Last night at the Irish session the flutist played a minor sounding jig in E (dorian?) called Goat on the Green. I had never tried to play this tune before and wasn't really at all familiar with it other than it being on the Live at Mona's CD. Upon hearing it I was able to jump in and play along with something resembling the melody because it reminded me of another tune that I had memorized.
I was then asked to play Apples in Winter which I was able to grind out effectively, but as I was playing it I noticed a type of barrier that wasn't there on the previous tune because I knew how Apples in Winter was supposed to go based on my rote memory, so I knew when I was playing it "right" and I knew when I was playing it wrong or flubbing. (Is this one of the differences between playing something by ear and playing something from a memorization of the notation? When I try to play by ear I'm never sure if what I'm playing is correct, but I'm also never sure if what I'm doing is wrong so one cancels the other.)
Conventional Irish session etiquette often dictates that if you don't know a tune, don't try and play it. I can grasp the need for such a rule and noodling on a jig or reel isn't always going to work out in your favor, but had I sat that tune out I would have missed out on a memorable moment of playing that I can now use as motivation during nights when nothing seems to be going right and I am struggling with even the most common of tunes.