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Are sessions elitist? Part 2

The Shambles 29 Aug 02 - 02:05 PM
smallpiper 29 Aug 02 - 02:15 PM
The Shambles 30 Aug 02 - 05:41 AM
GUEST,MC Fat 30 Aug 02 - 06:28 AM
The Shambles 30 Aug 02 - 07:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Aug 02 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,masked 'catter 19 Dec 02 - 01:44 AM
widowmaker 19 Dec 02 - 02:22 AM
KingBrilliant 19 Dec 02 - 06:01 AM
Ebbie 20 Dec 02 - 12:54 AM
Liz the Squeak 20 Dec 02 - 02:44 AM
MikeOQuinn 20 Dec 02 - 06:12 AM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 20 Dec 02 - 10:11 AM
Declan 20 Dec 02 - 10:16 AM
Gurney 21 Dec 02 - 05:21 AM
John Routledge 21 Dec 02 - 07:10 AM
*daylia* 21 Dec 02 - 09:35 AM
harpgirl 21 Dec 02 - 12:08 PM
John Routledge 21 Dec 02 - 01:14 PM
reggie miles 21 Dec 02 - 01:47 PM
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Subject: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 02:05 PM

Are sessions elitist? was getting a bit big.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: smallpiper
Date: 29 Aug 02 - 02:15 PM

Amen to that to!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: The Shambles
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 05:41 AM

Do some singers really think that tunes are played at sessions for the sole reason of preventing them from singing?

And that this is elitist?


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: GUEST,MC Fat
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 06:28 AM

Over the years there appears to have been some marginalisation regarding sessions. Musicians tend not to like sing a rounds because they have to wait their turn and they can't steam in and play along in every tune. Also the musicians have split into Irish , American, Old Timey, English etc. The singers have similar lines like Shanties, Folk Club, Sing a round etc. I have a friend who thinks this shouldn't be like this and we should be all one big happy family but I'm afraid she's in the minority cos in the main the session scene only works well when it is 'like minded' people. There you have the Gospel acording to MC Fat.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: The Shambles
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 07:16 PM

I am comming to believe that where there are lots of folk wishing to play and sing like at festivals, a number of different venues, catering for slightly different tastes, do solve most of the problems. Many festivals recognise this and try to provide these. Is think this is the way forward?

At more regular sessions and where there are smaller numbers, the mixed session can and does work well and some of the best sessions I experienced have been chance encounters like these at smaller festivals . When there is no expectation, there is no disapointment and people tend to make the most of their differences and accept whatever happens.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Aug 02 - 07:49 PM

We all tend to generalise from our own experience. The thing about folkmusic, in my experience anyway, is that it is local. Even festivals are largely local.

That means that generalisations like "...the musicians have split into Irish , American, Old Timey, English etc. The singers have similar lines like Shanties, Folk Club, Singaround etc." (MCFat) have to be recognised as locally valid at most.

Yes, you get specialised sessions of one sort or another, but you also get sessions which mix things up. My impression is that the ones which mix things up are in fact more common. And that's probably another of those locally valid generalisations, which wouldn't apply in some places.

I would suspect that in places where there is a particularly lively folk community this tendency to specialise and split up might be more likely to crop up than in places where there are relatively few of us around. But I'd also suspect that in places where there was a particularly lively folk community you'd be likely to find a few things going on that crossed all the boundaries alongside the specialist stuff.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: GUEST,masked 'catter
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 01:44 AM

Have any of you ever been told, by the leader of a session, that your playing is having a negative effect on the session? Were you ever told that, in order to continue to play, you need to do such-and-such either better or differently? How did you handle it?

Signed,
masked 'catter, for obvious reasons


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: widowmaker
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 02:22 AM

I have an absolute loathing for "elite sessions" and as a result have always made our sessions "informal and with no theme, this formula has always seemed to work due to the fact that the established musicians respected the inexperienced musician and went out of their way to encourage them. I appreciate that it may not always work but have found that a form of mutual respect for each others styles etc and we have never had cause to point at someone and say "right play something"/ "sing something" as they sometimes find that intimidating. Here in Yorkshire, we "Irish" beleive that the music bigger than anyone. Slan


