NOTES AND MEMORIES OF MUSIC-MAKING WITH MARTYN BENNETT
It's January, Celtic Connections again and this year Colin Hynd has programmed 'Martyn Bennett Day' for the first Saturday of the festival1. Everyone I meet, who knew Martyn or his music, seems to have a 'Martyn story'. He himself loved listening to, and telling, stories - except perhaps 'Martyn stories'. There were of course, exceptions when he'd tell one that usually began, "You won't believe this..." and he'd laugh helplessly at some sit-com that seemed to have unfolded around him, creating the satirical humour that turns a situation into a story.
Whether invited or not, Martyn could give serious advice, and if you didn't seem to heed it the first time, you might get it again. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with one advisory comment offered me more often than was comfortable:
Martyn: "You must carry on doing what you do - It's important."
Margaret: "Like what?"
Martyn: "Recording people, folklore, writing, singing, passing all that stuff you do."
Margaret: "Of course, I'll do that - what else would I do?" And I'd change the subject.
Recording other folk has been an integral part of my life - and of Martyn's. It all seems so ordinary to reach for a tape recorder, ask a few questions, listen to songs, music, tradition of any kind, or opinions about life in general, then transcribe the reels, cassettes, DATS or mini-discs of many voices. That's what a folklorist does. When you grow up with 'all this stuff' there's no need to analyse the process - you just take it for granted that 'everybody knows' you record these traditions so that they can be preserved for future generations, so that children and children's children will pass them on, sing the songs, play the tunes, or just enjoy the language, the way of expression, the poetry, the people, the characters, the culture...
This is by no means an attempt to write a life story, but merely to record a few anecdotes shared by some of the folk who have been part of Martyn's world of music-making. While a number of them arrived by letter or email, most were recorded in conversations. They're simply put together for the enjoyment of those who knew Martyn, his music, his sense of humour, delight in the ridiculous, his intense perception, profound sensitivity and his warm compassion.
Copyright © Margaret Bennett 2006
The above extract is from the book "It's not the time you have..." compiled by Margaret Bennett.
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