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Opinionated Civil War Music Article

katlaughing 09 Mar 01 - 12:55 AM
kimmers 09 Mar 01 - 01:23 AM
Banjer 09 Mar 01 - 01:48 AM
Liam's Brother 09 Mar 01 - 01:54 AM
Sorcha 09 Mar 01 - 02:04 AM
GUEST,Devil's Avocat 09 Mar 01 - 08:39 AM
LR Mole 09 Mar 01 - 09:00 AM
Troll 09 Mar 01 - 09:03 AM
katlaughing 09 Mar 01 - 09:21 AM
JedMarum 09 Mar 01 - 09:33 AM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 09 Mar 01 - 09:42 AM
catspaw49 09 Mar 01 - 09:44 AM
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katlaughing 09 Mar 01 - 10:11 AM
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Subject: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:55 AM

Some of this seemed pretty harsh to me, in just scanning it, and I was wondering how some of you, who do the reenactments, feel about what this person has to say. Thanks, kat

How Authentic Should Period Music Be?

The following comments, written by period music researcher Jon Isaacson, have been excerpted from The Watchdog (vol. 1, no. 4, and vol. 3, no. 2) , a publication dedicated to helping War Between the States reenactors perfect their period impressions. (Subscriptions to The Watchdog can be obtained by writing to PO Box 4582, Frankfort, KY 40604-4582.) Although intended primarily for living history interpreters and event sponsors, Isaacson's views may be of use to listeners who wish to acquire recordings that adhere to certain strict, occasionally exacting standards of authenticity.

What To Look for in a Period-Correct Performer

Perhaps the greatest obstacles the quality-minded living history enthusiast will encounter when dealing with music of the period are the myths which have been perpetuated primarily by folk musicians. For the most part, these groups and individuals came into prominence during the folk music revolution of the 1960s, when performers such as Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, The New Christy Minstrels, Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Smothers Brothers, and a plethora of others brought back to public memory music from the "olden days." This music genre usually carries the moniker "old-timey," and to these performers the beauty of everything "folk," whether it be tales, art, or music, is supposed to be the fact that it was orally transmitted, to be taken at face value or without question. Whether amateur or professional, living history interpreters should never under any circumstances allow this to suffice as "research" on any topic. Folk musicians were not historians; they were out to make money, and anyone involved in history knows you can't make money in this gig. They cared not for accuracy, documentation, research, or context, and thousands of their devotees followed avidly. Unfortunately, there are still many, many of these devotees, and many are involved in reenacting. True historians must learn to deal cautiously with these "folkies," or avoid them altogether. Here are some warning signs to look for. Bad personal impressions.--Contrary to the old saying, you CAN judge a book by its cover. Typically, any musician who has a bad impression quite likely has not done research on the music he or she is performing either. These individuals may be quite talented, but they are mere pirates preying upon the reenacting public. They don funny clothes to get an invitation to events, and unwitting event sponsors are duped into hiring them. These bad impressions range from women wearing uniform items, to poorly constructed clothing, to modern eyeglasses.

Modern amplification devices

Groups or individuals using modern amplification devices are nefarious to say the least. Not only is it unjustified on historical grounds, it is also quite annoying to the ambience of an event. Nothing can be more irritating than to be taking a nap in a campaign style camp, when a loud B-Z-Z-Z-Z-A-A-A-A-P crackles through the air as the band "powers up" for their performance. The only thing worse is being in the same camp when the shrill sound of feedback rips through the air...or was that a 10 pound Parrott shell?? Presumably, if they can't "out-authenticity" others, they are determined to "out-volume" them with their gear.

Modern (or more modern) instruments

If the instruments look like they came from the local music store, you can pretty much bet they did. Obvious giveaways are plastic mountings and hardware, but there are more subtle differences between period instruments and modern. Among these are steel strings, elaborate pearl inlay work, plastic drum and banjo heads, to name but a few. Large "Gene Autry: or "Western Style" guitars, Marine Band harmonicas, mandolins, dulcimers, high school band instruments, and bagpipes should be left at home as well.

Use of the word "traditional" on tapes or in ads

The word traditional implies, "Well, it's always been done that way, so it must be right." The learned know that this type of mentality spells disaster with a capital "D." When combined with the word "Appalachian," drop the tape and run away quickly. The bluegrass music so popular at some reenactments has its roots in the 1930s -- it may be "traditional," but it ain't traditional to the 1860s.

Use of non-accurate songs

This one will take some work to be proficient at spotting. Ask around or spend some time in libraries to seek out the dates of many of these pieces of work. You might be surprised at what "old favorites" are actually post-war songs. Examples include "I'm a Good Ol' Rebel," "Cripple Creek," "Old Joe Clark," and "Ashokan Farewell." Mark these and know them well, but, more importantly, don't indulge in them at Civil War events.

Use of Hillbilly Descriptive Words

Surely the reader has seen these words used to describe a tape or a band, "Have a knee-slappin', hog-chasin', rip-roarin', foot-stompin', rootin'-tootin' good time with this band." Usually the performer has a big safety pin in his hat, too, right? This is not to say that a group which uses lively, festive wording for their ads is not accurate, but the red flag should go up when seeing this type of corny language. As mentioned above, the popularity of "hillbilly" or "Appalachian" music dates from the 1930s, not the 1860s.

Documentation.--The bane of the charlatan.

The next time you see one of these folks, ask them what sources they use to do their research. More likely than not, they will not be able to answer -- or will mumble something about being graced from above -- or will claim to be obscenely talented, or something along that line. Talent does not equal research.

The sound of performers' voices

Vocals as performed by males in the 1800s should be a "booming" (not necessarily "deep") resonant voice with lots of projection. Falsetto should be reserved for operatic pieces, and the high-pitched (from the throat) bluegrass/folk singing voices are wrong (Bill Monroe impersonators be-no-more). The soft "quivering" (Tremolo) voice exemplified by Peter, Paul, and Mary is also incorrect for the period -- leave those for the herb-gathering 60s burn-out street musician.

