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I went down on Rampart, didn't even mean no harm, when the police walked up, caught me by my arm - Charles Lacy, Rampart Street Part 2

Author Topic: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation  (Read 12493 times)

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Offline markm

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2008, 07:41:15 AM »
I think you have to keep in mind there are two elements to the music.  Vocals and accompaniment.  I think even if we exactly reproduce the accompaniment note for note there is still the element of the vocals.  For most of us that is going to be very different then the original Country Blues record.  This harkens back to an earlier discussion we've had here about vocals, and whether you should sing in your own voice, accent, etc or should try to reproduce the recorded vocals or some approximation of it.

I think there is a time and a place for both but I think in a performance situation people don't want to hear a "correct cover" but yet your own take on the song, especially if it is one that is pretty widely familiar.

This is a great subject for discussion.

Mark

Offline dave stott

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #46 on: January 20, 2008, 07:54:02 AM »
Hi all

I have been struggling with this with myself for a while.

There are times when I want the tune that I am playing to sound exactly like Big Bill, Rev Gary, Blind Boy Fuller.

There are also times when I want to emulate the variation played by Hot Tuna, Roy Book Binder, Dave Van Ronk, etc...

In the end, I invariably end up sounding like a mixture of all of the above combined with my own techniques.

Dave


Offline Rivers

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #47 on: January 20, 2008, 08:19:13 AM »
Ah the 'Hamlet' thread again. As in 'To be, or not to be, that is the question'. Hamlet was screwed because he couldn't accept the two exist quite happily side by side.  ;D

It's relevant, particularly if you want to be an 'artist' and get out there, play, sing and make a name for yourself, but it's kinda moot, or mute  ;). Performers want/need to differentiate themselves and hope the public likes the difference so they can, among other things, get a crowd and sell 'product'. Nobody will ever sound exactly like the original, and at the same time everybody will always sound a little like the original, more or less.

Such thoughts have absolutely no bearing on my playing and never will, I'll always sound like me even if I play some passage note for note. As for concepts often ascribed to blues like sincerity, emotion, feeing... honestly if you met a real blues person and asked them about such stuff most wouldn't know what you're talking about. Though they may embody it to the listener, it's an illusion. If you feel such emotion though I say 'go for it'!

When you're 'on', you're 'on', period. The trick is being 'on' more often than not. That has nothing to do with consciously trying to be or not be something. Such thoughts are liable to get in the way. The mind has to be clear to play well, and that's where it starts for me, in the mind. It can then work its way down to my gut if I'm playing well and generating a good bio-feedback loop. As in 'I sound good, which makes me feel good, which makes me play better, which makes me feel even better, which...' and so on.

Having said that I can consciously dial-in a copy of some stuff. To do so I have to stop my fingers doing things outside that frame. This is a really good exercise especially if you rate the original player's musical taste more than your own inclinations and bad habits. Surely you do rate them highly since you're trying to learn from them. I do this a lot when I'm learning a new piece or copping licks. But once I have it down I know I'm going to change it slightly, throw it into all kinds of places it's never been.

I'm no Hamlet, I'm a 'to be and not to be' guy. I embrace both and believe I'm limiting myself if I lock-in to one or the other. True individuation is not achieved by thinking about it.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2008, 08:50:51 AM by Rivers »

Offline Slack

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #48 on: January 20, 2008, 08:35:02 AM »
Quote
and even then it's kinda moot, or mute   ;).

Thank you former English teacher - I've corrected.  ;)

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #49 on: January 20, 2008, 09:12:57 AM »
Fellas,

Thanks for the thoughts.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be 'toasted' for bringing it up or not.  I guess in hindsight it is a moot question, certainly in my case anyways.  I should have dug a little deeper in the 'archives', I didn't realize that this had already been covered.  Thanks Andrew for pointing me to the original thread and 'Hi!' back at ya!

I've got to admit that I am impressed with players reproducing a tune exactly (or nearly so) as the original.  Yet on the other hand when I hear a new interpretation of a song that outdoes (to my ears) the original it is even more impressive.    Blind Willie Johnson's "If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down" vs. The Reverend Gary Davis's "Samson and Delilah" springs to mind.  It's all so subjective though. 

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Offline Slack

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #50 on: January 20, 2008, 09:39:19 AM »
Quote
I've got to admit that I am impressed with players reproducing a tune exactly (or nearly so) as the original.  Yet on the other hand when I hear a new interpretation of a song that outdoes (to my ears) the original it is even more impressive.

And conversely.  A slavish reproduction of a great original arrangement is much preferred over a new arrangement that sucks.   ;D

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #51 on: January 20, 2008, 09:45:43 AM »
The audience for this music is virtually non-existent. I think when many people actually hear it performed, they like it a lot. It's fun music. But the only people who would notice a note-for-note reproduction are those who make up the miniscule percentage of the miniscule country blues audience who play guitar and know enough about it to notice. Three or four people.  ;D So while the question is not quite moot, it's damn close. You can pretty much do what you want.

