Framing the Stories

How context influences the art inside

How much power does a backdrop have? As the Irish Music Stories production team works to assemble episodes and bonus materials, Shannon explores the wooded hills of Medford, Massachusetts to find visual and organizational surrounds that look and feel like time-worn jigs, and ballads, and nights of music and dance.

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Thank you to everybody for listening. And a special thank you to this month’s underwriters: Joel DeLashmit, Lynn Hayes, Paul Grajciar, Suezen Brown, Paul DeCamp, Emil Hauptmann, Randy Krajniak, Rick Rubin, Susan Walsh, Ken Doyle, Chris Armstrong, John Ploch, Jon Duvick, Gerry Corr, Brian Benscoter, and Marc Gunn.

Episode 50 – Framing the Stories: how context influences the art inside.
This Irish Music Stories episode aired February 9, 2021
https://shannonheatonmusic.com/episode-50-framing-the-stories/

Speakers, in order of appearance
>> Shannon Heaton: flute player, singer, composer, teacher, and host of Irish Music Stories 
>> Nigel Heaton: young announcer for Irish Music Stories

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>> Shannon: I’m Shannon Heaton. And this is Irish Music Stories. The show about traditional music, and the bigger stories behind it…

[ Music: “Free the Heel,” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton ]

Like how frames matter. Like how the WAY something is presented really affects how you understand it.

[ Music: “Grupai Ceol Theme,” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton ]

Like Amanda Gorman’s poem, delivered at the January 20th U.S. Presidential inauguration. It wasn’t just her call to seek light in dark, divided times. It was how she presented those words: her rhythmic diction; her facial expressions; her yellow coat, and hair ornaments, and stellar posture. It was the image of this poised, passionate, young black poet standing feet away from America’s first woman, first black, first Asian vice president. 

It was her words and the setting. The trimmings, the architecture of context: it all painted a joyous and urgent call for unity.

Or take, like, the Sunny Banks. This is a friendly reel in the key of D. I could play it alone

[ Music: Sunny banks solo flute ]

Or I could play it with the accompaniment of root position chords, thick chords that don’t have a lot of spaciousness… that kind of crowd the flute in a really inelegant way.

[ Music: Sunny banks flute, and guitar with root position chords that ring in the same range as the flute.]

[Matt and Shannon chuckle after this performance]

Or I could play that same tune with Matt Heaton playing lighter chord voicings, in a ranged instinct from the flute, with a little more space.

[ Music: Sunny banks flute, and guitar with a more ‘realized’ accompaniment, that is more separate and supportive of the flute melody ]

Different frames really influence how the art inside feels and resonates.

As I pull together the new online home for Irish Music Stories, I have the pleasure and challenge of designing frames around these podcast episodes, around these tales that well from generations of tradition bearers.

To make the right visual and organizational surround for these Irish Music Stories, I’m doing a lot of fieldwork. I’m gathering images that look and feel like time-worn jigs, and ballads, and nights of music and dance.

Literal field work. [Sounds of walking on sticks, leaves.]

So here I was with my family, in the woods. [said to family: “Here’s a nice little waterfall!”]

Our pockets were full of acorns, and stones, and sticks, and feathers.

>> Nigel: Look at this feather!

>> Shannon: Oh, beautiful. I think it’s a blue jay feather.

>> Nigel: But it’s grey.

>> Shannon: Yeah. I still think it’s a jay

Turns out that little feather WAS from a blue jay—a little tail feather from this member of the raven family. These noisy blue birds are often seen as mischevious tricksters. They can be associated with bad power. 

[ sounds of blue jay ]

But many also believe that jays call us to be persistent and to fight no matter how hard a given situation may seem. To be vocal. 

[ Music: “G# Chimes” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

Blue jays are also famous acorn keepers. They store food. And they plan for the future.

[ More walking sounds in the forest.] So here we were, surrounded by all these acorns, and feathers, and trees, and rocks, and moss, and ponds. Some of these forest treasures have been here, in the hills of Medford, Massachusetts, for a few weeks or months. Some are hundreds of years old. Just like Irish tunes and songs and steps.

[ more walking sounds ]

Here we go, collecting images and impressions out here in the forest, to help present past episodes, companion essays, trailers, a catalog of artists. 

[ Music: “Celtic Grooves” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist/Composer: Matt Heaton ]

There’s so much to do to frame these Irish Music Stories. I hope you’ll hang in there with me for a few months of NO NEW POSTS, as I go deep into IMS production land,  so I can emerge in the Spring with a new crop of online offerings.

To bide your time, I hope you’ll catch up with past episode. Or share one of your favorite episodes with a friend. If you haven’t already subscribed to the show (in the podcast app of your choice), please do! Or leave a review. That really helps people find the show.

And if you are still being paid to work, and you can kick in, every little acorn helps. Nigel, would you please thank this month’s supporters?

>> Nigel: Thank you to Joel DeLashmit, Lynn Hayes, Paul Grajciar, Suezen Brown, Paul DeCamp, Emil Hauptmann, Randy Krajniak, Rick Rubin, Susan Walsh, Ken Doyle, Chris Armstrong, John Ploch, Jon Duvick, Gerry Corr, Brian Benscoter, and Marc Gunn.

>> Shannon: Thank you. I really couldn’t expand Irish Music Stories without your help. And without everybody listening. So now I’m off to build a beautifully voiced frame for these musical stories.

[to Matt]: Okay, now let’s just get a little weird. Like B Minor subs, or a G sussy…

[ Music: Sunny Banks with more modern chord substitutions and suspension chords ]

[Blue Jay squawk]

Bonus Content

Related videos

Companion Chapters

Related essays

Cast of Characters

Episode guests in order of appearance

Shannon Heaton

FLUTE/PODCASTING

No guests for this short episode. Just your host with her family… and a few blue jays.

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