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Why variations?

8_Pints 21 Aug 05 - 10:48 PM
Peace 21 Aug 05 - 10:49 PM
number 6 22 Aug 05 - 12:01 AM
Clinton Hammond 22 Aug 05 - 12:19 AM
Le Scaramouche 22 Aug 05 - 03:28 AM
GUEST,Fogie 22 Aug 05 - 04:45 AM
Wilfried Schaum 22 Aug 05 - 07:56 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 22 Aug 05 - 08:14 AM
The Fooles Troupe 22 Aug 05 - 08:22 AM
the fence 22 Aug 05 - 08:25 AM
Le Scaramouche 22 Aug 05 - 08:37 AM
GUEST 22 Aug 05 - 08:37 AM
GUEST,Steve 22 Aug 05 - 08:38 AM
number 6 22 Aug 05 - 08:39 AM
Le Scaramouche 22 Aug 05 - 08:49 AM
GUEST,catsphiddle@work 22 Aug 05 - 08:58 AM
Gedpipes 22 Aug 05 - 08:58 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 22 Aug 05 - 09:06 AM
number 6 22 Aug 05 - 09:09 AM
Marc Bernier 22 Aug 05 - 09:15 AM
number 6 22 Aug 05 - 09:20 AM
Le Scaramouche 22 Aug 05 - 10:03 AM
mooman 22 Aug 05 - 10:11 AM
Leadfingers 22 Aug 05 - 10:33 AM
Goose Gander 22 Aug 05 - 01:48 PM
PoppaGator 22 Aug 05 - 02:02 PM
M.Ted 22 Aug 05 - 02:30 PM
Cluin 22 Aug 05 - 10:06 PM
Kaleea 23 Aug 05 - 05:04 AM
8_Pints 23 Aug 05 - 08:59 AM
Paul Burke 23 Aug 05 - 09:17 AM
Le Scaramouche 23 Aug 05 - 09:20 AM
The Fooles Troupe 23 Aug 05 - 09:25 AM
The Fooles Troupe 23 Aug 05 - 09:28 AM
Le Scaramouche 23 Aug 05 - 10:19 AM
radriano 23 Aug 05 - 01:13 PM
Uncle_DaveO 23 Aug 05 - 02:21 PM
Le Scaramouche 23 Aug 05 - 02:25 PM
number 6 23 Aug 05 - 02:32 PM
Les B 23 Aug 05 - 03:04 PM
open mike 23 Aug 05 - 05:10 PM
8_Pints 23 Aug 05 - 06:09 PM
8_Pints 23 Aug 05 - 06:13 PM
M.Ted 24 Aug 05 - 01:34 AM
Gedpipes 24 Aug 05 - 04:17 AM
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Subject: Why variations?
From: 8_Pints
Date: 21 Aug 05 - 10:48 PM

Mrs vG detests people (myself included) playing variations on tunes.

Can't figure out why!

What do other people think?

Bob vG


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Peace
Date: 21 Aug 05 - 10:49 PM

To be clear, I do and don't agree.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: number 6
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 12:01 AM

Playing a variation of a song comes in handy when you don't know how to play the original song as it's intended.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 12:19 AM

"... As it's intended"???

Like there's a right or wrong way to do this stuff???

Ya... right...

Pffft!


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 03:28 AM

Why not?
A good musician puts his personal stamp on things, nobody is a walking tape recorder.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: GUEST,Fogie
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 04:45 AM

Never could fully agree with John Kirkpatrick that we should play tunes for a great number of times to find every possible nuance and possible variation, I guess because my imagination is not up to his standards, but it is satisfying to hear what people can make of tunes when they have spent time with them, and arranged their work, It just goes to show that I disagree with myself, and leads to the question of what tunes are worth spending time on. I find that fast jigs and reels do not have the potential for expansion that slower more simple tunes have.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 07:56 AM

What about blues and dixieland? and even the great JSB like so many other musicians composed famous variation. Who am I to detest them, then?