Notes on Period-Correct Instruments

While some instruments have changed very little in the last 150 years, others have been very dynamic in their evolution. Just as it would be totally inappropriate to use a British Mark III Lee-Enfield bolt action rifle at a Civil War event, so too would it be inappropriate to use a Gibson banjo with steel strings circa 1935. There is absolutely no difference in the comparisons. Steel strings were not used in the time period we portray; instruments were strung with catgut (sheep intestines) which, truthfully, are extremely difficult to find today. Instruments strung with catgut are the best option, but another option for those short of cash is the nylon classical guitar strings. These sound extraordinarily like gut string and although they are not "authentic looking," they are closer than steel strings. In speaking of stringed instruments as used today, there are three "problem children," which should be avoided by reenactors. These are guitars, dulcimers, and mandolins. Although all three instruments existed in some form during the time we portray, they are not suitable for most living history encampments. The dulcimer, although popularly believed to have its origins in the Appalachian Mountain region early in the 19th Century, was really popularized much later. During the 19th Century, the dulcimer looked nothing like the so-called "mountain" or "hammered" dulcimers popularized during the 1960s folk revolution. In addition, their use in the mid-19th century seems to be confined to very small areas of Pennsylvania, and even old Appalachian musicians will tell you they didn't know about dulcimers until the early 20th century. The dulcimer was considered to be a "feminine" instrument, certainly not an instrument to be found commonly in military camps being played by men.

The 19th century guitar, smaller than modern guitars, was used primarily as a parlor instrument. Some references can be found, and, indeed, some photos exist, showing Civil War soldiers playing guitars, but care must be taken that the instrument is played in Civil War period style, not strummed like Gene Autry. For a good period reference to 19th century guitar playing styles, check the guitar arrangements that Stephen Foster wrote for his songs. Finally, mandolins did not become popular until the large influx of Italian immigrants later in the 19th century. Excellent discussions of these instruments are available in scholarly works on popular music in the antebellum/Civil War period.

Isaacson's Recommendations If you're looking for musicians to play at a period event or just interested in hearing how your favorite song would have sounded 130 years ago, try the following:

Amoskeag Players

c/o Bob Kilham 3 Appletree Road Auburn, NH 03032 (603) 483-5989 [tapes, bookings]

This New Hampshire-based group is directed by Robert Kilham, who also reproduces 1840s fretless banjos (all banjos until the late 1860s were fretless). The Amoskeag Players perform music from the antebellum and Civil War years, and their repertoire includes music from minstrel shows, New England sea chanteys, patriotic music, and popular music. Their ensemble is composed of instruments that are correct for the period portrayed, and Mr. kilham is able to play an endless variety of instruments...For live performance, this is a first rate group.

Saxton's Cornet Band

406 Mark Avenue Danville, KY 40422 (606) 239-0037 [tapes, bookings]

This is the creme de la creme of brass bands in this modern age. Saxton's Cornet band gives top quality performances whether on the battlefield or in the ballroom. The members are all professional musicians whose personal impressions and instruments are prime quality.

Tuckahoe Social Orchestra

c/o Joe Ayers Box 146 Bremo Bluff, VA (804) 842-3573 [tapes, bookings, banjo manual reprints]

Joe Ayers and his Virginia-based group (primarily composed of his family) is perhaps most famous for doing much of the soundtrack for the 125th Anniversary of Gettysburg video. This group incorporates banjos, violins, tambourines, flutes, accordions, and a plethora of other instruments documentable to period performance practice...For string bands, the Tuckahoe Social Orchestra is top notch.

Stonewall Brigade Band

c/o Gary Funk, President 2391 Highview Circle Staunton, VA 24401

A continuation of General Stonewall Jackson's original brigade band, the modern-day band still has the group's original instruments, which General Grant allowed them to keep when they were paroled at Appomattox.

Civil War Music Collectors Edition

This selection from Time-Life Books has proven to be a landmark set for the individual seeking a wide variety of entertainment. Except for a few selections by John Hartford...that are historically off base, most of the selections have been researched and performed in a fairly authentic fashion. For just plain all around entertainment, this set can't be beat.

Heritage Americana

Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc. 713 South Third Street West Missoula, MT 59801 (406) 549-8488 [tapes, CDs]

One fad in the 1960s was to reproduce Civil War brass band music using professional musicians with original arrangements and instruments. Regardless of why this fad occurred, it has been to our benefit, because the recordings of Heritage Americana set high standards for accurately reproducing Civil War era brass band music. Recordings are still available.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks to Lee Canaday of Russellville, Alabama, for sending us the Watchdog articles from which the information presented above was taken.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: kimmers
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:23 AM

Kat, I'm a fairly new re-enactor, but here goes.

I'm familiar with the Watchdog; it professes to be the Bible of the "Hard-Core" (Authenticity is Everything) re-enactor. To be fair, sometimes one can find some great helpful information in its pages.

Most of the facts in this article have the ring of accuracy, and the author has apparently researched the subject matter well. That said, the *tone* of the article is inexcusably rude (and rather poorly written). I help to edit the newsletter for our company (116th Pennsylvania Company "B") and I recently rejected an article about civilian clothing just because it was rude in a similar way. Reading this sort of things makes people mad, unless they are the very few who can come up to the standard.

None of the musicians I have met or heard at reenactments would come up to these standards, yet most are enjoyable. I don't expect musicians who are guests or hired for a reenactment to be totally authentic; I do expect them to provide atmosphere and feeling.

I don't yet own an authentic looking guitar, so I only bring mine out in the evening after the public has gone. If people seem receptive, then I play for a while. If not, I put it away. I try not to play or sing non-period songs, but I don't mind when others do so.

Amplification? I don't have a problem with it for large events where the public expects a show. For small gatherings, it's inappropriate.

kimmers


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:48 AM

SPeaking as a reenactor I pretty much agree with Kimmers, above. Most reenactors cannot afford (nor would they want to risk damage in the field) true period instruments. We must adapt a bit to what is available. I take my banjo (nylon strung), and dulcimer to many events. Most of our playing is done after the camps are closed to the public. There have been occasions when we have been sitting around playing our instruments and spectators have asked the usual barrage of questions;
'Is that a real dulcimer?'
'Was that banjo around during the civil war?'

We usually cover a multitude of questions with a few simple answers.,
'Yes, it's a real dulcimer, no it probably would not have been found in a period camp.' 'Yes, the music we play is a close to period as we can produce it'
We take the time to explain the differences between the music of the period and that which groups such as Time-Life attempt to pass off as authentic. I feel we give the spectator enough knowledge that if they are truly interested they will go and research more on their own.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:54 AM

No case, kat, could be made for this article being unopinionated.

Theatrics aside, the simple matter is that reenactors and folksingers revere different pictures of perfection. History is not art and art is not history (unless, of course, we're talking about Art History). I understand a copy of Folk-Legacy's latest CD, Irish in America" is winging it's way to you, so this is timely. There are 2 Civil war songs on "Irish in America." Before recording them, I had a conscious choice to make whether to perform them circa 1861-1865 or as of some other (later) date. I chose the latter for a few reasons.

