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Discussions => Teaching and Learning => Topic started by: Gary Chapin on July 08, 2011, 06:03:25 PM

Title: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 08, 2011, 06:03:25 PM
Hey, discussions in a number of threads have really got me considering how one approaches the bourrée on the melodeon. Some thoughts:

http://accordeonaire.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-does-it-mean-to-play-bourree-well.html

Thanks
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Tufty on July 08, 2011, 11:02:04 PM
Perhaps one approach is to focus on the function of the tune - dancing. So if a style of playing helps the dancers then it counts as "playing well". I really like the old 1920s and 30s playing style, it even makes me want to lumber around the dance floor :Ph but of course most of that is on chromatic accordeons. I play regularly with a piper from France and she is very keen on playing the tunes for dancing rather than just as tunes.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 09, 2011, 01:22:39 PM
.. There is another approach to playing dance music "well"  ???

Others have said the same thing.  Being isolated in Maine as I am, I very infrequently have dancers around to test myself in this way.  Even so ... while I agree with the point ... this test of checking to see if folks spontaneously break into dance is really just a way to operationalize the criteria for "what does it mean to play a bourrée well?"  It pushes the question up a level but doesn't answer it:  what conditions have to occur, while playing a bourrée, to have the dancers have a great bourree-time?

For example, Chris, you have been strong advocate for regional style here (and it was actually your posts that have got me thinking about this).  So, for you, is adherence to a regional style one of the criteria?  (Falling under authenticity).

I understand that this is probably over thinking things ... but that's what I call a good time on a Saturday morning when my wife is at work.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: mglamb on July 09, 2011, 02:14:49 PM
Gary,

I don't think you're quite getting the point people are making about dancing.  The idea is not to play so well that people will just spontaneously burst into dance while you play (that's just a bonus), but that you should learn the dances that go with the type of tunes you want to play.  That is the only real way that you will really know what the proper rhythms and accents will feel like.  All the theorizing in the world isn't worth 10 minutes on the dance floor.  And I'm sure your wife will be glad to join in!

Marc
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: mglamb on July 09, 2011, 02:18:48 PM
Here's a few places to check out:

http://www.contradancelinks.com/newengland.html

http://www.deffa.org/
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Theo on July 09, 2011, 05:45:15 PM
What do you mean by "isolated in Maine". Don't people in Maine have legs?  Just get some friends around and tell them they have to indulge you by letting you teach them to dance a bouree before you will give them the part food!
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: mglamb on July 09, 2011, 06:07:29 PM
What do you mean by "isolated in Maine". Don't people in Maine have legs?  Just get some friends around and tell them they have to indulge you by letting you teach them to dance a bouree before you will give them the part food!

His profile says he lives in Gardiner, which is less than 10 miles from the state capital and close by interstate 95, the major highway up the east coast of the U.S. - hardly the middle of nowhere.  I've given him some links to a few local folk dance websites, there appears to be plenty of dance options in the area.  Where I live people routinely drive for 2 to 3 hours to attend dances.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 09, 2011, 07:15:41 PM
What do you mean by "isolated in Maine".
His profile says he lives in Gardiner, which is less than 10 miles from the state capital and close by interstate 95,
No need to talk about me like I'm not here.  (:)  I am seven miles from the state capital, but ... have you seen Augusta?

When I say "isolated" I mean "isolated from folks who like to play or dance this type of music?"  I suppose I'm contrasting it with the many posts of folks going to festivals in France or talking about French sessions with the likes of Alan Day and Mel Stevens.  There are dance outlets.  I have, until a few years ago, played at DEFFA events and played regularly with Steve Gruvermann and Marie Wendt, who run "international dance" (mostly Balkan, it seems, but some French).  I've even played bourrees that folks have successfully danced to.  I have gone to Alsace and danced there.  In Maine, I DO feel isolated from regular contact with French dance folk compared to some of the tales I hear on this forum, but I HAVE been on a dance floor.  Because of arthritis, I can't actually dance anymore, but I have been around dancers (almost all contra, some very few French).  So, I do think I'm getting the point people are making about dancing, I just don't think it's taking me where I want to be in re bourrees.

It's been my conversations on this forum have got me wondering about how I might improve my bourrees (especially Chris' observations about regional style).  My way of doing things is to try some analysis ... that's fun for me and I thought it might be helpful.

Finally, I understand the primacy of dance with this music, but I think there are some other considerations.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: mglamb on July 09, 2011, 07:31:51 PM
Sorry, I was answering Theo's question, hence the third-party reference.  And yes, I spent my summers in the Augusta area back in the 70's, I assume it's more built up now.  Haven't been there in about 8 years.

