I'm developing a bad banjo habit.
I'm surfing the internet for old images. I'm playing around on my old four-string and wondering if I also need (?) to acquire a five-string banjo of some kind. Even my project for my Ethnomusicology class will be about the banjo, authenticity, and mass media. The history of the banjo is a white hot mess of nostalgia and industrialization. And I love the sound. I really do.
I returned from Wild Goose West on Sunday evening. Of course, I took the banjo with me. There are several old time music enthusiasts who attend this festival. It seems we all know the same old religious tunes. The popular evangelical revivalist tunes are still out there in the musical ether to be picked up by anyone with ears to listen. I've been collecting some 78 rpm records to fill in the gaps, but mostly I know the same tunes you do.
I would arise early at The Goose and find a place to play. Banjo. Mandolin. The first morning someone even joined me on fiddle. It was a great morning.
I've also been improvising a great deal. It's been an ongoing project to get up in the morning and simply pick up the instrument and play for an hour. No scales. No known tunes. I'm just exploring. I hunt for passages and patterns. I listen for what's next and am often surprised by what I find when my fingers do their work. Sometimes the banjo itself is surprising. Depending on where you play on the neck, the voicing can be very different. The deep raw feeling of an open string is so different from that tight ring of plucking the strings in fifth position. Then there are all the patterns of the strumming hand. Plucking. Strumming. Frailing. I especially like brushing the "skin" of my banjo like some old snare drum when I play. You can accompany yourself with the sound of a jazz kit as you play. Great fun.
So, why am I posting all this about the banjo? Well, mostly I'm just sharing with you what's rolling around in my head. But more practically, I'm wondering about my dissertation and what it might be about. I'm wondering about the banjo and music and how music is marketed and spread about. I'm wondering about authenticity and popularity and other such ephemera. This morning my seminar on Interdisciplinary Studies meets for the first time. I'm all read up. I'm ready to share my reasons for being there. I'm wondering about banjos, Jesus, and the modern industrial state.
Some mornings are rather confused around here.