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Author Topic: Tyranny  (Read 3025 times)

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Stiamh

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Tyranny
« on: June 14, 2018, 01:39:27 PM »

I think it was Messiaen who called it the tyranny of the barline.
Bartok expressed a similar opinion about "the tyranny of major and minor scales".

Several decades ago, I was in a somewhat De-Dannan-like band in Melbourne of which the members played box (not me), fiddle (me), mandola/mandolin, bouzouki/guitar, 12-string guitar, bodhran. A traditional Irish singer, blessed with a fine voice, a laconic wit and few teeth, pronounced us an example of "the tyranny of the fretted instruments".

Someone somewhere must have uttered a sentence containing the words "tyranny" and "melodeons|accordions". Any ideas?

triskel

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2018, 01:56:07 PM »

Someone somewhere must have uttered a sentence containing the words "tyranny" and "melodeons|accordions". Any ideas?

Surely it's the collective noun... ???

A "tyranny of accordions/melodeons" n'est ce pas? ;)
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Chris Rayner

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2018, 06:10:29 PM »

To me tyranny implies a degree of organised coordination which, in my, admittedly limited, experience is rare among melodeoneers.  I think anarchy might be closer to the mark.
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triskel

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2018, 04:19:52 AM »

To me tyranny implies a degree of organised coordination which, in my, admittedly limited, experience is rare among melodeoneers.  I think anarchy might be closer to the mark.

There speaks a melodeonista! ;) 

But players of other, quieter, instruments may be forgiven for thinking worse of box players sometimes... :o

I recall a powerful, driving, session of very lively old-school Irish traditional music out in Mullagh, one Willie Clancy Week, that I took part in - with 3 grey C#/D Paolo Sopranis (Charlie Harris behind one of them), Des Mulkere on banjo, + old-style "tambourine" bodhran, that the locals absolutely loved and completely understood and could relate to - it was like something from the old days, and we fairly "took the roof off" that night - people still talk about it. But a foolhardy "Willie Week" student flute player and an ill-advised mandolinist, who tried to join in, quickly gave up after only a couple of tunes. ::)
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Stiamh

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2018, 01:17:24 PM »

I'm sure that was a great night Stephen. But I've seen nice quiet sessions destroyed by the incursion of a young fella with a loud, wet (set your teeth on edge wet) 4v box. Pointless trying to play sweet fiddle along with a bluebottle-in-a-jamjar amplified x 1000.  >:E

triskel

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2018, 04:44:48 PM »

I'm sure that was a great night Stephen.

One to go down in the Annals! ;D

Quote
But I've seen nice quiet sessions destroyed by the incursion of a young fella with a loud, wet (set your teeth on edge wet) 4v box. Pointless trying to play sweet fiddle along with a bluebottle-in-a-jamjar amplified x 1000.  >:E

Absolutely! But we'd arranged specifically to meet up for that, in the back bar, whilst there was a nice-enough "ordinary" session going on in the front one, and a sweet fiddle session going on in the next pub along the road, and the spirit of Joe Cooley was with us. ;)

But accordions/melodeons have exerted a tyranny on traditional/folk music since they first made their presence felt in it, often forcing fiddle players to play in the "wrong" keys because of the boxes' (and their players') own key limitations (that might involve the fiddle having to be tuned down to C) and forcing them to alter their sweeter (fiddle-appropriate) intonation too... :(

« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 07:57:15 PM by triskel »
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gettabettabox

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2018, 04:58:52 PM »

Wish I had been standing outside the open window of that back bar on that night...glass in hand of course.. (:)
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Ebor_fiddler

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2018, 02:29:06 PM »

Why tune down to play in C? It's exactly the same fingering D & G, but starting on lower strings. It's never caused me any problems.
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My other melodeon's a fiddle, but one of my Hohners has six strings! I also play a very red Hawkins Bazaar in C and a generic Klingenthaler spoon bass in F.!! My other pets (played) are gobirons - Hohner Marine Band in C, Hohner Tremolo in D and a Chinese Thingy Tremolo in G.

Stiamh

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2018, 03:08:41 PM »

Why tune down to play in C? It's exactly the same fingering D & G, but starting on lower strings. It's never caused me any problems.

