Attending a gathering devoted to Traditional Scottish Fiddling (of the musical kind, I hasten to add) I was handed a guide book to let me know what made a good Traditional Scottish Fiddler. Apparently "In the past the fiddle was held not under the chin but under the shoulder. But modern fiddlers have higher artistic and musical ideals, and have adopted a more violinistic approach". Which begs the question, what is Traditional Scottish Fiddling and what is Proper Violin Playing of Traditional Scottish Fiddle Music?
|I feel our man on the left is holding it too far below|
the shoulder even for an arch-traditionalist!
Of course, the word Traditional means different things to different people. In the case of Scots fiddlers, most of the music they play goes back no further than the Victorian age (and very little of it is that old) and even "traditional" airs seem largely to have been composed by Robbie Burns (1759-1796). Nevertheless, there is a fine tradition of fiddle playing which you can still encounter in remoter areas, untainted by "higher artistic and musical ideals", and away from the interfering eyes of "experts on traditional music", you might still see a fiddler talking, looking around or even, on one memorable occasion, smoking a cigarette (the ban on the traditional Scottish past time of smoking in pubs has had unforeseen repercussions far beyond the prevention of lung cancer and heart disease) while playing, his fiddle grasped in a claw-like left hand which never changes position, rarely indulges in vibrato but seems to have an unerring instinct for intonation, ornamentation and controlled portamento (not, I hasten to add, words which any self-respecting Traditional Fiddler should understand).
|No good for Beethoven - ideal for Robbie Burns|