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Del played tougher than a boiled owl, and I still pity the fool what's got to follow her on to the stage. She sang prettier than many a woman with a guitar known primarily for their voice. Her original instrumental, Wobbly Walk, inspired by chapters 16-18 (Debbs and Socialism) of Howard Zinn's classic People's History of the United States is a hoot and conjures up a Chaplanesque Bo of old, IWW card fresh in hand, struttin' his stuff - Mr O'Muck review, Opera House gig somewhere off the mainland, Maine, USA

Author Topic: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation  (Read 12580 times)

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Offline OMpicker

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #30 on: March 02, 2004, 05:45:14 AM »
I vote for technology being a help, not a hindrance.  Video, manipulating of speeds, etc. is to me kind of the equivalent of being able to walk up to Memphis Minnie and say, Excuse me maam, could you show me that lick you used in Soo Cow?

Seems to me they are learning tools, which then help you emulate, build your vocabulary, etc., etc.  Where you go with them from that point is up to your own imagination and inclination.

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #31 on: March 02, 2004, 12:52:41 PM »
How could a person be drawn to imitate something if they didn't first see something that related to them in some way?? If you already recognized yourself in something, you wouldn't need to "inject yourself", you'd already be there, finding new ways to express yourself through it.

Frankie, that's it! To me that's the essence of the discussion. The creative process in country blues is largely in material selection. By selection of a previously recorded piece to imitate or perform, you've made a creative decision, an expression of yourself. If you write your own material to play your selection of it is your creative decision. Both of these options gives the listener some incite into you, the performer. Material selection.

In 1929 (that year again) Besse Smith recorded Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, perhaps the classic down-and-out depression blues. However she didn't write the song, Jimmy Cox did. She probably didn't arrange or conduct it either. She was a re-creative singer recreating another persons song, probably from sheet music. The creative part for her was material selection and performance. She made it her own, just like Johnm did with Church Bell Blues so long ago and frankie is doing with Snigglin'

I don't try to learn Son House tunes, even though I realize that they are great pieces of music. They just don't happen to appeal to me. That tells you something about me (I don't know what!)

I got to thinking about John Hurt after Orville's comments. And of course he (MJH) is an almost unique example. In his 1928 recordings he expressed the results of his creative efforts in the preceding years which yielded the tunes he recorded at that time. However at the time of his rediscovery in the 60s he was still playing mostly the same tunes with very similar arrangements. He was in fact at that point a re-creative musician, recreating himself! I suspect that is why that kid Orville mentioned had a MJH tattoo (how cool is that!) and not a Clifford Gibson one, MJH was able to re-create his tunes on modern (relatively) recording technology, with a better instrument, making his music accessible to the average listener who did not want to plow through the static.

The many (most?) of the?recorded 20s and 30s country bluesmen were commercial musicians, deriving all or part of there income from performing music, either on the street, at parties, medicine shows or fees for recording. The creative process had pressure on it, pressure to come up with tunes that would move the public to stop and listen (and throw some money your way), dance or buy your record (so the record company would ask you back). Expressing oneself was a distinctly secondary (or tertiary) consideration. These guys (in my opinion) weren't folk musicians, they were professionals. Borrowing was not only essential for their musical development, it was good business, familiarity (especially in lyrics) breeding recognition. I'll bet that no one, passing a bluesman on a street corner in Clarksdale, Miss. in 1928 said "Oh, that guy's not playing original material, I won't stop."

It seems to me, in this day and age, creativity and originality have become synonimis (sp). The cover artist is really looked down upon. This is the age of the singer-songwriter, where the only way to be creative is to drag ones angst out via original songs. Rubbish! Tim Williams, a great (really great) acoustic bluesman from my neck-of-the-woods, often remarks about how he is dismissed when he goes to solo artist workshops because his repertoire is 80% covers (he dosen't care).

BTW, I agree with OMpicker that technology is a great help. To "make a song your own" you gotta learn the song!

Great discussion,
« Last Edit: April 11, 2005, 11:15:42 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #32 on: March 09, 2004, 08:35:16 PM »
i don't have any stats but i kind of wonder about that. tho there was no TV to eat up people's time back then it seems to me that there must be more guitars sold today than at any time in the history of the world.

I think the relationship between musicians and listeners has changed over the years.  In the early part of the 20th century, if you wanted to hear a tune, you basically had to seek out someone who could play.  Nowadays, with the hyper-availability of recorded music, a live musician is viewed in the same way as a guy at a party who puts a lampshade on his head:  at best, amusing for a moment and at worst, embarrassing and better ignored.

I'm tempted to edit that last bit out, as it sounds more cynical than I'm wont to be.  Ahhh, what the hell...  how often do I get in touch with my inner grouch?

