Slowplayers.org: A Brief History
Hello slowplayers past and present! The original and continuing goal of slowplayers.org is to help you learn to play Irish Traditional Music — which includes traditional music with roots in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Skye, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Orkney, the Shetland Islands, Wales, Cornwall, Northumberland, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Galicia and Asturias, as well as music of the diasporas: Canada (Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Vancouver Island), Australia (including Tasmania), and New Zealand.
To help you learn to play Irish Traditional Music this site provides the following: (1) audible examples of the tunes (in MP3 format) played slowly; (2) dots (notes on a staff) in PDF, PNG, and ABC formats; and (3) information about the music: background on the tunes, how to play them, and descriptions of the various types of rhythms you’ll likely encounter. In addition, the site provides (4) information for connecting with others interested in joining up to play this music. Just like all of us, at some point you will need a good instructor to make better progress, but this site is here to help you get started. Remember, when you have music, you have friends for life! Like all of us, this particular tune learning website has a history. It is currently associated with The Kansas City School of Irish Music, and its primary focus is on teaching ITM (Irish Traditional Music) in the KC area. Originally, however, around 2000, slowplayers.org was the brainchild of the indefatigable Michael Duffy. Around 2005, most of the information on this website concerned California, Colorado, and Boston area slow sessions. I took it over in 2013 and have been updating the look and feel of the site, which I’ll continue to do until I pass it on to someone.
Now, back in the misty days of 2000 Michael Duffy had the mighty idea of developing a companion website for the slow sessions in and around the San Francisco Bay area. He then set to making it a reality. His initial site had gif and pdf images of most of the tunes, and most of the tunes in both abc notation and midi. He also added on slow sessions from other areas of California, and from Boston, and the Denver/Boulder Metro area. Some of the slow sessions had their own pages, but they linked to slowplayers.org. Like many of those at the time, he had the nascent notion of a portal. In accordance, he then added related information on dance and other events.
Around 2004, though the information still focused on California, Colorado, and Boston slow sessions, he was in contact with many people from other places, and put it in the website as time would allow. Due to his hard work Slowplayers.org grew . . . and GREW. Soon it was hands-down one of the best sites on the W3 for not only California sessions but also for tune learning. As time went on he became even more industrious, working on a low-bandwidth PDA/phone friendly version, adding in other sessions, and more! Remember, this was at a time when there were far too few good html editors and not much in the way of tech help for this kind of stuff. It was still the pioneer age, and the Berkeley vs. of tech! Finding others who shared a love of the music was not always easy. Facebook was launched in 2004, Youtube was launched in 2005 — despite counterclaims by Flugelhorn Feline — and youtube channels wouldn’t appear until 2011. For people trying to learn music, what was out there was finding a teacher, lessons on DVD or CD, and SLOWPLAYERS.ORG.
Michael Duffy, a man always ahead of his time, kept working on the site, improving it, adding to it. In 2007 he worked on a slowplay CD with friends in addition to trying to keep up with what was going on with all the other slow sessions. He started a World Slowplay page on the site with the intention that it would track global slow-session information. In 2009 the slowplayers.org website was hands-down the place to find out what was going on anywhere in California in terms of sessions and related information, as it tracked almost seventy-five Cali sessions and kept up with sessions elsewhere and events world-wide. It had information about regular sessions and slow sessions all over the world. A massive amount of information for one person to keep up with. Yet he did. Soon thereafter however, keeping up with the slowplayers.org website began to be too much — life just gets in the way for most of us, but for a man with great ideas, there’s always much more to do. By mid-2010 Michael had realized that the website did not have the priority it once had in his life, and he put out a message suggesting he might just let the whole thing fold. He asked if anyone else wanted to pitch in. No takers, for a while. He did not throw it in, of course, and continued to work on it as he could.
In June of 2013 I contacted Michael and offered to take over the site. In August of 2013 we completed the transfer. It took me half a year to plan out what I would do with it and to get it up and running. Still a work in progress, I’ve placed some of the pre-2013 info on a slowplayers doc page (that’s where you’ll find the old tune lists and other info). I am using some information and some images from the old website, and will credit the original authors whenever I find out who they are. For research on the tunes I use a wide range of texts I have acquired over the last decade or so, and also have found valuable information from the research of Andrew Kuntz (Fiddler’s Companion, and Traditional Tune Archive), Alan Ng (Irish Traditional Music Tune Index), as well as the Irish Traditional Music Archive, and a variety of smaller sites. Though it may not be obvious, I have actually reduced the amount of info on the site. There are now other websites that do a better job of focusing on things like Irish Dance and Mythology. I’ve revamped the look and feel of the site, but though the site looks different now, the site has maintained quite a lot of continuity, as its main focus is to help people acquire a larger repertoire of tunes within ITM. My thanks to Michael Duffy for all the years he put into the site. We’ll see how long I last until it’s my time to say Ádh mór.
Slán abhaile, my friends!