Monday, December 29, 2008

ADN's DNA story: Tracking Alaska Native DNA

Story in The Anchorage Daily News on genetic research suggesting the West Coast of America was populated by seagoing people out of Asia. It begins:
An ancient mariner who lived and died 10,000 years ago on an island west of Ketchikan probably doesn't have any close relatives left in Alaska.

But some of them migrated south and their descendents can be found today in coastal Native American populations in California, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.

That's some of what scientists learned this summer by examining the DNA of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians in Southeast Alaska.
Interesting speculation on the origins of the Tlingit and Haida people who now live in Southeast Alaska.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Lessons of history' -- add 1

From Cullen Murphy, Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America.
The British historian A.J.P. Taylor used to say, "The only lesson of history is that there are no lessons of history" (13).
Boston: Houghton Mifflin-Mariner, 2008.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What we learn from history ...

From a column by Bradley Burston in Ha'aretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, that somehow combined his musings on the 2008 election, New Orleans and the lessons of history into a coherent whole:
At the weekend, The Associated Press released the results of an investigation into the federal government's efforts to safeguard the Crescent City from a catastrophe such as that which followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"In a yearlong review of levee work here, The Associated Press has tracked a pattern of public misperception, political jockeying and legal fighting, along with economic and engineering miscalculations since Katrina, that threaten to make New Orleans the scene of another devastating flood."

Concluded flood protection official Tim Moody, "What we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."
Cross-posted from The Mackerel Wrapper, my journalism blog.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas note to self No. 2

Remember in the car on the way home from the farm tonight you promised to get the James Herriot books for Debi.

Santa Claus, Thor and a 'whiff of sulphur'

Seen up at the farm today in Don Wooten's Christmas Eve column in The Rock Island Argus ... this take, typically thoughtful, on Santa Claus and his Christian, and not-so-Christian, antecedents:
Santa Claus is coming to town.

Tonight the jolly old elf will tour the world in his sleigh and personally distribute presents to children everywhere -- at least, everywhere in what might be called the Christian dispensation.

That's because Santa is a curious distillation of Christian traditions which were overlaid on ancient, pagan customs. Most of what people know of this familiar figure dates from only about 200 years. The precise origins of Santa's journey have been lost in time.
Wooten, who I believe was a seminarian at St. Ambrose in Davenport before he got into politics and radio, tells the story of St. Nicholas of Myra and adds a couple of wrinkles about he came to be the "patron saint of unmarried girls, children, and sailors," as well as pawnbrokers, perfumers, druggists and sailors, that I didn't know before ...

And he adds this, which came as a complete surprise:
It's fairly obvious that part of Santa resides in the pagan past. One of the reasons why many fundamentalists want to downgrade the man in the red suit is precisely because of the whiff of sulphur associated with this image of Christmas.

Some see traces of the Roman god Saturn in Santa. This was the god who devoured his own children and dolls given out at the old Roman Saturnalia hint at this. Other scholars find dark associations with the Carthaginian god Baal-Hammon to whom children were sacrificed.

If we look further north, we find the Norse god Thor, a likeable, if rather loutish divinity, who wore a red suit and drove through the skies in a sled pulled by two goats, Cracker and Gnasher. He visited early hearths by coming down to earth in one of his elements, smoke.
Note to self. Wooten also has a book out. It's called "And Another Thing," and it can be ordered on line from the Argus and The Moline Dispatch. It's described as "... .. a personal narrative shaped from 21 years of columns in the Dispatch/Argus. Wooten draws on a lifetime spent in the Quad-Cities radio and television, with side trips into politics, education, classical theatre and journalism."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash playing "Blue Yodel No. 9" on TV

An article by Charles Wolfe in the "Web Extras" section of Oxford American magazine's website at
on the time Louis Armstrong appeared on the Johnny Cash Show televised at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

It also features a brief video clip of Armstrong and Cash improvising on Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel No. 9."

Like just about everything else Wolfe ever wrote, it's full of little insights about American music ... in this case, the commonality between black and white musical traditions in the South. Like this:
The Armstrongs were escorted to a room where a press conference had been set up. The first few questions involved Armstrong’s health, and whether he was planning on retiring.

