[Bards] On Bardic Documentation (it got long!)

Gerald Norris jerryn at houston.rr.com
Thu Jan 8 18:16:41 PST 2004

Before you read any further, please note that I do not mean to attack HL
Simone in any way.  The subject we are discussing is one rife with passion
from both sides (as she said somewhere in the pieces that didn't make it
into this missive).  I would be unworthy of the discussion itself if I tried
to imply that Simone, or anyone who expresses their opinions here, are
wrong.  I'm sorry to add to an already long discussion with this leadoff,
but I know that impassioned writing can sometimes lead to anger, and I would
do what I can to avert that if possible.  Now.  On with the show.

This morning, HL Simone sed:

> 2. It [documentation] adds a validity to our craft in the scope of those
who over
> the years
> have questioned the historical accuracy of Bardcraft as a legitimate
> artform.  It may not be as much of a debate as it has been in the past.

The funny thing is, I have never heard the argument that Bardcraft is not a
"legitimate" art form.  What I hear is that, since A&S entries are required
to submit documentation for their displays, works under the "performing"
arts should be required as well.

> 3. The Nature of the society has been changing over the years to more
> Authenticity in our actions as members in the society. as such
> the Bard is a
> highly visible part of that society. As such by our willingness to provide
> documentation on the competition level we indirectly support and
> show others
> that it is OK to do documentation for other things.

HL simone, while I respect your viewpoint on this, there are some problems I
have with the logic.  Perhaps its not even the logic, it's just MY viewpoint
on it.

Is the nature of the SCA changing?  Probably.  The question is, should it?

I like historic authenticity when I can get it, but I don't live for it.  I
have recently started writing more of my own works, and that's turning into
fun.  As I learn more about period music, period pieces, etc., I will
probably try my hand at producing more period pieces of work.

But I live in a similar land where Eleanor Fairchild and others dwell; I
prefer the performance, the challenge of producing the right reaction from
the audience, and that still moment when they are caught up in the song or
story, or the raucous moment when the punchline hits home.

I can produce documentation now, since I know that it doesn't have to be a
scholarly paper and that I'm not getting graded on how well I can format the
information.  I do it, mostly, because there are judges that require it.  In
the competitions that I have been the sponsor of (Stargate Bard, Loch
Soillier Bard) I gave extra marks for documentation, but judged mostly on

If I had my druthers, documentation would consist of a brief, yet somehow
entertaining encapsulation of what I'm about to perform.  A word or two
about style, instrument, or origin, and then off we go to the piece.  If
there are any amusing anecdotes that might pique someone's interest, it
should be included too.

But I don't necessarily want to be a teacher, just as most people don't
attend bardic circles to be taught about a particular writer or the
difference between perfect voice vs. vibrato.  Most couldn't give a dram.

But bardic in the SCA is changing as well.  There are still people who are
quite happy to filk from "Bridge Over Troubled Water", and more power to
them, especially if it's a good filk.  There are, however, a growing number
of people who are exposed to performers such as Robin of Gilwell, Cedrik the
Fidler, etc., who can perform a period piece and take a stock clerk from
Best Buy and bring them back six hundred plus years with a well crafted
presentation.  And because of this exposure, more people are interested in
performing those type of pieces, or seeing them performed.  Those of us who
are performers see these pieces and wish to emulate them, and so we study.

>  Like it or not because we are performers and many of us are very  visible
> people to the populace.  Our actions and words carry weight.  We are
> examples good or bad of what the society is, and what it can
> become. We are
> under the watchful eyes of our fans,old timers and newcomers alike. In my
> opinion this comes with a responsibility. by showing a willingness to do
> Documentation we encourage the old-timers and newcomers, that
> documentation
> is OK not  a 3 headed monster to be avoided at all cost. So what is
> documentation in the scope of things for Bardcraft.

And that would be good, if we had more people pointing to places like the
Laurelate's web site, which gives some good pointers for the "D" word.  For
the most part, people just throw down, "Documentation is required ..." and
leave it at that.  What documentation SHOULD be used for is a way to give
proof that you know something about the piece that you're performing.  What
it tends to be used for is to get people to do the research so that they
know what they're performing.  In essence, it tends to perform the same
function that term papers and other assignments given in school do; require
the student to learn about the subject through research.

But if I disagree with the powers-that-be, that documentation should be
lagniappe to a performer, not required, then how do I convey that?
Currently I'm still providing documentation, trying to figure out how to do
what I want and still make the scholars happy, since most have given the
opinion that verbal documentation is worthless in a competition.  But I
reserve the right, as a bard, to ask for the validation of the need for
documentation.  My art is, currently, valid in my mind, and I have few
people who ask me to stop playing, singing, or telling stories because I may
not have a bibliography to the 13th century english dance called "English
Dance".  The idea that documentation will lend validity to the art is ...
well, a poor argument, in my mind.  But my mind isn't always the best place
for such arguments, and so we discuss.

In my opinion (and we all have them, your mileage may vary, not available in
Topeka, KS because it just won't fly!), what we call "bard" is mostly
singers and troubadors, story-tellers and poets.  A true bard would know the
histories, including those that went with their performance.  They would
find a way to weave the information into their performance, so that the
audience would be enlightened as WELL as entertained, and some might even
remember the 30 second lesson.  They would create pieces of the history of
our kingdom, our society, and the people therein.  They would, in effect,
learn through the desire to learn, rather than the desire to make someone
else happy so they could win a title.

> Competitions are were we will probably see the want and need for
> documentation. not around the general camp fire, or entreating in the
> various venues we may be call upon to perform are art.

See above.

So.  What's he trying to say?

Our art is our art, and we do what we do.  I'm not against documentation,
but I think that we should take a good hard look at the real reason for
requiring documentation in performance arts.  In a title bard competition
and I'm a judge, I'm looking for a person who can capture an audience, who
can provide entertainment for their patrons at a moments notice.  I want
them to be knowledgeable about the works they perform, but I want someone
that will provide the patron with entertainment, will capture the hall at
the patrons command, and who will do so with good will and good humor.  I
don't need documentation for most of this.  Most people don't.

If you've made it this far, I thank you for getting to the end of this.

In service to the dream with a song in my heart, I am
HL Gerald of Leesville
Ravenskald of Ravensfort
A bard of Stargate
Kingdom Ansteorra

More information about the Bards mailing list