First, the period text of the recruiting song "The Irish Volunteer" had a word, revere that was used repeatedly as a rhyme. I changed the phrase "Here's to brave McClellan whom the Army now reveres" to "Here's to brave McClellan whom the Army now does steer." I believe I improved the song without changing the meaning and I believe that, if the late lyricist was still treading this green earth, he would agree with me.

Second is the case of "Pat Murphy of Meagher's Brigade." The song exists both as a period piece and as a traditional song. The folk song, which my wife, Bonnie, and I sing, is succinct, heart-wrenching and uplifting. The orginal is, simply, dated.

I don't mean any of the above to say that there is something wrong with the "warts an' all" approach of repeating the original verbatim. Quite the contrary, I want to know what the original was like and I believe that there is a great danger in taking too much liberty with history... but art is art.

All the best,
Dan Milner


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Sorcha
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 02:04 AM

As an Only Sometimes re enactor I must agree with both kimmers and banjer. The tone of the article was rude, but we do what we can with what we have to work with.

When we do an "Absolutely Period" gig, we dress in period and we play tunes from the Period, but our instruments are Our Own......complete with shoulder rests etc. We do hide the cases, electronic tuners and stuff like that, and we do not do stuff like "Run Nigger Run" even if it is Period. There is plenty of stuff that is acceptable without being nasty about it.......

If you leave out the "tone" I do agree with the article.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Devil's Avocat
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 08:39 AM

The author of the article, in addition to being rude, needs to get a life. I've been both a reinactor (18th & 19th C.) and the director of institutions that hosted reinactments. These time-transvestites tend to take themselves entirely too seriously, and the bottom line is that these "re-created events" NEVER repeat NEVER even approach an accurate historical depiction of the period or event portrayed. Nor is it reasonable to expect they would.

Period materials are simply unavailable; yes, they can be approximated, but not cloned.The vast majority of "period reproductions" sold to reinactors are pure crap. People do not talk with appropriate accents/diction of one or two centuries ago. People are entirely too well-fed and healthy looking. Seen any reinactors witl smallpox scars lately? When walking through one of these "encampments", where is the stench and the filth? Do they smell like they haven't bathed for a month? What about the pit privies & the victims of camp diseases lying in their own vomit and excrement? What about those with wounds and amputations with pus-soaked, stinking bandages and suppurating sores in an era before antiseptics? What about the carnage of real warfare- how is a cowboys-and-indians "lawn war" supposed to accurately depict this? Get real. Someone who plays soldier [or camp follower or farmer or whatever] on weekends cannot hope to depict a mid-19th century (or other historical period) infantryman who LIVED the life of a soldier for years in the field. And so on. Some individuals do a better job of apeing the dress, customs, etc. of the period they supposedly represent, but none are at bottom truly accurate.

Despite all the hand-wringing and protestations of "Historical Accuracy", at the end of the day reinactments and reinactors are theme-park theater entertainment for the TV generation- not history. You want history, read a book, or visit a good museum or historic site exhibit- don't watch the video. Honest reinactors will tell you the same.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: LR Mole
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:00 AM

Well. What with Easter coming up, I'd assume the sheep-intestine string market would be booming, but then that would be evidence that a banjo (ladies' instrument that it was) would be about. Such goings-on could alert the Tremelo Police: herb-gatherin' wussies singing over here.. Next someone will tell me that Elvis never,himself, visited the Heartbreak Hotel, or even knew Big Mama Thornton. Difficult enough to be authentically oneself, I find...


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Troll
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:03 AM

The "authentics" were the reason I got out of reenacting. When I was told I had to take the side buttons off my kepi because the men who fought that battle didn't wear them, that was it. The "authenticity police'" reason was that none had ever been dug up on the site, never mind that the kepi (cap) with side buttons was a standard item of wear for soldiers on both sides.
I could go on but you get the idea.
Anal-retentive has a hyphen, right?

troll


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:21 AM

Thank you all for confirming my suspicions. A lot of what the author said just didn't jibe with what I have read here. This is a very interesting discussion thanks to everyone of you.

Dan, just got it, yesterday and I LOVE, esp, Billy the Kid and Portland County Jail, as well as Scovill's Rolling Mill. Your comments and additional background are very much appreciated.

kat


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:33 AM

Thanks for posting the article, Kat. Good comments here too, and I guess I don't have much to add. I have been an invited, paid performer to several Civil War memorial events; with and without sound systems. No one has ever asked me to dress in period, play only period music, on period instruments, using someone's best guess at period style. They knew that I sing modern versions of some old folk period folk songs, and some new songs based upon the history of the era. These same groups invited historians, authors to speak - none of whom made any attempt at period style in their dress or presentation. I have always felt welcome and appreciated by those at these events, and never felt a moment of guilt over my lack of 'authenticity.'

Perhaps, Mr Isaacson's complaint is aimed at those who do try to emulate the period, and do so without much concern for detail.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:42 AM


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: catspaw49
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:44 AM

Well everyone is covering the bases pretty well and I couldn't agree more. Reenactors can do a good job of transmitting info that is accurate by doing much what Banj mentioned which is have a point of reference and explain that this is the way we can portray it without having a budget in the billions!

And Devil's Advocate states it clearly! There is a limit to the authenticity and a good reenactor will talk about those things. This guy who wrote the article must be absolute hell on reenacted battles! Like where does he find the guys to lie wounded and then burn to death when the brush catches fire and they can't move? Might be a job he'd take on himself.

But there is an element of humor there you know? I particularly liked this statement:

"Folk musicians were not historians; they were out to make money, and anyone involved in history knows you can't make money in this gig."

What is that? First, only a few get very rich in "folk music" OR history, and this guy seems to be saying that he who makes less is the most truthful. On that basis, I am now going to take all my queries about everything to the wino living in the Amana box behind the Deli.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: SINSULL
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:44 AM

I guess if we wanted to keep opera authentic, we would have to go back to 300 lb. MiMis. I understand what he is saying and why he is saying it. I also undestand that he is being rude and condescending. I even agree with him - if your goal is to be accurate to a fault. Wonder if he covers himself with lice before each re-enactment...