“I told somebody not long ago that I’m going on one more world tour before I call it quits,” he said. “They said, ‘Okay, we’ve got you booked somewhere in East Siberia and see how that turns out.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, man, I hear they got a lotta babes up there, so go ahead and book me.’ But I’ll tell you this: If I do retire, I won’t go back to driving a mule.”

When the laughter died down, talk turned to the new album, Armstrong’s first to feature country songs and a country back-up band. Produced by Jack Clement, Johnny Cash’s longtime friend and producer, the album was due to be released in a few months; instead of the classic Hank Williams/Eddy Arnold repertoire, it included a strange mixture of Nashville products like Claude King’s recent hit “Wolverton Mountain,” the David Houston cheatin’ song “Almost Persuaded,” and the innocuous “Running Bear” by J.P. Richardson (a.k.a. the Big Bopper). Was Armstrong making a statement by recording white, working-class music? “There’s no such thing as black man’s music and white man’s music, as far as I’m concerned. It’s all music, daddy. Now that’s putting it in black and white. It’s all music. It’s all about love.”
Wolfe also mentions the 1957 incident when the White Citizens Council (or someone) set off a bomb when Armstrong played at Chilhowee Park in Knoxville.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Road to Boston" (and learning fiddle tunes by ear)

On YouTube, a fiddle player named Hillar Bergman plays it through twice.

A nice PDF file at ... on the Calgary Folk Music website featuring "Information about Folk, Fiddle and Celtic music in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and nearby communities." It has a link to an awfully good handout on "Picking Up Fiddle Tunes By Ear At Jam Sessions" by Joel Mabus. Both websites worth checking out further.

There's information about the tune on The Session traditional Irish music website, in the comments section on "Road to Boston." It's in 2/4 time (a polka).

Andrew Kunz' "Fiddler's Companion" has this on "Road to Boston":

ROAD TO BOSTON. AKA and see "On the Road to Boston," "Boston March," "Road to London." American, Reel. USANew EnglandPennsylvania. D Major. Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): AABB (most versions): AA'BB' (Phillips). "This old fifers' march is known by the above name in the Northeast as well as in Pennsylvania. A New England game song beginning:


It's a long road to Boston, boys, (ter)

Oh when shall we get there?


may possibly account for this title; if so, the fact emphasizes the close connection between playparty and dance tunes to which we have already referred (see Introduction). Mr. Devan stated that there were words known to the tune in Fayette County, but he could not recall them. They may or may not have included those just quoted" (Bayard, 1944). In his 1981 collection Bayard calls the tune international, at least the first strain, and probably quite old. Close variants from the Continent appear in Bouillet, Album Auvergnat, pg. 30, as "Bourree d'Aigueperse," and in Quellien, "Chansons et Danses des Bretons," (p. 287, No. 9) {Ed.--This bourree also appears in Stevens Massif collection, collected in the Auvergne region of Central France); while the second part of an Irish tune described as a 'quadrille' corresponds to the first part of "Road to Boston" (see Joyce 1909, No. 277). A southern variant appears in Ford, p. 174, as "Exhibition March No. 2."./ One of the tunes identified by 93 yr. old Benjamin Smith of Needham, Mass., in 1853 as the most popular American army tunes of the Revolutionary War; until their musicians learned "Yankee Doodle" and "The White Cockade" from hearing the British playing them in the distance (Winstock, 1970; pg. 71). 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Southwest Indian Foundation

Found while cleaning out the upstairs office, a catalog from the Southwest Indian Foundation, of Gallup, N.M. A student gave it to me a couple of years ago, and I promptly took it home and put it in a safe place. They have onyx bolo ties for $45 and the profits go to aid various ministries in New Mexico.

From the catalog, I got a web address at ... from the About Us page:
When Fr. Dunstan Schmidlin started the Southwest Indian Foundation back in 1968, he felt a sense of urgency. With a true Franciscan's love for the land and the harmony for creation, he was deeply troubled by the plight of his Native American brothers and sisters.

