Friday, October 29, 2010

Heard while driving out to Girdwood and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center today

KNBA - 90.3 FM

What I heard was a range of (mostly) acoustic music, what I classify as programming for grownups ... Elvis Costello and Sheryl Crow, Los Lobos, a lot of singer-songwriter types on Acoustic Cafe program in the morning ... also has Native American, Alaska Native programming, streaming audio according to website

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Low Country Boys - a group in Northern Ireland that does "Ulster Scots, Scots and old-timey hillbilly gospel music"

"did christ o'er sinners weep?" from Southern Harmony

was included on a CD put out by the Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission - New Folk, Roots and Traditional Music from Northern Ireland - released October 2005

We were amazed to be chosen for this - a showcase double cd compilation with 31 tracks highlighting the best of Northern Ireland music. We were particularly delighted that the other performers from the Ulster-Scots tradition were Robert Watt and Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band - both of whom have been crowned as World Champions in their piping disciplines many times over many years. The superb Brian Houston was also on it.

"Did Christ O'er Sinners Weep" is probably the one track we've had most feedback about. We learned it from the Doc Watson album "On Praying Ground", and it dates from the early 1800s, having been made popular through the old Kentucky hymnbook "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion". The book was compiled by William "Singin Billy" Walker, a Baptist from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and it became the most popular hymnbook in the South, selling over 4 million copies. "Did Christ O'er Sinners Weep" also appeared in the hymnal of the Confederate army during the American Civil War of 1861 - 1865. A great revival swept through the army, just two years after the great Ulster Revival of 1859.

You can find out more about the Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission here. (but the link's broken)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Irish rock band, DIY albums and the long tail ...

Cross-posted to my blogs Hogfiddle and The Mackerel Wrapper for COMM 150 students ...

The band is an instrumental rock group called The Redneck Manifesto, that plays live venues around Dublin and does very well - artistically and apparently financially, too - without a major record label. DIY albums are do-it-yourself CDs that you record and produce yourself. And the long tail is "a retailing concept describing the niche strategy of selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities." We'll meet the concept again as we study the Internet, which makes "long-tail" retailing a powerful strategy, and it will be one of the most important concepts we deal with in the last month before final exams.

(If you get my drift ...)

But first, a video from Redneck Manifesto:

I'd never heard of the band before, but they were mentioned in a story in The Irish Times today headlined "Golden age of Irish music" ... which would be now, even though the big labels just lost a downloading case in Ireland's equivalent of the Supreme Court. "The big guns may be cribbing about illegal downloads and declining sales," said Jim Carroll of the Times, "but in fact this is a golden age of Irish music." Read why, and ask yourself if the same things are going on in America. (Hint: They are, and you may have the opportunity to write about them later in the semester. You may even be able to work them into your midterm if you're alert enough to get my drift. Just sayin'.) Carroll says:
Contrary to the image that the majors presented in court, the domestic music industry is robust and vibrant. Much of this is occurring away from the gaze and control of the major labels and the record industry’s permanent establishment. You could say we’re seeing something of a golden age as new bands and releases come to the fore like never before. ...

* * *

Another reason to be cheerful: the number of new Irish releases is on the increase and the quality is far better than it has ever been. You could easily rattle off a list of home-grown albums from 2010 that more than hold their own with anything released elsewhere.
Carroll compares the scene today to 10 years ago, when "... there was an underground scene in Dublin in particular, with bands like The Redneck Manifesto beginning to take their first steps," but "it was still considered a novelty if a band took the DIY route to record, manufacture and distribute their EPs or albums. ... Most acts were still holding out for that elusive major label deal." Now Redneck Manifesto has been joined on the DIY route by numerous other bands in Dublin, Cork and Ireland's smaller cities. I haven't heard of any of them, but I hadn't heard of Redneck Manifesto either till I read about them in today's Irish Times.

But that's the point. These little bands are doing quite well without the international fan base that comes along with signing with the major labels. And they're more likely to have artistic control over their content. I'd say the production values in their video are pretty good.

And I'd suggest the long tail is what allows these bands to be reasonably successful playing live shows, burning their own albums and using the Internet to build their fan base. You don't have to go platinum to make a living.

Carroll lists "five changes for the better [for artists] in 10 years." How many of them apply in America as well as Ireland? How many relate to the main themes we're studying in COMM 150? Here they are:
1 The DIY ethic Recording and releasing your own album has never been easier. Why wait for a label to put out your masterpiece when you can do it yourself?

2 The gigging infrastructure Supportive venues in Galway (Roisin Dubh), Cork (Pavilion, Cyprus Avenue), Limerick (Dolan’s), Dundalk (Spirit Store), Kilkenny (Set Theatre) and Dublin (everywhere from Whelan’s to the Workman’s Club) mean bands can plan, book and promote national tours.

