Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Something of interest may be to create a list of "repro qualifiers"...traits that ensure some standard of what we look for in our little corner of the world. What makes a Minstrel Banjo "fit in"...? Is it some combination of materials, crafmanship, dimensions, and ..sound quality? Might be fun to agree on certain important qualities with a point given for each one, and some agreement that "8 out of 10" or whatever makes this an acceptable instrument for public representation of early banjo playing. Not that there will be "Minstrel police" out there, but it might create some cohesive set of values for our craft. At least talking about it may bring some surprising issues to light.    

Views: 374

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I think we can all agree that at the living history level we need to get as close to the original as possible.  But, if the sound is really close and the banjo looks pretty close in the modern setting then we must ask this question:  What is the goal?  IS the music the goal or is the banjo?  

 

If the banjo is the topic then 100% must be our goal.  If it is the music then the banjo can slip down the line a bit.  

Thank you George..I think this pulls the topic back into focus with a little more clarity...in my mind at least.

In response to George's statement, "We cannot control everything perfectly so we must control what we can within reason."

I don't play in historical settings (well a couple times thru the years) and It drives me crazy to try to get everything 'right' in the modern settings I do play in. My son, who helps me make banjos, plays bones, pennywhistle and awesome concertina. I like to play more Briggs and early stuff with him (and my fiddling brother) because I've always liked the idea of getting close to the African - Irish connection. That big bang that started it all  -that modern folks never think of. And in that modern setting, I like to take a bag, not ANY bag, an old looking bag, full of bones, real bones, jawbone, tambourines, and washboard. The fun starts when I make a semi cirlce and get volunteers, or grab somebody, ...there are always shy people... and before we start I yell out, "Ladies and gentlemen..the (instert Town name) MINSTREL BAND. I throw some hats on them too. It's a ball.

Right now my son is switching over from pennywhistle to fife when I play my Boucher- which is more of 'what I can control' and I'll keep trying to get it right. And whenever I'm in doubt, I back off. That's been a personal rule of mine since delving into old music in '76. It works on many levels, "Whenever in doubt, back off."

 


George Wunderlich said:

I think Dan'l brings up an important qualifier.  What about those of us (me included) that play in modern clothes and in modern locations far from historic settings?  

 

I think we can all agree that at the living history level we need to get as close to the original as possible.  But, if the sound is really close and the banjo looks pretty close in the modern setting then we must ask this question:  What is the goal?  IS the music the goal or is the banjo?  

 

If the banjo is the topic then 100% must be our goal.  If it is the music then the banjo can slip down the line a bit.  

 

Please remember my take.  When I play on my banjos I play on an instrument made without  power tools, modern paint or varnish, modern stains, or modern glues. I am a complete Luddite and a bit of a nut.  I am still OK with a non-period perfect banjo in a non-period setting IF music is really the focus of the performance.  We cannot let the love of material culture stand in the way of the understanding of musical culture when musical culture is the final goal.  That would be a false economy.  

By the same token, we cannot sacrifice material OR musical culture if we are involved in a holistic presentation that strives for a full-world view of a historical time period.  At a reenactment or living history presentation we strive to represent the "world" of the soldier or civilian as a snapshot in time.  In this case any detraction from presentation must be weighed against the overall good of the program.  

 

Here we fall into a deep trap.  Age, weight, race, speech patterns, hair style, and appropriate knowledge of occupation all play a role as much as material culture.  How far is far enough?  We cannot control everything perfectly so we must control what we can within reason.  This discussion is just one part of coming to grips with that reason.   

Reply to Discussion

RSS

About

John Masciale created this Ning Network.

© 2019   Created by John Masciale.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service