You're right about the fingering of course. But to understand the situation in which the question of retuning arises, you would need to be able to make a really good job of playing a big repertoire of Irish tunes in the standard keys, in a traditional style, at speed, with the rhythmic devices and embellishments that are called for in a proportion to suit your and the listeners' taste. (If you can do this, then you probably don't need to read the rest of this post which is turning into a rant  :neigh:  But I suspect this is not your case.  >:E)

Then you would be need to be able to transpose any of those tunes down a tone, on the fly, and play them at the requisite speed, making a job of them that would satisfy not only your own ears but those of your fellow musicians and the discerning listener. You follow?

Now many Irish trad fiddlers make a habit of learning tunes in two keys - G tunes played in F are very satisfying in terms of timbre, as are A dorian tunes played in G dorian. I can make a good stab at a big handful of these tunes myself.  And a large number of tunes are commonly played in either A or G major, an easier shift.

However, faced with the prospect of playing an entire evening of transposing, very few (if any) of the best traditional fiddlers would not tune down. They would tune down so that they can make the best job of their entire repertoire, complete with all the devices that make the tunes sound, well, Irish. (And incidentally enjoy the lovely mellow tone of their instruments tuned down a tone.) And while it's easy enough to handle the key shifts I mentioned, and even D maj to C maj with a bit of practice, others would be more taxing - for example Dm to Cm.

So that's the answer to your question.  :|glug  Rambling on a little more... There was a discussion on here a while back in which an Irish session pitched in B was mentioned (because of the presence of a couple of "flat-set" uilleann pipes in B). Someone could not understand why a B/C player chose not to join in. After all, couldn't she just play along the B row?  ::) Well possibly, for some tunes, but even tunes that could be played straight up and down the B row would involve completely new fingering for the average B/C player. The suggestion could only come from someone who has little understanding of what playing Irish music properly on the box involves.

Having said all that, you come across exceptions, and exceptional players. In the 1980s at Willie Clancy week I met a German flute player who habitually hung around with a coterie of uilleann pipers who had sets pitched in C. She had developed a very impressive ability to play everything a tone down on her 6-keyed simple-system flute in D, with all the embellishments and style you could ask for. But most certainly months of dedicated practice had gone into it.

Edited to added a couple of clarifying words.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 03:12:22 PM by Stiamh »
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triskel

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2018, 03:17:15 PM »

Why tune down to play in C? It's exactly the same fingering D & G, but starting on lower strings.

It is, but most people don't have 5-string fiddles to get that bottom C (though they do seem to be getting more common), and you'll be more than an octave lower than D instead of only one note - which changes the whole dynamic of the music/between the instruments.
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Stiamh

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2018, 03:21:55 PM »

Why tune down to play in C? It's exactly the same fingering D & G, but starting on lower strings.
It is, but most people don't have 5-string fiddles to get that bottom C (though they do seem to be getting more common), and you'll be more than an octave lower than D instead of only one note - which changes the whole dynamic of the music/between the instruments.

Sorry Stephen but talk of 5-string fiddles is a red herring. Chris is talking about playing down a tone, not an octave.

triskel

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2018, 03:41:16 PM »

Why tune down to play in C? It's exactly the same fingering D & G, but starting on lower strings.
It is, but most people don't have 5-string fiddles to get that bottom C (though they do seem to be getting more common), and you'll be more than an octave lower than D instead of only one note - which changes the whole dynamic of the music/between the instruments.

Sorry Stephen but talk of 5-string fiddles is a red herring. Chris is talking about playing down a tone, not an octave.

Then I guess I was thrown by his saying "It's exactly the same fingering D & G, but starting on lower strings", and that fiddlers I know emphasise the importance to them of being able to "draw on" the open (keynote) string - in this case C. But any understanding I may have of fiddle technique is entirely secondhand, acquired from friends who play it (some of whom have 5-string fiddles).