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Pete peterson
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:50 AM

Well that didn't work. Third time lucky? (the computer ate my first and second posts)
Nobody can be completely authentic, no matter how hard they try. When I owned a house built in about 1720 and we were working on rstoring it people would ask "are you going to do an authentic restoration?" I would reply "well, we would like to have indoor plumbing and electricity, neither of which was available in 1720." and go on from there.
Similarly, I use a 1931 Martin 0-18 with steel strings and a 1915 mongrel banjo (Sears Roebuck Supertone) also w steel strings for most re-enactment work and yes, I KNOW it's not authentic, but we change keys a lot and it means you don't have to wait 5' for us to get the gut strings in tune. Then we try to sing songs we know were written before 1865 and there's a lot of them. And try to play songs more-or-less in minstrel "stroke" style on bj and "parlor" style guitar-- thumb and fingers. I think we sound a lot like the old days but since Edison didn't get around to inventing the phonograph till around 1880, we don't know what it sounded like in 1861-65. I do think that Dixie played pretty much as the Skillet Lickers played it comes a lot closer to Dan Emmett's spirit than most of the "modern" versions.
and if pressed I quote Walt Whitman. "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: pattyClink
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 09:59 AM

One large reason why the article is best burned:

It will lessen the amount of music at these gatherings, and one of the things about that time was more people sang and played and recited, so what's accurate or beneficial about that?

The whole thing could have been replaced by a warning to request prospective players to please restrict the playlist to anything known in existence prior to 1860, (and if the author is such a fine scholar, he should replace his critique with a long list of songs known to be okay, along with a list of tapes and and books musicians could use for drawing up a Civil War repertoire)

Here's another way to make events authentic: each participant should sign an affidavit proving that they arrived on site via a 10 day walking or horseback journey, not in that pickup truck or SUV. Then they won't feel so stupid asking guitarists to go find catgut strings.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 10:11 AM

These are great, phoaks! Keep the comments coming!

Spaw, that was one that jumped out and grabbed me, too! Totally absurd!


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Grab
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:47 AM

Devil's Advocate, you missed one other obvious thing - teeth. We've mostly got them, and they're all ours and mostly fairly straight following dental assistance. The rich would have their removed and replaced with false one, so they didn't get infected (wasn't Washington famous for his wooden teeth?). So anyone playing an officer, it's tooth extraction time...

Me, I'd rather see the Society for Creative Anachronism go for it. At least there, they recognise that trying to recreate a battle will inevitably fail - for one thing, everyone's got to get up at the end! So if you're not going for total accuracy, you can at least stick to the spirit of it.

Grab.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:50 AM

"The problem is not in our stars.....but in THE AUDIENCE"!

How often I've been asked to sing (with an "authentic" band) early Canadian "folk" music.....for filthy lucre, by the way. Often the intended victims (excuse me, the audience) don't even wait for two songs to pass before asking (demanding comes later after a few drinks) for such "Canadian" staples as 'Rocky Top', Ballad of Jed Clampett, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, or if they're really knowledgable..and yes, I'm being sarcastic.."This Land is your Land".

These are "mainstream" folks, but even on a supposedly "folk and blues" forum like Mudcat, many still debate whether folks like Dylan or Paul Simon are folk singers.

I can understand the author's pique (even if he seems to think Gene Autrey is somehow responsible for modern country music....I doubt if he's actually heard much early Gene) but SOMEONE has to pay (in one way or another) for the period instruments, outfits, travel, and even the luxury of rehearsal time...and I guess that's the general public...just don't expect them to sit through ANY kind of music that demands personal involvement.

"Hey youse guys, play that Ashmolian Farewell again...the missus and I just love that Civil war stuff"!

Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:55 AM

I have met Jon Isaacson and corresponded with him on a couple of occasions, and believe it or not, he is actually a pretty nice guy. He knows an awful lot of stuff.

I do agree with him on some points. There are some people who think any music described as "old-time" is appropriate for any living history event. It ain't. I don't want to go to a reenactment and hear somebody playing the Beverly Hillbillies theme or Copperhead Road, but believe me, it's happened.

And then there are people who try to pass themselves off as "authentic" who do no research on anything, and the General Public thinks they're getting a history lesson.

Now... that being said... I do think that "authenticity" can go Too Far and be Too Cumbersome for anyone to have a Good Time. Them that's wants it can have it.

As far as instruments are concerned, I can get an 1830s reproduction guitar for about $1500, but do you think I'd take it out camping? No way. The only concession I might make is to fiddle without my shoulder rest, but that depends on how long I have to play. If it's over 15 minutes, the rest stays, and authenticity be damned.

Mister has a cheap classical guitar that we take with us. We are very well aware that there is really no way to duplicate historical music with 100% accuracy. We don't have any recordings and we don't have the instruments. That's just the way it is.

When we made our tape (which, I might add, got a favorable review in the Watchdog last fall) we did not make any claims as to the authenticity of the sound. While we generally perform without amplification, we did use all the modern bells and whistles available to us in the recording process. All the songs are documented. Once in awhile, if we can't accurately document a tune we really like, we'll just say, we're singing this because we like it and we don't really know how old it is.

One interesting thing: Joe Ayers, who is mentioned in Isaacson's article as an authentic musician (and he is quite good, by the way), recorded Cripple Creek on a tape of songs he says come from mid-19th century Virginia. Go figure.

And, period or not, we get a lot of requests for Ashokan Farewell. When we can get away with it, we play it. Also people request my original songs. They sound old. :)


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:58 AM

This is great!

Any comments on what he has to say about the dulcimer?


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Rex
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:47 PM

I have no argument with the above article. Why not try to get it as close as you can? There's so much info out on this web thing it's pretty easy to document your material. If my group is playing a late 1800's event we will have the parlor guitar and taterbug mandolin. But a mid 1800's gig? The fiddle and banjo are a safe bet. Other string unstruments don't show up in the old journals and photos. And there's no way to make a sound system fit in with 19th century music so I leave it home too. If that limits the size of your croud or setting, so be it.

Rex


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:58 PM

I enjoyed the guy's article. It definitely contained a liberal dose of sarcasm, but made some good points. I believe that a re-enaction should aim at accuracy where it can be achieved. Infection, bloodshed and exhaustion is expecting a bit too much. But I for one would enjoy hearing what a fire-side concert during the Civil War might have sounded like, knowing that the instruments, songs, and techniques are authentic.

In the same way, I find Bach concertos performed on period instruments very interesting, even though they lack the brightness and power of modern instruments. There is a certain thrill in knowing that the sound is the same one heard by those long ago.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:05 PM

Other string instruments do show up from time to time... Tee Edmonds, who lived near Paris, VA, during the war, makes a specific reference in her diary to putting new strings on her guitar. A book called The Employments of Women, published 1863, states that women worked manufacturing STEEL STRINGS for guitars and other instruments. Parlor guitars show up in museums hither and yon. Yes, a fiddle and a banjo are safer because they were a lot more portable. But guitars were not unheard of.

