Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Discoveries: The Old, Wierd America and Banjology

I haven't been using this space much because I can't quite figure out how to make it interesting for myself (and thus other people, on the theory that if it bores me, it is bound to bore others whereas if it at least interests me, one person will benefit).  Aside from using it to collect my pieces as they show up online and maybe try out things for essays, both of which take work and end up on a "to do" list (sure death for any pleasure in anything), I've been at a loss.

But finally something arrived at the door of my brain and gave a few knocks. It's that I'm one of those people (maybe there are hundreds, thousands of us or maybe only a few?) who can innocently drive others crazy by saying "Hey, look at this!" more or less constantly because such people are always finding things.  Having ADHD (only partly damped by drugs) obviously adds to this drive to discover this which leads to that which leads to this and so on, deep into the cosmos of links without end.

In fact I chose the "author" picture on my first book only in part to avoid some kind of pretentious poet shot but more because it is so accurate.  It shows me as a little kid holding up a twig toward the camera and I'm pretty clearly saying, "Hey!" etc. about the twig.  These things begin early.

No longer teaching and unable to subject helpless youth to these things, and hoping to spare friends and loved ones, and one of the few people in the known universe not on Facebook, it seemed to me I ought to add my discoveries here.  For one thing, maybe that way, I'll remember them and even begin to figure out how (or if) they connect.  Or maybe others will pitch in.

Today's discoveries (above) are two sites that have obviously cost a lot of labor and can thus provide all kinds of interesting insights for visitors about traditional American music: The Old, Weird America and Banjology.  

I ended up on the first one while thinking about where I'd found the verses for my version of "The Cuckoo" and then wondering if there weren't other and maybe better verses I might use.  Yes, there were.  Not only that but the site provided multiple audio tracks so you could compare many different styles, for example, moving between a more plaintive ballad style (I want to say "English") and a more driving blues-inflected style. 

Rufus Kasey's version of the tune really jumped out at me. In order to catch the words I ended up on Banjology, which not only provided the lyric but also a transcription with full musical notation (and tablature) and some analysis of what the banjo was doing.   Not that I can do much with that (at least not yet) but seeing it written out helps with listening more carefully as the notes go flashing past. 

And before I forget - the source for the first site's title:

The old, weird America : the world of Bob Dylan's basement tapesMarcus, Greil. The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. New York: Picador, 2011. Print.