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Death of Diversity?

20 Jun 03 - 04:33 AM (#969550)
Subject: Death of Diversity?
From: smallpiper

I was just looking out over the River Humber and pondering life (as one does) and it occurred to me that at practically all the sesion that I have been to in recent years one hears the same tunes being played. When I started going to sessions, some 30 years ago, every session was different. Different tunes, different styles and a very different combination of instruments. So as I was pondering life I was wondering what the cause of this convergence of musical styles and the (what would appear) limitation of tunes being played, could be.

Is it the internet and the availability of tunes or are people learning their musical repetoire from CD's - and from the more popular ones at that - so everyone is learning the same things or has anyone any other ideas as to why this has occurred.

Alternatively it could be just me!

20 Jun 03 - 05:17 AM (#969562)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: McGrath of Harlow

When strangers get together to play music there's a natural instict to look for tunes they have in common. That's the process by which a shared repertoire comes about.

20 Jun 03 - 06:02 AM (#969577)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Mitch the Bass

I also started 30 years ago. Where did we pick up tunes then?

Some from live players but many from printed sources as opposed to recorded sources. We had a choice of 100's of tunes from the likes of the country dance manuals and, for me, from the copied sheets which Rick Smith handed out at his weekly musicians' workshops at CSH.

I would hazard a guess that most session players now get their repertoire from recorded sources - I certainly hear the same tune sequences played in different parts of the country. Of course Rick's sheets to some extent had this effect. I still come across the same tune sequences played even though the original source may have been forgotten.

Despite that fact that 1000s of tunes are now available in the likes of the Village Music Project, my guess is that many/most learn from recordings which can give a limited and standardised repertoire.

As to styles - again some inject their own individuality into their playing but many tend to adopt styles and maybe instrumentation from recordings.

My job takes me to various parts of the country and where possible I like to find a local session. It's great to find some common repertoire but it's also good to hear something new, I certainly like to add something of my own if the session is suitable.

I think I'll go a look over the river Derwent and ponder life.


20 Jun 03 - 06:19 AM (#969581)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,Border Monster

Aye you could be right. However, we used to go to different sessions to learn different tunes as well.

20 Jun 03 - 06:23 AM (#969584)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Ralphie

Just a gentle muse....
Maybe the fact that 30 years later, (Yes, I'm another one!) The Global village has finally come to pass.
In the same way that virtually every UK town centre is, MacDonalds, Clifton Cards, etc,etc...
It was probably inevitable, that with easy travel, multitudinous CD's etc, Music played in sessions would go the same way....Mind you, when you do discover a new gem, you tend to appreciate it more!
Off now to the water treatment plant at Beckton, to ponder on lifes rich and homogenous tapestry...!

Interesting though Ralphie

20 Jun 03 - 06:31 AM (#969589)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: JohnInKansas

"When I started going to sessions, some 30 years ago, every session was different."(?)

When I first encountered our local "Irish" group, it sounded like every session was different - as they never seemed to play anything with which I was familiar. When I finally got a copy of their "tunebook" so that I could connect titles and tunes, and learned a few, I found that they "always seem to play the same few tunes." With nearly 500 tunes in "the book," they still seem to always play the same dozen or so, and I suspect that was the case "back in the old days" when I just didn't recognize the tunes.

A dozen or so strangers is quite a bit to handle, when they're new to you; but a dozen familiar old friends doesn't seem like nearly enough.

It's called getting older(?)


20 Jun 03 - 06:41 AM (#969594)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: IanC

Every session venue I've been to here in Hertfordshire in the last year has had a radically different style and repertoire. Probably only 5 or 6 as I mainly concentrate on my village session.

Course, in our village sesion we do stuff like The Kinks as well as trad stuff from England (Maria Marten, Banks of Green Willow, Running Rue ...) and from all over the world (like a trad number from The Bahamas called Sloop John B).

What sort of stuff do you do?


20 Jun 03 - 10:14 AM (#969697)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,Philippa

I think there's more diversity as we have access to so many tunes, songs, dances - but less regional distinctiveness

20 Jun 03 - 10:24 AM (#969708)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: smallpiper

I've introduced a lot of Scottish stuff to my local sessions. But I am also guilty of falling back on the tried and tested .... I should learn more new tunes.

20 Jun 03 - 10:45 AM (#969722)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,Jon

I think with any session, there is a tendancy to concentrate on tunes everyone knows and I think the number of tunes played can reduce as a result of that. I suspect I had that effect on one session I go to but, in the process revived some "old favourites".

I think it's easy to get set but the repertiore in that session seems to be changing agian - twice lately, I have sat for about an hour before knowing a tune to play - I'm not complaining - it's really up to me to make the effort to learn more tunes and I think in the long term, every one gains.

I've been to 3 different sessions in Norwich over the past couple of weeks and the sessions themselves are all very different in repertioire and even in feel.

20 Jun 03 - 03:49 PM (#969865)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Songster Bob

"Tried and tested ..." I read as "tired and tested." Sort of says it all, doesn't it?


20 Jun 03 - 04:26 PM (#969882)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: greg stephens

Smallpiper, or anyone else: what are the standard repertoire tunes at the sessions you are talking about? It would be interesting to hear.

20 Jun 03 - 10:38 PM (#970022)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Mudlark

Certainly some of this comes from not only getting the music from CD's but often an insistence on slavishly copying "how it was played" on the CD.

I go to 2 works from a homemade songbook collection of mostly old standards. It's a good group and much fun to play with but the choice of songs would not be my own, many of which I did to death 40 years ago. Simple, repetitive songs like Tom Dooley, Sloop JB, This Land is Your Land....unless one is a stellar picker they get pretty boring. The other is just a small group of younger people, so we've traded stuff...they've learned some trad stuff and some current singer/songwriter stuff from me, I've learned some Eagles, Cranberry, etc. stuff from them...much more interesting.