Now about the strings --- I contacted Gruhn Guitars here in Nashville, and they told me that while steel guitar strings were available in the US, they did not gain widespread use until late in the 19th century.

It is nice to get as close as you can. Unfortunately, money tends to limit that for some of us.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:23 PM

I loved it, Rick. Great comments, I laughed my as* off!!

And I understand the comments from those who think Mr Isaacson makes vaild points, too. My first reading of his article raised the hair on the back of neck, a bit ... but then I realized he was talking about the Civil War re-enactment events, themselves. My experience with these events, is as an outsider. I am there to perform, (and frankly enjoy the events as a spectator), and I am not expected to be a period aficionado. It is true that gatherings that include re-enactors, are not all meant to be entirely period authentic. It is true that songs like "Ashoken Farewell" can be entirely appropriate, under those circumstances, and 'laymen' performers such as myself, can be welcome.

So perhaps in fairness to Jon Isaacson, we may have considered his comments outside the arena at which they were aimed. If a re-enactor's event is meant to be entirely period, it is reasonable to expect the participants to do their homework - and presumably each event should provide guidelines, as someone mentioned above.

I will be playing a Civil War event tomorrow in Cleburn Texas with Eammons Kitchen, and Ed Miller. None of us are period performers, and don't try to be ... but we will have fun, and enjoy the festivities, just the same!

I am also looking forward to participating in the Sperryville Civil War Memorial next June in VA. I played there last year for the first time, and enjoyed it immensely. Any of you Mudcatters out VA, please keep the first weekend in June in mind. This small town event is held in a beautiful, historical setting, and will include some 'real period' performers (ones I believe Mr Isaacson would approve of) as well as some top shelf historian speakers, and some great re-enactment activities. When we get closer to the date, I'll post some more info, if there's any interest.

Kim C; maybe you can get Mr Isaacson to come to the forum and defend his thesis!


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:33 PM

I ran across the above article about six months ago and accepted it as just another "authenticity" paen (or pain ??). A similar, much longer, more informative and less sarcastically toned piece appeared in one of the "Buckskinner" journals a number of years ago.

I second Kim C's inclusion of guitars. There is at least one Civil War photo of a soldier "band" which includes guitar, fiddle, banjo, bones and triangle.

I've also seen a photo of a civilian African-American group c. 1860 that includes two fiddles, a banjo, and a small bodied guitar.

What I haven't seen a photo of, although they were supposedly common, is someone playing a harmonica. (See other thread, Civil War Harmonicas)


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:56 PM

Oh, no, Jed, I ain't goin to be responsible for startin anything! :-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:57 PM

Just linking to other harmonica threads:

Civil War Harmonicas

Harmonicas for the Homeless


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: kimmers
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 02:23 PM

I think that authenticity is important mainly as a means to add to the total enjoyment of the reenacting experience. Cooking period foods and wearing period clothes gives me that enjoyment, as does participating in period entertainments. For my husband, using authentic gear and trying to experience the soldier's life is what floats his boat.

The hard-core folks seem to take a perverse joy in their extensive "knowledge" of the details, and even more joy in cutting down the participants who don't measure up. This is too often counterproductive sneering.

Music should be part of the middle ground. We should do the best we can reasonably can, especially if we are both musicians and reenactors. I don't play the banjo, so I'm not about to run out and learn it just so I can plunk a few notes around the campfire. No time for that! I do intend to find a parlor guitar and string it with mostly nylon, not gut. But my experience around here is that folks are grateful for any reasonably competent music to add some atmosphere and to make dancing possible. Wish I could learn to fiddle!


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Dave Wynn
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 06:01 PM

I am completely ignorant of re-enactments and can only imagine them. But I found the article very interesting and informative. Just a little abrasive in tone.

Jed Marum wrapped it up nicely. Just what I thought but far more erudite than I could put it.

Still enjoyed reading it though!

Spot


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 07:49 PM

The reenacting unit which I lead is not politicaly oriented, as some units are. We do not hold monthly meetings, we due not collect dues, and we do not have any elected leaders. I am the leader, I call the shots as far as safety and decorum in my camp go, but beyond that...We are all out to enjoy ourselves. If it means we play a song that wasn't written until the 1880's, what of it? We can tell any one who listens about the song and explain it was not quite period. We enjoy what we do, we enjoy each other's company, and for the brief weekend we have together we try to help our visitors enjoy themselves. Let us not ruin a wonderful hobby with overbearing politics, power struggles and other such nonsense!


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 12 Mar 01 - 02:46 PM

Good thoughts, Banjer!

We played the Cleburn Memorial event over the weekend, that included some good Celtic, Cowboy and Civil War era music - some re-enactor events/displays - some antique cars show events - several Scottish clan displays - and a demonstartion of new and antique farm tratcors. It was a cold, windy day, but they got a pretty good crowd there, and everyone had a great day.

Ther had been a bit of bitching, apparently, in a local paper about anybody celebrating anything to do with a Confederate General, even if the town was named after him - and the fact that a confederate battle flag or two might be displayed - but in truth, there were no white supremicists there, no neo nazi, just people interested in celebrating their history and enjoying the day. I didn't see any Yankee re-enactors, but all of the town's ethnic groups appeared to be represented in those people attending.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 12 Mar 01 - 05:52 PM

All right Banjer, but don't get any bright idears about playing the Beverly Hillbillies theme in my camp! ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Hollowfox
Date: 12 Mar 01 - 06:38 PM

Sounds like Mr Isaacson got up on the wrong side of the cage that day.*g* That being said, I think it depends on the intended audience, and who is choosing who the intended audience is. Last August I attended a series of workshops at a large Society for Creative Anachronism event. The workshops were on juggling, street performing, stage illusion-type magic, and such related things as they elated to medieval reenactment. They were taught by people who make their living this way (there's not a harder job on earth than being a professional fool), they treat their profession with respect, and they do their academic homework. When the authenticity question came up in the stage magic class, the teacher pointed out that, from what little documentation there is, the magicial chanted for perhaps up to half an hour, and then the illusion was performed. A modern audience would be bored, and losing the audience is not the point of performing. And even if they're dressed in the most authentic reenactment clothes in the world, they're still a modern audience. Then we went on to learn how to modify equipment so it wouldn't clash with the setting (eliminate plastic, etc). The point for musicians is, I guess, that the organizers of the event should decide just how authentic things *have* to be. The musicians should have done their acadmic homework regarding whether the piece is proper for the time period, since the onlookers might ask and learn something. If the intended audience is to be only academics, experts on the time period, than make the music as authentically academic as possible. If the audience is to be those folks who bought an admission to be entertained, then the parameters of repertoire and performance are different.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: artbrooks
Date: 12 Mar 01 - 08:34 PM

