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The songs I think of as my repertoire
READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
Here, in no particular order, are the songs I know well enough to think of them as my repertory (excluding numerous songs like "Crawdad Hole" and "Uncle Joe, Uncle Joe" which, while I can play a pretty nice instrumental version, I think of as songs to sing. These are just the songs that I identify primarily as fiddle tunes.) Criteria for this list is, I have to know the melody by heart (after maybe a glance at the music) and be able to play it easily with improvisation over the melody and be able to cover up for myself ifwhen I make a mistake.
The Red-Haired Boy
The Sailor's Hornipe
The Devil's Dream
The Halting March
The Boys of Bluehill
The Growling Old Man and the Carping Old Woman
The Road to Lisdoonvarna
The Irish Washerwoman
The Swallowtail Jig
East Tennessee Blues
Billy in the Lowground
Whiskey Before Breakfast
The Modesto Kid
Bonaparte's Retreate/ Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine/ Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains
Two new songs to learn, that I printed out music for today: "St. Anne's Reel" and "Ragtime Annie".
John and I played for a couple of hours this afternoon -- it seems to me like we're getting better, more in sync with each other, a good deal faster than I expected/hoped we would. Of the songbook tunes we played, every one was just right -- sounded like I hoped it would sound in front of an audience -- except for "California Stars", which was the first song we played and sounded like we had not warmed up yet.
Two songs are ready to upgrade from "songs we're working on" to our songbook, namely "Preying Mantis" and "One of These Days"; and two songs which we played for the first time today -- "Pack up Your Sorrows," by Richard Fariña, and "On My Way Back to the Old Home," by Bill Monroe -- seemed like they could be included in the songbook straight off by virtue of how natural they were for us to play.
We played "Shady Grove" for the second time, and I was happy and excited to realize that this is the source for the melody of my song Fair Elaine -- it has been nagging at me for a couple of years now to figure out where that came from.
I spent a lot of time practicing my fiddle tunes yesterday. These tunes -- generally Irish or Appalachian tunes, mostly in 4/4 time, mostly with two sections of 8 or 16 bars each -- I mostly play as a sort of étude, just getting used to playing the violin fast and clear and with a constant beat; something nice can happen when I have played a tune enough times, become familiar enough with it, that it will metamorphose from a practice tune into an actual song... when this happens it is as if I start hearing actual expressed meaning in the notes rather than just the bouncing melody. That transformation took place yesterday with the Irish song "The Boys of Blue Hill" -- suddenly that song is a part of my consciousness, not just a melody in my ear. Here are the fiddle tunes I feel familiar enough with that I think of them as songs:
Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine
Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountain
Bonaparte's Retreat (almost -- I still don't totally understand the B section)
Old Joe Clark
The Irish Washerwoman (the odd man out -- this song is a jig, in 3/4 time)
The Growling Old Man and the Carping Old Woman
The Boys of Blue Hill
The transition from étude to song seems to have a lot to do with rhythm -- when I am playing a tune for practice I am very focussed on playing it straight, with beats falling at the correct place and durations of notes accurate, etc. When I am playing a song there is more room for syncopation and swinging.
I am thinking I should try and build a songbook of fiddle tunes, similar to what John and I are doing with our songs. (I am wanting to do recordings of some of these, hopefully before to long I will upload some mp3's.) Below the fold, a list (in no particular order) of songs I am working on, that are getting close to inclusion in the songbook.
Harvest Home (this works great as a medley with Boys of Blue Hill)
Whisky Before Breakfast
The Red-Haired Boy
The Girl I Left Behind Me
The Halting March (another odd man out -- this song is 4/4 but its structure is very different from all the rest of these.)
Haste to the Wedding (jig)
(The fact that most of these titles are in the first half of the alphabet may give you an idea of how I approach my alphabetically-organized book of fiddle tunes -- generally to sort of let it fall open at random but biased toward the front of the book, and turn pages until I see something that catches my eye.)
In emails last week, John and I have been talking about how to approach our weekly rehearsals, with the thought in mind that we'd like to have a good enough sound to play some shows before too long, and make recordings. What we eventually came up with was a two-pronged approach: if we start with a small group of songs that we think of as our book, and spend some time on those songs every week trying to get them to sound really polished, then we can also spend some time each week playing new songs, songs we haven't tried and are thinking about, or songs we enjoy that occur to one of us on the spur of the moment... So that's how we did it on Saturday and it worked out pretty well. The songs we are beginning with as our book are:
Jockey Full of Bourbon
Man of Constant Sorrow
Meet Me in the Morning
Walk Right In
St. James Infirmary
Angel From Montgomery
This is a nice mix of musical styles and of songs he sings with songs I sing. We played every one of these (except St. James I think) on Saturday, and they are in general really starting to come together. And we had time left over to fool around -- we did a couple of Dylan songs, one by George Harrison, one or two by Neil Young; also "Praying Mantis" by Don Dixon, which we've done before and which might be a candidate for the "book" list...