Performance

Brett Williams brettwi at ix.netcom.com
Thu Sep 21 14:22:45 PDT 1995


Lady Wander wrote: 

>Greetings,
>
>I'll put a penny or two into this pile.
>
>I am primarily a solo performer of spoken and sung verse. Most of
>what I do is original material, and many of the tunes are my own.
>I have recently been working with a number of verse-forms found in
>the 13th & 14th centuries and having a lot of fun with them. But,
>my focus is not on the resurrection of the old, but the use of the
>old to speak to the new - crafting pieces using the 'documentable'
>forms that say things about what is happening here, and now, in
>our Kingdoms.

This description is what I was feebly trying to convey with my coined 
phrase 'redaction music'. I have been under a great deal of emotional 
and professional stress in these last two weeks and perhaps have come 
off as a little terse or querilous in posing my questions. And they 
were certainly never intended as either trolling or flamebait.

>And, indeed, for me, the speaking to the Current Middle Ages 
>experience comes higher on my list than documentability
>of form or style (only a little higher, but still).

Yup.

>I have period pieces in my repertory, and will perform them, certainly
>in preference to things I know to be Victorian or Georgian or 
>whatever. But even so, I have sung _The Dowie Dens of Yarrow_ on 
>occasion at SCA campfires. This is where what Tangwystl posted a 
>couple of days ago comes in - who is your audience, and what are you 
>trying to do?
>

I've been interested in the folk process itself for a long time; the 
same things that speak strongly to us now are still the same things 
that preoccupied our ancestors hundreds and perhaps even thousands of 
years ago.  I was once thrilled to have read a couple of versions of 
the song 'Brown Adam" in Child, then not a year later, travel to 
Estrella and hear yet another text sung a capella around a campfire. A 
few words had shifted here and there, but the essential story being 
told was the same one.

So, was the lady singing her family's version of "Brown Robin" singing 
an OOP song? In my opinion, not necessarily.  The song certainly fit 
the mood around the campfire, did not spoil the Society's intent and 
certainly didn't spoil the illusion we were all trying to foster around 
that campfire, an absence of the twentieth century.

>The way I usually look at it, 'bardic art' has three venues: 'court',
>'hall' and 'camp'. The 'camp' venue is singing for/with your friends,
>the campfire circle, fairly relaxed people entertaining themselves 
>with music & stories and riddles and the like. Out here in the West
>the Darkclaw bardic circle is a very good example of this. Everyone is 
>welcome, anyone can sing, and a very broad range of material is
>presented. Essentially, everyone is performing as _part_ of the group.
>
>What I am calling the 'hall' venue (no better term has come to mind
>yet) is more public, and involves performing _for_ a group - feast
>entertainment sets, finding a corner on Merchant's row and singing
>for the passers-by, performing for those bardic circles that have
>structures and traditions - where choice of material and skill of 
>performance are going to be judged by a very disparate audience.
>This is actually the venue where the most _education_ can happen,
>because this is where you are reaching the most people - they will
>hear you even if they are not listening. 
>
>The 'court' venue is, at its simplest, performance on behalf or at the
>behest of the 'crown.' This is the 'all eyes are on you' spot, where
>what you do is _communication_ more than entertainment. This is the
>gift of a poem to the new Queen, the invocation of the ideal that is
>chivalry, the song that affirms 'this is who and why we are'. This is
>a performance position that is both exhilarating and very unforgiving.
>The 'command performance' aspect means that there will be some very
>critical ears out there (I mean the sense of attentive & informed
>judgement, not indiscriminate fault-finding). But the position also 
>gives you the position (and the permission!) to as it were sing the 
>will of the Crown to the soul of the populace, and the need of the
>people to the soul of the Crown. To stand in Taliesin and Aneirin's
>shoes, if only for a moment.
>
>These three venues are not determined solely by location, but also 
>by audience composition and occasionally by the performer's own
>personality and intention. The 'crown' is not necessarily the King
>but could be Prince or Baroness or Duke or Mistress or _anyone_ with
>enough personal power, respect and position to command a following and
>attention. (I have not yet been to Cariadoc's Enchanted Ground,
>but I expect that the evening entertainment there is (or often is) at
>the 'court' level.) 
>
>So, who is your audience, and what are you trying to do? When you know
>that, your choice of material, performance styles, introductions, etc
>all become more straight-forward to determine, though not necessarily
>any easier to perform.
>

Agreed.  However, what you're stating is, at heart, a judgement call 
that's based on experience.  A lot of our discussion with respect to 
this subject has been exactly what I wanted to see-- how others have 
weighted and balanced their conscience's scale according to their 
experiences.

My conscience is leading me away from my dulcimer, though I have a 
large portion of my life and a lot of skill invested in it.  Though the 
music I play and the technique I use unquestionably produces music 
appropriate to the SCA's period of focus, the instrument I own is *not* 
appropriate. So, though I have written an article on period music for 
dulcimer for Tournaments Illuminated a number of times over the last 
ten years and written out a lot of tablature in support, I've never 
finished it.

Now I have a *harp*! Borrowed, but...no more quandary, no reservations, 
no regrets...

ciorstan



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