My comments about dancing and dancers were based on your statement "this test of checking to see if folks spontaneously break into dance" that appeared to indicate you were missing the point of actually knowing the dances.  Since you apparently already know all this, I'll leave you to your analysis.

Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: oggiesnr on July 09, 2011, 09:04:22 PM

Finally, I understand the primacy of dance with this music, but I think there are some other considerations.

That depends on whether you're playing for the dance, the session or a concert spot.  Each will have their own nuances and speeds at which people will respond (again depending on context).  In all contexts though I would suggest that the tune has to have life about it, I've heard tunes played technically perfectly that have left me cold and the same tunes played by others which, fluffs and all, have made me feel great.  In the end you can only play a tune (except for dancing) in a way that works for you and if you're lucky any audience will feel the same way about it.

Steve
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 09, 2011, 09:19:01 PM
Marc:  Sorry, didn't mean to seem snippy or unappreciative ... the "spontaneously breaking into dance" was meant in humor.  It was a joke some (dancer) friends had made to me.  Certainly, I didn't mean to run you off.  I only post here (and on my blog) because I want to have a conversation.

Steve, I agree, context is everything.  I think I may have approached this in an unhelpful way.  Essentially, in the light of things I've read here, I'm trying to improve my game with bourrees.  I have had success with them in the past but feel they're not all they could be.

Maybe a better way to do it would be to look at HOW folks get close to a tune.  You hear a bourree on a CD ... how do you decide on approach?  One row (many of F Paris' bourrees are played up and down the row) or cross rows?  Chords?  Bass?  Rhythm?  Maybe this is just something that can only be talked about relating to specific tunes and trying to generalize is unhelpful.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Lyn on July 09, 2011, 09:34:27 PM
From a very inexperienced point of view, I would guess that once you have the correct instrument in the right key, are playing an appropriate tune in the right rhythm and speed, it's all a matter of listening repeatedly and emulating the kind of playing you admire, until you imagine you can sense the miasma of garlic and Galluois permeating the scene. Then you know you've got it!

Ok, sounding fatuous I know, but I hope you know what I mean. I think what I'm getting at in my usual longwinded way, is that you can perfect technique, but that elusive 'something' arrives in it's own good time....or not. ::)
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Anahata on July 09, 2011, 10:11:02 PM
playing an appropriate tune in the right rhythm and speed

Leaving aside instrument and key, you're on to a good start there, and ahead of the field in some areas...

Quote
you can perfect technique, but that elusive 'something' arrives in it's own good time....or not. ::)
For playing music to listen to, yes, but if you are aiming to play well for dancing, there are some quite well-defined things that help to get that magic: little changes of timing, emphasis and dynamics, and understanding of what happens per 2- 4- or 8-bar phrase that match the physical movements of the dance.
(I say "well defined", but you won't find them in the printed music...)
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 10, 2011, 12:34:19 AM
An update:

http://accordeonaire.blogspot.com/2011/07/ask-dancers.html
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 10, 2011, 12:35:55 AM
Ok, sounding fatuous I know, but I hope you know what I mean. I think what I'm getting at in my usual longwinded way, is that you can perfect technique, but that elusive 'something' arrives in it's own good time....or not. ::)

Not fatuous at all.  I've had many a moment when I'm playing a piece well and I realize that just a few months ago, it was kicking my butt.  Somehow, over time, I got it.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Chris Brimley on July 10, 2011, 08:55:22 AM
Gary, I think your question is a very good one - there is something about bourrées that is very subtle, and very different from say, 'English', dance music, with its more attacking rhythm, emphasing the initial transients on each beat.  I think that 3/8 bourrées are particularly nice to play and dance.  Rhythm is quite understated by both the dancers and the players, and the lack of rhythmic attack from the zizzy drone on a vielle seems to me to sum up what they are about.  This can be complemented on a box by using LM voices, and no thirds, I've found, whereas for other dance playing I tend to use MM, with or without thirds depending on the chords in the music.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Chris Ryall on July 10, 2011, 06:12:57 PM
For example, Chris, you have been strong advocate for regional style here (and it was actually your posts that have got me thinking about this).  So, for you, is adherence to a regional style one of the criteria?  (Falling under authenticity).

Here's how not to play an Auvergne  3/8 bourrée. And to medley it with the Limousin mazurka is frank cultural vandalism

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0Ct9Ra2M2A  ???
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: michik on July 10, 2011, 08:43:28 PM

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0Ct9Ra2M2A  ???

This is not even a walz nor a mazurka
For a bourrée far to slow.
And the mazurka is not a mazurka ...
 ???


I made the experierence, that dancers playing for
dancers work more or less always.