Offline waxwing

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #33 on: March 09, 2004, 10:35:56 PM »
I struggle to keep my inner grouch in check when discussing this topic as well. And I think you're saying the same thing I was talking about, Frank, when I said that all performers are now judged against the best in the world as a standard. Unless they think you're somebody famous you don't get a listen from most. But there are lots of folks out there who will stop and listen, who understand the importance of live art at any level. Which brings me to something Pyro mentioned, above, about early blues artists being commercial because they played songs solely because they thought people would like them, and therefore they were not "folk" artists. This sounds a lot like Elijah Wald's current "groundbreaking" work. (sarcasm added) I haven't read the whole book yet, but my big question is: what IS a "folk" artist. Pyro seems to imply that folk artists only play what comes from their heart. Admirable, but I don't think that's entirely realistic. Calt has an addendum to his Patton book in which he ridicules David Evans' attempt to define Folk Music as the music of a "Folk" or a certain demographic group of people, i.e. rural southern blacks. But I can't imagine anyone playing music that didn't have an underlying psychological need for others to be attracted, and to hear and appreciate. For instance, much folk music seems to be dance music, passed on from generation to generation. Wouldn't a young fiddler learn the most popular dance tunes first? Whoops, by Wald's definition then, he would be a slick professional. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there seems to be a long gradation with much overlap from "Folk" to "Pop", whereas Wald and others act like there is a huge difference, black and white, one or the other. I think you could be folk and pop to a certain extent. Why are they mutually exclusive? What one has to remember is that these are "Pop" writers trying to sell as many books as possible, as opposed to academicians who face a peer review. So sensationalism is primary. As is this Oedipal need to destroy existing ideas, by misrepresenting them, instead of building upon them. It galls me to read something to the effect of: "Scholars" think that all bluesmen were walking barefoot down a dusty road with a guitar on their backs. (not a quote, but almost) I've read quite a few books on blues lately, both scholarly and pop, and I haven't seen such a sentiment anywhere. Perhaps he means pop magazine writers instead of scholars? I just feel that this inflamatory language is meant to appeal to adolescents who are in the throes of individuation and are attracted to "revolutionnary" statements. Certainly Wald and other Pop writers know that it is these youths who supply the lions share of money spent on music and books about music. "Every thing you know about the blues is Wrong!" starts one recent review, but in the last paragraph Wald admits, a large part of his intended audience is those who have never heard of Kokomo Arnold. Well, dang, my grouch did get out. So, anybody think I'm all wet? Trying to reading Calt and Wald back to back has nearly done me in.
Pyro, I love what you said about choice of material. That is probably my biggest concern in deciding what to learn next.
All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2004, 11:33:11 PM by waxwing »
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Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #34 on: March 10, 2004, 10:51:24 AM »
And I think you're saying the same thing I was talking about, Frank, when I said that all performers are now judged against the best in the world as a standard.

I think so, except I'm not sure I'd characterize all that stuff as 'best' - I'm not sure why the latest EC album ought to be relevant at all to what I do or don't do, but there's plenty of people willing to line up on one side or another of some imaginary line and start arguing about it.? It's not that I like or don't like EC...? I just don't think he matters at all to me.? The Bad Livers are way more relevant to me & how I live my life.

Trying to reading Calt and Wald back to back has nearly done me in.

I haven't read the Wald book, yet, but I understand how Calt can get to you.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2005, 11:18:04 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #35 on: September 29, 2004, 06:10:11 AM »
I think one of the things that is tough about making "Mississippi Blues" come alive is that it is so beautifully conceived that there can be a tendency to want to make it "exquisite".? I think that, combined with the fact that it was transcribed very early on has sort of relegated it to a?"set piece purgatory", as kind of the Country Blues version of "Stairway to Heaven".? Of course, it doesn't have to be that way--it's a great piece.? It just seems like it could use a version in which someone newly figured it out by ear, arrived at some different left-hand solutions, missed some of the details and added some new ones of his or her own--I just realized I'm describing the way that John Jackson played it.? Did you ever hear it?? It was great.? Sometimes I think with the absolute warhorses you have a better chance of bringing them to life with a quick and dirty version, not figured out too carefully.?

I'm responding to John's post in this thread, because it seems to me to speak to some of the issues brought up here, I'd rather not hijack waxwing's Willie Brown thread, and it's a good excuse to revive an old discussion.

I've never heard John Jackson play Mississippi Blues, but he had such interesting ways of playing what can only be described as "CB standards".? I remember being mesmerized by his Red River Blues when I was at PT.

Re:? exquisite - I think you're right about that.? The music I like best has a touch and tone that's pretty far south of "exquisite".? The impulse to "beautify" CB is one of the things I like least in a lot of current players.? Of course, going in the opposite direction winds up sounding like affectation.? It's a tough balancing act, that's for sure.

Of course, then you stand the chance of having all the people in the know say, "It doesn't go that way."? Oh well.