Where once these noble Americans had lived close to the earth, they now seemed displaced in their own land and disillusioned with their own dreams. In the relentless march of progress, they had somehow been left behind. They were the forgotten Americans.

We have always strived to maintain the original intentions of our Franciscan founder. First, to recognize the great human potential of each individual; and second, to offer those in need a hand - not a handout.

To our way of thinking, a mere handout destroys a person's dignity and self-initiative. We believe that true charity must emphasize self-help in order to restore pride and independence. SWIF is a non-profit, charitable organization that relies solely on private donations. We receive no federal dollars. Our primary sources of funding are not huge corporate gifts or impersonal grants. Instead, they are individuals like you. Americans helping Americans.

SWIF assistance is strictly limited to Native Americans - with priority given to the elderly, handicapped, and families with dependent children. Along with the Navajo people, we also serve the Zuni, Hopi, and other pueblo tribes of the area.

Our services include: Substantial school grants and individual tuition assistance, homes for battered women and children, home repair and wood stove installation, Christmas food baskets for needy families, alcohol counseling, and emergency assistance in the areas of food, clothing, heating fuel, and temporary shelter. In addition, a few years ago we launched out Indian Craft Catalog to provide a national outlet for Native Americans to sell their precious handmade goods. You are currently viewing the on-line version of this catalog. The profits from this catalog go directly back to the Native Americans themselves in the form of our many philanthropic programs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Old Dog Blue' -- links and lyrics

Notes toward putting together a composite version of "Old Dog Blue" for the dulcimer ...

"Old Dog Blue" comes to us out of the African-American tradition, but it may have originated in the old-time medicine shows. It was recorded by black songster Jim Jackson, who wrote "Kansas City Blues" but got his start in medicine shows (and later the Rabbit Foot Minstrels), and it was collected by Vance Randolph in the Ozarks and by John and Alan Lomax in their travels.

The seminal African-American scholar Sterling A. Brown had this to say about "Old Blue" in Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads and Work Songs (1953), excerpted on the University of Illinois' Modern American Poetry website.
... Such folk delights as hunting with the yipping and baying of the hounds and the yells and cheering of the hunters are vividly recreated. "Old Dog Blue" has been memorialized over all of his lop-eared kindred. The greatest trailer on earth, Old Blue keeps his unerring sense in heaven; there he treed a possum in Noah's ark. When Old Dog Blue died,
I dug his grave wid a silver spade
I let him down wid a golden chain
And every link I called his name;
Go on Blue, you good dog, you!
The above lines illustrate a feature of Negro folksong worth remarking. Corning from an old sea-chantey "Stormalong," their presence in a song about a hunting dog shows the folk habit of lifting what they want and using it how they will. ...
In Folk Song U.S.A. (1947, rpt. Signet 1966), the Lomaxes say:
Americans in buckskin, linsey-woolsey, and blue jeans have forever loved and lied about their dogs. ... The ballad of Old Blue, certainly the best song about a dog to come out of this country, we have heard in Mississippi and Texas. It is a quiet song, very serious, intensely and genuinely sentimental, in complete contrast to the hundreds of lies we have told about hunting dogs." (30)
The earliest version is by Memphis songster Jim Jackson, recorded in Chicago in January 1928 and released on the Vocalion label. Jackson, according to the National Park Service's website Trail of the Hellhound: Delta Blues in the Lower Mississippi Valley," Jackson can be considered more a forerunner of artists like Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson than a bluesman himself:
Around 1905, Jackson gained employment as a singer, dancer, and musician in medicine shows. The medicine show was a time-honored American tradition that employed entertainers to draw a crowd to a tent or wagon where vendors hawked alcohol-based patent medicines. By 1912, Jackson was playing local dances, parties, and fish fries, often pairing with Gus Cannon of Cannon's Jug Stompers or fellow Hernando [Miss.] native Robert Wilkins.

