February 25, 2011

Easy and simple aren't the same thing

This past weekend I went to the Sean Nós Northwest festival at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, and played an awful lot of irish flute. This festival is a great celebration of Irish language, song, and dance, and so there were few instrumentalists there but we were treated with especially great respect and gratitude by the dancers.

It was especially fascinating to me to watch how a room full of 20-30 dancers could lock into rhythm with each other and with the music. I got the feeling that one could learn this kind of dance more easily by listening than by watching or thinking.

At the festival, we also watched a film called "Come West Along the Road," which consists of archival footage of musicians, singers, dancers, etc. I was really struck by a segment which, conveniently, is also on YouTube:

I was kind of amused at first by his one-finger-per-hand style of guitar playing. How much easier and more straightforward could it get?

But then I realized that I have no idea how much work this guy put into the guitar part, because he seems so unconcerned with it that you can't even call it an afterthought. But it's just there for him, perfectly steady, as natural as walking.

What he's playing is really simple, but I really admire the conviction with which he plays it and the complete effortlessness of it. There's really nowhere to hide in something like that.

One more thing; not to turn this into a giant group hug but there's more than meets the eye in any performance and even a failed one is probably the result of an honest effort. Let's be sure to give credit where credit is due.


  1. That's pretty fascinating. He makes a seemingly very little sound like a lot.

  2. beautiful - what a voice!

  3. Amazing musician! Another great one-finger player is Wes Montgomery. It just goes to show, you can make anything work if you work hard at it (and apply those principles of the AOV - I mean, just listen to that great rhythm!)