Mea culpa! :(

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Stiamh

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2018, 03:50:19 PM »

I think he meant that to transpose tunes from D to C, you will use the same fingering patterns as playing in G, but a string down. (At least that's what he ought to have meant!  :P )

Gromit

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2018, 08:19:45 PM »

Quote
I recall a powerful, driving, session of very lively old-school Irish traditional music out in Mullagh, one Willie Clancy Week

One of the best sessions I've been to was in Mullagh, one Willie week probably early 90's in the bar opposite the church (O'Connor's ? - can't remember the name). It was an Eb session in the kitchen with Marcus Ó Murchú (flute) and many more, it was brilliant. I was a "Willie Week" student flute player but wouldn't have dreamed of trying to join in.
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triskel

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2018, 07:10:24 AM »

Someone somewhere must have uttered a sentence containing the words "tyranny" and "melodeons|accordions". Any ideas?

Though not from the mouth an internationally recognised composer, like your quotes, here's a "tyranny of the accordion" one for you, in the second sentence:

The hardingfele is often tuned rather higher than standard pitch to accentuate the bright ringing effect. Many tunes also use a non-standard scale including quarter-tones; this may be an ancient inheritance from the primitive selje floyte (a one-holed willow flute) which appears to have a natural rather than man-made register.

That these eccentricities have survived is partly due to the fact that the hardingfele is traditionally a solo instrument and has not had to face up to the teutonic tyranny of the accordion; also the natural barriers of mountain, fjord and forest have effectively kept many communities quite isolated until recently, allowing local styles to thrive and diversify.

But, though he didn't (as far as I know) say it himself, the Irish composer Seán Ó Riada might well have sympathised with the sentiment. This is how he spoke of the button accordion:

"Most accordion players are so hampered by their choice of instrument as to be unable to produce anything but a faint wheezy imitation of Irish music. And unfortunatly this instrument, designed by foreigners for the use of peasants with neither the time, inclination nor application for a worthier instrument is gaining vast popularity. The reason for this is mainly laziness. We would all like to be musicians, but we don't want to take the trouble."  ::)
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richard.fleming

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2018, 07:33:58 AM »

So where are you all going with this? The button accordion is just another musical instrument with advantages and disadvantages, like pretty well any other musical instrument, played with or without sensitivity or taste or manners depending who's playing it. After maybe 50 years of learning it I personally particularly resent the idea that it is suited to lazy musicians.
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Winston Smith

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2018, 09:14:01 AM »

Richard, like you I'm not entirely sure where this is leading to, or to what purpose. And, I agree with your assertions about what the "button accordion" is. However, I would suggest that you're making a rod for your own back by feeling resentful about the inescapable fact that it is also "suited to lazy musicians".

Obviously, there are people like yourself who have been learning, playing and improving for long periods of time, and it really does show when us lesser mortals see and hear your playing; we're envious and would dearly love to play with the same skill and feeling. But we never will, simply because we're lazy! We are often more or less content to play tunes so that they're recognisable and in which only occasionally do embarrassing mistakes present themselves.

Sometimes, of course, it's not just laziness, but laziness with the genuine excuse of having other, more pressing, responsibilities too.
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2018, 09:17:38 AM »

Someone somewhere must have uttered a sentence containing the words "tyranny" and "melodeons|accordions". Any ideas?

"Most accordion players are so hampered by their choice of instrument as to be unable to produce anything but a faint wheezy imitation of Irish music. And unfortunatly this instrument, designed by foreigners for the use of peasants with neither the time, inclination nor application for a worthier instrument is gaining vast popularity. The reason for this is mainly laziness. We would all like to be musicians, but we don't want to take the trouble."  ::)

How can we be lazy, lugging a bloody great box around, rather than a little thing made of skinny timbers? Now, whistle players  are lazy ::)

Mind you, I do sort of get what he's driving at. For better or worse, the intonations all done for you, with it's advantages and limitations (especially the forcing of equal temperament)  free reeds change the music in fundemental ways. I sometimes think it would be nice to be able to bend the note, but that's not the nature of the instrument I chose.
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richard.fleming

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2018, 09:33:11 AM »

And as for Seán Ó Riada - foreigners designing musical instruments? Peasants playing traditional music? Whatever next?
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Tone Dumb Greg

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Re: Tyranny
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2018, 09:55:37 AM »

And as for Seán Ó Riada - foreigners designing musical instruments? Peasants playing traditional music? Whatever next?

Classicaly trained musicians telling peasant folks how they should be making music?
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Greg Smith
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