“Once in a small school in Persia, some pupils were having their first lessons in writing. Holding their breath, gritting their teeth, fingers tensing on their reed pens, they drew as best they could the first letter of the alphabet (alif bâ): the A, alif. It’s a vertical line drawn bottom-up, as simple as the number 1 (written the same way) and, for this reason also, the first letter of the divine name. The children made sure to reproduce the symbol of unity aligning rows of parallel lines on the pages of their writing books. One of them took particular care and, with extreme pleasure, kept filling pages. (more…)
Is music folk or traditional? Used as synonyms in the English language, the two adjectives carry a very different meaning in French. By definition, folk is related to the people. In the French language, a pejorative connotation is now commonly understood which explains why musicians rather use the more neutral expression traditional music: Folk music ("musique folklorique") became the expression to categorise a type of unchanged music, like for the museums, whereas traditional music ("musique traditionnelle") is interpreted, arranged within a living society.
There is a time for everything: "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). In the Psalms, the suggestion is even clearer: "Praise his name by dancing and playing music on harps and tambourines" (Psalm 149:3). Some people will argue that those quotes come from the Old Testament. If dancing is not as clearly expressed in the New Testament, it would be wrong to say that there is no mention of dancing in it.
Following the article about the musicians' technique, Philippe raised an interesting and precise question about musical expressivity in Breton and Irish traditional fast tunes. An essential component in the performance of slow airs, what then is the expressivity in tunes such as reels, jigs, gavottes, ridées or other fast tunes? The expressive means is a wide topic that could be the subject of a Doctoral thesis. Let us focus on a couple of points, particularly the transposition of expressive tools from one music to another, keeping in mind an essential question: what are we talking about when evoking "musical expressivity"?
Nothing seems to reconcile Glasgow, the economic capital of Scotland, with Edinburgh, political capital of the country. The two main cities of the Scottish belt stare at, tease and respect each other like porcelain dogs that nothing can bring together. Even the M8 – the motorway between the two cities – increases the differences between them: a logical bypass in Edinburgh, an amputation and stretch of the highway straight into the heart of Glasgow. The tone is set: since the first one prides itself for having an old city classified as World heritage for humanity, the official line for Glasgow will be "the most modern city in Europe" thanks to another – but this one infamous – Robert Bruce1 and his city restructuring plan.
Written under the supervision of Donatien Laurent for the Music Instructor National Diploma of the Cefedem of Brittany, my dissertation Pedagogy of the Celtic harp (in French: Pédagogie de la Harpe Celtique) is available for downloading at the end of this article. The teaching of the Celtic harp has significantly changed during the last twenty years. With profound musical and cultural divergences, do the pedagogical tools created by the teachers meet the challenges of a traditional music performed on the instrument?
I thank the association Dastum for having published my article in the Musique Bretonne magazine, 227, July 2011, which mentioned my experience as a Celtic harp teacher in Glasgow City Council’s schools, Scotland, during 2008 until the end of 2012.
I arrived in Glasgow four years ago. At this time, my stay was only part-time and I decided to stay longer when I got an offer to take over after a Celtic harp teacher within Glasgow City Council’s schools. Employed just for few months, my contract has then been renewed until the beginning of this year when I signed a part-time permanent contract. Thanks to this professional experience, I discovered a system of teaching music, very different from other countries such as France for example. There is more than one reason to explain it but the most obvious is the system itself: in France, music is taught mainly in music schools – a specific institution – whereas, in Scotland, it is taught in primary or secondary schools.
This article is based on a previous publication written for the New Zealand Harp Society Journal, 1st October 2010, in which I was raising the question of instrumental technique, what should be done and issues to be avoided. I highlight here the main lines of the article and develop them in a more general context.
Imagine that you are at a concert. A talented and broadly gifted musician is performing on the stage. With reason, listening to this stunning musicality and irreproachable technique make you question your own skills, how do you play yourself. More personal and less academic, his way of playing is nevertheless more precise. Why is your technique, the one you have learned during so many years, suddenly swept aside so easily? What extra technique did he learn, something you have missed? We all have experienced this situation sometimes and more or less in a good way. What makes him so different?