Sunday, October 12, 2008

Staying in touch with the spirit of music is a snap

Those of us with piles and piles of CDs and no iPod to store them on play various tricks on ourselves to recycle our music collections, to put in front of our face (and into our CD deck) again some long-neglected piece of music.

I tend to randomly jam my hand into the filing cabinets where I keep my CDs and pull out a bunch of records once a week or so and listen to them in the car, whether or not I think I remember liking them.

In this awkward manner, today I found myself listening to a compilation CD called Celtic Collections Vol. 5: Fiddles of Scotland. My ownership of this record dates from my years writing a world music column for The Riverfront Times. Thomas Crone hired me to write the column back when Ray Hartmann still owned the RFT. Local journalism anomaly: I managed to franchise this column to the flagship New Times newspaper in Phoenix some years before The New Times bought the RFT, a paper I now think of as The River Phoenix Times.

Anyway ...

Like anyone who ever wrote a world music column for a few years, I have rather more records of things like Scottish fiddle music than I know what to do with. But I can't manage to ever reliquish any of them, because when I do play these records - as today I played this Fiddles of Scotland joint - I'm amazed by the dexterity and soul of the playing, all this marvelous music from elsewhere.

Beautiful stuff. Greentrax, the Scottish label, claims to have all of five copies in stock. The Session tune-swapping site has some good archival information on a number of the tunes on this compilation.

My five-year-old was in the car with me, today, for one of the many times I cycled through this thing. I noticed her paying attention and trying to sing along with the fiddle on Ian Hardie's "Catch-a-Penny Fox" Medley.

I thought I would try to interest her in the rhythm, rather than a melody. So I snapped loudly on the beat. She and I trade snaps as a token of affection on a regular basis, so she snapped back. She knows that trick.

Next, I snapped twice, on the beat. She snapped back twice. That was new, but she got it.

So next I snapped once, followed by twice. She repeated the pattern: one snap, followed by two. She wasn't keeping with the beat, but she was following the pattern as it changed, which was a start.

We kept it up, getting slightly more complex each time, until I finally stumped her - she couldn't follow the pattern of my snaps anymore.

"What?" she asked from the backseat, in confusion.

I cracked up. I loved it. I loved how she recognized that we had been communicating throughout all that snapping business, jus not with words. When she could no longer understand the rhythmic communication, she had to resort to language to ask me to repeat myself.

So I repeated myself - with snaps.

Musicians who become parents do what we can do to amuse ourselves and to our share our passion, which won't go away, with the little ones who changed, forever, all the rules of our game.


Snap image from some career booster blog.

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