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 19 Dec 02 - 06:01 AM

Masked 'cat - I've been on the other end of that dilemma recently.
We were at a fairly lively song-dominated session, in the "taking turns" mode.
Toward the end of the evening I took my courage in both hands and decided to sing a song I had written recently. It relies on simplicity and a particular rhythm, and had never been heard in public before. I specifically asked a friend of mine to drum for me (he is very experienced & I knew he'd suss out the rhythm & then enhance it). This was taken as a general invitation to join in - so I shortly had 3 more guitars ad-libbing along (I couldn't hear my guitar - so I can only assume they were following eachother!).
I had to force my voice to get over the top of that lot, and by the end there were also a fiddle and a whistle....
It was really great that everyone joined in & enjoyed themselves - but I was giggling inside because I just wanted to stand up and say "I don't know what the f*** you're playing, but I'm trying to play this......". A friend of mine said she was giggling because I looked so furious - but in fact it was concentration, trying to place my melody line where I wanted it in amongst all the clashing notes.
I am still bemused by the whole thing, because everyone clearly thought they were helping and they all enjoyed it immensely - but how on earth did they think that they knew what to do to accompany a song they'd never heard before, when there was no way they could actually hear my guitar over theirs? I had to shout out "its going to change now" just before the middle 8 thing.
Sensitive accompaniment is fantastic, and a free-for-all on wellknown songs can be great. But this was just bizarre!!
Anyway - to get to the point..... is there anything I could have done or said without coming across like a control-freak prima donna? And anyway - would it be the right thing to do anyway? At the end of the day, there will be other occasions where I'll sing that song the way I want to present it - so there's nothing lost.
I think I'd come down on the side that since its a session situation then everyone can join in, and if it has a negative effect then it would have to be persistently VERY negative before someone should be tactfully spoken to about it. I felt that the accompaniment described above had a negative effect - but that was only relative to what I had intended, and in fact everyone was enjoying it, so that was a very subjective assessment. And if I had discouraged them on that song, I'd risk them never joining in with me again - which would be stupid!
As to how to deal with it if someone does try to stop you - I'd suggest nod graciously and accept it for that tune. Think carefully about why they had said it, and make any changes you think are reasonable. Maybe talk to a few other people present to get they perspective. Then start playing again quietly, and proceed from there.

Kris


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: Ebbie
Date: 20 Dec 02 - 12:54 AM

Funny story, Kris. Sometimes it gets pretty amazing, dunnit.

I don't know that I'd call the 'Irish music' scene in Juneau elitist, exactly. My main objection to it is that there is very little soul showing in the current group. Irish to me is typified by emotion- whether it's joy or sorrow or pathos, it's meant to engender a reaction in the listener. This group, imo, although they are technically quite good, are not engaging. (Oh dear. And they're nice people, too. I'lll have to remember not to put them on to the 'Cat!)

Part of the limitation, I think, stems from the fact that they do ONLY instrumentals. I have never heard the core group sing, although they are not nasty about it when someone just passing through sings, just fairly dismissive.

Of course, there ain't an Irishman in the bunch!


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 20 Dec 02 - 02:44 AM

Masked Catter and King - been there, done that.

I've had to stop mid song and and ask a person (who should have known better) to stop singing along because he was so totally out of time, tune and order.

The general answer to the posed question has to be yes, but it is not biased. It is possible to find sessions and singarounds to suit 99.9% of tastes, There will always be that 0.1% who bitch about tunes in song sessions, solos in chorus sessions and contemporary stuff in trad strongholds.

Good. Stuff 'em is what I say. If a session gets so hidebound that visitors daren't play a different tune or another tradition or style, then it has ceased to be a public free session and become a private performing clique.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: MikeOQuinn
Date: 20 Dec 02 - 06:12 AM

As a matter of personal experience, I've found that the sessions I've been to (mostly at Ye Olde Bull and Bush in Ft. Worth, TX USA) have been a pretty good split of tune and song sessions. As a vocalist first and instrumentalist second, I loved to be able to go and sing, sing along, and listen in a group of talented musicians. Now that I'm not at said session anymore (moved to Austin), I've found that I miss the tunes more (since I can't reproduce them myself near as easily).

I've been warned about a specific session here in Austin, as a vocalist. Rumor has it that it's billed as a 'tune' session, and the key returning members strive to keep it that way (even up to the point of curtly telling my roommate - who was *asked* to sing by a patron there - that it was a *tune* session, not a *song* session, followed by leading into an upbeat tune and ignoring her for the rest of the evening). I've not been to that session, nor will I for a while (not that I don't want to, just that the pub is pretty good about evicting those under 21 after 2100), but that's probably the worst thing I've ever heard about a session.

One of the things I loved about the Bull and Bush - which I've been told is relatively lacking in some sessions - is that nobody really made it a 'performance.' (Okay, I'm guilty of doing so at times, not consistently) As a result, everyone became a part of all the songs. I know that there are those of you out there who believe that people just jumping in with you while you're doing your bit at a pub sing is tacky and without honour, but I'm all for it! That's always been the point, to me. If you don't know what I mean, try listening to the guy who just happened to have his saxophone in his car break out into St. Anne's Reel along with the fiddle after Ashokan Farewell.

