Nightfall - a new composition by Steven Watson

I hope you can give this a listen all the way through, as it's a beautiful and interesting new composition for the banjo.

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Views: 465

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 17, 2023 at 17:45

Oh!  Béla has played all sorts of things that might be thought of as abstract. But over the years I have noticed that when the structure of structured music is not perceived by the listener they dismiss it as formless or "abstract", or sometimes they especially like it because they think it's abstract. It's similar to the dismissal of vocalists of other cultures, the most soulful of whom have been written off in printed reviews as "lacking soul'  and/or  being "nasal".  It is of interest, to me anyway, that those of the dismissed "nasal singing" culture who are insufficiently prepared to understand other musics on terms other than their own regularly dismiss the singing of the original Nasal Accusers of being nasal and of lacking feeling. This is ignorance, not retaliation, They are unaware of the reviews. What is usually lacking on all sides is adequate preparation, experience, and especially plain ol' information. Not there are no nasal or soul-less singers in any musical culture.  Or formless music.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 18:10

Jody - Ha, true. 

Joel - I never ever listen and play music I need to understand intellectually first. 

I defend the right for the ABF to create and restrict whatever it wants to. 

As mentioned, if Ian wants to delete the video, I'd have no qualms, though I would be disappointed that this group would be so - to use your word - narrow in focus, so much that something that was influenced by your narrow-confines of what a classic banjo is cannot find a singular place here. I often feel antagonism from you, Joel, and if you want to get rid of me for good, then persuade Ian to remove the video. In defence of it - and Jody has already mentioned this - I see a correlation or development of the early style into that I have presented here. You will doubtless continue to argue otherwise. So be it. But this is not the ABF. 

Comment by Trapdoor2 on April 17, 2023 at 18:29

Obviously, Jody hasn't been listening to Pop Music since the 70's... ;-)

While I enjoyed the video, my enjoyment was limited to thinking how awful it might be to sight-read...even just the rhythms. I also really enjoyed Rob's use of his permanently installed, self-adjusting pick-holder.

Many times, in my life, I've had to have my ignorance adjusted in order to see merit in perceived chaos. I have never "got" music like this...because I've never been told how it works. There used to be a PBS Radio show called "The Record Shelf", hosted by Jim Svejda. Great explainer of things musical. Through him, I had my eyes opened many times to music I otherwise thought too weird to enjoy.

Is the video appropriate for this group? Meh. It is still here...and generating lively discussion (which is often lacking here). For myself, I do not feel comfortable posting outside of the published CB era...with exceptions of new pieces "in the style" (for example, Jody's "50/50 Rag" or Steve's transcriptions of rags never arranged for CB). Heck, I hesitate to talk about Stroke Style here (I'm kidding, of course. I'll talk about anything).

I warn you though. If you get weirder, I'll post a video of me playing my ZB arrangement of Cage's 4'33". ;-)

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 17, 2023 at 18:57

hmm... perhaps this is my point.  To even question the situation in attempt to better understand the process I am accused of being antagonistic.  

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 19:05

Good post, Mike. But only when did it begin, but where does it end? Clearly some thing I’ve gone too far. 

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 17, 2023 at 19:21

Trapdoor2: I had the same thought. I'd probably be able to replicate the timing from listening a few times but trying to read it and get it right would be beyond my abilities.  

About the pick holder:  I saw banjoist Steve Arkin, who alas has recently passed away do a less safe version on stage one time.  He was playing a bluegrass style solo on stage in what i remember as a small band. He decided to take a second solo using clawhammer/frailing technique. He threw his two metal fingerpicks and plastic thumbpick in his mouth and took his solo. We in the audience never noticed with what success he extracted them and got them back on his fingers. We were laughing too hard.

About pop music since the 70s: Indeed that is when I stopped listening. I disliked how it affected my mind and body. But what was it I wrote that prompted that statement?  I agree but don't see the connection. Are you saying that the music got so bad that no amount of information or understanding can redeem it?

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 17, 2023 at 19:44

When Alfred Farland developed hand troubles he came up with a way to switch back and forth between the pick (he used a leather one, but marketed a celluloid version) and fingerstyle.  He used the pick for tremolo and fingers for the rest (which for him was not much). 

He claimed to have patented his idea but I have searched far and wide and have turned up no patent.  The number he claimed was not his.

His "patented" device was a plectrum with an elastic loop attached.  The pick was canted so when the looped pick was worn on the index finger one could play fingerstyle and the pick was out of the way.  Simply curling in the index finger placed the pick in position for using it.

It is brilliant!  And I am amazed that this is not something on the market today.  I would expect there would be a solid market for it and I even considered having some tooling made up.  The problem is that the market could be too big, which means one of the major pick makers would grab the idea.  I don't want any part of that. 

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 17, 2023 at 19:47

The Farland pick.  

Comment by Trapdoor2 on April 17, 2023 at 20:05


Yes, "Pop Music, irredeemable since 1979". It was simply part of my joke.


Joe Morley played popular music of his time. There was no "classic banjo". AFAIK, it is simply a term to keep everybody from calling us "Parlor Banjoists" (as they did in former days). Stewart published "Old Time" banjo music occasionally. Not what we now call "Old Time". My point being is that the terminology changes as our POV changes.

I don't think there is any accepted or academically based timeline for CB. I personally tend to think of Frank Converse's early publications of "Guitar Style" designated pieces (Greenback book) as the beginnings of CB. Where does it end though? Death of Morley ('37)? Death of BMG? Advent of Bluegrass? Perhaps we're still living in the era...but if so, what defines the style?

Naming periods of music is problematic. Classical, Romantic, Baroque, etc. Somebody developed these terms long after the composers were dead. All of those dead guys were once making popular music...which aged into academic, useful categorization.

I feel that even if CB has the harsh light of definition shone on it...there will always be gray areas.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 20:59

I like the idea of that Farland pick, Joel. It raises the question whether his use of it would disbar him from sharing his videos here, should he be alive to do so? 

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