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Benefits of the gaps & scratches

Desert Dancer 17 Oct 06 - 12:54 AM
Desert Dancer 17 Oct 06 - 01:30 AM
Joe_F 17 Oct 06 - 09:42 PM
Desert Dancer 17 Oct 06 - 09:49 PM
frogprince 17 Oct 06 - 09:55 PM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Oct 06 - 10:08 PM
Desert Dancer 17 Oct 06 - 11:34 PM
Rumncoke 18 Oct 06 - 12:46 AM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Oct 06 - 09:45 AM
Vixen 18 Oct 06 - 09:57 AM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Oct 06 - 10:20 AM
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Subject: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 12:54 AM

From The Celestial Monochord, Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues, a very cool site, specifically this page, comes this little essay:

Pop, Skip, Hiss and Forget the Lyrics

I've been wondering (here and there) why the records of the 1920's have been returned to generation after generation, seeming to never quit revolutionizing the way their listeners see (and hear) the world. I may never fully figure it out, but a few of the reasons are surprisingly simple.

My favorite of the old recordings might still be Charlie Poole's "White House Blues." Its effect on me is always overwhelming, but uncanny, mysterious. Let's just say it's a stunning record.

More strange still is that Charlie Poole screws up the lyrics on a dozen occasions in the short span of the record's 3 minutes. I'm even not sure what a lot of the lyrics are, they're such a mess. But this is the cut that I'd pick as The Best Song Ever.

There's a live recording of the New Lost City Ramblers from 1978, I guess, where Tracy Schwarz introduces the next song saying,

    Here's a song that Henry Whitter and G. B. Grayson gave to the world, like delivering a million, million, million dollars worth of GOLD all on one side of a 78 rpm record. "I've Always Been a Rambler." As far as I'm concerned, that's about the best song they ever put out. When I first heard that, I think I'd of DIED if I couldn't have gotten at it. And here it is, "I've Always Been a Rambler."


And with that, they strike up their obsessively precise imitation of the cut on the 78. What's most surprising is that Schwarz intentionally slurs the lyrics, making them hard to understand â€" sometimes I wonder if even he knows what the lyrics are supposed to be. Mind you, this is the song Schwarz feels is the greatest artifact in the history of mankind.

It's clear to me that those gaps are a big part of why Schwarz and I listen to these old scratched records, which were almost always cut in one single take and then released "warts and all." Maybelle Carter used to insist on doing multiple takes until she got it perfect, and then was usually frustrated to find that record executive Ralph Peer had chosen one of the takes with a mistake on it. Peer felt that mistakes caused the listeners to lean in closer and concentrate on the record. He was right.

The effort invested by the listener counts for something toward the listener's enjoyment, and the "gaps" in the records are spaces through which the listener's imagination can insinuate itself into the aesthetic experience. In this sense, the old records act the way modern poetry, painting, dance, and other arts do â€" they seek to force collaboration between artist and audience by leaving open evocative gaps in their meaning. A lot of people these days think that Bob Dylan figured out a way to turn pop music into modern art after spending years straining to understand the old 78 rpm records from the 1920's.

-- Kurt Gegenhuber


It made me think: some of the best of Mudcat is that for me, the fun and collaboration of sorting through the literal or figurative static and noise to try to understand a song.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 01:30 AM

Here's the link to that essay on that page, and here's the home page.


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Joe_F
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 09:42 PM

When I was in elementary school, we had a class called Music, in which we learned synthetic children's songs of no distinction whatever, but the process by which we learned them may deserve imitation. They were on 78-rpm records that had served for many years, and the phonograph needle may even have been wooden (to save steel for the war effort). The teacher would play a song over & over, and the pupils would strain to hear the words. If you could guess a few, you raised your hand, and the teacher would write them on the blackboard. That, of course, would give a clue to the neighboring words. Thus, by the work of many hands, a complete text was assembled, and by that time everybody knew the song & could sing it.


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 09:49 PM

Wow, Joe.

~ B in T


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: frogprince
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 09:55 PM

When I was in elementary school, the playing needle was chipped from flint.


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 10:08 PM

"phonograph needle may even have been wooden"

Actually the best ones were cactus needles.


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 17 Oct 06 - 11:34 PM

Pulling out my lariat to haul this thread back: was anyone else struck by any similarly lovely and esoteric parallels between scratchy vinyl and Mudcat?

;-)

~ B in T
jes' whut kind of cactus did they tek them spines for phonografs from? We got lots.


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Rumncoke
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 12:46 AM

We had a wind up gramophone when I was young which had strange rectangular 'needles' which you played until they went blunt, then you put it into a sharpener fixed onto the side of the cabinet and used a lever and a very sharp blade to slice it at the right angle and it was good as new again - just slightly shorter. We used those until they were all so short the end of the arm hit the record.

The gramophone and records were inherited from a couple of maiden aunts of my fathers, and ranged from classical to Spike Jones and his City Slickers - and there was one of 'Bugs Bunny' that was rather fun too - I think the other side was 'Tweety' with 'I taught I taw a putty cat'.

I don't think I learned any folk songs from the collection, but I did learn to use washing up liquid to wet a record, then play it and get a clearer rendition - and it lifted the dirt out of the groove plus reduced the effects of scratches.

At school we had a peripatetic dance teacher who used to arrive on a butcher's boy bicycle with a rather smaller wind up gramophone and play such things as 'Teddy bears' picnic' and 'Nellie the Elephant' for dancing the Long Morris around the playground - or in the hall, if wet.

Wonderful things those wind up gramophones.


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 09:45 AM

Dunno what Species - if you cacti have spines of the right sort of length and thickness, you could try drying some, then all you have to do is work out how to cut them to the right shape on the playing end...


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: Vixen
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 09:57 AM

Ah the lariat...or the hoolihan...which, when misheard through the gaps and scratches came through as "hooligan"--something (I ignorantly presumed) to be very difficult to "throw".

The Mudcat, in all its glory, is much like Joe F's music class--we all put up posts when we have something useful to contribute, and by the time we're finished, we've all got something bigger than the sum of its parts.

If it weren't for the gaps and scratches, and all our interpretations of them, there would be no Mudcat as we know it...

Just another $0.02...fwiw.

V


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Subject: RE: Benefits of the gaps & scratches
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Oct 06 - 10:20 AM

I have just been chatting with a mudcatter - I was looking for some info on a gadget and found a page in Swedish - he was able to translate it on the fly - even though it was 'bad swedish' - and tell me that the page had no info useful for what I wanted! Babelfish was useless - no swedish!

Mudcat is much more than what you see -

BTW, I was was staying at a house 30 years ago where there was an old electric phonograph - there were neat little tins labelled 'finest cactus needles'- and that's all I remember!


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