Eisteddfod - NY

A Festival of Traditional Music

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What is the Eisteddfod?

by Howard Glasser, Festival Director Emeritus

The Eisteddfod is an entertainment, it is an educational experience, it is a reunion of friends, it is a time to enjoy. In addition to all that, it has a point to make.

All of us who participate, by making or listening to music. by doing or admiring craftsmanship, value something we call .'traditional". The arts and crafts that were common in small isolated rural villages were carried through the generations "by ear". . . people heard or saw what they liked about the way other people did things and did the same, more or less. They emphasized the things they especially liked and forgot the things that didn't interest them. Many years of this process gave the traditional arts and crafts a special kind of beauty, expressed through a local style. We no longer live in isolated rural villages-we are connected to "official" culture by television, by radio and records, by the plastic implements bought in supermarkets and discount stores. And some of this has its own kind of beauty or function-but it is not the kind of beauty of the old, traditional arts and crafts. Some of us who especially value the beauty of tradition have tried to capture it ourselves-and this has been called the "Folk Revival." Some of us try to be living archives; attempting to reproduce folk art as we perceive it. Some of us try to find the essence of some particular tradition and create new things in that traditional style. Some of us apply the style of one tradition to a fragment of another-creating an original in spite of ourselves. All of this, and more, is part of this "revival" that does a lot more than "revive."

As we do this we need contact with the preserved fragments of tradition...the field recordings of collectors, their books and raw notes, and the artifacts dusty in museums or shiny in antique shops. But more important than this is contact with a live person who creates traditional art. A recording can tell you one way it was done, but not the hundred ways it might have been done. It can't distinguish between accidental variation and personal intent. It can't pass on the essence-the subtleties that make one artist differ from another and yet belong to the same tradition. This can only be learned in the traditional way-from one person to another.

This, then, is the point of the Eisteddfod-that it is a time and a place where the performers and craftsmen of the folk revival can meet and learn from one another.

It might happen in a concert, or an exhibit, or a workshop. But it might also happen between two people talking quietly in a corner. Without this we would enjoy the concerts and exhibits, enjoy meeting old friends and making new ones, Or just enjoy a friendly ambiance. But without the learning it wouldn't be the Eisteddfod. We hope you enjoy yourself-and learn something that you will value


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Rev. 3/20/09