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Most exciting take on the farmer and the boll weevil yet. Hardest driving guitar recording ever? - John Fahey, on Charlie Patton's Mississippi Bo Weevil Blues

Author Topic: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation  (Read 12478 times)

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Online waxwing

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #60 on: January 21, 2008, 08:53:22 AM »
Wow, I wonder what a symphony orchestra would sound like if every instrument decided to recompose their own part?. Heh, conductors would be suiciding left and right. Audiences would be staying away in droves. But even playing all the same notes, one orchestra can do an entirely different "interpretation" of a piece than another. The conductor's approach, and the emotionality of each player can create an entirely different experience on the part of the audience. yet for those in the "you must slavishly change notes" camp none of that is part of "interpretation". Only changing the notes counts?

I mean, don't real creative musicians start with a blank sheet and write their own songs and music (if you really want to get macho about it)? Those wimps who only change some notes around are still stealing the song, right?What's the difference if you steal a little or steal a lot? I can just hear the blues police. "Well, Bob, you only changed 10% of the notes and that doesn't qualify as 'your' arrangement. And besides, the notes you stuck in there all came from someone else. So you can't play that song here until you change more of the notes, like say 30%."

Do we always have to have the word "slavish" before the word recreation? How 'bout the word "loving" instead?

Sure, in terms of copyright laws, if you change the arrangement of a song enough, you can actually make a claim of copyright and call it yours, even if you stole all the turnarounds from RJ. But anyone who can put themselves in the emotional place of the singer of the song, sing the words with honest feeling,  and can sell that song to an audience, and move that audience to an emotional place, owns that song, whether they happen to have changed a few notes or not.

I was once criticized by someone for imitating the originals too closely on some of my songs. The other ones were fine, tho'. 'Course, that was because he didn't know the originals of those so he didn't have his "yardstick" to measure how many notes I had changed to be able to apply his totally intellectual rule. The songs worked for him if he wasn't comparing them to the original. Ear of the beholder, maybe? It is unfortunate that some can only judge  someone else's interpretation by assessing how many notes have been changed and not from the emotional interpretation.

Another example. I play Mississippi Blues (OH God, not another one, right?). Well, I decided to get a little creative in the breaks and I sorta syncopated and added some slides into positions to the standard verse and added some stuff to the boogie part on one break, too. Whenever I played the song for real blues nuts, I always got all excited, thinking they would notice. Nope, never got a peep outa anyone. Just made me ridiculously self conscious when I was playing  my parts. Fortunately, the non-educated folks I normally perform for love it, even with the slavish reinterpretations. Probably gets more mentions than any song I play.

Do whatever feels right for you. I think squabbling about whether players should or shouldn't change some notes around is silly. Whatever works for you, brings you to the music in your heart, is the right path for you. Maybe that path will change with time. But why do we have to point fingers at others and say what they do isn't real blues?

Okay, I was trying to stay away from this thread, but I woke up with a little extra time this morning.-G-

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline lindy

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #61 on: January 21, 2008, 09:02:18 AM »
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.

That comment nudges me to say what I left out from my post yesterday: I know better than to claim that the first recorded versions of the songs we love to emulate are *the* definitive versions. I love that quote from Jerry Ricks about how he would think that he "had" a song, then hear the original player do the same song in person and think "I didn't have *that*!"

But we're still in better shape than classical players who would like to figure out some old scores of music written by people other than the Bachs and Resphigis and other heavyweights, with the hope of finding some forgotten or overlooked plums. Where we benefit the most -- and, I think, what also stands as a great argument for experimentation -- is where we have multiple recordings over the course of several decades from the same artist. Rev. Gary Davis, Furry Lewis, and Bukka White immediately come to mind. Some of them *must've* gotten tired playing the same songs the same way, and therefore messed around with their arrangements. And they could play their later versions for longer than 3 minutes, giving them all kinds of space to play with.

Lindy

Offline dave stott

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #62 on: January 21, 2008, 09:19:13 AM »
that brings me to the point of "exact replication"

I doubt anyone can attest to being able to replciate it exactly..

Rev. Gary Davis never played a song the same way, heck, he varied it from verse to verse in the same recording.

All of the early artists varied the tunes to suit the environment. Shortening it for recordings, lengthening it for dance parties, etc..

Who is to say which version is the "correct version".

what really bugs the heck out of me is when someone posts their effort at a tune for comments (Big Bill for example)

The immediate reaction is:

"you need to add more bass"  "not bad, but add more driving bass to sound like Bill" and other similar comments...

The person did not ask for comments regarding how closely it matched the original...

They were asking for input on the performance!!

DAVE




Offline uncle bud

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #63 on: January 21, 2008, 11:52:27 AM »
Wax, you must not have been playing Mississippi Blues for the right three or four people.  ;) (I don't know that I'd notice a change, but possibly - I'll listen more closely next time.  ;)) Anyway, I think that putting in your own break(s) is exactly the right instinct. Why be self-conscious? You've obviously mastered playing it and can now fool around with it. I don't know that it's the best example of a song though, since it really is such a set piece.