That said, my problem is when players start using the "creative interpretation" line as an excuse to deliver at best mediocre versions of country blues material. The point's been made before but is always worth reiterating: Learning to reproduce, at least to some degree, the original versions of the music makes you a better player, gives you deeper insight into the form(s) and the feel of the music for when you do start playing your own versions. I would guess the majority of the revivalists who play this music did this. Paul Geremia, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ari Eisinger, Corey Harris, whoever. They've paid close attention to the original songs, they may not perform them that way now, but they've done their homework. For the guy sitting at home just amusing himself in his spare time by playing guitar, do what moves you, I say. You may be happy simply goofing around with great tunes, or nailing a Stefan Grossman tablature for a song (but going no further) or writing your own new tune. Whatever makes your tail wag.

But when it's someone who's performing (as in charging me money), or putting out a CD, then the bar should be much higher. And I either want to hear someone who is a natural just doing what they do and is a pleasure because of it, or I want someone who's done their homework and taken it to the next level. While I will always try to give a player the benefit of the doubt and try to be generous in my reception of any performance because I know that just getting up on stage is hard, deep down I think I really object to someone sucking. As one of these revivalists once said, "Wake up mama, turn your amp down low..."

markm brings up the other hugely important point that is central to this discussion IMO but that we guitarists always tend to forget. This is vocal music. That can take a lot of homework too, or can come naturally to some, but whatever, it makes all the difference to me as a listener.

Anyway, aim high, I say.

Offline Slack

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #52 on: January 20, 2008, 10:06:58 AM »
Quote
Anyway, aim high, I say.

And speaking of Ari Eisinger.  ;)  Ari has for years been recognized as tops in interpreting Blind Blake, who many consider the top east coast picker, ever.  While Ari does plenty of Blake's licks, he also does plenty, out of his huge palate of licks, that Blake never played -- and you would not know it unless you were one of the 3 or 4 CB or Blake enthusiasts that Andrew mentions. 

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #53 on: January 20, 2008, 10:19:56 AM »
Quote
markm brings up the other hugely important point that is central to this discussion IMO but that we guitarists always tend to forget. This is vocal music. That can take a lot of homework too, or can come naturally to some, but whatever, it makes all the difference to me as a listener.
It is vocal music and it makes all the difference in the world.  The story telling that is the lyrics is really what it's all about I guess.  There has always been something unsatisfying about purely instrumental music for me.  I would rather listen to an opera sung in Italian than Mozart or Beethoven. 

Good vocals, good lyrics and good instrumental backup make the music - any style of music.  I have always maintained that everybody has their voice.  He or she just has to find it and work with what they have.
Quote
Anyway, aim high, I say.
You know it!

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Offline lindy

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #54 on: January 20, 2008, 11:39:22 AM »
What do the following august organizations have in common?

Society for Seventeenth Century Music
Vox Saeculorum
Gregorian Association
Lute Society
Catgut Acoustical Society (I?m not making this up.)
WeenieCampbell.com

All of them are in the same racket: preserving old music in its original form, so that (in our specific case) groups of people in the year 2508 can get together, eat barbecue, interpret Geeshie Wiley lyrics, and generally rediscover for themselves the nuances of a form of music whose heyday was several centuries prior.

We?and those at PTCBW 2508?have and will have one humongous advantage over current fans of Early and Renaissance music who want to copy and perform the original compositions note-for-note: we have recordings. Knowing that we have those recordings opens the door for all kinds of experimentation, since we can reproduce the originals whenever we want.

So someone like Corey Harris can let some Malian guitar licks sneak into his blues, and also do a great note-for-note version of ?Boats Up the River? in the same performance.

The range of players that y?all are talking about will probably exist after we?re long gone?hobbyists who want to copy note-for-note, those who want to learn styles instead of individual tunes, those who want to experiment, and the crazy ones who think they can make a living playing country blues.

There are a lot of ?Ancient Music Societies? around the world. The radio station I worked at several epochs ago had a news/classical music format. That?s where I learned that in 1740 there was an ?Ancient Music Society? in England that specialized in preserving authentic reproductions of 16th century madrigals. That's a great example of direct transmission, the same thing that many of our elders have done for us over in the Schoolhouse.

Lindy

« Last Edit: January 20, 2008, 11:42:49 AM by lindy »

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Reproduce or Interpret?
« Reply #55 on: January 20, 2008, 12:28:27 PM »
Hi all:

The thread Andrew quoted above ( one of the best in the history of Weeniecampbell IMHO) states by views on this matter in considerable (too much?) detail. Leave us to say that I am firmly on the side of recreation (vs creation). I have seen (and heard) so much "#%&@*" played and put out on record in the name of "making it your own" that I guess I've become jaded.

Musicians who try to recreate have my undying respect because 1) they respect the craft, 2) are learning more "tools" for their "toolbox" of CB and 3) bless their hearts, they never (well, Ari) succeed and thus (inadvertently) produce new takes on old material.

I can accept (but not agree with) the point of view that "I don't want to learn from the old guys, that's fine. I have less (almost no) sympathy for "I'm not good enough to recreate" (a self fulfilling prophesy) or "Why should I recreate, the old guys didn't" ( many good reasons why you should at least try, and maybe some of the old guys did, and virtually all did to some degree).