Here in vienna, nearly all bal folk musicans are also
active dancers.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Chris Ryall on July 10, 2011, 09:48:15 PM
ditto - eg La Chavanée are all active dancers. Eveline Paris is a dream to dance with, and I'm told the blokes are equally good. We seem to be the only ones who've (in many parts, thankfully not all) have abandoned the connection It's been a source of despond to me for years.  Sorry if I winge, but it is  :'(

Demon Barber last night has lifted my spirits. Dolly and I are off to central France for next weekend's St Chartier to really recharge our batteries. (Manu Paris even has a bourrée called "la charge"  ;) )
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: waltzman on July 10, 2011, 10:05:12 PM
In the U.S., Les Poules Huppees is quite often played as a waltz where it is known as The Crested Hens.  I'm not sure who first had the idea to play it that way but it makes a lovely waltz, in my opinion.  I don't care for the rendition in the video.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Andy in Vermont on July 11, 2011, 03:57:24 AM
We seem to be the only ones who've (in many parts, thankfully not all) have abandoned the connection It's been a source of despond to me for years. 

I've really enjoyed reading this thread and don't want to bring it off track, but to this point: I'm not sure whether this is necessarily true, although I understand that the issue is sensitive for some.  Just from my brief journeys into ethnomusicology, I recall that in some cultures, individual musicians are paradoxically outsiders within a culture, somehow included in important social rituals yet excluded from dancing and joining in. There are also places where male musicians accompany female dancers, where it would be inappropriate for the men to learn a specific dance or for the women to learn the instruments and music.  I think that the notion of a "necessary" connection where musicians are also dancers might be a more modern creation, in an era in which we struggle to find a sufficient number of dancers.
However, I have also felt twangs of pain when I've heard dance music that was being dumped out with no regard to the rhythmical "purpose" of the tune.  I have no issues with people changing a tune beyond recognition, but when they seem to have no sense of what it was to begin with, I wonder why they are even bothering?  And I also believe that if we had more dancers (in the US and UK) we would have better listeners as well!
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Anahata on July 11, 2011, 10:25:15 AM
We seem to be the only ones who've (in many parts, thankfully not all) have abandoned the connection.

At a local tunes session last night, there were some rather inebriated pub customers "dancing" to our music and really enjoying it, but at one point when a couple were clowning around while we were playing some schottisches I kept wishing someone could have taught them how to schottische properly, even at the most basic level - it doesn't take long to learn and I'm sure they'd have enjoyed it far more.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Andy in Vermont on July 11, 2011, 03:01:05 PM
At a local tunes session last night, there were some rather inebriated pub customers "dancing" to our music and really enjoying it, but at one point when a couple were clowning around while we were playing some schottisches I kept wishing someone could have taught them how to schottische properly, even at the most basic level - it doesn't take long to learn and I'm sure they'd have enjoyed it far more.

That really is too bad -- there they were, eager to dance, without the background.
We have so many contradances here... it would be a nice custom if at every contradance, another kind of dance was taught/learned.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 11, 2011, 06:44:38 PM
Here's how not to play an Auvergne  3/8 bourrée. And to medley it with the Limousin mazurka is frank cultural vandalism
  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0Ct9Ra2M2A  ???
That is ... blah.  Reminds me of the conversations that have been had in Irish circles about the frustration that any tune in 3 (specifically Carolan) gets turned into a waltz.  There's a difference between meter and rhythm ... the way you come at a 3 determines whether or not it suits the 3-beat bourree.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Lyn on July 11, 2011, 11:14:38 PM
Ah, watched and listened, all the while thinking what the heck IS that tune, then realised it was the Crested Hen, I play it on fiddle, but not to that rhythm.It all sounded a tad mechanical.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: jb on July 12, 2011, 08:57:46 AM
Here's how not to play an Auvergne  3/8 bourrée. And to medley it with the Limousin mazurka is frank cultural vandalism
  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0Ct9Ra2M2A  ???
That is ... blah.  Reminds me of the conversations that have been had in Irish circles about the frustration that any tune in 3 (specifically Carolan) gets turned into a waltz.  There's a difference between meter and rhythm ... the way you come at a 3 determines whether or not it suits the 3-beat bourree.

Give them a break. I can't see any indication from the youtube clip that they are claiming to be playing it as a bourrée. There's nothing wrong with playing one tune to the rhythm of another. Plenty of this on totm after all. And in principle this tune does make quite a nice waltz, as waltzman pointed out.
They seem to have a fairly eclectic repertoire with a ditto line-up. They're doing their thing. It doesn't do anything for me. But if it works for them and their audience then why not?
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: jb on July 12, 2011, 09:54:43 AM
We seem to be the only ones who've (in many parts, thankfully not all) have abandoned the connection.

