompaniment.

I read recently that Northumbrian fiddler Willy Taylor used to spend hours thinking and discussing what went in to the perfect tune or playing style to give the best lift and impetus to the dancers, experimenting with cutting notes short and playing others longer, accents, rhythmic patterns and the like.

I'm not saying we should only play tunes when there are dancers, and there are valuable things you can do musically with the material that you wouldn't do if you were playing for dancing, but I still think that if it develops too far it just becomes a different art form.

Maybe I'll just have to face up to being labelled an old-timer.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 09:58 AM

Hi treewind - Singsongs are great doncha think? I am fed up with the Reels and Reels and ... kinda like BG here in the US, after three tunes - Groggy Bottom, Deliverance and one song - it's time to grow up.

How about a new word 'Traddle' like Twaddle but with special usage. Def 'Endless twaddle written or spoken about Traditional Dance Music'.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 10:01 AM

Because you don't like a particular kind of music doesn't mean you should get your jollies by disparaging it like you are doing sorefingers.

I think you doing so is a sign that it is you that needs to grow up.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: mooman
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 10:46 AM

If it is of any interest to anyone I am Irish, brought up in England in an Irish musical household, and play Irish music on a variety of instruments (plus other genres too, e.g. blues). However, I have a particular liking for Northumbrian music and am doing my level best to introduce as much of it as I can here in Belgium where, apart from the musicians I normally play with, the trend is towards achieving new Flemish-Irish (Flirish?) world speed records in the Olympic Irish Reel event.

I can't really understand some of these nationalistic arguments being brought in here, particularly those concerning Irish sessions in Ireland (my grandfather was a friend and contemporary fellow fiddler of Coleman and I am also more distantly related to the song collector Sam Henry). Certainly, in earlier times, the norm was house parties and dancing but pub sessions have been going for some considerable time in Ireland, at least the parts I know well. I certainly cannot see how "the arrogant elitism of the imperial British session" as quoted above is anything other than a red herring IMHO.

As I said above, a good session must have tolerance, humour and sensitivity. If you have good musicians/singers with these qualities as well, an enjoyable session can be become something quite extraordinary.

Tashi dele

mooman


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 10:55 AM

horah for common sense and whopie dooo twadchiggerstomp sclepovertovinnies for a large one!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: Leeder
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 11:16 AM

So many good points here, and so many have been answered by others. I think some sessions aren't "élitist", and some are, and sometimes that's good. I take part in one which is an "invited session", i.e., only a set group participate unless someone specifically invites someone else (might be a friend from out of town, or whatever). It's a "session" in that there are no rehearsals and no set lists, we just play what we please, and the pub management like it that way. It's not a "session" in that the personnel is controlled. These sessions are one of the high points of my month.

On the other hand, until recently I took part in an "open session", i.e., the word was on the street and anyone who knew about it was invited. Philosophically I think this is a preferable concept; however, in this instance it went wrong. Certain people who showed up were controlling personalities, and tried to run things, and as the weeks went by, fewer and fewer of the regulars showed up. The session was deactivated for the summer, and won't be reactivated this fall. (But it's been replaced by another "invited session", with the offenders not invited. I don't know what will happen if they find out about it -- maybe they won't.)

I heard about a session in another city which had so many bodhrans that every few weeks the organizers would change venues without telling them. It'd take a few weeks for the bodhran players to find out the new location -- then the session would move again. This seems rather silly to me (but some of my best friends play the bodhran).


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 12:31 PM

Now if the GUEST with the taste for writing long essays were to add one word to the posts it'd be good manners. A name or pseudonym.

I don't think I'm the only one who has determined not to read anonynous GUEST posts, and if someone spends all that time writing them out they must have some wish to be read.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 01:56 PM

You say that Irish music has "moved on" from "just" dance music, but that's exactly what I'm talking about and I'm not sure that it's ultimately a good thing. It's popular with the musicians, for sure, and those musicians are probably amongst the worst for being elitist, which was my point. It's also popular because the rest of the public has been spoilt with access to recordings and TV shows of the absolutely best of everything and takes technical wizardry and perfection for granted. But it's turning into a commodity for purchase, not folk music.

Good or bad, we just have to accept that it is so, and they are only going to get better, especially the younger ones. I do not agree that all of these technically brilliant (not the same as fast) players are any worse for being intentionally elitist, than anyone else. Some may, but you can't accuse these folk of being elitist, just because you can't match their skill. Not that I am suggesting that you are saying that.

As for what you call it, does it really matter, as long as there are places for every taste and ability? That is what we need, more venues. That will prevent us all from expecting one jar will satisfy all tastes. Is this move to more sessions, already happening?

Do many singers really believe that musicians are playing tunes, for the sole purpose of preventing them from singing and that this is being elitist? I am beginning to think that this is so.

As I said above, a good session must have tolerance, humour and sensitivity. If you have good musicians/singers with these qualities as well, an enjoyable session can be become something quite extraordinary. AMEN!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: smallpiper
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 01:57 PM

Hey my mate sez sessions are elitist because "we don't want any shits like Guest coming to them!" thats a quote and she aint a mud catter but a damm good piper!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 02:00 PM

You say that Irish music has "moved on" from "just" dance music, but that's exactly what I'm talking about and I'm not sure that it's ultimately a good thing. It's popular with the musicians, for sure, and those musicians are probably amongst the worst for being elitist, which was my point. It's also popular because the rest of the public has been spoilt with access to recordings and TV shows of the absolutely best of everything and takes technical wizardry and perfection for granted. But it's turning into a commodity for purchase, not folk music.

Good or bad, we just have to accept that it is so, and they are only going to get better, especially the younger ones. I do not agree that all of these technically brilliant (not the same as fast) players are any worse for being intentionally elitist, than anyone else. Some may, but you can't accuse these folk of being elitist, just because you can't match their skill. Not that I am suggesting that you are saying that.

As for what you call it, does it really matter, as long as there are places for every taste and ability? That is what we need, more venues. That will prevent us all from expecting one jar will satisfy all tastes. Is this move to more sessions, already happening?

Do many singers really believe that musicians are playing tunes, for the sole purpose of preventing them from singing and that this is being elitist? I am beginning to think that this is so.

As I said above, a good session must have tolerance, humour and sensitivity. If you have good musicians/singers with these qualities as well, an enjoyable session can be become something quite extraordinary. AMEN!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist?
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 02:10 PM

Maybe we could continue on this thread, perhaps without us all rising to the dangling bait? *Smiles* Are sessions elitist too.


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