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Skepticism and the Zither.

Related threads:
Infomation on Zither (27)
Zither info please... (19)
Tuning and Playing the Zither (37)


Alice 19 Aug 00 - 10:47 AM
Peter T. 19 Aug 00 - 10:37 AM
harpgirl 19 Aug 00 - 01:41 AM
Ebbie 19 Aug 00 - 12:18 AM
Ferrara 18 Aug 00 - 08:06 PM
Bernard 18 Aug 00 - 05:43 PM
GUEST, Banjo Johnny 18 Aug 00 - 05:40 PM
Bernard 18 Aug 00 - 05:21 PM
Bill D 18 Aug 00 - 01:00 PM
Sean Belt 18 Aug 00 - 12:32 PM
Peter T. 18 Aug 00 - 12:27 PM
Rick Fielding 18 Aug 00 - 11:44 AM
catspaw49 18 Aug 00 - 11:27 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Aug 00 - 11:24 AM
catspaw49 18 Aug 00 - 11:24 AM
GUEST,Luther 18 Aug 00 - 11:18 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Aug 00 - 10:59 AM
Margaret V 17 Aug 00 - 08:26 PM
kendall 17 Aug 00 - 07:28 PM
Kaleb 17 Aug 00 - 06:01 PM
Ebbie 17 Aug 00 - 05:22 PM
catspaw49 17 Aug 00 - 05:16 PM
kendall 17 Aug 00 - 04:44 PM
Joe Offer 17 Aug 00 - 03:50 PM
GUEST, Banjo Johnny 17 Aug 00 - 03:35 PM
Sean Belt 17 Aug 00 - 03:12 PM
Bill D 17 Aug 00 - 02:54 PM
Naemanson 17 Aug 00 - 02:54 PM
MAG (inactive) 17 Aug 00 - 02:26 PM
Rick Fielding 17 Aug 00 - 02:09 PM
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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Alice
Date: 19 Aug 00 - 10:47 AM

good thread, Rick. Now I am wanting to find a concert zither and watch someone play it. Hmmm.... I wonder if there even is one in this region.

Ebbie, do you have a microphone? Do you have software to make a sound file? Save the file and upload it to a free folder in driveway.com, email a link to yourself and post the link here.

"All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly."

fellow skeptic,
Alice


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Peter T.
Date: 19 Aug 00 - 10:37 AM

Well, I found out why I had dumped that Anton Karas CD in my closet. I had forgotten that it was boring (and I had forgotten the accordion too). Anton was a one hit wonder, I am afraid.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: harpgirl
Date: 19 Aug 00 - 01:41 AM

...if I understand what you mean by using a thumb pick for an up and down stroke, Mr. Fielding: Marty Schuman did it on autoharp with plastic thumb picks that have a thin, pointy picking end...I use them occasionally myself...I'm beginning to think I should play it like a dobro and use five finger picks like I do on autoharp with a plastic pointy thumb pick or mizrabs....no on yet seems to be willing to share their tuning...

...anyway, I have always thought of truth as dialectical....harpgirl


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Ebbie
Date: 19 Aug 00 - 12:18 AM

Thanks, Rick and Ferrara. Ferrara, since I don't know how to transmit music (I must learn!) and it's such a long song, I sent it to you by PM.

Now I'll have to go study the many, many threads on sending music to the 'Cat. "This Program is Worth the Effort..." (to coin a phrase: AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!)

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Ferrara
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 08:06 PM

Rick, I'm glad someone else has pondered the question of how the heck Karas could do that stuff!!! -- I also pondered the question of how anybody ever got that talented, particularly in his eerie interludes during the picture which I assume were his own improvisations. Who wrote the Third Man Theme? The Theme was merely a mind boggling virtuoso performance, but those scary, tension-increasing background themes were genius!

By the way, there are concert zithers and there are guitar zithers and mine says it's a concert-guitar zither which is a fib. (I'll go into it more on harpgirl's thread.) But on a concert zither, you have a fretboard similar to a guitar neck which allows a lot more special effects than a plain old guitar zither. ... You probably already knew all that....

I wanna hear Ken Bloom!!! -- do you suppose he'd come to the Getaway if we asked nicely? Where does he perform?

Ebbie, love your song. Would you be willing to put up the whole thing, music and all?

Banjo Johnnie, there's more about zithers on a new thread started by harpgirl and a link to a good site.


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Bernard
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 05:43 PM

Eh? Oh yes, Shirley Abicair, and all that!


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: GUEST, Banjo Johnny
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 05:40 PM

I wanted to know about the zither ????????????