At a local tunes session last night, there were some rather inebriated pub customers "dancing" to our music and really enjoying it, but at one point when a couple were clowning around while we were playing some schottisches I kept wishing someone could have taught them how to schottische properly, even at the most basic level - it doesn't take long to learn and I'm sure they'd have enjoyed it far more.


my view here is similar to that in my previous post. Of course it's important that people understand and maintain authentic traditions. But it's equally important that some people (maybe even the same people) can experiment, tweak, take liberties, mess about, and generally have fun with the music. After all without the latter, historically, we wouldn't have quite the same set of 'authentic traditions' for the former to be knowledgeable about. I reckon this dialectic can work without either party having to be sniffy about the other. Who knows, in 100 years time some people may be seriously explaining to others why authenticity requires that you lurch around in this particular way to that tune with a vaguely schottische feel to it?...
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Anahata on July 12, 2011, 10:36:23 AM
But it's equally important that some people (maybe even the same people) can experiment, tweak, take liberties, mess about, and generally have fun with the music.
...
I reckon this dialectic can work without either party having to be sniffy about the other.

For the record, I wasn't being sniffy about the the people in the pub. I'm delighted when they get up and dance, all the more so when it's spontaneous like that. On that occasion, they were so nearly doing a schottische that I started regretting that they'd never had a chance to spend 10 minutes learning how to do it properly, because learning to dance simply isn't part of our culture any more. And when you've learned the basic steps, you can show off/mess about with it as much as you like...

As for the band playing Les Poules Huppées as a waltz - fair enough but I have to agree with Gary that turning anything in 3 time into a waltz with a lumpy Um-pa-pa accompaniment is desperately unimaginative.

Quote
Who knows, in 100 years time some people may be seriously explaining to others why authenticity requires that you lurch around in this particular way to that tune with a vaguely schottische feel to it?...
I expect people will still be lurching about drunkenly to music in 100 years time, and no doubt they were doing so 100 years ago, but I'm not fully convinced that it will be endorsed by scholarly clams of authenticity  ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Martin J on July 12, 2011, 10:36:33 AM
Type 'Bourree melodeon' into youtube and take your pick.
Our own Clive comes up first and I think it can be said, he plays most things well  :|||:
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Martin J on July 12, 2011, 10:42:06 AM
Just viewed gpoutoux.  An interesting delivery, so much so that I'm now also wondering what makes a good bourree.  Perhaps a few votes on the youtube offerings will clarify the answer.

Added:-
Here's (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvLZXJ5wJE0&playnext=1&list=PL8AE35E193831DF0F) tune and dance.
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Martin J on July 12, 2011, 01:09:17 PM
Added:-
Here's (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvLZXJ5wJE0&playnext=1&list=PL8AE35E193831DF0F) tune and dance.

Aaaaaaarrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh.......
The dreaded folklore.
You liked it then  ;D
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Tufty on July 12, 2011, 07:21:46 PM
I really like these dance videos for learning tunes - if I have only ever heard them in a dance setting I am more likely to play them that way, which is my aim. Here is a particular favorite - set in what appears to be a ** hotel entrance at Christmas, (or perhaps a care home :-\).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ATOup0fvRA&NR=1
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Simon W on July 15, 2011, 10:25:40 AM

One of the things I've always loved about Andy Cutting's playing is that the spedd and lift are perfect for dancing whether he's with Chris Wood or Blowzabella. I love dancing schottiches and he always seems to get it just right.
I'm lucky enough to live within a short distance of Bath and so have had access to a lot of great French music and dance via the Grand Bal including Frederic Paris and Bruno Le Tron workshops. I remember Frederic saying once that you have to careful playing basses for bourees otherwise you end up sounding like a samba!
Interestingly I reckon over the years La Chavanee have become much looser and relaxed in their rhythms and feel. ( I think the double bass player has had an effect ). Last time I danced to them a few years ago they seemed to be much more fluid and less strict tempo if that makes sense.

Simon
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Tufty on July 15, 2011, 04:46:30 PM
I would love to be able to make them sound like a samba!!! (But only when I wanted to).
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: waltzman on July 21, 2011, 12:53:42 PM
Gary,

You've probably seen this already but vol 2 of the Pignol and Milleret method books has a whole section addressing left hand rhythm techniques including two-time and three-time bourrees.

Michael
Title: Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
Post by: Gary Chapin on July 21, 2011, 03:55:09 PM
 :o

Actually, Michael, I own the set but hadn't gotten to that bit!  Well, that's my plan for August, then.
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