Jackson began traveling with minstrel shows in 1915, performing with the Silas Green Minstrels, the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and the Abbey Sutton show intermittently until 1930. Minstrel shows, which had been popular during the nineteenth century, featured dancers, musicians, magicians, and comedians under a tent. Jackson was a favorite; his large stage presence, stentorian voice, and friendly demeanor drew substantial crowds whether from a stool, soapbox, or flatbed truck. Like Leadbelly, Jackson had command of hundreds of songs including blues, ballads, vaudeville numbers, and traditional tunes of the nineteenth century. He has been called the greatest repository of pre-blues songs among all recorded musicians.
My guess, and a guess is all it is, "Old Dog Blue" started out as a medicine show song. Jackson's is the earliest and bluesiest version, but, as Sterling Brown suggested, it borrows from sea chanteys. And, as John and Alan Lomax said, it's of a piece with other children's songs about animals from "All the Pretty Little Horses" to "Springfield Mountain." After Jim Jackon's "Old Dog Blue" was included on the influential Anthology of American Folk Music edited edited by Harry Smith in the 1960s, it has been widely covered -- and usually heavily rearranged -- in both the folk and bluegrass repertories. The online Folk Music Index lists 34 print and recorded versions by collectors and artists including the Lomaxes, Vance Randolph's "Ozark Folksongs," Burl Ives, Joan Baez and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Other notes culled from the web:

  • Lyrics and a link to an mp3 file of Jim Jackson's "Old Dog Blue" on an old-time country blues blog called "done gone" ... Lyrics and links also on Mudcat Cafe. Jackson's "Old Dog Blue" is also on YouTube with a still picture of a blue tick hound for the video.
  • Linked to it is a clip of a blue tick coon hound treeing an animal. Listen to it. When you hear a singer calling, "here, Blu-uuu-oo" and going up half an octave or more, this is where it came from, people. Another guess, but one I'd bet the farm on (if I had a farm).
  • Lyrics of Tom Russell's "Old Blue" ... and the 30-second clip on ... which is what got me started on singing it again, along with Richard and Mimi Farina's instrumental version on dulcimer and guitar. I think I first heard it years ago by Joan Baez, maybe Burl Ives too. But Tom Russell's version is the one that got under my skin.
  • A beguileingly (is that a word?) folked-up version by the Byrds is on Roger McGuinn's Folk Den website ... an mp3 of McGuinn playing it and lyrics with guitar chords. Dulcimer players note: He plays it in D! (Available for non-commerical use, with restrictions, under a Creative Commons license.)
  • Lyrics of a much longer version, recorded several by Cisco Houston, has the verse about treeing a possum on Noah's Ark ... or part of the verse ...
  • A short bluegrass version of the lyrics on the website.
  • A YouTube clip of James Tayor playing "Old Blue" at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1991.
  • A vintage black-and-white video clip of Ian and Silvia singing it on the '60s Hootenany TV show.
  • And a clip of Brooks Williams for those who like what he does to a song.
  • Also on YouTube, a folkie who calls himself spikethegreat sings Ramblin' Jack Elliot's "Ol' Blue" to his dog, who sleeps blissfully through the entire 4:05-minute performance.
  • Some imaginative literary analysis of Jackon's "Old Dog Blue," some of which I think is pretty sensitive and convincing, on a blog called The Celestial Monochord" apparently out of Minnesota.
  • Also on the web: Lyrics of a version by Lacy J. Dalton ...
There's even an Old Blue record label, but I don't know if anyone recorded "Old Blue" on it.

Thrivent: 500 Years of Lutheran Music (links)

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has a website on the "Celebrating the Musical Heritage of the Lutheran Church" multimedia package it made available to Lutheran congregations several years ago.

From the start page:
Within this site you will find:
  • Key remarks from respected music experts
  • Dozens of audio samples from the most famous composers from each century
  • Background and detail information to provide perspective and context
  • Photographs and/or artwork from each time period

Although not all resources from the compact-disc set are duplicated here, you will find musical samples, historical information and expert commentary valuable as you learn more about Lutheran Heritage and Lutheran music's role over the past 500 years.
I got there from a page of links and resources on a personal website put up by Gary Urban, an information technology specialist at Mankato State University and an active member of a LC-MS church in Mankato. Looks like a very useful website.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New York Times -- Lincoln exhibition review

