The trouble with folk music…

In the past few months, I got really lost in the world

I wonder what Mick Maloney has to say on the subject

I wonder what Mick Maloney has to say on the subject

of folk music, cramming as many songs as I can in my head, memorizing as many tunes on the mandolin.

I consult thesession.org as being the official go-to for scores of all tunes. But unfortunately, not everyone sees eye to eye with this.

When playing with others, I discover they tend to play different variations. They don’t use thesession.org scores, nor do they read any score at all! They learn by ‘ear’. An oral tradition of sorts!

This I discovered this fact to be the fundamental difference between folk music, and classical music. Classical music demands every note to be followed. Classical musicians work tirelessly to emulate the original sound while folk players add their own variations to their folk tunes passing it down to future generation players who also make it their own, so on and so forth until the tune doesn’t sound remotely close to how it originally was composed!

Some people find this to be the charm of folk music, but it bothers me… profoundly. It’s maybe because I come from a formal background, where everything has to be official and written on paper with no detail spared.

Apparently my whole approach is wrong. I’m in fact not supposed to sit and practice the tunes. If I want to learn them, I must try to play along with the musicians on the fly, with a skillfully trained ear. It seems like a cool talent to have, but it also seems rather… loose.

You can say you are able to play by ear, but you can’t capture every little detail! Naturally you add your own spin to the song, taking away the spirit of it!

I could try to have an open mind, but I just can’t bring myself to it. I’ll stubbornly play the songs as they were originally meant to be played, and the fellow players will eventually just have to learn how to play by ear with the official scores as set out by thesession.org
… I hope that’s not bad etiquette…

Why Jerry Springer is the best television show!

People always give me flack for watching this show using the same arguments against it- it’s trashy and its low class. But one thing you can’t argue is that it’s honest.  When we see impulsive behaviour like a guy punching out a guy, or a woman snatching a wig, we are watching human nature at its rawest form. This is possibly one of the best shows to have ever been on television!

The Jerry Springer broadcasts a side of life we always ignore- the impoverished, the mentally ill and the uneducated. These guys are hardly on television because of its somber tone, but only Jerry Springer can bring the marginalized side of our society in an entertaining easy-to-digest sort of way. The light humour doesn’t ask the viewers to relinquish all their pity, rather it brings about exposure to a dire problem.

As for that argument about Jerry Springer not being classy, I strongly disagree because unlike ‘classy’ people,  Jerry never judges his guests. Ever. No matter how outlandish or unusual their behaviour is, he never ridicules or embarrasses them in anyway. Some may argue that the guests embarrass themselves, but perhaps it appears embarrassing because we chosen to ignore people who act up.

Jerry Springer once said that all these problems, be it affairs, prostitution, tranny deception are prevalent in our society, it’s just that the higher up we go in our society the better these ‘problem’s are hidden. I agree.

There are no secrets with Springer, the guests on the show are free to act however way they want, as lude as they can be, no sugar coating of civility and manners . It’s the only time on television where we get to see genuine everyday human nature. Television shouldn’t only be used to broadcast the pretty and rich elite!

The other argument I often hear is that the show is staged, its fake only because “nobody acts like that”. Well of course it’s hard to believe people could be so outlandish, but did you ever consider that the rough circumstances in these peoples lives makes them so that they have nothing else to lose? They don’t care what you think. I’ve ventured to the crummy side of life, living in a ghetto and working in a dive bar and I know a genuine down-on-luck folk when I meet one. And nothing comes across as anymore genuine than the guests on the Jerry Springer show, for that I love it.

The difficulty of being a lady musician

I’m concerned about the lack of women in the local music scene!

The only women I see are the bartenders and if there are any ‘musicians’ that do come, they are ‘singers’ or at best three chord ‘singer songwriters’!  Where are the female drummers, bassists, and guitarists?  Once in a blue moon there are female musicians and I grasp onto them and beg them to stay so much! But they don’t come back!

I’ve tried to think of the many reasons as to why this could be. Maybe female musicians are not too keen to linger around bars with all the dudes. Maybe female musicians do not feel accepted? Maybe they do not have the confidence? These were some of the repercussions I had when I started out.

There are many unspoken troubles a female musician has to face.  For instance, it is so hard to find people to jam with. The dynamic tends to be a close one and guys tend to abuse it. How can a female be comfortable jamming in a room alone with a guy if she has this understandable fear sitting in the back of her mind?

Then there is also the problem of not having enough role models out there.  It’s barricaded by a front line in the music industry- sound engineers, technicians and dj’s who are all men!  Even at the record store and instrument stores most of the sales people are men.  I had a friend who once told me not to go to Steve’s music store because they are not too fond of women and beginners. The music industry is surrounded by men!

To break into this circle to the actual production side of music is quite a feat!  How often have you heard of a record selling female producer?  I can’t even think of one.  Once in a while we hear of a bassist in some band, or a keyboardist, or a violinist, but its not ever equal or remotely close to the number of men!

Ya that blows. But I won’t let it deter me, nor will I use it as an excuse and be lazy with practice. It’s just a mere observation and hopefully things will change, and it slowly has…

Only in Montreal!

I visited Montreal for a week and two rather strange and related incidents occured, one on my first day, and the other on my last.

On my last day I was wandering around Old Montreal trying to find a decent place to eat, killing some time before meeting a friend who was supposed to drive me back. An older man walked towards me from across the street and started talking to me en Francais about constellations, what I should expect to see in the sky tonight and this week. I have no idea what prompted him to share this with me. Maybe because I was the only walking alone these narrow desolate streets and it looked like I had nothing to do? He didn’t seem like he was crazy, he was pretty well groomed and spoke eloquently.

I interrupted his space lecture and asked him where the closest fast food joint was. And he was kind enough to walk me there. This place is too complicated he said. It’s hard to find an affordable meal here as this neighbourhood is inundated with high end restaurants! Highly uncharacteristic of what this place used to be!

He asked about the Mandolin I was carrying and I told him where I was at in music.

When we approached the cafe, he left, just as sporadically he appeared.

On my very first day, I was by a punk rock concert to meet another friend in the thick of a young punk crowd. Another old man comes up to me out of nowhere and says, “Are you Iranian?”

“Uh, yes,”   ?!?!?!?!

He then shared his stories of Iran, how he was crossing the border alone to Pakistan where there is 12 KM of no mans land in between and how he ran out of water along the way.

Then he left as randomly as he appeared.

So random and so strange, but it’s all the charm of Montreal I guess.

Finding my Perfect Medium

I’ve always been very expressive but always had trouble deciding what medium was most suitable- which is one of the many reasons why I pursued a degree in Communication Studies. It gave the opportunity to tap into all these fascinating theories around why we communicate, to whom we communicate, and analyzing how we communicate along with gaining first hand experience in film making, audio production and even new media design. From all this I conclude that sound and print as being the most effective tools for communication.

Sound, particularly music has the deepest impact into the core of our being. Music is the universal language that speaks to the spirit of humanity. All I have to really say to prove my point is Michael Jackson. Can anyone else have made such an impact on Earth from just a few songs?

And why is it easier to listen to a radio, rather than watching completely silent movie?  Why are we affected by the sound of someone’s voice and not their appearance?   The frequencies really hit a deeper nerve I believe!

Print is also a super effective communication tool.  Well, a word is a word. I don’t have to pay a sound guy, rent a fancy camera, or rely on flakes. With story writing I’m judged on story telling and not on my budget. It’s the most democratic and strongest way of telling a story. Words alone can illustrate details very vividly delving deep into your mind. Movies does the imagining and for that it doesn’t pull you into the story as much…