Posted by Brooklynbanjoboy on Sunday, March 18, 2018
TOMMY THOMPSON OF RED CLAY RAMBLER FAME BLOG –
18 MARCH 2018
AN EXCURSION DOWN A RABBIT HOLE
TRIP # ONE
I’ve been going over the manuscript of my book project on Tommy Thompson with a fine-tooth comb, with the able assistance of a cadre of “Trusted Readers,” friends who have allowed me to inflict various chapters on them.
They bring a good deal to the mix, including musical knowledge and familiarity with the Durham/Chapel Hill musical scene during Tommy’s life.
Obviously, we’re clarifying text by customary proofreading methods, but we’re also scrutinizing the original quotations derived from interviews with many of the folks who are now reading the chapters critically. And I am performing my own slash and burn editing process to beat the manuscript into shape.
That becomes an opportunity to reach further into the recesses of memory and sometimes trap increments of improved recollections, slivers of information that help add depth to the stories and accounts these interviewees, now “Trusted Readers,” offered during the research.
And as I proceed in this way, my all-out slash and burn editing effort causes some of the stuff that I collected and wrote about to fall to the cutting room floor.
A certain minor percentage of that stuff might be worth memorializing, even if it seemed unessential or tangential to the main narrative as I re-read the draft text in the first and merciless effort to shape this thing into a book.
Many of these edits that won’t find their way to the pages of the final draft represent the sort of things that I latched onto while working my way down what Dwight Diller called rabbit holes – the little recesses that I sought to explore, even if they led me off the beaten path, to satisfy my suspicion that there might be something worthwhile once the rabbit hole bottomed out.
Sometimes I came back with a nugget that was worthwhile as an aside, and thus found itself lodged in a footnote. But sometimes, the adventure of diving down the rabbit hole led me to an interesting idea or a worthwhile recollection that did not quite tie back to the main story.
I’m going to unfurl some of these in this channel, on this platform, just so they see the light of day, as “food for thought,” or just as tidbits that might be worth sharing.
The first has to do with the way Tommy’s banjo playing compared to Blanton Owen’s banjo playing. I found that very interesting, and revealing, about how different stylistic interpretations of how the banjo should manage melody and rhythm, and balance those out, ultimately fed into the sound that came to be described as “Roundpeak.” I also found it intriguing because of the way these two men differently balanced melody and rhythm; in some ways each presaged elements of “melodic banjo” playing.
But Bill’s quote is worthwhile in this context because of the way he, as a musician with wide ranging interests, could define a context for the different approaches of Tommy and Blanton to the melody/rhythm equation.
BEGIN THE TRIP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE:
Bill Hicks observed:
Blanton was notably more influenced by Tommy Jarrell's banjo playing, also Fred Cockerham to some extent, and Kyle Creed [. . . .] Tommy was more ‘notey,’ Blanton perhaps more ‘rhymic.’
Tommy pushed the tempo more, particularly on stage.
Both were attuned to what the fiddle was doing.
Neither really wrested the tempo from the fiddle; just pushed a little, tastefully, if it was needed.
A lot of playing is about listening.
They both were listening as they played, not just playing and expecting everyone to follow.
This was the nature of the way Tom Parker, the drummer with [the band] The Tongues, played.
I recall wonderful things happening between the accordion, the fiddle, and Tom. Almost ‘call and responses,’ a back and forth [dialogue with the other musicians.
He'd mirror a phrase rhythmically, which would "say" "I'm listening to you."
This can of course happen with the banjo too, or with various other instruments. Craver would do this [on the piano when the band played] fiddle tunes - really neat, subtle stuff that gave the tune much more energy and life.”
22 April 2017 (12:18 P.M.) email from Bill Hicks to Lew Stern.
END THE TRIP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE.
Thanks for reading this.
I’d be happy to hear any thoughts and ideas that come to mind, and might end up showing the rabbit hole didn’t end where I thought it did.
You must sign into your myHangout account before you can post comments.
'Quebec Fiddle Tunes' 10 min