Some interesting thoughts on Abraham Lincoln in a review of an Abraham Lincoln exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. It''s in the Dec. 12 issue of The New York Times, and it's by Edward Rothstein, cultural critic for The Times. A couple of key passages:
This modest exhibition of 30 images of Lincoln at the Portrait Gallery — “One Life: The Mask of Lincoln” — may turn out to be an understated highlight of Lincoln’s coming bicentennial year, which promises a full harvest of academic conferences, exhibitions, the reopening of Ford’s Theater and scores of new books, many offering revelations from freshly plumbed archives and analyses of figures major and minor. But the juxtaposition of these masks may remain one of the most potent, graphic images of the effects of the crucial years they frame.

They suggest, too, how closely our conceptions of Lincoln’s public greatness are connected with our conception of his inner life, his empathy, his personal suffering. It is as if, in resuscitating the Union after the grievous bloodshed of the Civil War, Lincoln had bodily absorbed the nation’s suffering — prefiguring the posthumous Christian iconography that developed after Lincoln’s assassination on Good Friday.
Rothstein notes the upcoming Lincoln bicentennial and President-elect Barack Obama's appropriation of Lincoln:
Mr. Obama has so identified himself with Lincoln that he invoked him while announcing his candidacy in Lincoln’s onetime political base, Springfield, Ill. He has suggested that his political career has been an extension of the arc of racial progress begun by Lincoln. In Mr. Obama’s victory speech he quoted Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. The theme of Mr. Obama’s own inauguration will be “A New Birth of Freedom,” an allusion to the Gettysburg Address. And the president-elect has admiringly cited Ms. Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” saying he has been influenced by the way Lincoln composed his cabinet.
He doesn't evaluate this, but suggests, "All of this heightens the relevance of the coming flood of Lincolniana. ..." After summarizing several recent books, Rothstein launches into his own evaluation of Lincoln:
Yet for all the detail, the probing and the analysis, something remains uncanny. If Lincoln had died in 1860, we probably wouldn’t remember him. He had failed to gain much political power during his one term in Congress beginning in 1847; he lost the 1858 election to the Senate; and while he was a diligent party man and lawyer, his legislative track record was not terribly distinguished. He was last out of four Republicans in line to get the party’s nomination in 1860.

He would have a legacy of a few good speeches and some powerful argument in the debates with his rival, Stephen A. Douglas, but it would have been a career far less influential than that of the antislavery politician of the previous generation whom Lincoln most admired, Henry Clay.

So how is it that, within five years, Lincoln ended up worthy of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton’s comment on his death, “Now he belongs to the ages”? The closer you look, combing through these mountains of material, the more ambiguities appear.
An assessment of Lincoln's overall career, starting with a recitation of his career as a politician and a railroad lawyer up to the 1850s:
... It is almost as if there were no connections between the lawyer in Springfield and the president in Washington.

Of course, that is an exaggeration. Continuities abound. But what happened is still remarkable. Lincoln had a tragic vision of the world; he grew up surrounded by familial death and disregard; his marriage was difficult; two children died; his career was pockmarked by failures. He suffered greatly but acted as if he had a right not to happiness itself, but only to its pursuit.

As in life, so in government. He believed that political compromise was the motor of democratic life. And the biggest compromises at America’s founding were those involving slavery. It was only by allowing slavery into the Constitution that the Constitution was made possible; it was only by settling for containment rather than elimination that the better angels of early America could even create a United States.

Lincoln, though, rose to the presidency at the very moment when that tragic compromise failed. So in this respect, the flexible politician became an absolutist. There was, in his mind, a fundamental principle that could not be abandoned: the Union. He cleaved fiercely — almost fanatically — to it because it already was a compromise, though one generated out of an ideal toward which the nation would have to move.

That conviction forced him to refine his thinking and discipline his actions. In a debate with Douglas, Lincoln referred to an “eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world.” The wrong, he said, was “the divine right of kings.” The right was “the common right of humanity.” The notion of “divine right” left a stain in the form of American slavery; the notion of “common right” was America’s founding principle.

