Last day here at Swannanoa. It went so fast, it felt like a short time to be here, but a long time to be away from home.
I attended several jams and got more courage as the week went on. I made a few “newbie” blunders, like I started a tune too fast in the slow jam tent. (I was not aware that it was the slow jam tent ALL the time….I thought it was only slow from 6pm-7pm on the schedule)….and that is something you don’t want to do. Gotta respect the jam for what it is, and do not dominate or show-off.
I was also caught talking too much on the outskirts of a jam tent…damn beer makes my voice louder. So someone shot me a glance, and I knew my conversation was distracting the jammers.
I guess the bottom line is…..JUST ATTEND A JAM. Don’t be afraid of messing up….because guess what….you WILL mess up, but you’ll get over it! (I did) Hopefully, you can learn from a few of my blunders and have good jam manners. Jams are held together by a certain level of trust and common decency. They are not a place to show off or boost your ego.
The highlight of my jamming this week was meeting “Harrison”, one of the young students here. He must be only 9 or 10, but he was SO musical, and a little bit shy. I could see him hanging about the slow jam tent, so I asked him if he’d like to jam with me. So we went to a little bench and found a couple tunes we both knew, and that kid can play! I fully expect him to be on the faculty of Swannanoa someday! I was kicking myself for not taking Harrison back to the slow jam tent and having him start a tune….that would have cemented his confidence, but I’m certain that he will become a competent jammer and great musician.
One cannot rise above one’s own taste…but thankfully we can expand our own taste.”–Martin Hayes
Last day of class with Martin Hayes. He played EVERY tune the class requested of him, including a couple of slow airs, the most heart-wrenching of all was “Carolan’s Farewell to Music”.
It is rumored that upon his imminent death, Carolan called for his harp and a glass of whiskey, played an air that no one had previously heard, and died some time after. (this is all heresay, so please verify if you are doing research) The air was written down, and is now believed to be “Carolan’s Farewell to Music”.
The way Mr. Hayes played this air was spell-binding. Martin explained that airs are the MOST demanding of all Irish music, because they require so much focus and technique. In not so many words, that is what separates the men from the boys!
He was expressing to the class again what makes a great musician, and how to play musically, and during this discussion, he stated, “One cannot rise above one’s own taste. (long pause) But thankfully, we can EXPAND our own taste.” He went on to explain that the things we consume as “good things” are the limit of our existence, or the limit of what we will be able to produce as artists.
He used the analogy of someone who starts a restaurant. Of course, they would create a menu based on what they thought tasted good. However, if their taste is limited, or bland, or based only on one favorite ingredient, say, jalapenos, then the restaurant is bound to fail because it will not appeal to enough people.
He expounded on his point by encouraging us to explore the music of other cultures, to listen to diverse music of every kind, and find what is good, powerful, and expressive in those genres. Watch and listen to the masters of every genre, because a master of any genre of music can teach you about your own music in ways you wouldn’t expect.
My class with Mr. Hayes taught me things that I never knew that I didn’t know…things I didn’t even know I needed! Mr. Hayes brings a thoughtful, soulful, transcendental element to every tune he ever plays, and you can hear it immediately. What a privilege to be in his class.