Dead Traditions?

(Originally posted here, November 27, 2012)

I’m reading parts of a Ph.D dissertation about the Folk Music Department in the Sibelius Academy and I stumble on this quote:
“The most fundamental ideological point of departure for creating contemporary folk music is that folk music should be a living tradition.”
(It’s on p. 190 in the linked document, for anyone interested…)

I wonder: Is not the being alive part something which is of essence for a tradition? Can it be a tradition if it’s not alive (and thus moving, changing, developing etc.). If it’s dead, is it not then just an artifact, an object to admire (or dislike) but not something you can use? I wonder only because it seems like it’s often required within folk music to state that what we do is part of a living tradition. There are no dead traditions. There are only dead objects.

If it’s tradition it’s alive and kicking. If it’s alive and kicking it’s probably part of a tradition (i.e. part of a chain of thoughts, ideas and actions that humanity is resting on). If it’s dead, we would best bury it. It probably stinks.


Notes on traveling

(Originally posted here, October 22, 2012)

I’m in a friend’s house in Estonia and was just served a cup of tea. And somehow the taste of it opened up a link to so many parallel’s in my life. All the other times I’ve been in friends houses and been served a cup of tea. Especially it reminded me of England, where I’ve been going a lot during parts of my life. Going there, visiting people I know or people I know-but-don’t-really-know, getting a bed, a cup of tea, some music, friendship. Always the cup of tea.

The thing is, it really works. The tea makes me feel comfortable, at home, even if I would be surrounded by complete strangers. There is something about getting a warm drink and somewhere to sleep which I think opens up the trust in me.

I really like traveling and meeting people, but I don’t really like being a tourist. For me it’s completely different if you go somewhere and stay in a hotel, eat at restaurants and go to museums or if you stay in someone’s house, share their dinner and go for a walk in the park with them. And it’s far more inspiring, challenging, opening, instructive to meet people like that. People who have a life which is not about serving strangers. Even if it’s sometimes hard to talk with people when you hardly have any language in common, it’s still a way to learn, meet and understand.

After a fantastic, inspiring, great week at Womex it’s nice to be in Estonia. I’m here to teach at the Estonian SügisEtno (a folk music course for youths) and do a couple of concerts together with Johanna-Adele Jüssi releasing her solo debut album. I’m really looking forward to a week that is actually filled with real live music and music making, as opposed to Womex which is a week that kind of circles around music but mainly without actually touching it. Womex is so much more about business, marketing, networking, talking, drinking and maybe listening and it’s all nice and great but it’s nothing like feeling the vibrations of the fiddle.

Music and its contrary?

(Originally posted here, 11 October 2012)

More and more I believe that if you want to understand something, you also need to explore the opposite of whatever it is you want to understand. And since music is about sounds, I think it’s important to explore the silence. In many ways, silence is a very rare thing in our world. And somehow also something that many people find provocative. But to me silence is necessary, not only because I need to rest my ears after hours of (loud) music making, but to be able to understand what the sounds we produce actually do with us. What difference they make in the sonic landscape.

I will probably come back to this at a later time. In general, this semester has produced lots of new thoughts, pushed my mind in new directions, and I’m only gradually finding out where I am or where I’m going. Sometimes it’s good with thoughts from people who’s been in the game a bit longer:

(Thanks to Suvi for directing me to this video)

Notes on improvising dance

(Originally posted here, 3 October 2012)

Dance as if it was a traditional dance, like if the movements have existed in hundreds of years, followed people in sorrow and joy, success and and failure. A part of a greater, ancient ritual.

Later addition: this goes for music as well. 
But remember to keep the movements and the notes young, fresh and new. Every note is played for the first and only time, and deserves attention and love in accordance with that.