I'm not a Civil War reenactor, but I do enjoy Ren Faires...and there is probably very little that's truly "authentic" about them. A character in one of Mercedes Lackey's fantasy novels refers to folks who think that slavish adherence to historical accuracy is more important than having fun as "authenticity Nazies". Did somebody mention gas gangrene and amputation without benefit of anesthesia or even clean hands? Do you really want to stand around in the hot sun in a heavy wool uniform? Don't forget to add a louse or two.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Mar 01 - 08:34 PM

Banjer, I'm not a reenactor, but I think I would be pretty pissed if I invested a thousand dollars in authentic gear and countless hours perfect a civil war image right down to the camping and eating utensils, only to have a farb like yourself drag a dulcimer into camp because you think it's "cool". Have a little respect for the guys (and gals) who take this seriously and just leave the silly dulcimer at home. The banjo on the hand, fits in perfectly, and would really add to the enjoyment of other. Just show a little courtesy to the whole organization please.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 09:35 AM

Guest, you must be a reenactor or you probably wouldn't know the word "farb."


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 12:19 PM

Guest - are you saying the dulcimer wasn't in use in 1860? I am not challening your comment, just looking for validation. I had long assumed the dulcimer was around for a very long time, and would have expected to see it in use during the CW era.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 12:30 PM

well, I think I've gone off and answered my own question. I found a brief history at Black Mountain Instruments website that says,

"The Appalachian Dulcimer (or Mountain Dulcimer) dates back to the early 1800s. It was developed from similarly designd Medival European instruments, in the zither family. The dulcimer first appeard in Southern Appalachian Mountains, thus the reference "mountain" dulcimer. Today the dulcimer has become one of the most recognizable and popular folk instruments in the United States."

So it seems likely that Civil War soldiers from either side might well have brought along a dulcimer or two. Am I right?


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Bert
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 12:41 PM

Dressing up is fun and not to be taken too seriously. If you're shooting for a certain period then you do some research and get things as close as you can. You modify modern items so that they look the part. But you musty always bear in mind that none of this is REAL. It's all pretend and sure, it's fun to look the part if you can, but no one is ever going to be 'correct' it just can't be done.

Battle reenactors of any period will never, ever get the scale right. They will ALWAYS look silly with a few dozen people running around trying to pretend that they are an army of thousands. So if you have to compromise on such an important issue which everyone can see is plainly ridiculous, it makes little sense to get upset over some trivialities that most people would miss anyway.

The object of the exercise is to learn about the period in a fun environment. Positive comments will make it more fun. It's much better to research and publish the 'real' information so that people will be able to learn and join in, than it is to criticize those who get some details wrong.

So if you see something that is out of place, you say 'Hey didja know, this is how they used to do it' not 'You got it wrong'

Bert.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: kimmers
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 12:47 PM

Personally, when it comes to music at events, I'd rather hear the musicians play on the instruments that they are familiar with. I'd rather hear a good guitarist (or dulcimer-ist!) than a bad banjo player.

Guest, you do indeed sound like a reenactor, and a hardcore one at that. A soldier reenactor can not only choose from some pretty fantastic suppliers for his gear, he can even make some of the gear if he is so inclined to perfection that he must have hand-sewn buttonholes. I think it's a little harder for the musicians. Period-style instruments are available, for a price, but can be difficult to find (and play, and keep in tune).

Hey, you guys can come play the dulcimer in my camp anytime! Any West Coast reenactors (or folks who play at reenactments) here?

Kim Heggen


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 12:48 PM

According to Jean Ritchie's "The Dulcimer Book" they had been around, in her family, as far back as her dad and granddad could remember, which, I am sure, would predate the Civil War.

GUEST, you really ought to do some homework and read up on our Banjer and what he contributes, here and in the 3D world, before you start slinging arrows. It's pretty hard to find many others who command the respect he does.

kat


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 01:00 PM

The dulcimer existed, but was not in popular use during the period of the Civil. And most importantly, was too bulky for an infantry soldier to be carring in his back-pack. Think about it. Considering that banjer, is a capable banjo player, what is wrong with simply sticking to an instrument that WAS in popular use at that time? What is wrong with simply choosing the instrument that best fits? And leaving the one that is out of place at home. Seems pretty simple to me.

Banjer, says he is just interested in having fun, but why invest all that money in the civil war stuff if you're just interest making a lot of noice shotting guns off and in partying with your friends? Why didn't you and your friends just buy some boyscott uniforms, firecrackers and party in your backyard instead? I assume you must have some interest in history. Besided, this is not just about you and your party friends, but about courtesy to all the other camps near you. I don't see how leaving the dulmer at home, but bringing the banjo with you would be that great of an inconvenience? Is this really such a great inconvience to you, that you would prefer to inconvience everyone else?


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 01:03 PM

Your ignorance is showing, along with blatant trolling. I, for one, will not respond to this "guest", again.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 01:08 PM

Jed, A soldiers belongs traveled on his back. A dulcimer is too big and heavy to be marching with.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 01:15 PM

Kat, Please explain what is wrong with playing the banjo?


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 01:25 PM

Jed - mountain or lap dulcimers were around at that time.

A few years ago I met a musician who proudly showed me a dulcimer built by his great grandfather, who had been in the Civil War and lost an arm. So I've seen on-the-ground proof that dulcimers existed c. 1865.

His dulcimer was quite large, heavy and a bit crude in comparison to today's, but hey, it was built by a one-armed carpenter!

What was interesting was the case, which had been designed to be turned upside down and set on a table, so the dulcimer could be placed on it when playing. It was sort of an acoustic amplifier system.

Jed - by the by, I heard a cut from your CD played on the folk show of our regional Public Radio station in Bozeman. Sounded great !


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 01:51 PM

It's my understanding that while the mountain dulcimer existed, it was largely unknown outside Appalachia until after the Civil War. However the hammered dulcimer was a popular parlor instrument. At least that's what I've read.

