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Traditionalism v. Musical freedom


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#1 Edward Powell

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 08:55 AM

...recently I have noticed that the word "tradition" seems to spark a negative knee jerk reaction from many musicians. Honesly, I have not been able to understand why, since it seems to me that the traditionals are nothing less than mega warehouse storage of tried and true great musical ideas free for the taking. Nobody is dictating how you must use those ideas, but only a fool would consciously cut themselves off from a free, easily available, and enormous source of wealth..... ....or?

I think I can see now the reason for this negative reaction to the word TRADITION, and that is because somewhere down the line tradition it became confused with LIMITATION, or limits to freedom. Now let's first be clear, I am only talking about 'musical tradition', not tradition in terms of society itself.

It seems to me there is a confusion between a musical traditionalist and a musical tradition conservationist. I am not against musical tradition conservation, I think that someone should do it for interests sake - but I certainly am not someone up for that job! I feel a musical traditionalist is something very different. The biggest confusion and misunderstand comes from THIS POINT; that most people feel that traditionalism means 'locking' in time what a particular tradition is doing at a certain point in time. This is NOT traditionalism - it is conservation. Conservation is valuable but it must not be viewed as a valid LIVING musical form. A tradition on the other hand is NEVER locked. Tradition is always changing, growing, evolving etc etc.... so tell me why and how did this word get the meaning of being locked or UNFREE?
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#2 Matthew Bearne

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 12:30 PM

I think because of things such as slavery, racism, patriarchy, dare I say capitalism and general stifling of expression and new things being justified as defending 'tradition', that sort of thing tends to leave 'tradition' with a nasty taste in your mouth. But I can agree with your definitions when it comes to music. But I there's different ways to go about it, you can be familiar with whatever musical tradition you you are involved in, learning the system of rules etc. in order to realize how to break them or develop them in order to make something original. OR, you could just make music without any conscious regard to the current and previous musical rules and guidelines, and still have a chance of being original in the music you make.

#3 Edward Powell

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 12:57 PM

OR, you could just make music without any conscious regard to the current and previous musical rules and guidelines, and still have a chance of being original in the music you make.


The key word here of course is "conscious"... because on the unconscious level almost everything we play (think, do, wish for, etc etc) is something that we have either inherited or have absorbed from the outside. Truly original playing (thinking, doing etc) almost doesn't exist.

Please someone send me an example of some music which is not in anyway connected with one tradition of another.


I have tried making music both ways;
1) sitting alone and digging into my imagination and trying to come up with something from nothing - - - very very difficult, and not good results. What usually ends up happening anyway is that I end up somehow coming up with something that sounds like something I don't want it to sound like :rolleyes:
2) or I can take inspiration from various musics that I truly love and value, and try to do this in a new and original way - to bring some new light to it... I find this approach much easier and bring much better results. . .

...but maybe that is just what works for me :blush:
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#4 Edward Powell

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 01:05 PM

slavery, racism, patriarchy, dare I say capitalism and general stifling of expression


In which way and be who are these things being promoted by tradition?

I thought these things come about as a result of greed and conservationalism... which I think is something different than tradition, no?
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#5 Matthew Bearne

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 01:53 PM

OR, you could just make music without any conscious regard to the current and previous musical rules and guidelines, and still have a chance of being original in the music you make.


The key word here of course is "conscious"... because on the unconscious level almost everything we play (think, do, wish for, etc etc) is something that we have either inherited or have absorbed from the outside. Truly original playing (thinking, doing etc) almost doesn't exist.

Please someone send me an example of some music which is not in anyway connected with one tradition of another.


I have tried making music both ways;
1) sitting alone and digging into my imagination and trying to come up with something from nothing - - - very very difficult, and not good results. What usually ends up happening anyway is that I end up somehow coming up with something that sounds like something I don't want it to sound like :rolleyes:
2) or I can take inspiration from various musics that I truly love and value, and try to do this in a new and original way - to bring some new light to it... I find this approach much easier and bring much better results. . .

...but maybe that is just what works for me :blush:


Yeah, I'd agree that you are influenced by everything around you, whether you realize it or not. I regularly sit down and just come up with something, but thats obviously been influenced by what I've been listening to before, whether I realize it or not, I could make a conscious decision to write something completely different to what I've written before, but it's more than likely that that has been influenced by something I've taken in at some point, even if it doesn't have a direct resemblance to it. But thats how originality can develop, by taking in lots of different things and reinterpreting then in a fresh way, but then you probably get people oblivious to lots of different musical styles who end up making something fresh and original.

#6 Matthew Bearne

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 01:59 PM

slavery, racism, patriarchy, dare I say capitalism and general stifling of expression


In which way and be who are these things being promoted by tradition?

I thought these things come about as a result of greed and conservationalism... which I think is something different than tradition, no?


I'm just saying that tradition has been used to justify these things throughout history, when yes mostly it's just a cover for greed and maintaing the status quo. Saying 'This has always been the way and to change it would be going against the natural order of things' that sort of thing. That is a reason why tradition got the meaning of being locked or unfree.

#7 Edward Powell

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 02:08 PM

but then you probably get people oblivious to lots of different musical styles who end up making something fresh and original.


...like who? :rolleyes:
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#8 Matthew Bearne

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 02:16 PM

but then you probably get people oblivious to lots of different musical styles who end up making something fresh and original.


