minstrel: aid for baby bards

Harold Feld hfeld at ids2.idsonline.com
Tue Mar 11 02:32:31 PST 1997

At 1:02 PM 3/10/97, mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU wrote:
>On Mon, 10 Mar 1997, Joshua Kronengold wrote:
>> pendar at unm.edu writes:
>> >Please keep in mind that you can't TEACH anyone Bardic Skills! They
>> This is the biggest load of crap I've ever heard on this list.  You
>> damn well CAN teach bardic skills -- they are skills like any others.
>This may or may not be "the biggest load of crap" you've seen here, but
>whatever your opinion of it, you may want to reconsider the way you state
>it.  It's ok to disagree (that's what people in a discussion often do, and
>the best way to come to a viable decision), but by prefacing your
>arguement like this, you don't make people eager to take what you say
>seriously.  I would advise you to re-read some of your other comments,
>such as:

Oh I don't know.  I had a good chuckle over it (but this is also because I
know Josh and can picture him saying it).  True, it is a bit more forceful
than I would say it myself, but it adequately captures my first reaction.

Of course, this is something of ahot button form me, in that I really hate
the idea that folks who perform have "talent" and therefore (a) the folks
who do perform do not need to practice and improve, (b) those who are no
good are not going to get better, and (c) it's not real work, so we don't
have to appreciate the effort.

I believe that there is a certain level of talent involved, and that
somethings can knock you right out of certain areas of performance.  I
can't seem to learn music no matter how hard I try (I also have tremendous
difficulty learning languages, so I suspect there is a connection).  I know
other folks who are litterally tone deaf, so probably won't get much better
at their singing.

On the other hand, I believe *anyone* can improve their performance by
practice and learning the necessary skills set. Furthermore, people benefit
from real feedback on what style is suitable *for them*.   I occassionaly
give a class on storytelling technique.  I preface it, and repeat often
enough during it, that I am sharing what works well *for me*.  I have seen
othe people do very effective performance in radically different styles.  I
have also seen people who take great pains to make sure they set their
style to the circumstances.  Shy and dainty may work well in a bardic
circle, but generally won't in a crowded feast hall.  Huge and boysterous
may be positively painful in close quarters.

All of these things, including sensitivity to these concerns, can be learned.

>> And yet, without criticism, people generally don't correct chronic
>> problems, as they generally don't recognise them. Criticism, done
>> right, is a necessary step towards turning a bad performer into a
>> tolerable one, a mediocre one into a good one, and even a good one
>> into a great one.

This is absolutely dead-on true, and one of the worst failings of the SCA
system generally.  Frankly, I see no reason why thius comment should be
singled out as somehow offensive or indelicate.

Too many people,m it seems to me, see things in this area in black and
white.  Either we must tell everyoine all the time they are God's gift to
performance or we are flogging 'em merciless and squelching their innocent
spirits.  As I believe Fiacha was pointing out- the great advantage of the
bardic circle is that it provides *precisely the place* for good feedback.
People *need* feedback, properly administered.

An example- I never realized my stories were too long until someone finally
had the grace to tell me.  (I get so involved in the telling I don't notice
the time.)  Now I time my stories before performance so I know how long
they are. (Note: Performing before a live audience will always slow you
down, but it still gives you a reasonable estimate).

>> True enough -- in a bardic workshop, everyone should feel free to
>> contribute, and this is for fun, after all, even if it's for learning too.
>Criticism on this list (which is, after all, one big bardic discussion),
>should be handled in the same way.  Do it right.  Everyone should feel
>free to contribute, and "this is for fun, after all," in your own words.
>Calling someone's opinion a "load of crap" (even if you genuinely think it
>is) is not condusive to these goals.  Likewise, at a bardic workshop, even
>if you honest to god think that this person is the worst performer you've
>heard, telling them that in those words is not going to make them want to
>keep trying.

True, but I would beg that we not fall into the trap so frequent on the
Rialto, of devoting endless posts to abstract questions of courtesy while
getting nastier and nastier (not that you have done this, but a warning now
may avoid a useless exchange).


Harold Feld
Yaakov HaMizrachi

"Do not ask 'Why are these days not as good as the days of old?' This
question is not prompted by wisdom." -Eccl.

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