Well, to answer the question posted in the topic line, I don't know. I don't think I'm qualified to answer. I'm just lobbing my two bits into the void, worth the time it took to type them or not. The people make the session, not the music, really (I hate to say it, but it's true, to me). I've been to sessions where everything was performed with pinpoint precision. In those cases, the session tends to become a performance, and a division normally forms between the 'good' players and the 'new/untrained/bad' players. I've never felt good in situations like this, because I'm normally right in the middle of those two groups. I've also been to sessions where half the songs wound up in different keys than they originated in, the guitars were all watching the same person for cues (or better yet, watching in a line leading to one person, so that the last person in the line is playing almost a half-measure behind), and the drums overpowered everything else in approximately a 10-to-1 ratio of sound and bodies (though the mind ratio is somewhat reversed ;). Those are normally the sessions I really enjoy: where the music - while important - is viewed as a means to bring a bunch of people together to have fun.

Wow... that's a mouthful... I need to lay off the caffeinne before posting!

Anyhoo... happy hollendaise to all.

-J

"Making music is like experiencing an orgasm. It can be wonderful when alone, but even the worst is best when others help you get there." -Anon. (with good reason!)


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 20 Dec 02 - 10:11 AM

I think the more people there are in a session, the simpler you play.
It's difficult for musicians to add to the music. It takes skill. But it takes a kind of sensitivity called "musicianship" which is an acquired art.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: Declan
Date: 20 Dec 02 - 10:16 AM

In my experience, some sessions are elitist some aren't. I personally think that some sessions can justifiably be elitist because of the standard of musicianship and/or singing in them. But not all of the sessions that are elitist fall into this category.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: Gurney
Date: 21 Dec 02 - 05:21 AM

I thought that I'd tell you about a session from years ago...and far away. The theme was: Every singer took strict rotation, every song had to have some point of reference to the previous song! There were some strange and wonderful connections, and it certainly was elitist, insofar as a large repertoire was required, so accompanied singers were disadvantaged. However, it was a lot of fun, and I've remembered it (the session) for 30 years.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: John Routledge
Date: 21 Dec 02 - 07:10 AM

There are many difficulties inherent in trying to keep all happy.

In my experience the biggest cause of friction is the participants not knowing what the session is trying to achieve.

If a session is tunes then I don't try to sing unless I know the participants AND am asked to sing.

Conversely in a song session I will not play a tune unless I know the participants AND am asked to play.

Wonderful story Kris :0)


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: *daylia*
Date: 21 Dec 02 - 09:35 AM

Hey guys, I have to agree with the Yorkshire Irish - music IS bigger than anyone! Makes kings into gods, and meaner creatures kings ... look what happened to Elvis, eh?

daylia


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: harpgirl
Date: 21 Dec 02 - 12:08 PM

...I have withdrawn from semi-public Irish and Bluegrass sessions in my town because of issues covered elsewhere a long time ago on Mudcat. I do occasionally join sessions I know are open and my last excellent experience was joining the Saturday session that Banjer's friends have in a music store in Tampa.

...I found this session to be friendly and welcoming. It was bluegrass and it seemed the players had had experience with one another. I was the only woman for a while until a mando player joined us and the guys let me take breaks on autoharp in a very supportive fashion. I sang harmonies when appropriate or I knew the songs.

...My singing bluegrass repetoire is limited, in my opinion but I have played bluegrass for many years beginning in Arkansas in the 70's and find it an easy genre to adapt the autoharp to. I do play fast and so can easily keep up with the fast pace!

...I play sessions which are basically private with my singing friends and other musicians whom I know and respect and like. I no longer play with individuals I feel are difficult. Life is too short to experience unpleasantness when music is shared.

...Another session I walked into which was welcoming was the last Sunday session in the outdoor auditorium at John D. McArthur State Park. Again, these fellas and one woman have played together a great deal but they asked me to lead songs and encouraged breaks. I think that I could comfortably join that session again but the timing of being in South Florida isn't always right. It is a beautful outdoor State Park on the ocean. I find now that I avoid sessions in smokey bars, for the most part because I also want to play music in a physically pleasing atmosphere.

...My work is very demanding and I dwell with others in often painful spots for many hours during the week. I find that my musical life must be pleasant for me to be rejuvenated by the joys of playing with others. This is a very important aspect of music for me at this point in my life.

...I just avoid the complex, sticky, sessions where the undercurrent of personal politics is an issue which is expressed in the music, the session structure, or the singing/playing tug of war.

harpgirl


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: John Routledge
Date: 21 Dec 02 - 01:14 PM

Many thanks Harpgirl.

Your last paragraph in particular sums it all up.


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Subject: RE: Are sessions elitist? Part 2
From: reggie miles
Date: 21 Dec 02 - 01:47 PM

I agree. Life's too short.


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