Hey...? that would be us.? Screw us.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2005, 11:21:16 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #36 on: September 29, 2004, 09:14:16 AM »
Frank, I don't know how to quote other people's messages, but with regard to this particular issue, "Screw us" says it all, as far as I'm concerned.  You called a spade a bloody shovel.
All best,

Offline Johnm

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #37 on: October 10, 2004, 11:19:43 PM »
Hi all,
Figured we had been stuck on that last message long enough.  This is a semi-response to Frank's idea on "covers + + ".  I hope all who are so inclined will take the time to come up with their own versions of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" or "Don't Fish In My Sea".  Onward and upward--Excelsior!
All best,

Offline Blue Poodle

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #38 on: October 11, 2004, 07:14:45 AM »
Hi All:

This is an interesting thread!? I like John C.'s comments on the way that performers were judged and supported now vs then.? I think that it's clear that modern recordings, TV and other media provide somewhat universal set of models to us.? On the one hand, we have access to a wide variety of different styles, genres and sub-genres of music.? On the other hand, mainstream, popular music presents much more limited models stylistically.? Isn't it amazing how many Brittany Spears, Madonna, Whitney Houston etc. wannabees we have seen in recents years?? "Star Search" is just lousy with people who are all trying for the same sound.

It seems to me that before the widespread emergence of recordings and other media, individual performance was probably much more encouraged.? After all, people wanted music to sing along with and dance to, and the only way to get that was through local performers.? It makes sense that people would have been encouraged to play and to work to improve if they showed any potential at all.? I think that nowadays, people are often discouraged from performing ("you stink, buddy!") if their efforts aren't similar to or to the standard of what people hear in popular recordings.?

One of the things that I enjoyed about the Workshop this summer was the encouraging, supportive atmosphere and inclusiveness of the experience.? Everyone is encouraged to participate and people are very eager to share what they know with other people.? I think that this is an important part of keeping the country blues alive.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2005, 11:24:40 PM by Johnm »
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Offline NevadaPic

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Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #39 on: January 19, 2008, 07:00:10 PM »

This question I have been contemplating for many years.  I will never be Reverend Gary Davis or Robert Wilkins or Blind Boy Fuller or Blind Willie McTell or Blind Blake or Blind Willie Johnson or ...  Why should I feel the need to reproduce their music note-for-note?  All of these players either borrowed from one another or built upon the technique of others that came before them.  Why should we be any different?  Their music stands by itself.  It is recorded for posterity and is not likely to be lost in the future shuffle.  Thus from that standpoint we need not be living recorders passing the gospel truth on to future generations.  If we don't build upon their work and take it further on down the road then what does that make us?

If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Slack

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #40 on: January 19, 2008, 09:35:52 PM »
I think this is somewhat of a moot question. Certainly, it's important to build on the work, maybe it is the most important thing, because only by building on the work will country blues continue to be a living art form.  However, I think that if you strive to merely reproduce it - you are indeed re-interpreting it.  For most of us that is, because of the difficulty and by definition, the very personal nature of solo performance. I suppose, if you are a professional putting in lots of time you can come very close to playing the music how it was originally played... but the pros always put in their own interpretation.

It's the great thing about country blues.  You can work and strive to recreate as closely as possible the original work.  Or you can take a few ideas of the original and come up with something completely different --- or anything in between.  It's all good.  :D 
« Last Edit: January 20, 2008, 08:32:17 AM by Slack »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #41 on: January 19, 2008, 11:27:09 PM »
Hi NevadaPic,

Always a tantalizing question. See this thread;Itemid=114&topic=272.0

for some more thoughts on the matter.


(note: these two topics are now merged)
« Last Edit: January 20, 2008, 01:23:20 PM by Rivers »

chipmonk doug

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #42 on: January 20, 2008, 05:59:04 AM »
For me there is no choice becasue I"m not good enough to reproduce.  :)

Offline CF

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #43 on: January 20, 2008, 06:15:34 AM »
I think there's plenty room for any approach to playing the blues. The only thing that matters, as with every other music or art is 'is it any good?' I've never heard an approach to blues that I out & out hated but I've hated certain performances.
The note for note reproduction take is important I think because, for me, the blues as I know & love it is becoming more & more the music of history. I may be in the minority but I believe the blues golden age is gone . . . probably long gone. I don't mean to belittle any of the modern/contemporary players (hell, I'm one of 'em!) but the likes of Patton or Muddy do not exist any more. So . . . I play for my own reasons I guess.   
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Richard

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #44 on: January 20, 2008, 07:23:52 AM »
Ah, the old ones, like chestnuts, are the best ones  :D

Unless one has the talent to produce a note for job I would think the best most of us can hope for is a rendition "in the style of... " and if during that rendition a bit happened to sound about right then that's what it's all about, well at least as far as my guitar playing goes!

I know I may bang on about jazz, but the paralell is there albeit with a difference - in that generally, instead just as slavishly producing a copy of an original, a jazzer will tend to pick out the trademark licks from thier favourite musicians and incorportate them into thier own renditions whilst still "in the style of...."

Now that is not to say that some things must not be learnt by rote, for example the clarinet solo from High Society... so with that in mind if you were say, a Lonnie Johnson fan and played "in the syle of..." just add the odd well placed original lick and your audience would never know the difference  :P

All that side, it would be nice to have the talent to do a note for note.... but then maybe we just have to settle for what (musically!) gives us pleasure.     

(That's enough of that. Ed)


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