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Stunned...

Posted by groundhogpeggy on Thursday, June 24, 2010

 I guess that's the word for it, stunned.  I guess I'm feeling a little stunned over just what it takes to communicate about music, and whether it's even a good idea.  To play an instrument is a wonderful thing people can do...  but the entity of music is in itself pretty much indescribable, which is why playing cannot be discussed... it's beyond words.

Words generate meanings differently in each person, just as tones, tonal progressions and scales do.  This means we all have a unique experience, but I'm not sure we can ever really discuss it and understand one another.  

I'm remembering the philosophical concept I first heard back in college, as a philosophy minor... the concept of solipsism... don't know if I even spelled that one right ... but basically it's a big general idea that has been dissected to death and analyzed to death and broken up into various things... but the general gist of the idea is that we can only know life through our own experience... and as far as we can ever know, there is no other being on this planet who can know life how we know it... and it goes on and on from there into weirder and weirder stuff... some interesting to think about, some pretty weird, etc.  But it's kind of a lonely reality of our lives as human beings, that it's probably true we just can't know how something is to someone else... kinda makes ya think of singing... You got to walk, that lonesome highway, you got to walk it by yourself...

Well it's possible that while playing music with others there might be better communication about it.

My second blog is very late in coming... being retired, I am still way too busy to play much or anthing else for myself... keeping very busy taking care of family who need my help... it's good I retired when I did, or things would have gotten very rough for some of my family.

But I wanted to explore just why I've always wanted to play fiddle... and as I think back... I think I see early seeds being planted.

Mostly I think of the old family farm... I didn't live on the farm, but stayed there whenever school was out for breaks or summer.  This was a small farm, run the old fashioned way.  My great aunt, Aunt Ret, was sort of the boss, and besides her, the place might be considered some sort of family commune.  Relatives living all over the farm in houses, cottages and trailers.  They raised tobacco, beef (grass-fed in those days, except for a few hand-fed scoops of corn just before slaughtering time), chickens, guinneas, rabbits, oats, pumpkins, hay, strawberries, and just stuff in their personal gardens all over.   

In those days we frequently ate squirrel, snapping turtle, catfish and blue gill, besides all the fresh eggs and chicken, beef, and all the veggies.

That small farming community in the northern part of Kentucky had festivals galore, not music festivals, but street festivals of one kind or another, and people were always playing music there.  Those are the earliest fiddle-listening memories I have... seems I remember feeling good all over and even getting some kind of good taste come to my mouth when hearing that music as a small child.  I remember telling relatives I thought music tasted good.  I still get some type of good taste to my mouth when I'm playing music myself, but not when listening.  Weird, i know, but true.  I supposed I can't be the only one, but I've never heard others speak of this.

We went to church and I always found it funny some people sang off key... I'm talking about my feelings as a pre-schooler... I thought they were trying to make the music funny... hilarious or something.  I used to appreciate their humor, although I didn't laugh outright, because I've never really laughed much... I think things are funny but I don't seem to have a good laugh mechanism, so I just appreciate the humor without laughing outright...once in a while something hits my laugh mode, but not that much.  So as a young child I thought some adults in church sang off pitch to humor the congregation and break up the seriousness in there.  it would have been a good idea, i guess, but I think they probably weren't singing off key on purpose, huh?

Anyway, I always sat right next to Aunt Ret, who had grown up in Livingston, KY, but moved north when her father worked for the L & N.  He had been the one who bought the farm.  And here's what I'm getting at, in my slow, round-a-bout way of getting at things with words, probably a bad idea for good communication and all of that:  I really believe that Aunt Ret's singing of the hymns inspired my own thoughts, back as a very small child, my own thoughts of what it might mean to play the fiddle.

I don't listen to musicians much... although i have fumbled my way through hundreds of youtubes to see what people are doing (to this day I prefer the non-professional musician to the polished professional in most cases)... I don't own CDs or any of that, have no favorite msucians, except for the ones I listed on my member's page.  But as I fumble around through youtube, I see some people just handle the instrument, mentally I mean, in some way that appeals to me... that tastes good to me, you could say.  I often wonder what it is they do ... and I'm not sure... but it's the same thing Aunt Ret did singing in church.

