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Authenticity in the Folk Music Tradition

What is this? Do we recognise it? I’ve heard rumours of musicians having been thrown out of sessions in Irish pubs because what they played wasn’t Irish enough. And that the display of a characteristic singing accent when rendering some northern English 19th century mining song is a badge of honour and evidence of authenticity of performance. Everything old-timey in the US is treated with nostalgic awe and reverence and with the utter conviction that the way things were played in the old days was the proper way – or, in any event, better. In all of this I smell a conservative tribalism and other instincts that make me queasy. It’s not a big step from sentimentalising the folk culture of a nation – or part of – and imagining a superiority in its “authentic” expression, to comparing others unfavourably to it.

But it might be that it is the taking a folk culture and corrupting it and making it “impure” by creating further Art from it that bestows upon it a lasting value.

When I’m too long in the company of “authentic” folk musicians I feel badly in need of fresh air!

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Outro in D No.1

This tune is very old (circa. 1979) and was made up when me and my partner were living with friends in Brackwede, Germany. I’m not sure what it is: a bit ragtime, perhaps? A bit of a swing-jazz tinge? It was originally intended to be developed into a song but it just doesn’t feel songlike (mind you, that hasn’t stopped me before!).

Outro in D No.12015OpenPlayDownload
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On Songwriting: What’s the Purpose of Writing Songs?

For a long time I never considered this question since making up tunes and singing along to them – relying totally on serendipity – was a childish habit I developed as soon as I was big enough to hold a guitar. This was long before I asked why anyone did anything. Only later in my early teens did I slowly become aware that writing songs could be a medium for something called “self-expression” – but I think I saw it as equivalent to others who might choose sport or some other recreation or hobby. Only much later, when writing and playing became my sole source of income, did I concern myself with the purpose of the songs – the “why?” of the songs. I no longer wrote songs for their own sake – songwriting became a means to an end. Then later again, when I quit touring and playing for a living, I wondered what purpose there would be in continuing to write songs since the means no longer had an end.  Habit? That wasn’t enough. So I decided to stop.

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Outro in A No.4

As promised, here is the first of my “Outros”. You can open and / or download the .pdf file of the guitar score and a simple .mp3 rendered from my scoring software (Finale) belo.

This Outro is a bit jazzy in a bluesy sort of way. And a bit sleazy, if I may suggest. A stripper could use this; in fact it can be hired for that purpose for a fee. Else, a songwriter with determination might have sung something nice with this. But not me.

Outro in A No.42014OpenPlayDownload

Should you be interested in having the native Finale file or .xml music exchange file for your own non-commercial use or just experimentation, please put in a request below in the comment box and register with this site and I will mail to you at your registered email address.

All other comments or questions are welcome below.

The Fannichs

Have fun – I hope you enjoy it!

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Overheard at an Open-Mic

Punter A: “Hey, She’s a really good guitar player! Like the songs too!”

Punter B: “Me  too…. hey, she’s got CDs for sale here – let’s buy a couple!”

Punter A: “Hell, no! Who buys CDs when you can stream this shit for free?”

Punter B: “Yeah, you’re right.

Punter A: “Wonder who’s playing tomorrow…”

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I will shortly post some pieces of notated music which I have given the collective title of “Outros”. They are part of an ongoing project to collect a multitude of snippets, ideas, still-born songs sans lyrics, wine induced vanities, juvinilia I’d hoped to take beyond nostalgia and some half-finished guitar interludes that would otherwise be waste paper. There are quite a lot of them and they have no titles or any differentiating features beyond their key and time signatures and tempos. Therefore I decided I would name each by key and unique number, ie; “Outro in <key> No.<ID>”.  Tempo will be indicated at the head of the piece. But there is one other issue: published Outros are not necessarily finished or complete and I might revise (improve) any and all of them from time to time. So published versions will be differentiated by a file and on-page naming convention / protocol.

So these Outros will be published here as notated and unsophisticated (Finale) guitar scores; however for musicians who might be interested in MIDI versions for their own use, and also for the sake of anybody who would like to hear an audio facsimile of the notated part, these will also be posted. An Audio Exchange .XML file and .pdf of the original Finale score will also be made available. All these will be free to download and use under Creative Commons 4.0 license which means you can do what the heck you like with them except make money from them unless you cut me in.

That’s all for now. I hope to publish in a few days.

Happy New Year from Edinburgh!


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New Song: Roller Coaster with Guitar Notation, Tab and Lyrics

Play the song:

[audio:|titles=Roller Coaster]

For the score of the guitar part and the lyrics, please see below.

Cannabalising a nursery-rhyme is cheap trick but in this case it serves me well. In each verse a stolen line gives me a fine platform from which to plunge into…

In brief, this is a song about (…) and the alienation it causes and the need to conceal it and put a brave face on it in public – especially with work colleagues and even with close friends. The use of fairground imagery and the nursery-rhyme lines gives a sense of grotesque burlesque, I hope; a sense of the absurdity of acting in the external world in a way that is so remote from what goes on in the internal one.

The fact that the song is about (…) might surprise some since the guitar part is in a bright Major key and sounds pretty upbeat except during a couple of interludes. (Actually, if I mute the vocal in the studio the guitar part sounds for all the world like a cheery guitar ditty… oh, well.)

As with most of my songs, the guitar part and the tune came first within which was embedded the words. This song is hard to play and I haven’t played it since I recorded it; consequently I don’t perform it. Yet. What do you think? Should I take it out and about? Will it behave in public?

Download the tab & notation: [download id=”2931″]

Roller Coaster

One, two, buckle my shoe
I live in a coloured caravan
What colour would you like it to be today?
Climb on board and I will change it if I can

Blood of mother, blood of father
Flows through these varicose veins
Add an eye of newt and a fat rat’s tail
And a bottle and a half of cheap champagne

Three, four, knock on my door
Step into the amusement arcade
I am a bundle of fun I am a barrel of laughs!
This joker here sharper than a razor blade

Drunk or sober sorrow steps over
And sits on the very next stool
And says “Gravity now is the most profound
It’s in the deepest sky it’s on the highest ground”

Five, six, pick up sticks
Listen to the rattle of the drum
The band is playing just for you
Don’t turn away please come

Seven, eight, don’t be late
The roller coaster’s ready to begin
Close your eyes now; hold on tight
Who knows where goes this flight tonight

She said “If you were a man you’d take you coloured caravan
And get rid of that melancholy hue
Paint it purple and pink instead of black and blue”
She said “If I were you that’s what I would do”

Nine, ten, big fat hen
Waiting for a cockle-doodle-do
I get dizzy spells, I get most unwell
But I’d still rather be me than you

© 2014 Dave Keir

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Many More New Songs (Coming Soon)!

Yes, I’ve been listening through some recorded songs with a view to finally publishing the whole lot of them. Not all together by any means; they have to be auditioned, edited, mixed and generally made presentable. And they will crawl out of that process individually, or at most, a few at a time.  And maybe not the “whole lot”; I’m bound to have become dis-enamoured of some of them for one reason or another. But we’ll see. I’m also unsure in which form to publish them. That is to say, I’m not inclined to do another CD at this time – maybe as (an) album download(s). Through iTunes or CD Baby – or even just from here? Not sure. What do you think? Leave a comment below now – or later when you’ve heard a few of the songs.

Of the songs, I have got a couple just about ready. Look forward to “Roller Coaster” and “After Dinner Drinks” comin’ soon! In the meantime here’s another pic from my Pentlands wanderings – this taken last week from the top of Castlelaw Hill:

Pentland Hills