What do you hear?

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JohnnyKerr
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by JohnnyKerr » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:08 pm

The question is - who are you playing for? Most pipers, indeed most musicians, play primarily to please themselves. So every piper will wish to create the sweetest music he can, but if he constantly worries that his playing is not up to some 'standard' or other he will quickly become frustrated. I can think of nothing worse than a piper hunched over his chanter, endlessly and joylessly performing ornamentation exercises.
This is the very attitude that has so many poor musicians out there representing what they do as Irish music to the GP who don't know any better. I think the whole "you don't have to adhere to any standard, just play what makes you happy" perspective is a cop-out. I am more serious about learning the music than this and I certainly have more respect for the music than this.
I am playing for myself but my goals have nothing to do with playing just whatever. I have been playing for a very short time and if I wasn't worried about improving then I would not make any progress. I love the pipes but surely there's a lot of hard work and, yes, frustration to come before I am at a place where I am happy with my playing-otherwise I'm only fooling myself. I never asked about ornamentation drills and I never said that my learning was joyless.
For example, did the OP of this thread realise that playing gfe in the second bar of that slip jig, when played non legato as he did, didn't quite work wonders for the flow of of the tune?
Yes. It was not a musical choice, but a lack of control on the chanter which resulted in that phrasing. That is where my biggest current frustration lies; how do I play fluidly but without sloppy fingering? Using the same gfe example, should I be lifting the e fingers just before or just as the f finger is returning to the chanter? I know that if I close f before opening e then I'll get a staccatto sound but even though I didn't do that on the recording (or at least I don't think I did), it still sounds, as you said, non-legato. Even the g to f transition in my recording was non-legato. Was it in the timing?

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by Mr.Gumby » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:17 pm

Yes. It was not a musical choice, but a lack of control on the chanter that resulted in that phrasing. That is where my biggest current frustration lies; how do I play fluidly but without sloppy fingering?
It's a classic mistake, in some situations you play gfe non-legato, in some situations you don't. And it's by listening to yourself that you learn to distinguish the situations where each works.

Fluid and non-sloppy? Practice would be the old saw but it's the only answer for it.
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fiddlerwill
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by fiddlerwill » Wed Oct 13, 2010 12:51 pm

outofthebox wrote: I can think of nothing worse than a piper hunched over his chanter, endlessly and joylessly .

# What about a piper hunched over his chanter endlessly and joyfully performing ornamentation exercises?
IMO:
Its the attitude you approach things with that to a great extent influences the way you perceive things and your behaviour resulting from your perceptions also effects what you receive .

Personally I find technical exercises really suited for times where, for what ever reason, inspiration is missing.
I prefer technical impediments to be approached and dispensed with before they become an obstacle to enjoyment, and
I find the art of practising a very different beast to the art of 'doing' 'performing' .
The art in performing is to spontaneously recreate/create , a work of art, inspirational and joyous that can be shared amongst a crowd of people if so desired. The Art of practising is to build up the technical skill, material and ability to support the creation of art and if not high art , at the very least we demonstrate a skilled craftsman.

IMO its very important to to the background work. Dont worry about expression that comes with time, experience and Lots of listening. Do this listening as much as possible. Master the technical elements of your instrument and then express yourself though what you have learnt and absorbed. Where technical issues disturb the flow of the music its the technical issues that need to be surmounted . Isolate, drill, return to game/tune. The more technical issues are dealt with, and additional technical skills developed the more foundation you have when Enjoying playing music, which is after all, what its all about!.


The Important thing to remember , IMO, is that these are 2 sides of one thing, presenting half of something, as a whole when its not, is a easy trap to fall into. So all the technique in the world wont stop you from being a dull uninspirational player and all the inspiration and Joy in the world wont help when handed an instrument to play, if you dont have the ability to actually do so.

outofthebox
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by outofthebox » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:02 am

This is a good discussion. I think it touches on the heart of what it means to play music. On the one hand there is a tutorial approach which says - 'Here is the music. Here is how it should be played.' On the other - 'I have found this music. How shall I play it?' By way of illustration, here's a little clip I found on youtube. Piping purists will probably hate it - but here, at least, we have a chanter played with joy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLy-MI-R9Mk

reedmaster
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by reedmaster » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:41 am

I enjoyed it. What's the name of the tune you were playing?

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JohnnyKerr
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by JohnnyKerr » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:39 am

:roll: good grief. Just terrible.

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by Mr.Gumby » Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:52 am

I think it's something that has come up on internet forums. Reverse snobbery maybe, the advocacy of taking up an instrument and then maintaining it doesn't matter if one doesn't bother to play it well.

I can go along with the argument of 'perfection vs life' up to a point. But only under certain circumstances. I could think of a lot of players who play with an intense musicality and knowledge of the music they are playing. Ausdag has mentioned (I am not sure it was here or on C&F) the 'heart' in playing of Tommy McCarthy in a few clips I put on yertube. Willie Clancy sometimes can be heard skating the edges of what some people call 'sloppiness' (I don't agree with that assessment by the way but you get my drift, put that way). But the 'looseness' of their playing is deceptive. The music you are hearing is founded on a thorough grounding in the language of music and an enormous experience playing it, it's the subtlety and living inside the music they are playing that makes their music speak.