20 Jun 03 - 10:59 PM (#970028)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,Jon

I'll try Greg or at least give some of mine from the "Irish" session

Cup Of Tea
Silver Spire
Silver Spear
St Annes
Mountain Road
Wise Maid
The Schollar
The Traveller
Merry Blacksmith
Dublin Reel
High Reel
Flogging Reel
Lark in the Morning
Kesh Jig
Blarney Pilgrim
Wheels Of The World
Tobin's Favourite
Knight's of St Patrick
Pipe On The Hob
Cliffs of Mohair
Coleman's Jig
Rose in the Heather
Banish Misfortune
Tripping Upstairs
My Darling Asleep
Tailors Twist
Chief O Niel's

20 Jun 03 - 11:42 PM (#970042)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: LadyJean

I look out on the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela, the gateway to the west. My chief complaint about Pittsburgh music is what I call the S.O.S.O. factor. That stands for Same Old Same Old. If it isn't something you've heard a few hundred times before, and it's possible somebody in the audience might not like it, it doesn't get played. You know where I first heard the Macarena? I heard it at the Smoky City Folk Festival! Money's tight, so everyone's scared to be original.

21 Jun 03 - 04:15 AM (#970102)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: smallpiper

Guest Jon - you've bee to the same session as me 'cos thats prety much the list I would have posted add
The Masons Apron
Athol Highlanders

I think its pety much the same picture all over

21 Jun 03 - 06:51 AM (#970121)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: greg stephens

Well, sessions havent been that standardised by the look of things. The only one I go to regularly, nobody plays any of those tunes listed above, with the exception of the Merry Blacksmith and the High Reel, which someone trots out once in a blue moon if someone vociferously calls for an Irish reel.
   Mind you, I have been to a lot of sessions elsewhere where thse tunes are the satple fare. But why not, eh? Tunes are the common currency of exchange at sessions, and it stands to reason that people will use well known tunes if they are there for the pleasure of playing with other people. It makes more sense that way, it can be a bit wearing if someone comes in a plays whole strings of tunes nobody jknows and arent quick enough to join in at one hearing.
   As a side question, how many times do people play tunes at your sessions? I never think two is enough, four gives a chance to learn them.

21 Jun 03 - 07:07 AM (#970124)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,Jon

smallpiper, I think what I gave there is a pretty "standard" list of tunes, i.e. I think you would find a majority of players in most "Irish" sessions are quite familiar with them. I think one has to look at what else gets played...

As I mentioned above, that session has twice recently gone about an hour without a tune that I know being played. That would mean none of the above (or a few others) were played in that time.

I guess one could try to come up with similar lists for other repertoirs. How about: Winster Gallop, 3 around 3, Young Collins, Princess Royal...


21 Jun 03 - 07:11 AM (#970125)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,Jon

We play 3 times round on most tunes. Exceptions would include Wind That Shakes The Barley which never knows when to stop and Calliope House where we can never agree over which part is which and which part to end on.

21 Jun 03 - 07:01 PM (#970340)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Ely

We go through phases--what we played five or ten years ago is not the same as what we play now. There are a lot of tunes in common, but people are always introducing new ones, and a lot of the newer players don't know the songs that were "in" when I was learning (heck, sometimes *I* don't know them any more). But there are a limited number of songs that sound good and are reasonable to try to play on the dulcimer, and we do tend to learn things from the same recordings as many other dulcimer players--probably because we can see that they're manageable--so I suppose that across the board, we all have a lot in common.

Of course, there are people in our group that are more "cool" to follow than others. There is one family that could teach anything and have it become a hit, but some people introduce good songs and nobody learns them.

12 Sep 17 - 03:48 PM (#3876746)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Mr Happy

Something I've noticed lately in both local & more remote seshes is a sort of variation in fairly well known tunes is the difference in the number of times the various parts are played.

Yesterday, at our afternoon sesh, a couple of people we hadn't seen before led some tunes we regularly play, but only did the A part once with the B part as usual twice.

Some other folk some weeks back did '3 around 3' with the A part the familiar one, but the B part completely different.

Anyone else similar observations?

13 Sep 17 - 03:13 AM (#3876791)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Bonzo3legs

When I saw the word "diversity", I thought it was going to be a whinge about not enough black and ethnic minorities playing English folk music, which would be a typical moan from the usual boring suspects in the Croydon area who burble endlessly on this!!!

13 Sep 17 - 03:43 AM (#3876796)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: GUEST,LynnH

Having moved away from the UK I haven't been to a session for years and years. I do have some negative memories however of those sessions where, if you didn't know what the latest must-hear irish group had recorded then you were lost and condemned to silence.

13 Sep 17 - 08:20 AM (#3876833)
Subject: RE: Death of Diversity?
From: Jack Campin

What has happened in some places in Scotland is that the session scene was given a big boost in the 1980s and 1990s by adult-education groups who did a great job of packaging a repertoire for their students to learn. But they did a godawful job of keeping it open to incomers. So the session scene has been dominated by a cohort now near retirement age who've been playing the same stuff for 20 years. Younger performers of Scottish music mostly ignore this scene and do the struggling-professional thing.

The result is there isn't really a good way to do Scottish music in public without being either professional or ossified. So I've tended to go for other genres in the last few years, where the performers are mostly a lot younger and continually taking on new stuff. It's sad because there's a vast amount of great neglected Scottish material I'd have liked to play, but there isn't any easy way to get it into sessions.

LynnH's picture of the Irish scene seems pretty accurate, one reason why I don't go near it.