3 Alternative media Music blogs, online forums and radio shows on local stations dedicated to Irish music (take a bow Cathal Funge at Dublin’s Phantom FM, Colm O’Sullivan at Cork’s Red FM and Rob O’Connor at Waterford’s Beat FM) mean acts don’t have to rely on Ireland’s traditional music media for coverage.

4 Quality control A huge increase in quality means there’s no need for token gestures for Irish music any more. Talk about radio quotas for Irish music misses the point when acts like Cathy Davey, Republic Of Loose and Bell X1 are among the most played records on the radio. Are those seeking radio quotas doing so because their acts don’t get radio play?

5 The internet The internet means equal opportunities for all when it comes to showing off your wares. Yes, the major-label act may have a bigger marketing budget, but Soundcloud, Bandcamp and MySpace welcome everyone, regardless of how much they have to spend or where they’re coming from.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Highland Sessions on BBC 4

A program that aired in April 2006 on BBC 4. Says the Beeb's website, "The Highland Sessions is celebrating the links between Irish and Scottish music. ... The musicians come and go in the songs featured throughout the rest of the programme." BBC has personnel and playlists for all six episodes. But no DVD and no clips on their own website. Google videos has episodes 1-4 (link here to launch the first episode, and click on links at right for the rest ...

... and clips of individual songs from all six episodes are available on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oslo Chamber Choir Tours Minnesota

Oslo Chamber Choir Tours Minnesota - by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio - September 23, 2009

Oslo Chamber Choir sings its signature folk-inspired works in four concerts throughout Minnesota beginning Friday. They throw in some Grieg, Rachmaninov and Bruckner for good measure. ...

Conductor and Artistic Director, Hakon Daniel Nystedt narrates a 7- or 8-minute intro w/ sound clips ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Clar de Kitchen" - quotes

"Negro Folk Expression: Spirituals, Seculars, Ballads and Work Songs" by Sterling Brown


Verses for reels made use of the favorite animals of the fables. "Brer Rabbit, Brer Rabbit, yo' eare mighty long; Yes, My Lord, they're put on wrong; Every little soul gonna shine; every little soul gonna shine!" Often power and pomp in the guise of the bullfrog and bulldog have the tables turned on them by the sassy blue-jay and crow:
A bullfrog dressed in soldier's clothes
Went in de field to shoot some crows,
De crows smell powder and flyaway,
De bullfrog mighty mad dat day.
Even the easy going ox or sheep or hog acquired characteristics:
De ole sow say to de boar
I'll tell you what let's do,
Let's go and git dat broad-axe
And die in de pig-pen too.
Die in de pig-pen fighting,
Die wid a bitin' jaw!
* * *

from Phylon (Winter 1953). NOTE: For a further selection of Brown's prose, see Sanders, Mark A. (ed.) A Son's Return: Selected Essays of Sterling A. Brown. Boston, Northeastern UP


American Humor: A Study of the National Character by Constance Rourke (1931)

Chapter III "That Long-Tail'd Blue"


The songs and to a large extent the dances show Negro origins, though they were often claimed by white composers. Dan Emmett declared that he wrote "Ole Dan Tucker" as a boy of fifteen or sixteen, but this song of the older minstrelsy had a curious history for an independent piece of musical composition. The air resembles Negro airs; the chorus with its shouting dance refrain breaks away from the verses in the habitual manner of Negro choruses. And Emmett offered more than one version of the words in which appear those brief and cryptic bird and animal fables that have proved to be a consistent Negro creation--
Jaybird in de martin's nest,

To sabe his soul he got no rest.

Ole Tucker in de foxes' den,

Out come de young ones nine or ten.

High-hole in de holler tree,

He poke his bill in for to see,

De lizard cotch 'im by de snout,

He call for Tucker to pull 'im out.

In, another version of the song, a touch of woe is mingled in an odd colloquy--
Sheep an' hog a walkin' in de pasture,

Sheep says, "Hog, can't you go no faster?"

Hush! Hush! honey, hear de wolf a howlin',

Ah, ah, de Lawd, de bulldog growlin'.
Most of these fables contained a simple allegory: the crow was a comic symbol for the Negro himself, though he might at times take the form of a sheep or a hog, while the master or the overseer or the patrol-the "patter-roller"-was the bulldog or sometimes the bullfrog. The jaybird habitually took a sinister part, descending into hell on Fridays; and other birds and animals were freely drawn in symbolical relations. In "Clar de Kitchen," one of Rice's most popular dance-songs, a fragmentary bird and animal fable appears with triumph for the Negro submerged and disguised.
A jaybird sot on a hickory limb,

He winked at me and I winked at him,

I picked up a stone and I hit his shin,

Says he, you better not do that agin.