For all it's enthusiasm, I don't get that from the clip outofthebox put up.
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Mr.Gumby
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by Mr.Gumby » Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:12 pm

Image

I have axed the post and files.
Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Sun Oct 17, 2010 9:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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outofthebox
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by outofthebox » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:44 am

The reason I posted the clip of the Spanish piper was to illustrate that it is possible to approach the instrument and the music in an entirely different manner from that which would be considered an established standard. A strict tutorial approach will certainly facilitate technical capability, but this can often be at the expense of individual musical expression. If I listen to the earlier generation of pipers - the likes of Seamus Ennis or Willie Clancy - I'm certainly not listening for technical virtuosity - but for that individual expression which each brought to both the instrument and the music. Professional recording pipers of today certainly are way ahead on technical capability - they can achieve exactly the smoothness of sound they are aiming for. But what they lack, in many cases, is that individuality of expression which somehow got lost along the way.

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by Mr.Gumby » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:16 am

Professional recording pipers of today certainly are way ahead on technical capability - they can achieve exactly the smoothness of sound they are aiming for.
Now there's another internet-wide misconception. I put it to you that both Ennis and Clancy achieved exactly what they wanted and, to be honest, both of them could play rings round pipers playing today.
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ausdag
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by ausdag » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:42 am

Mr.Gumby wrote:Willie Clancy sometimes can be heard skating the edges of what some people call 'sloppiness' (I don't agree with that assessment by the way but you get my drift, put that way).
I was one who used the term 'sloppy' but only for want of a better term. I tried to qualify that by calling it 'masterly sloppiness' as opposed to the sloppiness of a learner. It's the sloppiness that I aspire to, the sloppiness that takes the piper from the 'technically precise' yet boring piping that seems so prevalent today, to a higher plain...that 'deceptive' looseness that Mr G alludes to. It's that 'next level' that I wrote about in a recent 'Review' article, which playing fast flowing, technically precise tunes accompanied by driving zouks, was holding me back from. 20 years on and still pressing on to that higher plain :-)
Last edited by ausdag on Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mr.Gumby
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by Mr.Gumby » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:05 am

I think the misunderstanding is that a lot of the high driving piping you are referring to is actually a lot simpler to achieve than what Ennis or Clancy were doing.

Each time I hear someone come forward saying 'these old guys weren't so technically developed as today's piper's' or something quasi insightful like that, I wonder with what sort of ears these people are listening. I mean, Ennis' playing Ceo ar a' gCnoc and the Silver Spear (or any of the other 1940s acetates) or Clancy disassembling Rakish Paddy on the Paddy Hill recording would put that notion to rest once and for all, didn't they? Or any number of other recordings for that matter.

It's a particularly silly notion to think today's musicians are on a higher level. Mici 'Cumba' or Martin Reilly anyone? Why are serious pipers still studying the few bits we have of the playing of those guys then?
Last edited by Mr.Gumby on Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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outofthebox
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by outofthebox » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:06 am

Mr Gumby - at last I can agree with you. 8) In terms of individual musical expression I would say that Ennis and Clancy are much more capable pipers than modern 'virtuosi', such as, say, McSherry and Vallely. In terms of accuracy of playing and smoothness of chanter control then I must concede that the modern professional players have superiority - but that superiority is at a technical level only.

So here is the tension - should a beginner concentrate all his efforts on attaining that smoothness of technique that he hears on modern recordings - or should he think in terms of developing an individual musical expression? My concern would be that the latter may often be sacrificed in a narrow and dedicated pursuit of the former.
Last edited by outofthebox on Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Mr.Gumby
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by Mr.Gumby » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:14 am

We are in agreement for a good stretch, I realise that. I don't agree on technical proficiency issues. I think pipers you mention (I really don't know their playing other than from hearing in passing occasionally) are trying to achieve something completely different. I don't think they are better at it at all.

I haven't a lot of time for technique focussed piping I do think technique is a means to an end and shouldn't be neglected, you can't have expression without control of the instrument and the tools it offers you to achieve the expression you're looking for.
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fiddlerwill
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Re: What do you hear?

Post by fiddlerwill » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:24 am

I think a point being missed is the environment within which we 'purvey' our music. John MS plays in very different situations where playing in the style of Clancy et all would not necessarily be appropriate. Stage for example, drummers, click tracks, etc etc That and he is forging an individual, rather modern , sound. He is also, Id like to point out a lot younger!
My point is that Its not fair or realistic to compare pipers in that manner without considering the environment.
My taste is strongly on the side of Clancy and the old pipers but modern ears are different and society encourages flash extrovert 'performances' where you are obliged to be ' shouting look at me'! or you wont get called back. As professional musicians, competing in a modern world with Rap, Metal etc they are obliged to work with the constraints of their 'industry' . As Peter says they are trying to achieve something different, oh and thanks for the Clips , I cant get enough of the older pipers and fiddlers!
Last edited by fiddlerwill on Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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