Monday, October 29, 2007

This Could Get to Be an Obsession

First off: Duh!

I should be spanked for wondering -- in public, no less -- where bluegrass got that boom-chucka beat, a beat I discern in the proto-bluegrass I'm studying intensively. Last night, during the World Serious, there came on a mildly funny commercial on the teevee featuring chimpanzees doing Irish step-dancing to some of that flutes-and-bodhran Riverdance goo.


Never mind.

On a recommendation from Jason Chervokas, I've also picked up Greil Marcus' The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. Great book, if you're at all interested in the placement of Dylan in American folk music; among many other virtues, it features the most cogent defense I've ever read of Dylan's decision to go electric in 1965/66.

I'm reading it not so much for the Dylan angle as the "the speculative intelligence with which Marcus chases the specters and wraiths of this country's musical past" dodge. (Quote from a blurb by Robert Polito of the NYT Book Review.)

In the chapter about Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk" (a work that becomes more endlessly fascinating the more I know about it), I find this quote from Old Zimmy Himself:
What folk music is, it’s not Depression songs. …its foundations aren’t work, its foundations aren’t "slave away" and all this. Its foundations are – except for Negro songs which are based on that and just kind of overlapped –the main body of it is just based on myth and the Bible and plague and famine and all kinds of things like that which are nothing but mystery and you can see it in all the songs. Roses growing up right out of people’s hearts and naked cats in bed with spears growing right out of their backs and seven years of this and eight years of that and it’s all really something that nobody can really touch.
Yeah. Aw hell yeah.

Here's what Bob's talking about...


kathleenmaher said...

Jason's an expert. I recently finished, "Your Brain on Music," at his recommendation. It's an entirely different story, but I'm throwing this in as fodder: the book addresses how music affects all our gray matter and the verifiable neurological patterns it plays with. This all follows from a fascinating introduction speculating the overlap music makes on mental and emotional responses--the mind/body thing.

Neddie said...

Interesting the topic should come up... Have you seen this post of mine?

chervokas said...

Tried to post this comment yesterday, don't know what happened:

You should check out Minstrel Banjo Style

The boom chick came into country in the 1840s with the effort to mix anglo jigs and reels with appropriated/co-opted/mimiced black american rhythms in the form of the bones and tambo of minstrelsy. Think of a minstrel classic like "Jim Along Josey."

But Kathleen's right, the ol' boom chick, or at least musical pulses of any sort, seem to be hardwired into the most primitive parts of the brain which, not conicidentally, are also implicated in movement.

Neddie said...

Jason, thanks for the lead. Minstrel Banjo Style purchased, as well as two books on it.

Now: Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States awaits me at the Purcellville Library.

giggles said...

Aaaahhhhhh, the candidate would like your review of Zinn's book!

Akatabi said...

chervokas' comment set off the serendip-o-meter with the mention of "Jim Along Josey" since i was unfamiliar with the song until it was mentioned in Pynchon's Against the Day. I think it was something like Reef picking out "Jim Along Jo" in a Balkan cafe. Trying to track down the cite.