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Bernard
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 05:21 PM

As for the use of a flat pick between thumb and index finger then use the middle and ring fingers for a three-finger style finger picking pattern, didn't John (I Wish I'd Landed In Grandma's Feather Bed) Denver do that, and on a 12 string to boot?

I use thumb, index, middle and ring (classical fingering), which allows me to do some wild variations on clawhammer.

Never tried the Zither, but I do play the '3rd Man' theme complete with harmonics on the guitar...


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 01:00 PM

somewhere I acquired a record by "Thumbs Carlyle", which I never play...does he do that?..Anyone want the record?


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Sean Belt
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 12:32 PM

Okay, it's thread creep. So sue me. But it's also an interesting topic.

On the up / down stroke question:
I'm not sure I know of any players who use a thumb pick for both up & down strokes. Wouldn't it be easier to use your thumb and index finger in an alternating pattern to achieve the same result?

Alternatively, I've seen some folks, most notably Richard Thompson, use a flat pick between thumb and index finger then use the middle and ring fingers for a three-finger style finger picking pattern. That would certainly allow for utilizing the flat pick for some pretty rapid runs.

- Sean


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Peter T.
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 12:27 PM

Hi, Rick -- just in for a few seconds, to let you know that I found the Anton Karas record (Viennese bonbons) in one of my closets this morning!! Knew I had the sucker somewhere.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 11:44 AM

Catspaw, I'm afraid I'll have to side with you against Joe Offer (and it sincerely pains me to do that, since he's obviously a better person than both of us...well, you, anyway) regarding the "magic bullet". He's using a specious arguement here. Comparing those who found the Warren Report laughable, with those who think some dire conspiracy killed their beautiful fragile princess, just ain't fair.

It's like saying that the folks who believe Elvis is alive are the same ones who think that James Earl Ray might just have had a leeeeetle help in the assasination of Martin Luther King.

There are some legitimate cover-ups (to prevent HUGE official embarassment) and some invented fantasies 'cause folks can't stand to think their dead heroes may have used drugs...or hired drunken chauffers.

OK, I'm finished. You can come back into the room now Joe. I'd love to have a "wax" job with you...and I promise I'll try to make better records.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: catspaw49
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 11:27 AM

Okay...I was wrong....It can be found. I'm an idiot....forget I said anything............

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 11:24 AM

Luther...Thank YOU!

OK, now I'm hot on the trail...but you're right, it IS hard. Good idea about writing it down...never thought about that.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: catspaw49
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 11:24 AM

So you're skeptical about that too huh Rick?

Tell you the truth, nobody is likely to see that buried in here with skeptical zithers.......Try and start the thread anyway and screw the flamer crap. Itsa legit question and damn few are going to see it here.

Bassoons have (depending on the maker) 10-17 keys operated by your left thumb. They are not used constantly and basoonists learn to get around them as needed. Its always a stretch though and especially in tricky parts in the higher register. I saw Sherman Walt on tour from Boston with symphonies around the US in the 60's and had the chance to watch him from backstage, hence behind, as he did a Vivaldi (Conc. in F, I think....too long) and I was amazed at the speed and dexterity of his left thumb. Afterwards he greeted some of us (Youth Symphony members who acted as ushers and aids) and I asked if he were double jointed. He answered no, just practiced a lot. Again I'm skeptical that he didn't have something weird about the tendons of ligaments of something.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: GUEST,Luther
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 11:18 AM

Rick, yes, one example of down-up thumb strokes is Wes Montgomery, some flamenco players also use the technique.

The easiest way I've found to decipher the apparently impossible is just to write it down first, away from the instrument. Once you've got the notes on paper, it's easier to figure out how to fit them on an instrument.

Playing them, of course, is another matter...


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Aug 00 - 10:59 AM

Wow, forgot about Ken Bloom. Thanks Sean.

Bill D. I'm really glad that you and Ferrara also think what Karras did was seriously difficult. The part that really blows my mind is that I can't figure out how he got such rapid notes with just downstrokes on a thumb pick. So maybe he actually was playing down and UP strokes with it. Maybe it's not impossible (it sure is for me) I often wondered how Leadbelly got such rapid thumb runs as well. I've seen Pete Seeger do it, but slower and more awkwardly.

Now I've really got a question. If this was a year ago I'd start a thread asking whether anyone has information on musicians who can play up and down thumb strokes, but these days I'd just get flamed, so maybe someone will see the question here.

Ebbie, beautiful song. I agree with you. I'm never gonna get all the answers, but I LOVE the questions.