A small mountain dulcimer would not be any more bulky to carry than a fiddle and there is documentation for soldiers having those. Banjer, if your grandpappy was from the mountains of Kentucky, you may well have been familiar with the mountain dulcimer. :-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Rex
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 02:03 PM

I'm compelled to come to our Guest's defense. But you will find that you are better received here if you give us name to know you by. My greatest concern for an interpreter demonstrating living history is spreading misinformation. So I try to be careful about what I put out there. It is true there were dulcimers at the time of the War Between the States (or whatever you choose to call it). There were guitars too. So far I haven't seen anything to suggest they were likely to be in a camp. It could be argued that they existed at the time and within that part of the country so it is possible they would be found in such a camp. This argument comes up often in the Fur Trade events. It existed at the time so lets use it. I guess I prefer to play it safe. That will leave out some interesting possibilities and narrow what I can present but that's what I will do. I'll get off my soapbox now and hush.

Rex


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Rex
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 02:10 PM

Well durn it, I left something out. Folks can say they arn't functioning as an interpreter. They are just having fun so what's wrong with that? The public doesn't know the difference. Then they go back home thinking that "Ashcan Farewell" is really a tune from the mid 1850's. As much as I love it and enjoy playing it, we know it ain't so. Now I'll hush.

Rex


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Blind Desert Pete
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 02:17 PM

Way to go Kat. Stick the knife in, giv it a twist, and then run away. Fits your style.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,LynnT
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 02:59 PM

I've been doing living history for some twenty-odd years now, mostly SCA, but other groups too (my first big event was Pennsic 5; for context, last summer was #29 or so).

When I started out, I just wanted to have fun hanging out with my friends in fancy clothes -- and didn't care as much for accuracy as for color and interesting cut. I wince now at the photos of me at old SCA events wearing mismatched Victoriana. I was happy to sing along on any tune that came around the firecircle, made no distinction between "Barrett's Privateers", "The Witch of the Westmerelands" or "Matty Groves" -- though even then I loved a good madrigal -- and was not concerned as to whether my (improvised) accompaniment was consistent with the style or time of the piece. But over time I began to appreciate the details that made a thoroughly-medieval camp set in a consistent period hang together: the tools, the tents, the clothing, the lighting sources, the food (storage, preparation and consumption), and yes, the music. And the conversations. Really blows things to have folks in a quality 13th-century setting talking about computers or car repair. It all builds, and it's all pretty fragile.

These days, for myself, if I know how to do it "right", I'll need a real good reason for doing it another way; for others, I appreciate the tolerance others extended to me when I was starting out (with my sometimes-defiant attitude then towards the "authenticity Nazi" I've now myself become) and try real hard not to spoil others' fun. For me, the fun is in figuring out "how they did it" -- then achieving recognizably similar results, whether it's costumery, cookery, or music. I prefer period works, but will take modern stuff done in a period mode...

LynnT


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 03:14 PM

BDP, I am still here. I just refuse to answer an anonymous someone who was obviously flaming one of our esteemed regulars. Was it you? If so, I would encourage you to join up, so that you don't have to remember to type in your name all of the time.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Blind Desert Pete
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 03:41 PM

Kat: Sorry, not a flame. I did not think Guests comments were a flame either. nope not me. But back to topic-- Yure darn tootin its an opinionated article. that what authors do. I have to agree with most of his points concerning amps, innapropriat styles, bluegrass,etc BUT I play a steel string banjo so guess where my ox is gored?


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 03:50 PM

OK, I'll ask. What is a "farb" ?? It's not a term I recognize from the Fur Trade Rendezvous camps I've been going to for a decade.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 04:45 PM

A farb is someone who doesn't care if they're authentic or not. You might often see such a person wearing modern cowboy boots and cowboy hat with their poorly-made uniform.

As far as guitars in camp... well, it depends on the camp. If you're talking about soldiers on the move, probably not. If you're talking about a garrison camp, maybe so. Garrison camps often had civilian visitors so in that situation you might find things you wouldn't find in a campaign camp.

If you're talking about a civilian refugee camp... depending on economic status, some people fled their homes with every darn thing that would go in the wagon. Others had no more than the clothes they were wearing. So there are a lot of variables to consider.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Irish sergeant
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 04:46 PM

Les B: A "Farb" is someone deemed not to be "Authentic' in their presentation at a Civil War re-enactment. It is a term most likely bandied about by self-styled "authentic" re-enactors. It is considered an offensive term. Having said that, I have seen documentation of sutlers during the Civil War who specialized in renting instruments such as guitars to soldiers while they were in camp or garrison for extended times. The problem is that many of these so called authentics use authenticity as a power play. As a re-enactor, i got into it for the comradeship and the love of history. By the same token, I'm not going to get dysentery or smell like three day old pole cat. i don't want real minie flying my way. Troll; I don't know what events you've done but you can park it at my campfire anytime (12th US Co. A, USV) Yes, I sleep in an A-tent but I have done the bedroll thing. Yes I carry a Yamaha classical guitar. The case and tuner stay in my tent under a gray wool blanket. Keep in mind that the soldiers in this country haven't changed a lot in 140 years. They would have killed to sleep in a barn so the tent thing is a bit of a non-issue. You don't like my impression? Offer constructive advice. If you can't do that, leave me be. I don't need a ration of bovine effluvia from anyone when I'm out to relax. This is after all a hobby. If you want to jaw, stop by. I haven't turned anyone away from my fire yet or failed to offer them a cup of coffee. I try to play period music when I'm there. I include "I'm a Good Old Rebel" and "Tom Dooley" even though they are not strictly Civil War songs. Both were written shortly after the war but I want to include a well balanced repertoire that gives an idea of the conflicting emotion that the war caused. I'd love to play an authentic instrument but many of us just don't have that kind of money. In closing, I don't have anything against campaign style reenactors (Authentics although i understand the new term is progressive) I do have a big jones about people who deem it their right under the guise of authenticity to walk all over everyone they deem farbs. Kindest reguards to all, Neil There is debate as to whether or not uniforms had hand sewn button holes.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 04:55 PM

BDP, thank you for answering me. GUEST flamed, imo, when s/he accused Banjer of "if you're just interest making a lot of noice shotting guns off and in partying with your friends." That makes it seem quite evident that guest/anon knows nothing about Banjer and should not be encourage by responses, IMO.

I have absolutely nothing against banjos...in fact you can see a picture of my dad playing his on my photoloft page listed in the Mudcatters photo threads in the Permathreads.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 05:01 PM

Neil - while I have never seen anything other than a hand-stitched buttonhole on an original garment, I have been told by sewing machine experts that one of the manufacturers had a patent on a machine buttonholer as early as 1862. Who was actually able to get aholt of such a critter is unknown to me. I am one of those sick individuals who actually likes handsewing buttonholes! :-) Hey, a well-made buttonhole is a thing of beauty.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 05:15 PM

I gather thet CW soldiers on the move would not bother carrying any instrument. And I buy the arguement that the dulcimer was not popular, and probably too heavy and bulky to bother with. It also makes sense that once soldiers were encamped for a while that locals would lend or rent instruments out. I'd have had a hard time without an instrument - guess that's where a harmonica or penny whistle would com in handy.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 05:19 PM

... and Les - which track did you hear, do you remember? Obviously you have a fine radio station out there, with excellent taste!