...like who? :rolleyes:


Dunno :blush:

I imagine there's some people somewhere, I"m not saying they're oblivious to everything, but what they're listening to is limited quite a bit, but still original. If I find any I'll let you know :lol:

#9 Edward Powell

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 02:18 PM

slavery, racism, patriarchy, dare I say capitalism and general stifling of expression


In which way and be who are these things being promoted by tradition?

I thought these things come about as a result of greed and conservationalism... which I think is something different than tradition, no?


I'm just saying that tradition has been used to justify these things throughout history, when yes mostly it's just a cover for greed and maintaing the status quo. Saying 'This has always been the way and to change it would be going against the natural order of things' that sort of thing. That is a reason why tradition got the meaning of being locked or unfree.


so there you go. . . . isn't it a case of tradition being BLAMED for these things as a cover-up, rather than the tradition itself actually causing the thing? Or, the people wanting to commit these injustices using the 'status quo' argument as a way of convincing people and justifying what they have done out of greed or fear?

I don't know any case in which traditional Romanian folkdance, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Indian flatbread, or traditional Moroccan mountain music caused anyone to be enslaved of repressed in any way...
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#10 Matthew Bearne

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 02:41 PM

so there you go. . . . isn't it a case of tradition being BLAMED for these things as a cover-up, rather than the tradition itself actually causing the thing? Or, the people wanting to commit these injustices using the 'status quo' argument as a way of convincing people and justifying what they have done out of greed or fear?

I don't know any case in which traditional Romanian folkdance, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Indian flatbread, or traditional Moroccan mountain music caused anyone to be enslaved of repressed in any way...


Well I was just answering your question on why the term tradition is considered 'locked and unfree' by some people.

I don't pretend to know much about any of the things you mentioned to know if they've contributed to enslavement or repression in any way, probably not.

But tradition is created by people, it doesn't come out of nowhere, it's not 1 thing, there's many different traditions, some harmless and creative and liberating and some that are repressive. But the repressive traditions have been defended because they are traditions, the way things have been, the natural order etc. I think it's a matter of being aware of them all and the influence and impact they've had on the world, but not supporting every tradition purely because it's a tradition. But going back to musical traditions, I'd say it's good to be aware of them and study them, but not be limited by them when we want to move on.

I think I'm switching between tradition in the general sense and musical tradition, oops :rolleyes:

#11 Edward Powell

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 02:53 PM

but then you probably get people oblivious to lots of different musical styles who end up making something fresh and original.


...like who? :rolleyes:


Dunno :blush:

I imagine there's some people somewhere, I"m not saying they're oblivious to everything, but what they're listening to is limited quite a bit, but still original. If I find any I'll let you know :lol:


i guess it is a matter of opinion but i think it is generally accepted that the best music has always come from the places where there has been the MOST mixing of traditions. Places like istanbul, cairo, london, newyork... what makes music from these place rich is that there has been an enormous mixing of traditions.

gypsies are the best musicians on earth because they have always been moving and learning the traditions from each place they went.

it seems that as soon as this flow and interchange and mixing of traditions is limited, the music loses it richness.

it seems to me that this is partly what is happening today. Sure, on the one hand there is an INCREDIBLE mixing of tradition going on... but in truth it is mostly very superficial. Actually what is really going on is the deeper flow and mixing of traditions is being blocked due to the utter global dominance of western musical thought.
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#12 Guest_Neil Haverstick_*

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 03:34 PM

Of course we are all influenced by something or other...it's what we do with those influences that is important...and to my ears, imagination is in short supply these days, and not just in art. In this man's opinion, perhaps the most imaginative guitarist I am aware of today is Dan Stearns...never heard anything quite like him. Where he gets his ideas is beyond me...he's on myspace, I believe, but has not released a CD yet. Dan inspires me to try to do better...

And tradition? Paco de Lucia is a great example of someone who extended a traditional form very successfully, yet kept the deep feeling inherent IN that tradition....but, many have done that, the list is long. And those who move things along often get a ration of shit from those who are either incapable of understanding where things are headed, or live in fear of the future...but, the trail blazers are always the ones we remember through the centuries...Hstick microstick.net myspace.com/microstick

#13 Newbie Brad

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 03:53 PM

Dan's a really interesting musician. Nice guy too.
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#14 jahloon

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 07:23 PM

Places like istanbul, cairo, london, newyork... what makes music from these place rich is that there has been an enormous mixing of traditions.

Eddi,

May I take you to task for not mentioning Liverpool?

As the premier UK seaport serving the entire world, and principally the USA, the exposure to diffent cultures was amazing. I do hate to confess this (as Gary will read it) but I had friends who were sailors, and they brought back the most amazing records, music you would never hear elsewhere in the UK.

I remember the Gladray club in the sixties, when we went we were the only white faces in the place, but we had no trouble, ever. (One night we didn't go a bloke got shot, so we didn't go back)

So I'm putting forward all major seaports and sailors as being very responsible for the spread of different (off-shore) music.
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Posted 26 April 2008 - 09:10 PM

I love Tradition in general because it has led to my "almost" Musical Freedom, and I am still growing and will forever. Tradition is truly humans gift to each other. Don't be afraid of the past, and don't wait for the past to lead you. Find your voice through any Tradition that moves you and be Free.....................V




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