There are many different views on what is truly "Traditional" (the Trad Fundamentalist view) and what is "Trad Influenced". I've listened to alot of new music by different artists that some folks say is "Trad sounding" but not really Traditional. How long does it take for a piece of new music to become traditional? What about the effects of intermingling other musical influences (Jazz, Folk, Rock, World, etc.) into Trad Music? Is there a definitive criteria for what is or isn't Trad Music?

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My good friend Mike O., I always look forward to your input on MANY discussions. Your points are well thought out, balanced by your humility and, not only enjoyable to read, but causes the mind to think!!! One thing you brought out, which I think would take this discussion into an interesting direction, is your reference to "Competitions". I believe the "strict guidelines" for judging competitions are worthy of a closer look as to what defines Irish Trad!!! As always, your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated. Cheers & good health to you, Mike.

Danny

Well, if you want to take a look at the Fleadh competition rules, this is the place to go................

http://comhaltas.ie/press_room/detail/fleadh_rules/

 

This body is hugely influencial in the world of Irish music in Ireland and indeed across the globe amongst the Irish ex-pat community. In many ways they regard themselves as the true keepers of the tradition. There are, of course, many who would argue against their policies and opinions. For my own part, I think they do a great job. The size of their membership would tend to back that opinion of mine!

Cheers,

Mike


 

To my mind, there is a distinct difference between the sort of thing I've been describing and, for example, songs like "I live not where I love" or "The Black velvet band" etc that are not Irish in origin but have received widespread acceptance within the Irish tradition. They may be poor examples but I think they illustrate what I am trying to say well enough. They have certainly been covered by enough Irish Trad performers in their time!

 

Mike

I think these songs found widespread acceptance because, though not Irish in origin, but nevertheless written by Irish, albeit from another country, that are still very much part of the Irish tradition. It's a fact that there's more Irish living abroad then in Ireland. You only need to look at St Patricks day, the festivities in the States have almost a national character...So IMHO Irish trad is not strictly confined by the irish borders. Maybe you might even argue that Bluegrass and Cajun in a way also form part of Irish trad, from a world that has moved on since then....

cheers, Kees

 

Sorry Kees, but my understanding is that I Live Not Where I love was not written by an Irishman resident either at home or abroard - its origins can be traced to an Englishman - Thomas Morley (1557 - 1602). The Black Velvet Band has its origins (I believe) in an English broadsheet and is thought to originate from Norfolk.

Of course, there may be people with more knowledge than I that can dispute this. If that is the case, then they were bad examples for me to use. Otherwise, I stand by them. I could also mention that the lyrics to Danny Boy were also written by an Englishman. Non of this is intended to wound any national spirit on either side of the puddle that lies between England and Ireland. Its more an illustration of how there has always been an amount of musical collaboration between the 2 islands. Not all of our collective history is steeped in blood and oppression - even if the Irish did end up with the monopoly on all of the best tunes and songs!!!

 

Cheers,

Mike


 

To my mind, there is a distinct difference between the sort of thing I've been describing and, for example, songs like "I live not where I love" or "The Black velvet band" etc that are not Irish in origin but have received widespread acceptance within the Irish tradition. They may be poor examples but I think they illustrate what I am trying to say well enough. They have certainly been covered by enough Irish Trad performers in their time!

 

Mike

I think these songs found widespread acceptance because, though not Irish in origin, but nevertheless written by Irish, albeit from another country, that are still very much part of the Irish tradition. It's a fact that there's more Irish living abroad then in Ireland. You only need to look at St Patricks day, the festivities in the States have almost a national character...So IMHO Irish trad is not strictly confined by the irish borders. Maybe you might even argue that Bluegrass and Cajun in a way also form part of Irish trad, from a world that has moved on since then....

cheers, Kees

 

 Beg your pardon sir, looks like I haven't done my home-work properly.....:-) 

Disclaimer: I'm a somewhat compulsive researcher, easily fascinated by minutiae that may or may not make any difference to anyone. Hence the first paragraph below. 

If I understand right, Morley's 'I live not where I love' is the one beginning 'With my love my life was nestled' from his First Book of Ayres - very English indeed, with lute and viol and whatnot. ;-) That said, the one that tends to show up in an Irish traditional context - with verses ending 'Though I live not where I love' - also has an apparent English origin. It had a more than 200-year run in English broadsides, from the 1630's  (attributed variously to Peter Lowberry and Martin Parker; the latter having apparently been a London alehouse-keeper: http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/30047/image) to the 1840's (unattributed: http://bodley24.bodley.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/acwwweng/ballads/image.pl?r...).


Geekery aside, I think it's easy to get bogged down in questions of where and when. Given the amount of traditional music exchanged between Ireland, Scotland, England, and North America - for a start - I'm not sure of the relevancy of pinning down a national origin for a particular piece of music.

My own criteria mostly have to do with idiom, both in words and music, and are unapologetically subjective. If it has a traditional sound and turn of phrase, that works for me - whether it was written in the 1800's by a Connemara native who managed to stay there, or last month by a Czech enthusiast.