In the end, if you put your music out for public consumption (except for the Back Porch) for pay (live or CD), in my humble opinion the music will speak for itself. But, if you please, don't put out lesser efforts just to "make it your own".

Won't cut it with me.

Alex

Offline Rivers

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #56 on: January 20, 2008, 01:18:23 PM »
The two topics are now merged since they are identical and complimentary.

lindy said:

Quote
That?s where I learned that in 1740 there was an ?Ancient Music Society? in England that specialized in preserving authentic reproductions of 16th century madrigals

Jeez lindy that's pretty amazing, I didn't know that.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2008, 01:31:02 PM by Rivers »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #57 on: January 20, 2008, 11:34:03 PM »
I had a conversation earlier this evening with a classical cellist who teaches at one of the big time Manhattan music schools concerning the subject of this thread. I asked her what would be likely to happen if suddenly every single score of the Bach unaccompanied Cello suites disappeared irretrievably off the face of the earth and the only means of learning the music was from a few recordings? I asked whether players would feel obligated to copy the playing on the recording exactly, in effect treating it as a score, or would she expect significant variations in interpretation? To my surprise I learned that there were several editions of the scores published, each containing differences from preceding editions, and that cellists could play one or another of these as they saw fit. But even more surprising was her insistence that there was likely to be a wide spread of interpretations, as she claims is already the case even with the existence of the score, and that as far as she was concerned this was all to the good. In her view the musician's self expression was every bit as important as the idea of faithfulness to the score. One can of course conjecture what the response would have been had the recording been of Bach himself playing the pieces or of Bach supervising a cellist playing them. There are however recordings of Stravinsky conducting his works, and subsequent recordings by other conductors that are held to be as good or to be improvements. I own several sets of the Bach Cello suites : Janos Starker, Christopher Coin, Frederick Baumann maybe one or two more. None is as different one to the other as any Gary Davis take of Samson and Delilah is to say, Peter, Paul & Mary's loathsome version, but they do construct very different experiences from essentially the same music.
Prior to this conversation I had already formed the opinion that a classical musicians approach to the Blues, such as I imagined Ari Eisenger's to be (with the addition of an equal concern for vocal presentation), was necessary to carry performance of this music hundreds of years into the future. Now I'm not so sure. Go figure.
I have been thinking about this subject for years. Its been wonderful to stumble on a
fully developed, thoughtful and intelligent discussion of the subject.
BTW far from despising Peter, Paul & Mary's recording, Gary Davis benefited greatly from it and referred to his house in Jamaica as "the house that Peter,Paul & Mary built". It still makes me wanna puke though, like everything they ever did.
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Offline CF

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #58 on: January 21, 2008, 05:19:33 AM »
Hey Muck, I'll hold Peter, Paul & Mary down & you hit em again  >:D
It occured to me while rereading the thread that there is only one criteria for performing blues, something I stated earlier & something that applies to all music: it has to be GOOD. I dare say that the staunch recreationists, if they heard a particularly talented musician be creative with a hallowed standard, would be duly impressed & satisfied . . . but GOOD is a tricky thing & would be as personal to each as their definition of beauty. Blues = Good to me when the artist shows knowledge of the form, respect for the already established virtues but plays the music in a loose & familiar way, FROM the tradition & not necessarily IN. I can take someone's IN playing for a while & be impressed & entertained but if they don't play FROM, don't show that they too are bluesmen & blueswomen & not just impersonators than it doesn't hold my attention for very long. The blues are a S.O.B that way. I find that there are a lot of musicians from other genres that would make great blues musicians in their feel & approach & personalities . . . but if they don't know the licks & the rhythms then they won't cut it. When Kurt Cobain did Leadbelly's 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night' my intial thought was, 'What a passionate, gut-wrenching performance . . . too bad he can't play blues guitar'. I do think our music is suffering from a too clinical approach. I believe TABbed blues is a slippery slope & should be used sparingly or not at all. Of course it has aided in a revived interest in the guitar styles of the pre-war players so there you go . . .
   
« Last Edit: January 21, 2008, 05:21:06 AM by cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Rivers

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #59 on: January 21, 2008, 08:32:57 AM »
Another aspect of this is when, say, Fred McDowell was learning to play, as he said himself, he listened to Blind Willie Johnson 78s, and I would guess a limited number of others. We have the whole history of recorded music at our disposal. Not only that we have the ways, means and tools to educate ourselves about any given form. Contrast that with, say, Lemon's musical education.

If you work at note-for-note transcriptions today you have a big advantages re. access to material, teachers and musical knowledge, and likewise the same applies if you are a cherry-picker like I tend to be. The differences appear in repertoire, when performing or playing in company. I was entranced listening to Wax and Andrew playing Lemon, Leadbelly and Patton tunes up in Wax's room at Port T this year. They conjured up the true spirit of the songs on those old instruments and it was magical. I wouldn't be able to do that, more fool me for my lack of application. But I know how to do some other stuff.

It might be possible perhaps to develop a list of the pros and cons of the two approaches that distills the discussion down to its essence. If you could quickly see the possible benefits of both approaches you could chose to work with one or other for a stretch of time with the goal of balancing out your playing.

 


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