Bad Bards or Bad Drummers?

Gunnora Hallakarva gunnora at
Sat Dec 14 02:47:53 PST 1996

HL Gwendolene McIver, CSM, CIM said:
I have sat here and read how drummers and dancers kill a bardic circle,
but what about the so-called bards that have to tell long boring stories
that last as long if not longer than some of the drummers? or the singer
that can hardly carry a tune? those things too will kill a bardic circle,

Gunnora says:
Yes... but usually these do not alter the overall mood of the circle as much
as the one volume, one speed, one mood drums can.  The long boring/tuneless
bard problem is one reason I always have enjoyed group singing in bardic
circle... and I don't mean your formal "This is a bardic circle where we
will all compete."  I mean the fun ones that spontaneouly form around a
campfire, around some seats on the edge of a listfield, or even in the
middle of an empty field with nothing but the singers.

HL Gwendolene McIver, CSM, CIM said:
I have seen many a drunk bard that didn't know when to quit, or the one
that insists on finishing  every ones stories for them. 

Gunnora replies:
I believe that when one is beset by an attack bard, they can be politely if
firmly encouraged to stop, or light-heartedly teased into stopping, or
simply asked to go back to their tent and sleep it off NOW.  And if said
attack bard won't listen, that's what axes are for.

HL Gwendolene McIver, CSM, CIM said:
Yes it is easy to
point to the drummers and dancers and say "it is all their fault that the
bardic circle died".  They are the loudest and flashiest, and yes there
are people out there that should never pick up a drum. 

Gunnora says:
If the drummers have the consideration of a dead skunk, they will not
monopolize a circle no matter how much fun they are having.  It is simply
wrong to stroll up to someone else's circle and take it over (drummer OR
attack bard).  If you want a drumming session, why not start one on your own
turf, then you call the shots?  Tell drummers early in the day you'll be
hosting a drumming circle, invite the dancers etc  And if you do come to
someone else's circle, if you are being considerate, you will take turns,
not play for more than five to ten minutes (with ten to fifteen minute
breaks, or a shift to "accompanyment" mode to allow singers to sing and
talespinners to yarn..

HL Gwendolene McIver, CSM, CIM said:
But if you try to
stop the drummers and dancers because you don't like it, then the next
step is to only let those who CAN bard stand up and do their

Gunnora said (looking over her glasses and frowning):
My lady, no one said that the drummers and dancers had to take a long walk
off a short pier.  You have taken the suggestions made, filtered them
through indignation, and your answer has come out in this sentence like the
outraged squawk of a stepped-on broody hen.

Drummers are a good thing, in moderation.  They are even a good thing, in
excess, if they have made arrangements to do nothing but drum without
wrecking someone else's circle.  

I personally get very tired of the DOOM DOOM TEKKA TEK over and over and
over, it is true.  And there's nothing as obnoxious as having to listen to
five hours of bad drumming and bad dancing and accompanying leering drunks,
especially when this all takes place after 2 am.

As I mentioned before, if the drummers don't want a bad rap, they need to
take steps to go beyond the dreaded DOOM DOOM TEKKA TEK.  They need to show
courtesy to other performers.  

But why should we allow rank novices at drumming to do their learning on our
recreation time?  We absolutely would NOT allow a novice tuba player to
interrupt our circle and start honking really loud random notes on the tuba.
We wouldn't want someone to practice their beginners scales, off-key, on a
violin during our events where no one can get away from the dead cat noise.
Beginning drummers need to practice on their own time, or as I mentioned, if
they want opportunities to learn from other drummers at events, either (1)
make a drumming area for this activity or (2) do drumming during the day,
before nightfall so that their mistakes and one rhythm doens't drive
everyone nuts during the quieter circles in the evening..

HL Gwendolene McIver, CSM, CIM said:
Most of us only get to drum or dance at events, 

Gunnora says:
I beg to differ.  People get to drum or dance at home while practicing.
People need to do a lot of drumming at their homes, in their own living
rooms etc. so that when they do drum in public they are bearable.  No one
would allow a beginner with any other instrument to assault our ears the way
we regularly have to be assaulted by novice drummers.  DON'T do all your
learning and practicing at events!!  Do it at home!  Practice with tapes of
medieval/middle easter music.  Tape yourself and listen to what it sounds
like.  Invest in an inexpensive metronome and find out if your idea of
rhythm has any relationship to the real world.

HL Gwendolene McIver, CSM, CIM said:
just as some
bards only get to sing or tell stories at events, unless they are
competing why can't they just take turn or go to separate ends of the
event site, and those who want to bard can bard and those who want to
drum/dance can do that.  No one is forcing you to be around what you
don't  want to be around, you always have the opportunity to leave and go
elsewhere in the camp.

Gunnora answers:
We aren't discussing competition circles, here.  For one thing, those almost
always have a moderator, and entries are almost always timed to some extent.
As for "not being forced", well, that is so.  However, I have on at several
occasions had a bardic circle at MY OWN CAMP invaded by The Drummers Who
Would Not Die.  Where do you go then?  You're already "at home" but if you
thought you were going to bed, forget that feeble dream.  And you know, the
really drunk drummers are hard to get to leave.  It can be done, but you
have to be a really rude asshole (even ruder than the drummers) to get their
attention in this instance (or resort to the bad bard axe, as mentioned
above).  This is why I think that drummers (and other performers) need to be
sensitive about what and where the circle is!

You know, when I first got in the SCA, it was customary to ask permission to
enter a camp that was not your own, at the very minimum to call out "Hail
the Camp! May I enter?"  This allowed introductions to be made, and people
knew who the guests were and who the host/s were.  It might be a good idea
to practice asking that question when entering a circle.  If you will be
drumming, it is only polite to ask whether *this* circle will be a good
place to share your skill.  If the people there tell you that no, this is a
laid back, queit circle, or a talespinner's group, or whatever, don't argue.
Find another venue in which to exhibit your own skills or stay and enjoy the
skills of others.

Wassail and God Jul,

Gunnora Hallakarva
Ek eigi visa (th)ik hversu o(dh)lask Lofstirrlauf-Kruna
heldr hversu na Hersis-A(dh)al

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