Those inalienable rights of humanity could be guaranteed only by something like the Union, so even when it came to abolishing slavery, Lincoln was cautious and protective, hewing strictly to the Constitution, knowing the wrong could be fully undone only with an amendment, but believing, finally, that he could at least, as commander in chief in time of war, free slaves in the rebellious territories. The Emancipation Proclamation is written in stolid, legalistic prose in which all of Lincoln’s rhetorical gifts are shunted aside. That too was done in service to the Union.

Then he was freed to define his larger vision. Andrew Delbanco, in Mr. Foner’s anthology, argues that the Civil War, for all its trauma, was unlike many other wars in that it did not produce a crisis that left the country without a sense of purpose. That is because, he suggests, Lincoln found “transcendent meaning in the carnage” and affirmed that meaning for both sides. He really became another founding father.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quinn: 'would reopen parks, historic sites'

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn held a wide-ranging availability in his Springfield office this afternoon, and The State Journal-Register reported on his views on local issues like the the Illinois Transportation Department's proposed move of the traffic safety division to southern Illinois and Gov. Rod Blagojevich's closure of state parks and historic sites including the Dana Thomas House, as well as the state's ongoing constitutional crisis. Quinn said:
Quinn, who would take over from Blagojevich if the governor resigns or is impeached in wake of his arrest on federal corruption charges, also said he would reopen parks and historic sites closed by Blagojevich to save money.

"That was one of the worst decisions the governor ever made," Quinn said at a news conference in his office. "I think they should be reopened promptly, right now, today."

Of living history, Carlyle and New Salem

The most requested story today on the electronic magazine website was freelance witer Emily Yoffe's account of her "brief, inspiring career" as a living history interpreter at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in northern Virginia. Yoffe, who has written a book about dogs and contributes often to Slate on a variety of topics, took on the character of "Chastity Crump" at the 1771-era farmstead. Mistress Crump, Yoffe explained, was "a middle-aged spinster from a neighboring farm who liked to visit ... and help with chores." She was put to work on a workbench called a "shaving horse" trimming tobacco sticks with a knife, among other things, and she loved it:
During my time at Claude Moore I heard many interpreters say they were drawn to the 18th century because life was simpler then. I never bought that. It didn't seem so simple to watch your arm putrefy or lose your teeth in your 20s, or bury most of your children. But as I got up to get home in time for carpool, I did feel a deep longing to stay on my wooden horse and just scrape sticks. Once humans spent most of their days doing useful things with their hands, and I realized that we were designed to get a deep satisfaction from this. As [interpreter Katherine] Hughes put it, "You have the feeling people were supposed to do this kind of work, rather than data entry, which is amazingly horrible."
And Yoffe thought she understood why:
Almost as soon as the Industrial Revolution arrived, people began mourning its efficiency. As Thomas Carlyle wrote in Signs of the Times in 1829, "[T]he living artisan is driven from his workshop, to make room for a speedier, inanimate one. The shuttle drops from the fingers of the weaver, and falls into iron fingers that ply it faster … nothing is left to be accomplished by old natural methods." The children who came to visit Claude Moore understood this loss. Several interpreters warned me that when I set children to various tasks they could do on the farm, from hoeing, to carding wool, to dipping candles, I would have a hard time getting them to stop. At a farm-skills training day, we all took turns learning how to crack dried corn on the hominy block, smashing a 3-foot-long wooden pestle against a hollowed-out log. One mother could not pull her 10-year-old son away and finally pleaded, "You have done a great job. So please stop pounding!" I had a vision of a new approach to our modern psychological problems. Psychiatrists would throw away children's Ritalin and their parents' Lexapro and prescribe a few hours a day of tobacco stick making or hominy cracking.
That makes a lot of sense to me, both from volunteering in the 1830s living history village at New Salem and from my research into 19th-century popular culture. In another context I once quoted an old settler who noticed a great change about the time the industrial revolution came to Illinois:
Speaking to the Sangamon County Old Settlers' Society in 1879, Judge Milton Hay spoke of the "[o]ld habits and old industries" that "disappeared on the appearance of the locomotive" in the mid-1840s. Along with public schools, servants and a market-oriented agricultural economy, he recalled the introduction of choirs, "fiddles" and sermons "The [much shorter] 'forty-minute' sermon began to be preached,' he said, as "men and women no longer divided off on each side of the church; the minister ceased to line off the hymn for the congregation, and the congregation quit singing."
Judge Hay, clearly, was motivated by nostalgia. And the county histories I've consulted in the State Historical Library are full of nostalgia for spinning wheels, leather britches, log houses and all the accoutrements of frontier, i.e. pre-industrial, life.

