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The Real School of Music - Blog

Trad Music is an Experience, Not Just a Style of Music

Posted by Andrew Clark on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 @ 20:12 PM

By Steve Levy

If you let yourself be blown to and fro, you lose touch with your root.  If you let restlessness move you, you lose touch with who you are.”

Tao Te Ching 

“The blues is a chair, not a design for a chair or a better chair-it is the first chair.  It is a chair for sitting on, not for looking at.  You sit on that music.”

 John Lennon

Anyone who begins peering into the world of wine will quickly come upon the term “terroir”. trad irish music This is the effect of place upon the flavor of the grape.  The soil, the light, the mineral content of the water, the climate all impart aspects of character upon the wine.  This has been understood as far back as the Greeks and Romans.  The people who spend their lives growing grapes and making wine take enormous pride and a great deal of their identity from this.  The same things happen in music. 

From Ireland to Africa, Asia to Appalachia unique elements of place impact the fundamental
human need for music making.  I’m referring to music that existed before the concert stage and the technology of recording.  Celtic scholar and musician RJ Stewart in his book “Music and The Elemental Psyche” numerates 4 ages of musical consciousness: primal, environmental, individual, and classical.  Actual folk music, or what we refer to as Trad would be in the environmental age.  Stewart writes, “It has a culturally unique quality intimately related to the land of origin.”  I believe the stylistic DNA of the true folk music of any ethnicity can often resonate in a very powerful way in people who may or may not have a connection to the country of origin. But the spiritual authenticity, what Irish musicians often call the “pure drop” is still essential.  This is where the magic lives.  And for those of us who play it or “merely” love it, magic is by no means an understatement. 

I’ve seen little communities and friendships grow from playing the music where people are helped through hard times, illness, or unimaginable loss.Although I’m largely of Irish descent, my experience of traditional music happened well into adulthood and largely by accident if one believes in such things.  But when I heard it, I didn’t
merely like it, I was seized by it.  And when I made my first inroads into playing it, it wasn’t copying from recordings, but learning and playing in the company of like-minded souls who really knew it.  And that human to human transition is a critical part of the experience of Trad.  Sitting in a circle of musicians playing tunes in unison reminds me of the feelings I would get as a child in church with the whole congregation singing hymns.  A sense of connection to a very deep past, and an immersion into something mysterious and infinitely bigger than myself. And I’ve seen little communities and friendships grow from playing the music where people are helped through hard times, illness, or unimaginable loss.

Trad also offers musicians an idiom in which to grow old gracefully.  Anyone who has played pop music for any length of time will have seen a dizzying kaleidoscope of idoms and hybrid idioms ascend and vanish.  Though traditional music is a living growing thing, there is a stability and deep respect for what went before.   Trad offers many people an opportunity to engage actively in the humanizing effects of music making.  I wouldn’t want to live in a world where this was considered unimportant.


About Steve Levy:

Steve Levy has been a playing music from the age of 11, and he fell in love with Irish music during the 1970's. Steve plays tenor banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, and guitar, and has studied with Peter Maguire, John McGann, Matt Heaton, and the late Tony Cuffe. He's performed in clubs and concerts in the Eastern US and Canada, and has played guitar for the Orion Longsword folk dance team here and in Britain. Recently, Steve has been the guitarist for singer/songwriter Abbie Barrett.

Schedule a free trial lesson with Steve to learn more about Trad and all it has to offer!


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