minstrel: Re: Bards, Skalds, and Teaching LONG (was Re: The Rising of the Star)

Taftarus at aol.com Taftarus at aol.com
Wed Apr 23 22:03:58 PDT 1997

My apologies to the list at large, and the list-keeper in particular,
for delays and errors in forwarding the following item related to the
recent discussion concerning the teaching of bardic materials.

If for some reason this posting means duplication of the whole
post for some of you, I apologize specifically and especially!.

Kihe / Amra / Mike

____ Begin forwarded message ______

> Subj:	Bards, Skalds, and Teaching LONG (was Re: The Rising of the Star)
>  Date:	97-04-19 03:54:40 EDT
>  From:	KiheBard at aol.com
>  Sender:	owner-ansteorra at eden.com
>  Reply-to:	ansteorra at eden.com
>  To:	ansteorra at eden.com
>  In a message dated 97-04-18 19:55:23 EDT, Sir Lyonel wrote:
>  > So in a sense, both Alan and Talen are correct.  To answer the original
>  >  question--"What should the teacher teach?"--the teacher should teach
>  >  whatever she considers the best version.  For a Norse skald, the best 
> will
>  >  (I think--help me on this one, Gunnora) be the "official" version
>  >  down from generation to generation with as little variance as possible.
>   For
>  >  a later medieval jongleur, poet, or minstrel, the best will be the 
> version
>  >  that most appropriately mirrors the work's sentence with "solaas" 
>  > (pleasure).
>  Coming late to the discussion of the particular point but not at 
>  all behind the curve in considering the "True Bard" in his or her
>  several aspects, I applaud Sir Lyonel for his scholarly intrusion.
>  He speaks in the quoted passage to the late medieval and skaldic
>  cases -- allow me to address more thoroughly the "original"
>  matter as well as one or two off-shoots.
>  First branching: in medieval Iceland, the headman of the 
>  legislative body was charged with memorizing the entire
>  body of law and reciting same regularly. At the mandatory
>  (annual, if my own memory serves) recounting, if he left
>  anything out it was automatically dropped from the legal
>  code so long as no one spoke in protest of the omission.
>  The "best teaching" became the least amount of law
>  which could be retained in a single memory without
>  error.
>  Second branching: I am not so certain in the whole, but
>  have found multiple specific references to one scholar
>  or another deliberately recording multiple variations of the
>  same folk-tale well before the the syntheses constructed
>  by der bruedern Grimm or the investigations of Childe into
>  the ballads of the borderlands.
>  The "best version" becomes that most understood by the 
>  least skilled speaker / reader / listener in the chain of 
>  data transferral.
>  Primary root: the "True Bard", as defined in the Irish legislations
>  and as later preserved in a somewhat debased form by the
>  Welsh, was expected not only to commit to unflawed memory
>  over twelve THOUSAND lines of poetry but was also required
>  to compose additional material of their own making. 
>  However, in their function as *teachers* the ancient Bards 
>  were commanded to teach to their student's desires and 
>  strengths. If this required using more modern language in
>  the training of a given student who might not have been 
>  pursuing the full title of Bard, I can certainly see variations 
>  being introduced.
>  In their role as "keeper of the Custom", Bards were further 
>  charged with remembering, interpretting, and even passing 
>  judgement based upon the Customary Law (precursor of 
>  Common Law). As the individual Bard was also charged 
>  with maintaining neutrality in matters being judged, and 
>  also being corruptible humans, it is known that memory 
>  sometimes lapsed unaccountably in making certain legal
>  decisions... after which, it would have also been necessary
>  to manipulate one's store of other knowedge to avoid 
>  giving away the earlier indiscretions.  (MUCH of the Law
>  was embodied in passages from the aforementioned 
>  12,000 lines of poetry...)
>  There were many other responsibilities attendant upon 
>  the True Bard. Of those specifically related to memory and
>  the consequences of error in memory, most important 
>  would almost certainly be the Bard functioning as 
>  genealogist (and coincidentally as historian). The succession
>  to a given office, title to lands, or eligibility for entrance to
>  a given profession could ALL be determined by parentage.
>  And the only proofs of lineage stretching back further than 
>  two or three generations were kept in Bardic memory.
>  The "best version" to be taught depends upon the student,
>  the purpose for which the teaching is being conducted,
>  and the best interest of "the People" [house, clan, tribe, nation] 
>  as a whole. 
>  Withered root: in the (relatively) debased form whereby bardic
>  tradition survived among the Welsh, and to a lesser extent
>  the senachie-storytellers, the poet was *expected* to make
>  performances show his patron in the best possible light. I have
>  no specific doumented case to illustrate the effect, but expect
>  that the audience on this list can think of examples within the
>  brief span of the SCA which make the point at least as well. 
>  The "best version" is that which allows the bard to keep
>  head, neck, and shoulders in normal functional alignment and 
>  juxtaposition!
>  Secondary root: the Norse skald were not only expected to
>  commit a vast body of knowledge to perfect memory, they were
>  also by definition expected to create at least one completely 
>  new verse form AND could also be required to perform 
>  extemporaneously within as many different previously existing
>  forms as possible.  (Mikal Hrapsfa teaches a very good class
>  on Norse poetic forms which I can only hope I have done
>  some justice with this extreme condensation...)
>  The "best version" is the unchanged version, except where
>  the changed version succeeds in achieving a goal. Such as
>  preserving one's life in the middle of a duel between skalds!
>  (Apologies to Mikal for not recalling the _name_ of the 
>  verse-challenge I refer to here.)
>  SCA-Modern-My Own Practices:  I am acknowledged a bard
>  within the SCA as well as given a Bard-name in mundane
>  existence. As such, I take my responsibilities very seriously.
>  (More seriously than many in the modern world can understand,
>  and more intensely than may sometimes be apparent within the
>  SCA.)  As a bard & Bard, I take particular care and joy in the
>  aspect of my duties that involve teaching. I tell you all, as I
>  tell every student in whatever aspect I may be offering 
>  instruction, that my memory is a cross between Swiss cheese
>  and MLAWS syndrome -- Mind Like A Wool Sock, fuzzy and 
>  moth-eaten. 
>  Knowing that, I teach from written materials whenever possible.
>  At the very least an outline, UNLESS the material is something
>  that my overtaxed modern brain *has* been able to commit 
>  reliably to memory.
>  The "best version" is the one committed to permanent record,
>  even if there are significant variations available.  Once
>  in existence, even a variation becomes its *own* "best version".
>  Now, if you want the most reliable and error-free version of
>  a given thing (such as a song), my personal suggestion is to
>  go find the author and ask to copy their original hardcopy.
>  NOT their current memory of the piece in question, not someone's
>  transcription of a tape made in bardic circle, not their room mate's
>  spouse's rendition (unless said individual is a verifiable eidetic
>  with supplemental training in storage and recall).  
>  There are exceptions.  Ask Robin of Gilwell about the difference
>  between the original / early written versions and the version
>  he actually performs of his own work, "The Baron".
>  No doubt I have bored all and sundry beyond reason by now,
>  but I hope that I have helped to address the question of
>  "Which is the best version of a thing to teach?"
>  Writing tonight as bard, Bard, and man, I am
>  Kihe Blackeagle (the Dreamsinger Bard)  
>  s.k.a. Amr ibn Majid al-Bakri al-Amra
>  	currently residing in Barony of the Steppes, Kingdom of Ansteorra
>  Mike C. Baker					KiheBard at aol.com
>  Any opinions expressed are obviously my own unless explicitly stated
>  otherwise!

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