THOUGHTS OF THE DAY

 

August 4, 2007

It certainly doesn't seem like a month has passed already.  After getting home from North Carolina and Tennessee, I went up to Quitman, Texas to do some studio work.  Ann Norris, a national autoharp champion, has been recording a CD of popular music from the mid Twentieth Century and asked me to accompany her on concertina and whistle.  It is very different music from what I am accustomed to playing, and working up arrangements to the specifications of another musician is an interesting challenge.  Once at the studio, the recording engineer liked my work enough to ask me to do some studio work for another CD he was working on. 

I'm sold on being a studio musician!  Anyone need concertina, dulcimer or whistle back up?  I'm available.

Meanwhile, I finally finished the CD to accompany Swedish Tunes for Dulcimers, which has been selling quite well.  I am now working on the next two books in the series.  The first, Playing A Round with Dulcimers has provided some unforeseen challenges in terms of making arrangements which stand up alone as well as in three or four part versions.  Some particularly lovely individual arrangements of the tunes turned out to clash fairly severely when I tried to play them as rounds.  And of course recording these arrangements requires special preparation and a lot of studio time.  The other book I have been actively working on was to be English Dance Tunes for Dulcimers and was to cover English Country Dances, Morris Tunes and Northumbrian Tunes.  However I have become so engaged by the lovely Renaissance melodies of John Playford's English Dancing Master that the Northumbrian Tunes and Morris Dances will likely have to wait for another book of their own.  I hope to have English Country Dance Tunes for Dulcimer out in production in time for my September trip to Kansas.

 

July 4, 2007

I just returned from teaching at Cullowhee Mountain Dulcimer Week in North Carolina.  It was a wonderful week of great music, concerts, jamming and getting to meet other fine musicians and dulcimer enthusiasts.  Lois Hornbostel does a remarkable job making sure everything goes smoothly and efficiently and her obvious enthusiasm spills over into every aspect of the week.  It was particularly exciting for me to meet Ken Bloom who shares many of my world music interests.  He has re-invented the bowed dulcimer as a sort of viol da gamba in dulcimer's clothing, and I had a grand time playing with Ken as well as some of his more advanced bowed dulcimer students, many of whom attended my class in Swedish tunes for dulcimer.  In addition, I got to renew acquaintances with many of my friends in the dulcimer circuit, and also meet some legends such as the wonderful ballad singer Betty Smith, and the musically brilliant and fiercely independent Alan Freeman with whom I was fortunate enough to get to spend some real quality time. 

On the long drive home I stopped in Chattanooga where I enjoyed the hospitality of Butch Ross and Christie Burns and played some more Swedish music in addition to old-timey jamming. 

From Chattanooga, I stopped off in Nashville and spent a day with Stephen Seifert and family.  Stephen is doing everything he can to present the dulcimer to wider audience than just the dulcimer community.  We recorded an hour-long podcast interview which will be aired on his website on December 17.  In addition, we played an on-line concert for Second Life, an on-line world retreat which reminded me of a sort of virtual Society for Creative Anachronisms.  We each assumed animated persona and Stephen bought or created instruments for my character to play.  As Trefies Kaufman and Baird Flannagan, we had over a hundred people in attendance, and using direct microphones into the computer, we put on as good a concert as anyone could hope for over the internet.  Stephen and I both sang and played dulcimer, and I played gaida (Bulgarian bagpipes), concertina and whistle as well. The crowd was most appreciative and tipped us about 15,000 of the Second Life internet currency, which actually was convertable into real US dollars.  Altogether, a fine way to earn a living!

But, as Dorothy says to Auntie Em after her long journey; There's no place like home!

 

May 24, 2007

Travels with Dulcimers has arrived!  I'm very pleased with the results.  Now for the laborious process of updating the entire website...  I've also gotten myself a home microphone and will be slowly recording all of the pieces in the various TAB books.

I wonder why it is that so many lullabies are filled with brutal and morbid images.  I'm sure a psychologist could do a great dissertation on repressed emotions and sublimation.  Here are just a few of the many traditional examples:

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops,

When the bough bends, the cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

 

Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,

Go to sleepy little baby.

