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IAN RUSSELL & CHRIS GOERTZEN - Routes & Roots: Fiddle And Dance Studies From Around The North Atlantic 4

IAN RUSSELL & CHRIS GOERTZEN - Routes & Roots: Fiddle And Dance Studies From Around The North Atlantic 4
The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen ISBN 9780954568276

Another healthy slab of reading matter from the conference held as part of the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention in Aberdeen in 2010.

This has a more solidly “celtic” feel than previous volumes, with five articles relating to matters Scottish / Cape Breton, four Irish, three American and lone contributions on England and Lithuania. Partly this is due to the lack of articles from the Scandinavian countries - hopefully a temporary absence as these have previously provided a rich vein of content.

Many of the articles attempt to address the vexed question of what is tradition and when do modern interpretations of the tradition become, themselves, traditional? Some attempt to justify the modernistic use of some elements of tradition as being merely extensions of that tradition is made by invoking the old chestnut, “all traditions continuously change”. Some, however, appear to change more quickly than others.

The “fiddle” envelope is vigorously pushed by a particularly interesting article on why it is that bagpipe competitions render their participants less able to play satisfactorily for dance music. This highlights the severance of function and artistry (music and dance) in several traditions.

As with all such books of excellence, there is much here I agree with, much I disagree with and much to inform, but all of it is vital and thought-provoking. This series of volumes is an internationally important body of work on fiddle and dance tradition, for which great thanks are especially due to Ian Russell and the Elphinstone Institute. The new volume is of an equally high standard to its predecessors.

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.