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Are sessions elitist?

The Shambles 29 Aug 02 - 02:10 PM
The Shambles 29 Aug 02 - 02:00 PM
smallpiper 29 Aug 02 - 01:57 PM
The Shambles 29 Aug 02 - 01:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Aug 02 - 12:31 PM
Leeder 29 Aug 02 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,sorefingers 29 Aug 02 - 10:55 AM
mooman 29 Aug 02 - 10:46 AM
GUEST 29 Aug 02 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,sorefingers 29 Aug 02 - 09:58 AM
treewind 29 Aug 02 - 08:30 AM
The Shambles 29 Aug 02 - 07:19 AM
treewind 29 Aug 02 - 06:36 AM
smallpiper 29 Aug 02 - 05:27 AM
treewind 29 Aug 02 - 04:36 AM
The Shambles 29 Aug 02 - 02:27 AM
Bassic 28 Aug 02 - 10:31 PM
awig 28 Aug 02 - 09:23 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 08:24 PM
awig 28 Aug 02 - 07:27 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 07:21 PM
treewind 28 Aug 02 - 04:32 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 03:07 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 03:06 PM
The Shambles 28 Aug 02 - 02:47 PM
curmudgeon 28 Aug 02 - 02:32 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 01:46 PM
harpgirl 28 Aug 02 - 01:34 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 01:26 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 01:17 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 01:10 PM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 12:57 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 11:51 AM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 11:35 AM
smallpiper 28 Aug 02 - 06:08 AM
GUEST 28 Aug 02 - 02:44 AM
GUEST,sorefingers 27 Aug 02 - 08:51 PM
Yorkshire Tony 27 Aug 02 - 08:26 PM
Allan Dennehy 27 Aug 02 - 07:59 PM
The Shambles 27 Aug 02 - 06:48 PM
GUEST 27 Aug 02 - 06:12 PM
Dave Bryant 27 Aug 02 - 10:56 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Aug 02 - 10:51 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 02 - 10:38 AM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Aug 02 - 10:24 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 02 - 08:54 AM
Declan 27 Aug 02 - 06:18 AM
smallpiper 27 Aug 02 - 05:28 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 26 Aug 02 - 11:37 PM
Rich(bodhránai gan ciall) 26 Aug 02 - 11:14 PM
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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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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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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
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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: smallpiper
Date: 28 Aug 02 - 07:21 PM

Well said and thank you


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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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 01:26 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: 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 - 01:10 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 - 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 - 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 10:24 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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