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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GLoux Music By Ear (104* d) RE: Music By Ear 17 Jul 06


This is a HUGE issue, as far as I'm concerned, and Jerry, you've once again managed to stir up something hot....

Our band, Run of the Mill String Band, was hired to teach at the Folk College at Juniata College just last month and were absolutely amazed at the number of people who were genuinely disappointed when we said that folk music is based upon the "aural tradition" and didn't have sheet music for the folk music we played and taught. My wife, Palmer, somehow had brilliantly anticipated this expectation and went out of her way to find and duplicate copies of sheet music of many of the tunes she taught (from the Fiddlers' Fake Book, Christeson, etc.) but a number of crusty curmudgeons complained when what she played (her version/embellishments) didn't match *exactly* what the hand out (sheet music) described. She'd explain that she had been playing that tune for years and made it her own and she had lots of fun adding nuances each time through that weren't represented on the sheet music. They just didn't "get it"...such an explanation fell on deaf ears. Others did and really loved the approach.

In retrospect, I feel that we could have done a better job of making clear that our sessions were not sheet music oriented and that bringing a mini-disc or cassette recorder was in order, but we were definately taken aback by these folks interested in "folk music" but expected it to be "classically" prepared for them.

When I say it is a HUGE issue, I'm trying to imply that reading sheet music is simply not the true path to folk music. It can be a beginning, but should be outgrown. I used to read sheet music (was paper-trained?)...I had piano lessons for a while, but the draw towards folk and old-time for me, was that you learned it knee-to-knee from someone you wanted to learn from. For example, Jerry...did Dave vR ever give you sheet music, or were you right in his face absorbing his stuff?

Choral, orchestral, etc. music requires sheet music, but to me, folk music is defined by NOT using sheet music. Transcribing folk music into sheet music homogenizes and shreds and sheds tradition so that folks who place themselves in a parochial box of "can't play without sheet music" can pretend to play folk music. It's a terrific way of documenting the music for beginners, but it doesn't capture the essence, and shouldn't become a crutch that can't be outgrown.

In my humble opinion (IMHO)...

I'm on my way to search for a box of prunes right now...I hope I have not offended anyone...that is not my intention.

-Greg


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