She would also sing at home... she would send me out to get a bucket of water, and I'd come struggling back into the kitchen with the water and she'd be singing those hymns around the kitchen while cooking, cleaning, etc.  I'm not so sure I'd call her a good singer... actually her voice was sort of whiny and cat-like... but she handled her instrument, her voice, in the same way that some fiddler, banjoists, guitarists, mostly fiddlers though, do that I see on youtube.  Nothing polished, nothing professional (well, sometimes they are), but the gist is that there is something very tasty about how the instrument and the tune itself... not really the tune but the concept of how you are navigating the tune, how one note relates to another, how one phrase relates to another...no more time... gotta go for now.



14 comments on “Stunned...”

BGT Says:
Thursday, June 24, 2010 @6:23:12 AM

Someone said. "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture".
Music has always been a part of the human experience. When my band plays, often small children come right up to us, I mean two year olds who can't yet speak, and they dance. It seems music and dancing is an earlier instinct than speech.
I think of the fiddle as a primitive instrument. Early on it imitated bagpipes. The dissonant sounds that sometimes emerge in modal tunes sound incorrect but yet so right in expressing human feelings so well. It is a mystery as to who plays the fiddle and who follows another course. I count us as lucky to play the fiddle. It talks and sings like a gathering of folks at your early street festivals.

Ozarkian DL Says:
Thursday, June 24, 2010 @6:42:59 AM

Aunt Ret implanted in you a wonderful seed to bud in childhood & bloom in adulthood. Tho we can never really walk in anothers moccasins, I can highly relate to your childhood. Drawing water from the well, hoeing the garden, milking the cows, feeding the stock and butchering, etc.

As fer tha music, we all feel and interpret it differently making it our own and indescribable to others. Sort'a like trying to convey to a luthier exactly how you want your crontract fiddle to sound.

Peggy your blogs are "TASTY", and your fiddlin is down-home wonderful.

bj Says:
Thursday, June 24, 2010 @9:17:56 AM

Adults who sing off-key are usually doing so because they were never taught the concept of matching the timber and pitch of their voice to something they are hearing. The correlation was never taught to them. I find that incredibly sad.

The good news is that if they're open to being taught, and have a strong desire to learn, they can learn. I recently taught a 60 something year old woman how to sing. In school she was called hopeless, and told to stand in the back of the choir and move her lips without making any sound. She can now sing along with anyone, and though she's not the best vocalist I've ever heard, she's on-key, on-pitch and singing with amazing enjoyment and a whole lotta gusto!

We had started her on singing so she could learn to play fiddle. A couple weeks back she led a tune on fiddle at our jam for the first time, and you should have seen the smile on her face!

I didn't grow up in a musical family, but my grandparents, who ran a very small truck farm, had some neighbors who had a huge extended family that was very musical, and I spent a lot of time there when I was very little, since my grandparents babysat me when my mom worked. I swear, if those neighbors had asked me to move in, I would have run away from home! I thought I'd died and went to heaven. Later in grammar school I had an excellent music teacher. I think if I hadn't been lucky enough to get the exposure to music elsewhere, I may have been as clueless as my friend who just learned to sing.

We're both really lucky, huh?

groundhogpeggy Says:
Thursday, June 24, 2010 @10:11:06 AM

thanks for the nice comments and thoughts to share. I didn't really expect tht people would read the blogs... but the need to blabber, ya know? I decided it might be a better thing for me to blog rather than engage too heavily in stuff on the board, which for me always seems to be hot topics swimming in controversy...LOL... just doin a little blogging on this and banjo hangout for now... the need to blabbler about the need to play...so glad to hear others can relate to my thoughts... thanks! I've been thinking if I can get the time I should put youtubes along with my blogging thoughts here... IF... time alwasy seems to be a big issue for me now that I'm retired... lol... was NOT supposed to work that way, was it?