The classical analogy is a worthwhile one, but there is the score, of course -- various editions, as noted, some considered more authoritative than others. A classical player is not likely to take a sonata by Mozart, change the key because he or she is more comfortable playing it there, maybe take that movement in 3/4 time and change it to 4/4 etc. Interpretations can certainly vary dramatically, and classical fans can go on way longer than us blues nerds about the merits of this or that performance. And be much more opinionated about it too.  :D Also depends on the style. Baroque music is more open to interpretation than later periods where composers began to include many more playing instructions with dynamics, tempi, accents, many in an attempt to force the players to play it exactly like this or that etc. But still, in classical music the overall framework is there, the notes are mostly all written down. Ornamentation can vary from baroque performer to performer, there are "improvised" cadenzas in concertos, but on the whole the musical framework is set. Some people take that framework and just do more with it, or less.

Blues is certainly much more interpretative and subject to change, reworking, rewriting, or improvisation (only a possibility, of course, not a rule). But unless one wants to run things through the pablumizer that makes modern blues so bloody boring, I think a somewhat "classical" approach to learning the language and styles of country blues is important for me and I'd say for a good number of others. We are not Robert Belfour (and even he learned from trying to copy John Lee Hooker records). Or John Cephas (who learned from copying Blind Boy Fuller records and Skip James records). Or John Jackson (who learned from copying Blind Blake and Jimmie Rodgers and many other records). I can claim no connection to the culture that brought about the blues other than my love of the music, my desire to play it and my immense respect for the people that made it. I'm not black, live in the wrong country, have high-speed internet, enjoy learning to cook the cuisines of the world. I'm not likely to be mistaken for your typical Mississippi bluesman from the 1920s or today.

I also have access to way more of the music, different styles and musical distractions. Some people can leap more quickly and naturally into developing their own style. I'm not there yet myself, which is part of the reason I'm still learning to copy rather than create, most of the time.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2008, 11:59:01 AM by andrew »

Offline poymando

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #64 on: January 21, 2008, 01:02:20 PM »
This is an interesting topic so I'll toss in my 2 cents worth with some thoughts and opinions... Firstly, I think blues has become a traditional/folk music while in its early days it was a pop or professionally performed contemporary music. (I feel that bluegrass has had a similar evolution.)
I believe to perform the music with credibility, one has to have put in their time doing homework. While I think learning/performing note perfect arrangements is good homework and crucial to learning the style, carbon copies don't always make for soulful performances. (Interestingly, as much as someone like Eric Clapton might get dissed by the hardcore CB community, he certainly did his homework as did a number of other English blues/rock guitarists. And they certainly made a point of celebrating their heroes when they first came to tour in the US)
This music has become mainly an instrumental style. Unfortunately few revivalists have vocal abilities that do justice to the style. I'm still waiting for the "Sing Like King Solomon Hill" DVD to come out!
My favorite CB artists have done their homework and then speak in their own distinctive voices. (and carry the music forward) Folks like Jo Anne Kelly, Paul Geremia, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Madison, WI street performer Catfish Stephenson come to mind.
Country blues enthusiasts with an esoteric knowledge of the music are few in number. (And they don't spend lots of money compared to other blocks of music fans) Most folks listening just want to have a good time with their music and aren't overly knowledgeable about the music. (Now that is traditional!)

Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #65 on: January 21, 2008, 03:04:19 PM »
This music has become mainly an instrumental style.

Has become?  It certainly has been defined that way (and as a guitar-centric music) based on the "instructional materials" available.  It's unfortunate that so many people who play & listen to it see it that way.  It's up to the next generation of fans & players to either perpetuate that particular myth or dispose of it.

In my opinion, the best players (and listeners!) absolutely do *not* hew to that particular notion.

Offline poymando

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #66 on: January 21, 2008, 03:28:52 PM »
Has become, was not...  A number of the first generation recorded blues musicians were virtuoso singers and pickers. I can only think of a few practicing OT blues revivalists that are outstanding vocalists. The revival has arguably centered on instrumental styles. There are a few fine singers and certainly a few that appreciate good vocals but I will still argue that it is not a priority for the majority. I'm still waiting for the "Sing Like Crying Sam Collins" video!

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #67 on: January 21, 2008, 03:34:13 PM »
Quote
that brings me to the point of "exact replication"

I doubt anyone can attest to being able to replciate it exactly..

Rev. Gary Davis never played a song the same way, heck, he varied it from verse to verse in the same recording.

All of the early artists varied the tunes to suit the environment. Shortening it for recordings, lengthening it for dance parties, etc..

Who is to say which version is the "correct version".
Dave, you took the words right out of my mouth.  I have about five different versions of the Reverend's 'Samson and Delilah'.  They are all different and I love each and everyone one of them.  Blues is improvisation.  How it comes out on any given day really depends upon the performers mood and situation just as you point out. 

