‘It's A Very Simple Music’

Liz Carroll

‘It's A Very Simple Music’

Fiddle player and composer Liz Carroll did an 'illustrated' interview recently with the National Endowment for the Arts, and spoke at length about her musical life in Chicago, the nature of traditional Irish music, the culture of sessions, and the Kerry connection with her own tunes .

Photograph: Con Kelleher.

The National Endowment for the Arts in the United States podcasts an interview every Thursday with an established artist or someone working in the arts, and earlier this month it was Chicago fiddle player Liz Carroll’s turn. The interviewer, Josephine Reed, asked Carroll about her life in music of course, but there was also an element of illustrated talk about the interview in that Carroll had her fiddle and was able to illustrate some of the points she made about Irish traditional Music.

‘It’s a very simple music,’ Carroll says, and illustrates how almost ‘everything is one note away or two notes away’ from the core note, which is ‘pretty rare in music’ she says. She also suggests that there is a certain mood underlying even the dance tunes, which perhaps account for their appeal beyond the catching rhythm: ‘I would say that … when you slow the [very fast and happy] pieces down … it also has the effect … of the very sad tunes, [those] which are built to be slow.’   

Carroll is also very interested in the disparity between what some people hear and what the players experience: ‘I think a lot of people … might not be able to tell one tune from another. And in the worst cases, they think they’re all the same tune…. But as you’re learning them, you really learn that there is a big difference there, that each melody is its own little game and its own little story, and we get to hear, even as we’re going fast, we can hear this little character of it being happy, but yeah, being very sentimental at the same time.’

The full interview can be heard via the National Endowment for the Arts website on nea.gov/podweb/podCMS/podlist.php

Carroll is visiting Ireland in June when Ireland hosts the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention for the first time. Carroll will be playing with the String Sisters at An Grianán in Letterkenny on 29 June. She will be returning in the autumn to join a tour called the Tune Makers organised by guitarist and composer Dave Flynn.


Published on 27 March 2012

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