Margaret, thanks. I'll check out Brian Dewan.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Margaret V
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 08:26 PM

I'm sorry; I can't help it any longer. I was restraining myself from turning this into a "great zither players I have known and loved" thread because Rick's original query was so much more interesting than that, but what the heck, it's drifted without me so I'll feel free to say, loudly, BRIAN DEWAN! He sure ain't folk, but he mostly writes in ballad form. He writes quirky songs about stuff like chain letters, aliens, drinking birds (you know, the kind that bob into a glass of colored liquid in someone's picture window), wastepaper basket fires, and MORE! More to the point he builds and plays the electric zither as his primary instrument(he builds and plays lots of other things too. For example, They Might Be Giants fans will be interested to know that he built the sculpture thing on TMBG album "Lincoln."). Anyone with a passing interest in the zither and a stomach for the unusual will want to check out Brian's album "Brian Dewan Tells the Story." If pushed to the wall, I'd say Brian is a sceptic with a very healthy sense of mystery (and humor). Go ahead, listen to those sound clips on Amazon. . . Margaret


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: kendall
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 07:28 PM

Truth to tell Spaw, we didn't spend a lot of time on The Third Man. We also talked about how funny you are..briefly.


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Kaleb
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 06:01 PM

Sean, I have to agree that Ken Bloom is a genius! I was recently lucky enough to see his zither playing up close. He was one of the featured performers at a festival I attended this past spring. The evening before the festival began he was kind enough to do a house concert for some of the local musicians. Aside from zither he played some traditional Greek tunes on a Bouzouki that he made. He also played banjo, guitar, clarinet, Northumbrian pipes, breton small pipes and my personal favorite; a bowed dulcimer. At one point he called himself Mississippi Grunwald started playing blues on his zither.

Honestly he is one of the mosted talented and interesting musicians I have ever met. At an 18th reenactment last fall we both played pipes for a wedding. I played the processional on Highland pipes and he played the reccessional on Northumbrian pipes. Then we all sat around the fire playing music. Sorry, I'll stop rambling now.

Kaleb


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Ebbie
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 05:22 PM

Thread Pull-out: Joe Offer, I agree with you. The answers are not nearly as important as I once thought. Knowing the right questions is much more interesting. I wrote a song once 'Sun and Rain' that has this verse:

Through the years I had seen my life blown by the wind
Soaring high and then dashed to the ground
Finally I wondered just how much I'd squandered
Having every wind that blows toss me around

Bridge: A good man's not always right, nor the bad one always wrong
Things are not always black or white as I'd thought my whole life long
'Stead of haste I've learned patience and deep gratitude for questions
The answers can wait, that, at last I have found.

There was a time I wanted the answers locked down for all time. Not possible. But I do love a lively discussion on ghosts (all facets), crop circles, UFOs, esp, clairvoyance- hey, I love it all.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: catspaw49
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 05:16 PM

Kendall, I'm personally skeptical that you even discussed "The Third Man"..........third arm maybe, but, uh..........

Joe, I guess you have another reason that you can't stand me. I'm not a complete addict on the subject, but I am skeptical that Oswald acted alone and if you believe in the single bullet theory you also probably have deep meaningful discussions with the Easter Bunny.

Don't be confused though .... You don't need to passionately seek the truth or to be troubled by not ever knowing the truth to enjoy a good hearty main course of skepticism. I honestly have no idea whether there is or is not a god. Like Gordon Liddy said, "The trick is in not minding."

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: kendall
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 04:44 PM

This is really wierd..I spent a few days visiting harpgirl, and she has a Zither. Doesn't know how to play it, and, has never seen The Third Man, one of my all time favorite movies. I'd give my front seat in hell to see someone play that theme music on a Zither!


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 03:50 PM

I guess I've learned to be skeptical of people who spend their lives seeking the Truth. You know the ones - they want an investigation of everything, and they'll spend their lives digging up every so-called "fact" behind the deaths of JFK and Princess Diana. They seem to think there's a black-and-white answer for everything - if only they could find it.

I gave up seeking Truth long ago. What I look for nowadays is perspectives and insights. If we don't know the answers, we can find out what a wonderful thing it is to ponder the questions. Wonder and mystery are marvelous things, and so is the zither. Heck, even the word "zither" is a wonderful thing to ponder.
So, Rick, I think you oughta go to the Getaway this year and get Ferrara to give you a zither demonstration. Then we can get together and wax philosophic about zithers and the wonders of the universe.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: GUEST, Banjo Johnny
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 03:35 PM

Enlighten me please. I do remember the tune, and the sound. Is this the kind of zither that is a flat box, with some strings over a fretboard, and more strings that are plucked or strummed? Possibly with finger picks? Or is it more like a hammer dulcimer? Would it be so unusual to play with accompaniment for the film score?