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:14 AM

On a "simple" folk melody, I think it would drive a sensitive musician mad to have to play the tune the same way over and over again. With complex music such as classical music, it's probably a different thing all together. But, of course, great musicians from the past, and in particular Franz Liszt, were famed for their improvised variations.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:22 AM

With good Jazz, it is irrelevant if the piece is played exactly the same way each time - it is the 'moment of the performance' that is important.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: the fence
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:25 AM

Sometimes a song can be sung different ways depending on the mood you are in, either slowed down or speeded up. Sung with either less or more feeling put into it.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:37 AM

Composing variations is nothing new either. Variations on a Theme By Tallis anyone?


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:37 AM

I think variations help to make the tune more interesting for a listener to a professional musician although pub sessions may not be conducive to such performances - it does depend greatly on the experience of the performers and their instrument.

In some traditions (eg Northumbrian music) the variations form an important part of that tradition, and for that reason should be encouraged.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: GUEST,Steve
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:38 AM

Sorry, that GUEST was me!


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: number 6
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:39 AM

I believe this thread is specific to variations, not arrangements.

Unfortunatley there a purists who believe a certain piece of music is intended to be played a 'specific way', format, and structure. Even in the jazz world there are critics and purists ... who disdain the likes Ornette Coleman and Thelonius Monk.

Dixieland ... try adding an accordian to the ensemble, add aplka tempo to the Dixieland standard, Bluegrass try adding a flute to it, add a sweet funk tempo to it ... these variations would never be accepted by 'purists'. It is not the way it is inteneded.
BTW, we added a flutist, and djembe player to our bluegrass group ... sounded fantastic, if not interesting ... but we would be thrown out of the weekly jam for doing it.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:49 AM

Monk has a wonderful album of his variations and arrangements of Duke numbers.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: GUEST,catsphiddle@work
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:58 AM

I love playing variations. Good variations can be linked and played with the orginal melody to for a medley!


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Gedpipes
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 08:58 AM

I can't imagine a variation without a tune ;-).

I was told (in no uncertain terms) recently when playing a set of reels that I was playing them wrong. Good grief


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 09:06 AM

I thought that was the definition of the "Folk Process", as well as being widely acceptable in the classical genre.

Fundamentalists in any field are, IMHO, missing the point.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: number 6
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 09:09 AM

La Scaramouche ... one of my favourite quotes from Thelonius Monk is " I played the wrong, wrong notes".

There used to be a jazz radio show in of Toronto I used to listen to regualarly on the way to work. The dj would religiously play a Monk tune every day ... pre-anounced by " a day without Monk, is like a day without sunshine". So true.

Monk ... truly a gifted artist, much, much appreciated by me.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 09:15 AM

This is a folk music web site, correct? The original post was about playing variations on tunes. It has been my experience. That in most northern European dance tune traditions, these tunes were around for a long time with many variation, regional and individual, before someone transcribed them into a paperback book for you to learn exactly as written.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: number 6
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 09:20 AM

Jazz ... just another variation of folk music.

Categorizing and classification of music (I believe) was derived by records stores ... to make it easier in shelving the product.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 10:03 AM

It's amazing the way Monk could play with straight fingers.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: mooman
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 10:11 AM

I do not regard myself as being a machine and therefore the music comes out a little differently every single time according to how I'm feeling, who's listening (if indeed anybody is), the "buzz", who else is playing along.

I have often myself been accused by purists of not playing tunes "correctly" to which I usually say "Well, play me the definitive version then...". Such idiocies do not concern me any more.

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 10:33 AM

The only thing I have against 'variatios' is when a session gets killed by them ! Small festival . GOOD mixed session . then a box player played a four part reel , three times through . NO problem , except that on the last run another box player joined in , called out
"Bloggs variation2 and leapt straight in , four parts , three times through . NO word of a lie , this happened FIVE more times - Seven box players all playing the various variations for nearly an hour !!
Still like to play variations myself , though !