robinja Says:
Thursday, June 24, 2010 @3:11:31 PM

I, for one, always enjoy your posts. I don't post much myself for fear of getting jumped on - I admire your valor! Music is definitely a personal thing, and I am amazed at the different ways that people approach playing and learning. And it is not an easy thing to communicate with other people, although I do think it is easier face-to-face, but still not infallible. There's lots of pride involved, and some defensiveness and insecurity, too. We all think we're doing it "right" until someone questions us, then we are so afraid that we might be doing it "wrong", we freak out. Keep on fiddling, and keep on posting. I especially like to hear about your life in Kentucky. My folks were citified by the time I came along, but my Mom grew up using the outhouse and slaughtering a chicken for Sunday dinner. It's amazing how much life has changed in so short of a time - not necessarily for the better. Easier in some ways, harder in others.

groundhogpeggy Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @4:28:11 AM

This reminds me of back when the Unibomber was hiding out and blasting everybody in the tech field away he could... I worked in an academic library at the time... the job we moved away from the mountains for and since then I have retired from... anyway... I worked in the department that dealt with newspapers and microfilm and I came across his essay and found myself reading through the entire thing... the so-called Unibomber Manifesto. Well, of course the guy was pretty sick, trying to solve what he thought were the world's problems by bombing people involved in high tech stuff... sick and I'm glad he was finally caught and put away. But the essay was interesting... sad... his thinking was, if I remember right, that humans are social by nature (he wrote as a hermit in isolation in a cabin hidden in the wilds of Montana) and that they have a need to be creative and productive within their societies. He wrote that mechanization was one insult and then the then new-oncoming high tech society was the final insult to humanity that would change us forever and take away our feelings of productivty and creativity and belonging, etc. Well I think he was right in saying those things... of course wrong to take matters into his own hands by resorting to attempting to kill everybody inventing high tech stuff... psychopath, really.

Then I ended up coming across a book while still working in that library by a guy named Daniel Quinn... not a psychopath, I don't believe, but just a person who nailed all of that down really well in a book called ISHMAEL... basically he divided the human race into two types, Takers, and Leavers. Of course the leavers live simply and within the laws of nature and have their food just accessible by going after it; and the takers live complicated lives that cause a lot of frustration, anxiety, feelings of not belonging, and getting their food and other needs depends on a long complicated chain of people and events and causes lots of unfairness and disruption along the way. There were other books that followed up after Ishmael, but I didn't read them... but basically, to me, he seemed to be saying that same sad thing that the unibomber had written about... that humanity has changed with increased mechanization and technology and all that it has brought.

I agree there is definitely a lot of good... but there's a lot of harm too. Would be nice if the human race could learn to live better and still stay more within the laws of nature... not so disrupting. At the time I'd done all of that reading above, I was very, very frustrated and felt so out of place in this culture, where we still live (although we're in KY... it's urban and not like home at all here), I felt out of place at the workplace... and I really sensed the frustrations of the modern, "easy" life, which we moved up here for.

Seems there's something wrong with both!!!! I've heard a rumor that people who followed Quinn as he wrote more books have decided that some kind of New Tribalism is the way to go... don't know nothin' about it, but I think it must be something like learning to live in smaller villages again, rather than all this global stuff. If that's what it is... sounds good to me!

BGT Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @5:55:57 AM

Little villages where everyone has a PC in their little cottage.

The Unibomber was also a math genius. He worked at Stanford reducing equations. He reduced the whole world to his mind and value systems.

There are over 6 billion people on Earth, competing for resources. We should be planning on having 9 billion soon which we will have. Going back to little villages and/or hunter gatherer groups won't work. The evolutionary process of moving up to higher levels of society will begin again. Our self interest, our families and our small group, will always trump the interests of the larger society.
This oil spill gave me a bad feeling as if it were technology finally beginning to fail, to overwhelm us, and the consequences are upon us. As if it is going to get worse as years go by.