A bullfrog dressed in soger's close

Went in de field to shoot some crows,

De crows smell powder an' fly away,

De bullfrog mighty mad dat day.
In all these fables touches of satire were present, directed toward the white man, or toward the Negro himself when he figured as the lumbering hog or sheep, or gave himself wit as a fox. Self-parody appeared in such dances with bird calls as "Turkey in de Straw," which Emmett claimed, but which surely went back to a common dance of the Negro.

Rice and Emmett can only have borrowed the fables, probably with their tunes. Apparently neither had a gift for imitation of the Negro mode of story-telling, for they mixed such stanzas with others of their own composition, or at least plainly not of Negro origin. ...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Iarla Ó Lionáird on testing the boundaries of tradition - "Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire"

Iarla Ó Lionáird talks, briefly, about adapting tradition - "Some people see tradition as a static thing. But the reality is, all tradition changes and is changing. When you relax and think that's OK, you can test the boundaries of tradition without feeling bad about yourself."

Sings "Caoineadh na dTrí Mhuire" with instrumental accompaniment, joined by other vocalists in chorus (Ochón agus ochón ó).

Dulcimer clip art

Mountain Dulcimer - Free Clip Art at

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Misc. dulcimer notes from my old faculty website

"Pick'n Noter Pages - 2"

A Civil War dulcimer (or scheitholt)

In the Museum of Appalachia, there is a dulcimer that has been traced back to Civil War days. It is a small, obviously homemade instrument in the shape of a long, narrow trapezoid. John Rice Irwin, proprietor of the museum, describes it like this:

"As bitter and relentless as the fighting was, there were long periods of
encampment and waiting during the Civil War, and various games and musical
instruments provided relief from the boredom. This early dulcimer is made of
black walnut, and the entire body, neck and tail piece are carved from a single
piece. The top or front portion comprises the second piece of wood in the

"I bought the dulcimer from my longtime friend, Professor
Roddy Moore of Virginia's Ferrum College on May 31, 1994. Roddy had traced its
history to the Allen family in Commerce, in Northeast Georgia. Oral tradition
passed from one generation to another was that a member of the Allen family had
carried this primitively made dulcimer with him while serving in the civil war."
While it can be called a dulcimer, the instrument has features that make it look a lot like a scheitholt or a transitional instrument. Its frets appear to be stapled right onto the soundbox instead of a raised fretboard, and its trapezoidal shape is similar to that of a scheitholt. (To see a picture of a 20th-century dulcimer, a reproduction of a 19th-century Virginia dulcimer and a reproduced 18th-century Pennsylvania scheitholt side by side, go to on my website. The scheitholt is the narrow instrument on the right.) The Museum of Appalachia is just off Interstate 75 near Norris, Tenn.


Since the Appalachian dulcimer is played by people from New England to California these days, the following note is offered as a public service. People who live in Appalachia don't say the word like flatlanders do. There's even a poem for the edification of flatlanders. It goes like this:

"Snake," said Eve,
"If you try to deceive,
I'll throw this apple atcha."
(Jones and Wheeler 90)

From Wexford to Knoxville

Appalachian music comes from Anglo-Celtic roots, but it has its own sound. In a book with the marvelous title of Roadkill on the Three-chord Highway, Colin Escott, a Canadian journalist who has written about Hank Williams Sr. and Sun Records, traces it back from early rock and country music :

The Everley Brothers borrowed the sound of the Louvin Brothers. The Louvins sang
an old murder ballad called 'The Knoxville Girl,' and if you dig around you'lll
find that the Blue Sky Boys recorded an even spooker version twenty years
earlier, in 1937, and that the first recorded version dated all the way back to
the dawn of the country music record business in 1924. Dig around some more and
you'll find that the song came over from England as 'The Wexford Girl,' but
what's really interesting is that 'The Wexford Girl' isn't really 'The Knoxville
Girl.' Something happened in the darkness and isolation of Appalachia, something
indefinable. It happened before the recording machine, and it happened in the
little hollers [sic] and valleys. The American experience warped and transformed
the immigrants, changing their music as it changed them. 'The Knoxville Girl' is
eerier and darker than 'The Wexford Girl,' despite the fact that 'The Wexford
Girl' is more explicit. (vii)

The song clearly has Anglo-Celtic roots. Wexford is in Ireland, and "Wexford Girl" is variously described as Irish or English. But "Knoxville Girl" is pure Appalachian. Especially if you first heard it, as the writer did, on the jukebox at the former Yardarm tavern on Highland Avenue in Knoxville.