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 01:48 PM

Isn't variation an inherent part of the folk process? Why else would you find a tune like 'Bonapartes Retreat' played so many different ways in so many different times and places? I think the trick is be creative within the confines of the tune, so that a variation sounds familiar but new at the same time.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 02:02 PM

Jeeez, if everyone had to play every repetition of a given tune exactly the same way every time, why would we bother to play, or for that matter even listen to each other? We'd just agree on the definitive "correct" approach, identify the recording on which it can be heard, and never allow anyone else ever to attempt a new approach!

Before the invention of recording media, of course, every player played every tune his own way, more or less, and no one was aware of any single "standard" version. The supposedly "traditionalist" idea of song-version orthodoxy is really a modern, 20th century phenomenon, possible only after recordings could be made and distributed.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: M.Ted
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 02:30 PM

Your mrs vG is cluelesss--that is the problem, not, as explained above, the variations.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Cluin
Date: 22 Aug 05 - 10:06 PM

If you don't want to hear "variations", stay at home and listen to your midi collection.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Kaleea
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 05:04 AM

This is not the first time I have heard of a folksnob who does not understand the concept of folkmusic. They are usually "classicly" trained, and the notes they play are the exact notes as Mozart or Beethoven or whoever penned them, & couln't play mary had a little lamb by ear if their lives depended on it. This kind of "musician" interprets the Beethoven score with the same creativity of the typist from the typing pool typing up a form letter.
    Does mrs vG have a time machine we can get in & go back a few hundred years & find the original melodies played for the very first time of whatever she thinks is the "correct" way to play the folk tune(s) in question? Has she ever played the tune(s) on a few other instruments & found that due to fingering, fingerboards with & without frets, embouchure, tuning and scale or mode & other properties of each individual instrument, a tune will naturally vary from one instrument to another?
    Not long ago, a student of mine played in an ensemble with a member like mrs vG. The student made sure mrs vG was at a civil war reenactor's dance where my band was playing "traditional" tunes. My student had told mrs vG of my teaching credentials, which obviously meant more in her mind than my ability to play a note or my experience in ceili bands. When my student introduced us, the folksnob asked me to help the poor girl who just couldn't seem to get the tunes as printed. I proceeded to cheerily empathize with the snob all about folktunes vs composed pieces, the folk process, & the Irish style as opposed to Scottish, English, the ornamentaion, etc. in a way that she realized that she had no idea what she was doing musically. She actually began to listen to recordings of Ceili bands, but could never play a tune unless it was notated on a treble clef, thus was hugely limited in the genre of Folk Music.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: 8_Pints
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 08:59 AM

Hey, I feel as though I am being completely misrepresented here!
I, (Mrs vG) would like to say that I love folk music in it's widest sense, I do not hold myself to be either a purist or a folk snob! I have passed comment to Bob (8 Pints) about the place of what I call "interminable variations". I love the Northumbrian tunes he plays on his smallpipes, but I question whether 54 variations of the same tune should be played as a performance or whether they should be kept for private practice times. OK I am exaggerating but 7 variations can feel like 54 sometimes! Many of the variations written down in Northumbrian tune books are academic exercises that I don't believe were ever meant for performance. Does anyone agree with me?

Sue vG


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 09:17 AM

Aaaah right, nouns comprenons! Yes, the mechanical working through of sterile variations, each minute dot and twiddle of difference being presented as a whole part in itself, is to me anathema, it's the kind of exercise that music teachers would give their pupils in the 18th century, it's why I'm not fond of Salieri and Quantz.

On the other hand, the SAME variations, dropped casually and sensitively into a session (or performance if you like that sort of thing) can add extra dimensions to what otherwise could become the mechanical repetition of a tune, pick one that harmonises well with what everyone else is doing.

It's all a matter of presentation and timing. And yes, I do often practice variations to drop in, I'm not good enough to do it spontaneously very often.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 09:20 AM

Seven at one go, that is a pain.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 09:25 AM

I was once asked to not play airs that nobody else knew at a session, cause they couldn't all join in: they preferred to play fast arrhythmic versions of apparently identical sounding reels with millions of tiny variations, but at least they all knew them...