I assume energy companies are self interested too, happy with the status quo, raking it in, taking care of their families and associates families and are resistant to change. Tribes unto themselves whose self interest is greater than their concern for the larger society. Seems like that is at the core of difficulty in having a greater consciousness change towards the greater good. It is natural to be self interested, to care more for your baby, husband, wife than the larger society.

I think change is possible though. I've seen drastic change in my own lifetime and society has that capacity. If we can imagine it and feel it, it is possible I believe. Just takes the right few people with good imagination to spark a change in views. Pete Seeger has proven you can make huge changes where it was otherwise thought impossible. He once said his idea of socialism was pastoral, we could all live in little villages. Funny.

groundhogpeggy Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @8:14:35 AM

Yes, the oil spill is really disturbing. I hear all you're sayin' BGT, and you might really be right. But for me, wrapping my head around globalization is hard... seeing what's before me is easier... but there probably would be problems with villages... like, I'm sure we couldn't get everythng we needed from nearby. I think if we just kept some things very local it would be overall helpful.

groundhogpeggy Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @10:02:20 AM

... one more thing... I always wondered why we don't eat bugs like they do in China. I mean, if you think about the resources necessary to raise bugs... well there couldn't be much to it... raise some kinda bugs and then learn to substitute bugs in recipes for other sources of protein that are more expensive and time/land/water-consuming to raise.

Like computers, everybody'd get used to it in a generation... bug burgers, bug casserole, bug pizza, etc. I think people'd get used to it... especially if we all had the resources to grow our own somewhere in the kitchen.

I'd also like to see more wind-up devices in our lives... we have a wind-up radio that really works well... how come we don't have more small electric things (blenders, coffee pots, cell -phones, computers, etc.) that wind-up?

BGT Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @11:53:00 AM

Mmmmmm........beetle juice, lady bug fingers, ant jemimah pan cakes, bar-bee-Q, butterfly butter, caterpillar helper.

I read in a book called "The Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind" that in medieval villages, people rarely left their small village because it was dangerous to go off in the woods by oneself. If they had a pressing problem and no one to talk to, they would commonly have hallucinations, a Saint up in a tree or a spirit come to their bedside at night to discuss the problem. It was their right brain talking to their left brain to sort things out for lack of a counsellor.

robinja Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @12:49:42 PM

Y'all lost me when the bug eating talk started...

groundhogpeggy Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @1:25:19 PM

Yeah... well, I guess the bug eaten might take a couple of generations to really catch on!

Where we used to live we could just step out the back door and fish in the Cumberland River for catfish... lots of times nothing at all, but often at least one or two big enough for supper... now it's complicated to go fishing and I'm thinking hard about trying to raise catfish in a barrel... or something similar...which is why I have bug-raising/eating on my mind... would be so much easier than raising anything big. I now have chickens, but over recent years I've become allergic to eggs, I think. Whenver I eat anything with an egg in it, I get sick for two or three days. It's hard to make good stuff without eggs... I already can't eat gluten anyway, for the past 5 years... so... well, making a cake or cookies is just a lot more complicated than it used to be! So the eggs are for everybody else. Somebody might give us a rooster... in which case we might start having home-raised eating chickens at some point in time too... but... well our area is sort of just on the outskirts of urban... it's county, so there's no rules against roosters here, but the neighbors might not like it....so I'm not so sure I'll take him on.

robinja Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @2:14:20 PM

I'd like to barbecue the squash vine borers that just did my squash crop in. We only had a few plants, but they all bit the dust this week. Gardening is not easy - I would be in some serious trouble if it's all I had to eat. (But then again, I might be more vigilant about it if it were.)

groundhogpeggy Says:
Friday, June 25, 2010 @2:18:31 PM

yeah, I hear ya... we've had a lot of trouble with blossom end rot on our tomato plants this year... don't know if we'll get much in the line of tomatoes at all...the beetles are out big time too, which probably means the next time we get down the road to pick the blackberries, they'll all have been eaten up already by them suckers... why can't we just eat the beetles? Probably woulnd't make as good a cobbler as the berries!!!!

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