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Author Topic: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?  (Read 7774 times)

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Gary Chapin

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What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« 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
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Tufty

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #1 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.
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Gary Chapin

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #2 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.
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mglamb

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #3 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
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mglamb

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2011, 02:18:48 PM »

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Theo

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #5 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!
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mglamb

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #6 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.
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Gary Chapin

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #7 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.
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mglamb

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #8 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.

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oggiesnr

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #9 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
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Gary Chapin

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #10 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.
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Lyn

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #11 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. ::)
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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #12 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...)
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Gary Chapin

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Gary Chapin

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #14 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.
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Chris Brimley

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #15 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.
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Chris Ryall

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #16 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  ???
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michik

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #17 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.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2011, 08:47:29 PM by michik »
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Chris Ryall

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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #18 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;) )
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Re: What does it mean to play a bourrée well?
« Reply #19 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.
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