F 1 D 0 - 2002 11 21 at 0015

International Dance Music.

I was doing something, and out of the
blue, I started missing the music I used
to do every Sunday afternoon, at Kevin Budd's
home. 

He's a maker of fine pan flutes. There aren't
too many such people around, and I think he
knows them all. The internet has worked to
make the world a smaller place.

Today I was moving boxes of books upstairs.
Ann has so much going on this week, it is
not humour, although it may become funny in
a few years.

She's hired a truck this weekend so that
we can move all of her paintings to the
new studio. There were a lot of books and
magazines in the stairwell of the old place,
so I moved them today to the new place.

While I was doing the eighteen trips up and
down the steps, I started hearing wild trumpet
music. Oh, nobody around here plays manic trumpet.
But we used to do all sorts of eastern European
dance tunes.

I still remember when I first started going out
to these practices. In some ways, I liked them,
and in others, I was uncomfortable.

This stuff isn't square. Celtic tunes are. Oh,
by square, I mean that the dance melody has 
64 footsteps. That the phrases are based on 
eight counts. Well, some of these Balkan dances
are, but so many are NOT.

And also, the music isn't necessarily in a 
reasonable key signature.  If I'm playing 
on the violin, it should be able to play
any melody. But I as the musician have preference
for sharps, and only a few sharps, actually.

Talking about signatures, the time signatures
were often just that side of crazy. Seven time.
Thirteen time. But it makes sense, if you get
to hear the music from a recording. It has this
sudden umph! in the middle of each bar. I suppose
the dancers have to umph there too.

So all in all, I'm feeling like a very weak
musician. I'm not that good anyway, truth be
told. But I can follow well, and use my ears.
I have this awful reaction to soloing: I tend
to foul up whenever it is my turn to play alone.

Sundays, in particular, Sunday afternoons, were
often best days for family. So all in all, I'd
skip some practices. I came out to perhaps a
third or a quarter of them, at first.

Somewhere along the line, something happened.

I'm not sure what, nor when, really. I caught 
myself singing these songs on the subway, just
like I do with the English dances. Like an addiction
to spicy sauces, I was now a card carrying folk
musician for these circle dances.

They don't actually happen in a circle. There
is a leader. Sometimes they talk, but that isn't
important if they can lead with big clear motions.

What I as a follower of the dance want is to see
which leg we just touch. And then which leg we put
weight onto. Walk, Walk, Run Run Turn! Walk Turn!
Pa-a-ause. Face in. So I'm watching this lead dancer
on the edge for the cues. And like all good dances,
it synchronizes well with the music, so after a few
beats, I can start to anticipate. Yes, this gets me
in trouble sometimes too, but not to worry. I've 
got someone in my right hand, and someone in my left
hand, and so sometimes I'm pulling the wrong way
for a split second, that's all.

Playing the music became a wonderful experience.

Kevin got us so we were working through all of 
the dances in a few books. That meant we had a
bit of experience with all of them. Sometimes we
would prepare for an hour of dance with the 
international folk dancers. Then we'd practice
a few songs and try to get a system for who does
what. 

You see, if we're just practicing and trying to
learn the chords and melody, without getting lost,
we just play and play and play. But eventually, we
have to get good at this, and people get to solo.
Walter played clarinet. Jan and Joy played violin, 
as did I sometimes. I played recorder and keyboard too.
Judy did percussion. Bill and Mary strummed guitar chords. 

Kevin would lead of course, and played pan flutes,
trumpet, guitar when needed (strange music often
requires a demonstration), and any of a handful of
unique wind instruments. Kevin could make even the
adjustable cane sound like it was a musical instrument.

We made progress, as a group. I remember all of our
weaknesses at first. I was most conscious of my own.
I'd hide my insecurity by trying to be a good musician
in any other way I knew, watching closely and trying
to be ready.  Last winter at this time, I remember we
were able to play for dances happening with little
notice. We had a nice rough sound.  We felt like we
were together, perhaps because we were playing together
so often.

Afterwards, everyone would dive into snacks we'd
brought. These were often esoteric goodies. Actually,
I'm easy to please. A few drops of sesame oil on
something made it special, or gently burning some
chestnuts in season. 

So.

All of this was going through my head as I'm going
up the stairs with boxes of things. I'm hearing the
music, and suddenly feeling a sense of loss. My mind 
is like that sometimes. 

I miss Kevin, and our Sunday practices with everybody.

Postscript: Thanks to Bill for emailing me
with corrections. I've learned that they have started 
up practice again and perform on December 14 in King 
City. Warm wishes to them all. I hope I get a chance 
to join in when I'm visiting next. (February? My 
brother is getting married) 

That's all I know.

IgranCocek.mp3 by Ferus Mustafov (3.1mb)

Doina si balaseanca.mp3 from Rough guide to the Gypsies (5.6mb)