In a more technical sense, if a tune or song has been picked up in the community, particularly if who wrote it is peripheral to the enjoyment and passing it on, my feeling is that it has entered the living tradition at that point. Jay Ungar's 'Ashokan Farewell' and Mandy Gallagher's 'May Morning Dew' are shining examples. (I have dreams that this will someday happen to something of mine; my farthest-reaching contribution(?) to the tradition so far is a mondegreen.)

As for treatments, other musical influences, and so forth: that's a whole other can of worms, but the spot where I personally draw the biggest line is distortion: if it involves noises you can't make without electricity, it probably isn't traditional.

Well, there's a load of my opinions; I'm not aware of any objective criteria. I'm looking forward to anyone else's responses to the discussion.

Mike "Ormepipes" Orme said:

Sorry Kees, but my understanding is that I Live Not Where I love was not written by an Irishman resident either at home or abroard - its origins can be traced to an Englishman - Thomas Morley (1557 - 1602). 

...and now I see there have already been three prior pages of excellent conversation here. New ambition: work my way up to being only 'ten minutes too late.'

Shawn McBurnie said:

...I'm looking forward to anyone else's responses to the discussion.

Shawn,

Your point on "idiom" surely rings a bell for me....I do a bit of writing myself, and I always prefer using "the old tongue"...Thee, and thou to give the song a touch of authenticity....like new furniture made of antique wood, with rusty nails and the lot...

And, as you, I also feel that trad surely doesn't need "distortion". The day that Muddy Waters invented electricity, was the last day of traditional :-) However, when you need to play for a large audience, amplification is unavoidable, but as long as it is with mounted mics I don't have problems with that. Anyway, happy reading with the previous pages :-)

cheers, Kees

Hiya Shawn,

 

Firstly, thanks very much indeed for joining in this discussion and adding your own knowledge into the debate. Secondly, its patently obvious that you are better informed than I regarding these song origins - I had hoped that another individual with more knowledge than I would join the debate - even if you were going to say that I was completely wrong!! I myself have not conducted any form of detailed research but have just "picked bits up" over the years so someone like yourself adding to this is very welcome indeed.

 

I also find myself in almost complete agreement with your second paragraph. My only observation is that it is good to know the origins and history of tunes and songs to set them into their correct historical context. Its just good to know this stuff but the knowledge is not mandatory!

 

For what its worth, and remember that any form of endorsement from me means absolutely nothing, I completely agree with everything else you say. Maybe you've just expressed a universal definition for us?

 

Thanks again Shawn - and welcome to the debate - it could run and run this one!!!

 

Mike


 
Shawn McBurnie said:

...and now I see there have already been three prior pages of excellent conversation here. New ambition: work my way up to being only 'ten minutes too late.'

Shawn McBurnie said:

...I'm looking forward to anyone else's responses to the discussion.

Thanks, Mike, but don't let me fool you - I'm a magpie when it comes to information: I see something shiny and I have to go after it! Which is great for details but sometimes I find holes in my knowledge where there should be wholes. Or something like that.

Nice point about context being nice to have. I agree completely, and (for example) I love it when a song and its surrounding story are passed down together, as often happens with sean-nos.

I hope the debate continues to run - I've read some great arguments here and I'm sure there are more to be made!

Shawn

Mike "Ormepipes" Orme said:

...its patently obvious that you are better informed than I regarding these song origins...
...welcome to the debate - it could run and run this one!!!

 

Mike


 
Shawn McBurnie said:

...and now I see there have already been three prior pages of excellent conversation here. New ambition: work my way up to being only 'ten minutes too late.'

Shawn McBurnie said:

...I'm looking forward to anyone else's responses to the discussion.

Hiya Everyone!!! I'm so excited that this discussion has taken off in so many directions. Mike: Your posted reference/link of FLEADH Competition Rules is an eye-opener. Everyone participating in this discussion should take a look at it and see how COMHALTAS defines Traditional Irish Music. Shawn (The MAGPIE???): It seems shiny objects attract your vision to bring about interesting points to this discussion. Your "geekery" (as one GEEK to another) is greatly appreciated and has provided us with more impetus to further our comments and arguments. Kees: As always, your own input has brought this discussion into many different directions and observations. Well done, Mates!!! Carry on!!!

I think references made to Britain, Scotland, America (regional USA & Canadian Music), and others countries, have an impact on the development of Irish Music in general; an intermingling of sorts. The influence of Irish Trad Music certainly has had an impact on the developments of Appalchian, Creole, Newfoundland, Bluegrass, etc. Music. But as Mike points out, this site is primarily concerned with "ITM". Although, I must admit, I do find the cross-referencing very interesting and welcome the mixture to further the discussion (kind of like a delicious Scottish Egg with Chipolte Hot Sauce,....YUMMMMMM!!!!).

Talking about Sean Nos??? Would love to hear some input on this. Slainte,

Danny

Sean Nos in my opinion is the fulcrum of Irish traditional music....everything evolves and revolves from and around Sean Nos singing....It wouldn't surprise me when Sean Nos were the last legacy of the great Bardic culture. The bards singing the history of the land, the lineage and feets of their kings, using the most intricate melodies, and doing so earning the respect and reward of their lord, going back to even as far as prehistoric times....To me, Sean Nos is Ireland, what it's all about, and the ultimate goal I've set for myself. 

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