The other part rings true, as well. The craft I demonstrate at New Salem is music, playing fiddle tunes or folk hymns on an old-style dulcimer, but I've felt what Yoffe felt when she was whittling tobacco sticks. I think all of us who volunteer at New Salem have felt it at one time or another, in one way or another. And even on hot August afternoons, I've been reluctant to hop in the car, turn on the air conditioner and head back to Springfield and the 21st century.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nynorsk folk hymns by Dvergmål

Heard on NRK at 3 o'clock this afternoon (CST), a song titled "Kyrkjekval" by the Norwegian folk group Dvergmål. It's from the album Song i hummelsalar (Songs in heavenly rooms). Here's a blurb:
Dvergmål is an ensemble of Norwegian traditional folk musicians. Its four members all contribute vocally -- the tradition to which they belong is a predominantly vocal one -- and on select traditional instruments such as the Hardanger fiddle, the harmonium and the langaleik. Their previous release, already eight years old, was nominated to the “Norwegian Grammy award” Spellemannsprisen. The current Song i himmelsalar (song in heavenly halls) is a collection of “holy songs” by Elias Blix, Norway’s perhaps most revered psalm composer and the first to write psalms in the alternative ”new Norwegian” which was created on the basis of rural dialects and forbidden in churches until 1892.

Dvergmål had been working on and off with Blix’s material for a long time, but only after a they received a special commission that seemed tailored to the project, was it completed and performed live. Subsequently the material was recorded and became the record here presented.
Audio clips (30-second samples) at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

O'Bama go bragh!

Irish singer Shay Black sings "There's No one as Irish as Barack Obama" at Berkeley's Starry Plough Irish Session

Irish television report on Obama's ancestery in Moneygall, County Offlay

German television service ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) has a nice report, with lots of good visi=uals at Unfortunately (for most of us), it's in German. But the pictures are nice.

And a story in The Irish Times at

Ronan McGreevy in Moneygall, where It was already Wednesday, Nov. 5, when the returns from California put Obama over the top. He set the scene:
The cup nestled under an American flag and the walls of the pub, one of only two in the village, were plastered with Obama posters.

For many the celebrations were simply a continuation from the all night Sunday and all day Monday routine which follows a historic county final win.

The Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys made an appearance singing that song There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama. If you haven't heard it yet, you may hear nothing else for the next four years.

Cup? What's this about a cup. McGreevy explained the local folks had two victories to celebrate, Obama's and a junior hurling (Irish football) team that won a championship match in neighboring Co. Tipperary:
Ever since diligent research by local Church of Ireland priest Stephen Neill revealed the improbable link between Mr Obama and his great-great-great grandfather Fulmouth Kearney who left Moneygall in 1850, they were preparing for an epic night, and it isn't the first one they've had this week.

Moneygall might geographically be in Offaly, but spiritually and sportingly it is in Tipperary and the junior hurlers were still celebrating the club's first ever county title which they won at the death by a point on Sunday.

'Judah's Land' -- Appalachian carol

Sheet Music Plus - Judah's Land
Judah's Land at Sheet Music Plus - By Lawrence Mccoombe. Arranged by Lawrence Mccoombe. For SATB (SAATB) Chorus; Alto, and piano reduction.

Tune Name: Gentle Stranger. Text Source: Appalachian Carol.

Arranged from Madeline MacNeil's version -- first three pages available on line

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Guitar tab/chords - Jerry Garcia and Dawg Grisman

including "Jenny Jenkins," "The Miller's Will" and "Shenandoah" in D

Check out:

written by Bill Monroe (in B)