Your other comments are also well taken.  I really admire the singing and playing of many blues artists both country and Chicago blues.  They inspire me.  I will be successful when my own self comes through in my performance in such a way that is pleasing to others hearing it. 

Pic         
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 poymando

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #68 on: January 21, 2008, 03:53:42 PM »
"I will be successful when my own self comes through in my performance in such a way that is pleasing to others hearing it". 
That is a great line. Nicely said.

Offline frankie

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #69 on: January 21, 2008, 04:33:05 PM »
outstanding vocalists

I don't think instructional videos have much to do with this, but being an "outstanding vocalist" is not really my point.  I don't think I would call Clifford Gibson an "outstanding vocalist," but change him just a little, and he's no longer the Clifford Gibson I dig.  Seems like there are some pretty ossified attitudes out there in blues-land about what a "good voice" is.  This seems to produce guys who either sound like an unholy mixture of Michael Bolton and the cookie monster (in an attempt to reproduce the way they imagine Son House to sound), or don't put any thought into it at all and putt their way through their sung verses on the way to their next exciting guitar break ('cause that's the way they imagine John Hurt or Blind Blake to sound).

There are a lot of voices in the historical record - if we (as a group of players) started to pay attention (and listen), we'd all eventually find our own.  In my opinion, there's very little that's more lame than a bunch of instrumental "blues."

I'm completely unwilling to accept any kind of definition of country blues as an "instrumental music," except as a description of the attitude of a particular segment of fans.

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #70 on: January 21, 2008, 05:18:07 PM »
I'm in the vocalist camp.  As I said earlier everyone has their voice.  You just have to find it and work with it.  Have ya ever heard Tom Waits sing for crying out loud?  Closer to home I wouldn't say that Blind Willie Johnson has an outstanding voice but he SINGS nevertheless.  Some folks find the Reverend Gary Davis's voice grating (not me) but he SINGS also.  It's only the latter day media that has tried to change our perception about what singing is.  Make a noise in this world and SING!  Does the robin on the tree pass judgment about his/her song?  SING!
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 poymando

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #71 on: January 21, 2008, 05:20:04 PM »
Perhaps we need a vocal thread..Outstanding vocals can mean many things. I don't think it is the quality of the voice that makes it outstanding. It is how you use it. Having a pure, clean sound is not required but if one wants to sing the blues there are definitely vocal techniques and qualities that would make it "blues" singing rather than opera, pop or country style singing. I bring up the instructional videos because I think it is an indicator of what folks want. I bet if CB students were really wanting vocal oriented educational materials, they would start to show up.
I have not been, but are there many workshops on blues vocals offered at Pt Townsend or Augusta? Of the posters here, how many really have spent considerable effort trying to sing as well as play in the style? (If so what have you done?)

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #72 on: January 21, 2008, 05:56:03 PM »
I don't know.  What comes out is authentic in any case.  Outstanding is like most everything else we discuss here, a matter of opinion.  I will never be an outstanding singer, blues or otherwise, but I will sing them nevertheless.  Didn't Robert Johnson sing to the wall with the mike behind him 'cause he thought he couldn't sing?  Or was that Jimi Hendrix or both of them?  I don't think either one of them took singing lessons or felt the need to.  I do make the effort to sing such as it is.  Singing in the style goes with the playing.  Another jazz player comes to mind Mose Allison.  Outstanding vocalist?  Probably not.  But he sang lot a bird nevertheless...

Pic

PS.  poymando, thanks for the kinds words!   
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 CF

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #73 on: January 21, 2008, 05:57:20 PM »
I would think that teaching someone to sing the blues would be a hell of a lot harder than teaching them to play them on the guitar. I love that quotation from James Brown where he says everyone lost their individuality & style after Mariah Carey & Whitney Huston. I'm constantly listening to vocalists & the art of popular singing has really gone downhill. Rock singers, punk singers, R&B singers, singer-songwriters have never sounded so empty & derivative as they now do. In the rock world the last great singers were from the 'grunge' era. People like Chris Cornell & Eddie Vedder have been copied so much - & poorly - it's unbelievable. There's a vocal trend right now amongst female folky-pop singers that is unbearable. It's like a pixie Billie Holiday. A singer like Christina Aguilera is quite impressive (that girl's got some pipes) but the ridiculous amount of notes & tricks at the end of her vocal lines is just tasteless. Can you teach taste?    
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Recreation v. Creation or Interpretation
« Reply #74 on: January 21, 2008, 06:31:13 PM »
You know it man.  A case in point: 

The Godfather and Pavarotti.  I love 'em both but I don't think James Brown ever had classical voice lessons.  I have watched this video over and over and it still amazes me.  Both these fellas are singing in the Big Band now.  They both sing with soul.  They come from a different side of the same coin.  It's not about what you think folks are thinking about your singing.  It's about you singing and having the courage and the soul to get up there and do it.  SING!  Sing like the bird on the tree and make your noise in the world.  No better kind of music than these blues we love to do it with.

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

 


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