[Bards] Some Thoughts on Documentation for Bardic Competition

Bella sorrowsong at sbcglobal.net
Mon Apr 22 17:04:11 PDT 2002

Talk about my weak point here. Documentation in the bardic arts is
extremely difficult for reasons already mentioned. And then one is faced
with the obstacle of how to present that documentation without losing
the moment and the audience right off the bat. The best documentation I
have ever seen was done orally, in persona- "I learned this song while
traveling in.....it was just after....(period event)......" , etc... or
"I wrote this song after witnessing.....(period event)...." I've seen
some beautiful lead ins to performances that give you enough of a sense
of when and where the piece originated and yet still kept you in the
frame of mind to hear it afterwards. The documentation was a part of the
performance rather than a cold reading of facts or a piece of paper that
the judge then had to read.
I myself have certainly not mastered this ability, though I am trying.

I've also seen many incredible performances that have gotten entire
audiences wrapped up in a magical moment with no documentation at all.
Do we discount these performers for a lack of documentation? Should
period documentation be counted more highly than the ability to
transport the listeners to that period with the performance itself.

Caring enough to do the research on a style or a period is definitely a
positive thing and I believe anyone who's serious about being a
bard/minstrel/troubadour should know the history of what they perform
and the way that it might have been performed (I say might because in
many cases we don't KNOW with any certainty), but knowing that history
and being able to convey it in oral or written documentation can be
hard. Take for instance the fact that many songs weren't written down
during period, but you know they must have been performed in period.
There are some who feel if you can't date it, it isn't period- wouldn't
that tend to put a severe limit on available cultures and time periods
to choose from when so many were oral traditions?

 This debate has been going on for as long as I've been performing in
the SCA at least, and I'm sure long before that. I'm not sure there will
ever be a clear and concise answer to the debate, especially since it
involves people who by their very nature tend to be as passionate as
they are diverse.

In Service,
HL Sibeal inghean ui Ruairc, commonly known as Bella

-----Original Message-----
From: bards-admin at ansteorra.org [mailto:bards-admin at ansteorra.org] On
Behalf Of Anawyn at aol.com
Sent: Monday, April 22, 2002 5:53 PM
To: bards at ansteorra.org
Subject: Re: [Bards] Some Thoughts on Documentation for Bardic

[ Picked text/plain from multipart/alternative ]
In a message dated 4/22/2002 10:23:55 AM Central Daylight Time,
BMartin at Corp.Prodigy.com writes:

> I'm curious about what the people
> on this list think about documentation for competitions and whether or
> it should be required. (Please note that I'm drawing a separation
> competitions and bardic circles/fires.)

In a formal setting, for a competition, I think it lends a lot to the
performance to have the bard offer a brief (emphasis on brief!) bit of
documentation, oral or written. It shows that the performer not only has
written, or is performing a piece, but that they put some thought into
For those of us who have been around for a while, or are steeped in
many performances will be understood to be "period" pieces, for example,
recitation of a Shakespearean sonnet. But it certainly "kicks it up a
to find that a bard took the time to accurately portray a character, or
based up research. THAT shows a measure of classiness I think, and also
indicates that they care about what their audience is going to receive.
Further, it provides one more element for the judge, or judges, to use
determining a final winner. I dearly love a good filk around the
but for competition, a performance that is carefully researched as well
delivered, is the ultimate in bardic achievement.
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