Bradley, William Aspenwall. "Song-Ballets and Devil's Ditties." Harper's 130 (May 1915): 901-14.
Ellertsen, Peter. "Music, Politics Mix at Festival." Knox County News [Knoxville] July 18, 1974: 2.
Escott, Colin. Roadkill on the Three-chord Highway: Art and Trash in American Popular Music. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Hamm, Charles. Music in the New World. New York: W.W. Norton, 1983.
Irwin, John Rice. Musical Instruments of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Norris, Tenn.: Museum of Appalachia, 1979.
Jones, Loyal, and Billy Edd Wheeler. Laughter in Appalachia. Little Rock: August House, 1987.
Long, Lucy M. "A History of the Mountain Dulcimer." Sweet Music Index.
Miles, Emma Bell. "The Dulcimore." Harper's 119 (Nov. 1909): 949-56.
Musikinstrumenten-Museum der Universität Leipzig. "Scheitholt und frühe Formen der Kratzzither." Studia Instrumentorum Musicae. 2001.
Panum, Hortense. The Stringed Instruments of the Middle Ages: Their Evolution and Development. Ed. Jeffrey Pulver. 1939. New York: DaCapo, 1971.
Rimmer, Joan. "Appalachian Dulcimer." 20 vols. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York: Grove, 1980-86.
Ritchie, Jean. The Dulcimer Book. New York: Oak Publications, 1963.
Smith, Ralph Lee. Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1997.
__________. The Story of the Dulcimer. Cosby, Tenn.: Crying Creek, 1986.
Wehrer, Gabriella. "Geschichte der Zither." Zitherorchester Edelweiß Maulburg.
Wilson, Joe. "Jean and Doc at Folk City: A Backward Glance 27 Years Later." Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City. Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40005, 1990.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Idumea - (1) Tim Ericksen and Eliza Carthy; (2) Millikin University Choir singing Idumea [also Till Minne and Wade in de Water] @ Homecoming Concert

YouTube blurb: First song in the second set of "Murder, Misery and Goodnight" at the Sage Gateshead Summertyne Americana Festival last Friday. It was a lot of fun in a great venue, and lots of fun to play in the round with Kristin Hersch (Throwing Muses), Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), The Handsome Family and "house band" David Coulter (musical director) and Neil Harland on bass. Shot by Magdalena Zapedowska Eriksen.

Millikin's University singing Idumea, Till Minne and Wade in de Water at their Homecoming Concert from their Winter Tour on January 24, 2010 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Decatur, IL.

Notes on Bach's great-great grandfather's cittern and Die „Wiege der Musikerfamilie Bach“ in Günthersleben-Wechmar

Rescued from email so I don't lose the links and the quotes ...

Apparently there's a geneology that J.S. Bach wrote tracing back the musicians in his family, and in it he said his great-great-grandfather Veit Bach was a miller and an amateur musician who used to play an instrument called a cythringen while he was grinding meal. The cytheringen was a type of cittern ... it was sort of a simplified lute very similar to a modern Irish bouzouki.

So it wasn't precisely what we would call a zither today, because the fretboard is up on the neck of the instrument, but its name comes from the same word as "zither" (so does "guitar," I've learned), and apparently the Germans have used the word "zitter" and "zither" at different times for different types of instruments.

Main thing about it, I think, is that it was easy to play, and amateurs were attracted tp it. If I'm interpreting the drawing in Wikipedia right, it looks like it might have a diatonic fretboard

A municipal website put up by the city of Günthersleben-Wechmar in Thuringia quotes the passage from Bach's geneology that describes Veit Bach's playing at the mill at ... (information supplied to the city by Dagmar Schipanski, a German academic and politician who is also a member of the Kuratorium der Internationalen Martin Luther Stiftung ... and there's even a picture of the mill below. As follows:
Die „Wiege der Musikerfamilie Bach“

Ministerin Prof. Dr. Dagmar Schipanski eröffnete am Samstag, den 29. 11. 2003, 16 Uhr, die Veit-Bach-Obermühle Wechmar.
Johann Sebastian Bach schrieb 1735 über seinen Wechmarer Ururgroßvater Veit Bach „Er hat sein meistes Vergnügen an einem Cythringen gehabt, welches er auch mit in die Mühle genommen und unter währendem Mahlen darauf gespielet. Es muß doch hübsch zusammen geklungen haben, wiewohl er doch dabey den Takt sich hat imprimieren lernen und dieses ist gleichsam der Anfang zur Musik bei seinen Nachkommen gewesen …“.
From a municipal website put up by the city of Günthersleben-Wechmar in Thuringia.