Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

July 18, 2013

Does Humour Belong in Music?

Sorry, Frank, had to add the "u." It's a Canadian thing, you understand.

I just finished a song that's turned out to be a country/bluegrass number, complete with two tracks of down-home knee slappin' to drive the rhythm along. Despite the setting the lyrics are hardly standard country fare, and one line in particular begged for something a bit special on the instrumental side:

And this nagging voice says I've taken the wrong train
Yet your whistle cuts through like sheets of sound by John Coltrane

I've got a keyboard fiddle sawing away on the right side of the mix, and I thought it'd be so cool (and funny) if my virtual fiddle could somehow quote a bar of Coltrane over that last syllable, ideally something recognizable and not too far out. To my utter delight, the opening phrase of "Acknowledgement" from 'Trane's masterwork A Love Supreme fit like a glove, transposed into the right key, of course.

So my virtual fiddle and I answer Zappa with an exuberant "yes," and this is one of the many reasons I love making music. A love supreme indeed, y'all. Yee-haw!

Oh, and I used my Nonno's mandolin on this track. It's a Strad-O-Lin, 50 years old at least, and sounds terrific but I'll need to take it in for some serious intonation work. I could only get one chord in tune at a time, so had to record the part on six different tracks and stitch it together.

In other news, I'm saving up for this dulcimer. I tried it out at the store a few days ago and it sounds as gorgeous as it looks, all dronish and shimmering. Apparently the dulcimer is prominent in certain streams of American country music, but I'm more familiar with it in the context of British folk (e.g., Steeleye Span), and that's how I intend to use it. Not that I know how to play it, but that hasn't stopped me yet...

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