A Few Choice Words:  Pat Wictor Newsletter, May 4, 2007

===== A Few Choice Words  May 4, 2007 =========

By Pat Wictor              Subscribe: http://www.patwictor.com

                  Friday, May 4, 2007

-- Field Recordings and the Future

-- Ears and Eyes: What I'm listening to and reading

     Casey Bill Weldon, Aztec Poetry, and more

-- Upcoming Gigs & appearances

     full calendar: http://www.patwictor.com

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Field Recordings and the Future



     I was at a friend's house recently, listening to a CD of Mississippi field recordings Alan Lomax made in 1959 and 1960. Lomax documented the singing of chain gangs, church congregations, and lone musicians such as Fred McDowell.  The music was visceral, simple, and powerful, filled with direct imagery and melodies that arc and resolve perfectly.  

    It occurred to me as we were listening, that the conditions that gave rise to this extraordinary American music are GONE.  Our relationship to that old music--for ALL of us, black, white, rural, urban--is through those old field recordings.   They are a valuable piece of our cultural and musical heritage.

    Yes, the poverty and racism that were part of 1960 Mississippi remain, to a great extent (and not just in Mississippi).  But poverty and racism themselves didn't give rise to that brilliant music.  There was a complex web of social relationships, a slower pace of life, a degree of shelter from mass media and mass culture, even something as simple as a lack of electricity.  All are disappearing, and all of these factors shaped the musicians and the music they created.  

    Now churches feature amplified music.  Young men and women listen to rap, r&b, and popular music.  Most remaining blues musicians play electrified blues.

    There are fewer and fewer people versed in these deeply American musicial traditions.  When people do make music reflecting traditional approaches, it's likely that they're doing it because they listened to field recordings by Lomax and others such as Harry Smith.  

    What can we do, creatively speaking, with these field recordings, now that the world that gave rise to this music is gone?

    1)  We can treat them like museum pieces--catalogued, analyzed, described, and preserved through transcription.  Musicians coming from this approach often try to re-create the recorded performances note for note.  

    2)  We can use them like raw materials, stripped from context, to be cut and pasted into new works.  Moby's "Play" CD is the most famous example of this, splicing field recordings with techno beats and electric funk.   Another interesting and eerie example comes from "She Began To Lie," from the soundtrack to the movie "The General's Daughter."

    3)  We can make them a foundation for a living, breathing continuation of those musical traditions.  For musicians and listeners taking this approach, it's a balancing act.  It means learning not only about the songs themselves, but more importantly, about the spirit in which they were made.  It means learning about the musicians and the era that birthed those songs, AND finding a way to connect them with who we are today, as individuals, and as a culture.  This last path is my own--thanks for traveling it with me.

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Links:

    The Alan Lomax Collection on the Rounder Records website  http://tinyurl.com/ysxcw3

    Southern Journey V. 3: 61 Highway Mississippi - Delta Country Blues, Spirituals, Work Songs & Dance Music   http://tinyurl.com/2sx923

    Moby, "Play".  Listen to "Natural Blues" and "Honey".  http://moby.org/reviews/play.html

    Music from the Soundtrack "The General's Daughter."  Scroll down and click on "She Began to Lie."   http://tinyurl.com/232dox  

===================================

Ears and Eyes:  What Im Listening to and Reading:

--Music:

    Casey Bill Weldon and Kokomo Arnold, Bottleneck Guitar Trendsetters of the 1930s   http://tinyurl.com/2ft4o2

    Captain Beefheart, Doc at the Radar Station  http://tinyurl.com/2a9ggn

--Books:

    Toni de Gerez, ed.  2-Rabbit, 7-Wind:  Poems from Ancient Mexico Retold from Nahuatl Texts.    http://tinyurl.com/ywqxa7

    Jon Meacham, American Gospel:  God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation.   http://tinyurl.com/29vze2  

=========================

Upcoming Pat Wictor gigs and appearances.  Full calendar and links:  http://www.patwictor.com



May 5, Ripton Community Coffeehouse, Ripton, VT   duo show w/ Cheryl Prashker

  **FALCON RIDGE PREVIEW TOUR, May 6-21. Percussionist Cheryl Prashker accompanies me on this tour **

May 6, Watertown Barn Concert, Watertown, CT  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 9, Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 10, Middle Earth Music Hall, Bradford, VT  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 11, Pioneer Arts Center (P.A.C.E.), Easthampton, MA  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 12, Night Eagle Caf, Binghamton, NY w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 13, Fox Run House Concert, Sudbury, MA w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 17, Milkboy Coffee, Ardmore, PA w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 18, Outpost in the 'Burbs, Montclair, NJ  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 19, Common Ground Coffeehouse, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 20, Club Passim, Cambridge, MA  w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 21, WOMR Schoolhouse, Provincetown, MA w/ Red Molly and Ellis

May 27, New Folk Finals, Kerrville Folk Festival, Kerrville, TX

June 6, Summer Concert, Narberth, PA

June 8, Our Times Coffeehouse, Garden City, NY

June 9, WestSide Caf, Frederick, MD  co-bill w/ ilyAIMY

June 10  House Concert, Livingston, NJ  Trio w/ Zoe Mulford & Cheryl Prashker

June 16, Dockside Pub, Mahopac, NY  co-bill w/ Arlon Bennett

June 17, Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River, NY w/ Cheryl Prashker

June 17, The Cup, Staten Island, NY  w/ Mara Levine and friends

June 22-24  Old Songs Festival, Altamont, NY  duo w/ Cheryl Prashker

July 7, Festival for the Eno, Durham, NC

July 12, Huntington Arts Council, Huntington, NY  w/ Cathy Kreger

July 21, Gates Hill Concert, Schoharie, NY  

July 26-29  Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Hillsdale, NY  

August 4, Steel City Coffeehouse, Phoenixville, PA  w/ Little Toby Walker

August 6-7  Muzikfest, Bethlehem, PA  w/ Little Toby Walker

August 11  Madison Square Park, New York, NY  w/ Diana Jones

More dates added all the time!



Until next time:  many thanks, and warm regards,

Pat Wictor             patwictor@earthlink.net



- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Buy Pat Wictor's latest CD "Heaven Is So High...And I'm So Far Down" at CD Baby and Subway Records:     http://www.cdbaby.com/wictor4      http://www.subwayrecords.com/patwictor


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ABOUT PAT WICTOR

Modern Man's Rob Carlson says, He not only is a great guy and a great talent, but I believe he has, follicle for follicle, the best hair in folk music.



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