== Johnny


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Sean Belt
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 03:12 PM

A few weeks ago while attending the Swannanoa Gathering's dulcimer week, I had the opportunity to spend a wonderful and fascinating evening by a pond listening to and watching Ken Bloom play, among other things, the concert zither. While demonstrating the zither, he played "The Third Man" theme a couple of times. Yes, there were only two hands and one zither. Yes, it sounded just like the movie soundtrack. And yes, both Mr. Karras and Mr. Bloom are (IMHO) geniuses.

I can't speak for mr. Karras, but Mr. Bloom is also very funny and one of the most genuinely nice people I've had the pleasure to meet as well. I'd highly recommend that anyone interested in old-time music pick up a copy of his CD, That Banjo From Hell which includes no zither, but does include the banjo fiddle he built. It's definitely a different sound.

Along with the concert zither and a strange Ukranian instrument the name of which I can't recall, Ken also sang and played some Civil War songs on the Breton small pipes. Quite an experience!

And don't get me started on the violin/hurdy-gurdy-like Nickleharpa I heard later on that evening! Beautiful!

- Sean


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 02:54 PM

and I have a Zither player in my house who would dearly LOVE to know how he did it!....just to learn a few tricks...

I know...he was an alien...with 4 arms!..that must be it..it explains it perfectly...and I heard some one once say they saw Karras from less than 50 ft. and it LOOKED like he had extra hands moving...and when you play "The Third Man" theme backwards, it sounds a lot like that music from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"...but with a funny twanging like some of those Peruvian instruments they play near those big desert pictures...and...wow!...pardon me,,,I have book to write...


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Naemanson
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 02:54 PM

Rick - Do you mean any hunt in general or the hunt for proof of the objects of our skepticism?

I have spent years going to yard sales, flea markets, rummage sales, etc. I am always on the prowl for records of old music, old books that I remember reading and are no longer available, and such as that. I suppose I could go on to one of the many sites on the internet and find what I'm looking for but it is the hunt I like. Recently I found one of those books in a used book store and it means a lot more to me than if I had just ordered it from some e-business.

I also have dream of finding an old Guild or Martin guitar in some yard sale for $10.00. No luck so far but in an attic somewhere is my future guitar.


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Subject: RE: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 02:26 PM

I'm a librarian; I have a trivia mind. Hunting down some piece of minutiae (sp?) is what helps keep the job fresh.


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Subject: Skepticism and the Zither.
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 17 Aug 00 - 02:09 PM

Well, to be honest, this comes from the great thread on crop circles. Some wonderful writing there, if you haven't checked it out yet.

It started me thinking why I almost always take the skeptics point of view. I remember hearing the old saw "I'm from Missouri, I've got to be shown", and figuring "yep, that's me".

Now, there are many "serious" things that I remain skeptical about, which obviously include UFOs (I'm as skeptical about Government explanations as I am about the crafts themselves), Religion (verry skeptical of those who make their money by encouraging others to believe), Politics (leaders who promise not to lie, knowing that it's an impossibility).....but on a much smaller (and nurdier) level, here's a couple of things that I've been very skeptical about:

When I first heard Anton Karras play the music from the film "The Third Man" on the zither, I was dumbfounded. Never had I heard something as beautiful or mysterious. I'd seen pictures of concert zithers but couldn't for the life of me figure out how the player got "those notes, and those chords". I've always been able to figure out instruments pretty quickly and can usually get some kind of tune out of anything within a few minutes...but this had me stumped. I figured that Karras must have been overdubbing (or there were two zither players)

As luck would have it, I finally met someone who played Concert zither about 3 years ago. She was in her 80s and I asked her if I could record her and use it on the radio show. She said "yes", and I watched her hands closely as she played some old traditional Viennese waltzes. T'was nice but nothing like what Karras did. (the slides, vibrato, lightening speed, diminished chords etc.)

After she finished, I asked her to play "The Third Man" and she got verry huffy...indicating that she didn't play "pop crap". oops!

Peter T. just lent me the Soundtrack on CD and I sit with headphones on, still amazed, and still trying to figure out what he's doing....realizing that I'll probably NEVER figure it out.

Three possibilities will always be there for me: One, that there really ARE two instruments (the liner notes say not). Two, one day I'll figure it out. Three, Anton Karras was simply a total musical genius (although he spent all his life playing in Viennese bars) and could make his fingers do incomprehensible (to me) things.

Just being a Zither skeptic has given me so much enjoyment over the years, it would almost be a shame to find out "how" he did it now.

Guess I feel the same about Roswell New Mexico, The Shakespeare/DeVere controversy, Crop circles (do they ever do rectangles?) The Warren Commision, the Bible, and how Django Rheinhart played so fast with two fingers.

It's the journey that makes life so damned interesting, not the destination.

Love to hear from other skeptics who find the "hunt" entertaining.

Rick


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