Friday, June 03, 2005

Seisiún: An Air is Still an Air, Even If Whistled

Here's an entry in the list of "Things which seem obvious in retrospect, but which hadn't occurred to me before."

After someone at Bardic Circle commented that it was refreshing to play slower tunes I started Sheebeg Sheemore, which is quite slow and has the added benefit of being one of about two tunes I have down well enough to play in public. Folks listened long enough to figure out what I was attempting to play, and then started to join in. But everyone was playing it differently, in part because it's an air and in part because the room we were in was noisy and it was hard to hear what others were doing. I found this quite confusing and ended up losing my place in the tune; I pulled the whistle out of my mouth to listen for a spot where I could jump back in.

At this point a visiting musician — a talented fiddler — spoke up and noted that:

  • Whoever starts the tune sets the tempo, and...
  • For an air, you can pretty much forget following someone's tempo well unless you've practiced it with them.

So when someone plays an air, you should just sit and listen. This is exactly the same etiquette recommended when someone sings an air.

This is not at all what I had in mind when I started the tune! I wasn't expecting to do it solo. But I started over from the top and played it to the best of my abilities, even managing to play a couple of cuts without losing my place in the tune.

I was happy that I managed to play it OK in the end, but I don't think I'll be doing it on a regular basis at Bardic Circle, as I prefer to play along with others. Time to learn more jigs and reels....

Earlier that evening someone started The Blackthorn Stick, so I jumped in and tried to keep up. This was the first time I have tried to play along with a tune which someone else had started at full speed. Wow, that was really fast! I did manage to keep up for a few measures, which was fun, and the whistle sounded nice amongst all the fiddles.

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