When you awake, you shall have cake,

And all the pretty little horses;

Down in the meadow, down in the meadow,

There's a poor little lambie:

Bees and the butterflies poking out its eyes,

And the poor little thing cries mammy!  

 

"Hush-a-bye" comes from the African-American tradition and there is speculation that the woman is singing a lullaby to her master's white baby while her own, the "poor little lambie" lies alone in a shack in the field.

 

What'll I do with the baby-O, what'll I do with the baby-O?

What'll I do with the baby-O, if he won't go to sleepy-O

Pull his nose and tickle his chin,

Throw him in the county pen.   (A distortion of counterpane - see my blog entry on   

                                              Mondegreens, which it turns out I never wrote :)

What'll I do with the baby-O, what'll I do with the baby-O?

What'll I do with the baby-O, if he won't go to sleepy-O

Every time the baby cries, stick my fingers in his eyes.

That's what I'll do with the baby-O.  That's what I'll do with the baby-O.

 

These American examples are absolutely mild when compared to the South African lullaby "Siembamba":

 

Siembamba, mommy's baby,

Siembamba, mommy's baby.

Twist his neck and hit him on the head,

Throw him in the ditch and he'll be dead!

 

 

 

May 14, 2007

I can't believe how long it's been since I've made a blog entry.  I've been busy with recording two new CD's which will be showing up here next month, and writing my first TAB book Swedish Tunes for Dulcimer.  Next I will be recording a dulcimer solo CD to go with the book.  I plan to do a series of TAB books of music of different countries worked out for dulcimer. 

Last week I went up to Minnesota to play and teach at the Dulcimer Day in Duluth VI - Music Around the World.  I had a wonderful time playing and teaching a very enthusiastic audience of dulcimer players and would-be tune composers.  Wendy Grethen runs a fine festival and a tight show with only one day to hold over twenty workshops (I taught 5) and two lovely concerts. 

It's been over a year since I gave an Addled Addage; and I did promise others in future, so here's a good one:  "Visitors and dead fish make strange bedfellows."

 

October 30, 2016 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about interesting cases of disparate songs which share essentially the same tune. Obviously these songs crossed paths at one time or another, but the journey must have been truly interesting and leads to wild speculation.

I learned "Leatherwing Bat" from a childhood recording of Pete Seeger. https://youtu.be/GbB1zx0-we4

But I recently realized that the oldest non-humorous version of "Springfield Mountain" (collected from "Yankee" John Galusha) has the same tune in a much more sedate rhythm. https://youtu.be/7IoSpWF1xpc

But much more significant is the British song, "Dreadful Ghost" which, although much more florid, is definitely recognizable as the same tune. https://youtu.be/0dU5Pl4hQmE

So I find myself asking is "Springfield Mountain" a link between "Leatherwing Bat" and "Dreadful Ghost"? or is the story more complicated: especially if, as Jeff says in the video, the tune for "Springfield Mountain" is only Frank Warner's memory of what John Galusha actually sang.

 

Here's another really interesting tune pairing:

Almeda Riddle's fantastic rendition of "The Old Churchyard".

Ironically the closest recordings to Almeda's original seem to be made by English groups: Watersons and Martin Carthy:

https://youtu.be/jSK14lMexBc

For some reason the American recordings all change the key so that instead of being a minor tune and ending on the tonic, they move the tonal center down a fourth, putting the song in a major key and end on the sub-dominant. There are numerous examples of this transition on YouTube, but here is a typical a capella treatment to contrast with the British renditions:

https://thewaxwingfour.bandcamp.com/track/the-old-churchyard

However, it is very clear to me that the tune was originally minor and ends on the tonic. Because it is originally a Scottish tune as can be clearly heard by comparing it with what I suspect is it's source, an extremely well known tune from the 18th century "The Peacock", which is used for the song "The Parting Glass"

https://youtu.be/eisW0skJ9fU

 

Here's another ADDLED ADDAGE since it's been a few years (:

"Where there's a will, there's death and taxes."