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 09:28 AM

"Seven at one go, that is a pain."

but he got famous for doing it.... ;-)

Whoosh! Air Force flying low today...


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 10:19 AM

Well, a session is all about joining in and playing for the fun of it, so you can see their point.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: radriano
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 01:13 PM

Often variations come about subconsiouly. It often happens when I listen back to source material I realize that I've made some small changes to melody or lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 02:21 PM

Number 6 told us:

BTW, we added a flutist, and djembe player to our bluegrass group ... sounded fantastic, if not interesting ..

If it was not interesting, why bother?   

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 02:25 PM

I think he was saying the new sound was interesting.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: number 6
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 02:32 PM

You are correct Scaramouche.

Number 6 aplogizes and adds some clarification to that statement ... "sounded fantastic, if not, then it was interesting"

Anyway ... if it wasn't interesting, we wouldn't have known until we at least tried ... that's why one would bother.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Les B
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 03:04 PM

Why ? - In some fiddle contests the judges score a player higher if they play the basic melody and then offer some variation the second and third time through.

I've heard good mandolin and guitar players do the same in bluegrass jams - to add interest.

If you're playing a contra dance where the same tune often goes on for 15 minutes without stop, it's a relief for the musicians, and the dancers, to hear some variation.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: open mike
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 05:10 PM

variety is the spice of life

luckily the suzuki violin method
starts young players out with the
notion of variatiuons on a theme.

the theme being twinkle twinkle litte star

this is great traingn for ears, fingers, etc.


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: 8_Pints
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 06:09 PM

Hi all,

Perhaps I should explain that the Northumbrian Small Pipes (NSP) are not generally suited to sessions due to their unfriendly pitch.
The "traditional tuning" is not concert pitch but has 'A' as 445Hz instead of the modern 440Hz concert pitch. [20 cents sharp of F in fact]. This is because 'concert pitch' is a fairly recent innovation in NSP terms: there is an unbroken tradition of piping from the mid 18th century! So they tend to get played as solo instruments or duets.

I prefer to play a piece once through as written and second time around with added decoration, swing or stoccato. This adds interest for the listner and avoids the performance become mechanical and wooden.

However, to claim that I have "performed" variations in public would be wide of the mark! These are a challenge in their own right and are part of the enjoyment of playing a piece that everyone knows, like 'John Peel', with its simple 8 bar strain and graduating through four variations with incremental complexity. I suspect it is part of the showmanship that any musician should be able to command. I can certainly see the similarity with Jazz.

I do concede that playing a slow air is just as fine, if not more difficult, but it is worthwhile to be able to do both.

Sue might argue that variations must be played well to be entertaining. I wonder if that's what she was really driving at! ;-0)

She did reminded me of the Tom Lehrer quote: "Some people think that singing 56 verses of 'On Top of Old Smokey' is twice as good as singing only 28 verses!"

I think I shall counter with "Variety is the Spice of Life"!

Hope this clarifies the context of the debate.

Bob vG


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: 8_Pints
Date: 23 Aug 05 - 06:13 PM

Oops!

Didn't read Open Mike's post until after I had responded.

Just goes to show "Great minds think ......."!

No I didn't plagiarize, honest!

Thanks to all for interesting contributions.

Bob vG


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 Aug 05 - 01:34 AM

Appologies to Mrs. vG--and a bit of chastisement to Mr for misleading us on the nature of the problem--it is now clear that it falls not into the "there is one way to do it, my way" folder, but into the "enough already" folder.

The only credible defense for playing a protracted string of variations of a melody on the pipes is simply that, once you've got them cranked up, you might as well let them run for a while--


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Subject: RE: Why variations?
From: Gedpipes
Date: 24 Aug 05 - 04:17 AM

Bob
You could always get yourself a 'G' Chanter!
...or find some musicians who can/want to play 20 cebts sharp of F

Mrs Vg does have a point about variations on variations as exercises..
Cheers
Ged


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