;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,D.A.
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 05:29 PM

The public doesn't know the difference.

For Sure. Ya know what else? They don't give a shit, either!
They come to watch TV, not learn . Anything they just happen to pick up by accident they've forgot before they get half way home. Get a grip, hey? Want to play dress-up, go ahead, but don't pretend its something it isn't.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 06:08 PM

Kat, you are correct in criticizing my negative attitude and apologize for jumping to conclusions about an individual I know nothing about. I focused in on what I perceived as a very selfish act, and drew conclusions beyond the scope of reasonableness. This has been a string of one negative attitude (the original article noted above), fallowed by counter negative attitudes (unreasonable "hardcore") and so forth. I humbly confess my embarrassment at having slung the mud around.

In the interest of correcting past wrongs, I would like to retract my negative comments, wipe the slate clean, and start anew. Focusing instead on what I perceive as the core issue, what is reasonable for a Civil War impression.

Let me start by giving you some background as to my involvement in Civil War re-enacting. As stated previously, I'm am not, nor ever have been, a Civil War re-enactor. My wife and I have on the other hand enjoyed a number of Civil War events as members of the general viewing public. We attended the 125th anniversary of Antietam, more by accident that anything else, but enjoyed it so much that we have subsequently been to see the 135th anniversary of Gettysburg, and the battle of Cedar Creek. While a grand scale pickets charge is very impressive, the greatest joy is walking through the authentic camps and talking to the soldiers. It is very fascinating to see, hear and learn about the life of the typical common soldier, the "grunts," during this period of time. Criticism of the "hardcore" may be warranted in some cases, but it is the hard work of these guys (and gals) that give the public the greatest understand of American life during this defining period of our American culture. We attended an event at Fort McHenry last year were five members of a Calvary outfit came all the way from Ohio to give a public demonstration. The size of their group did not compare to those of Gettysburg, but it was the most informative presentations I've seen to date.

Now to the issue of reasonable Civil War impressions. I obviously can not speak for the general public as a whole, but I hope that you will at least take into consideration the thoughts of this one member of the public. I also acknowledge that the specific incident that I referred to in the previous post was conducted at night away from the general public, and my response reflects an empathy for the feelings of other re-enactors. As correctly stated in previous posts, it is impossible and unreasonable to portray a completely authentic civil war character. Many exceptions have to be accepted such as physical limitations like age and physical condition, as well as issues of hygiene, etc. In addition to these issues, there are also the practical issues of money and time limitations. It must also be accepted that a newbie will not start off with the same level of authenticity of as a 10 year vet, however some minimum levels must met. As I think you would agree, showing up in gray or blue trousers from Sears is not sufficient for even a newbie. Obviously, anyone who is willing to spend a thousand dollars on their gear has more than a casual an interest in this hobby. But what I thinks separates the "Farbs" from the rests is whether you let history guide your choices, or do you try to adjust history to suite your personal preferences. True, dulcimers did exist during this time period, but were they typical of the ordinary soldier? Are you letting history guide your choices of musical instruments, or are you adjusting history to suite your preferences? Also to what extent should consideration of others guide ones judgement? A banjo is typical, a dulcimer is not.

Having said all this, I would appreciate it if you would let me know if this is reasonable to you or not?

Sincerely yours


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: katlaughing
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 06:18 PM

Thank you, GUEST, though I would still prefer you sign more of a name. I do appreciate your understanding what upset me about your assumptions about Banjer.

I will let the others answer your very valid questions, as they are much more knowledgable than me about such re-enactments.

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,KickyC
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 06:51 PM


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,KickyC
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 07:00 PM

Sorry, I hit the wrong key. This was interesting reading. However, for dulcimer players and dulcimer lovers everywhere, whether or not they were used in the Civil War, they are not "silly" instruments. Musicians are very attached to their instruments and equating dulcimers with silly is just like telling me I am a "silly" person for enjoying it. Also, my dulcimer is neither heavier nor bulkier than either my guitar or my banjo, so I don't understand that argument. I'm sure if soldiers were taking instruments along to war, they would take one they could play. If the only one they could play was a dulcimer, well...

KickyC


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 07:31 PM

My two cents please; a 25 year reenactor with an "authentic" musician impression.

Yes, Jon comes on strong and loves to talk about how much he knows(a little too much knowledge that is dangerous), but when you get past that you will see his main point. What most people believe to be old music is actually quite modern. Jon's intent is to improve the scolarship of the subject which is one of the excellent by-products of reenacting.

Some more perspective. Forget the "they had it, they'd have used it" mentality (dulcimers, steel strings, mandolins, etc.), it was, as today, a question of fashion, what was common, what was rare, what was the trendy thing. Are you likely to see an oboe in a rock'n'roll band? No, and this is one of Jon's points. And too many do what is fun and simple for them and ignore the thill of the search, the discovery and the opportunity to learn, to teach and enlighten.

I don't buy the "can't afford it" line. Period instruments are no more expensive than your musket or your Yamaha. Banjos are fun to make and not that difficult.

I do fing some photos of soldiers with guitars, but more with banjos, which was the hip instrument. Leave the steel strings and picks at home along with the mandolins. Although harmonicas were but a novelty, a toy, at least take the covers off them so they resemble those as they were made then.

And if all you guys who complain about the authenticity nazis had just taken up the fiddle I would have been a happy guy long ago. If I never hear another Neil Young tune around the campfire my pleasure would be complete.

Some roots of folk music education is good for the Mudcat crew. Too little attention is paid to much of our fine musical tradition if it's pre-Lomax or not on CD or tape. After all the first indiginous American art was not Jazz, but Minstrel!


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 07:55 PM

MY, my, what one can miss by a few days away! Guest, I don't understand what your problem may be but as has been pointed out, the dulcimer was around during the time. Sitting here looking at both my banjo and my dulcimer, I can't see where carrying the banjo would have been any easier than the dulcimer. The dulcimer is much shorter and could easily have been carried hanging from one's shoulder. We portray an artillery unit which would have had more access to wheeled vehicles than the ordinary foot soldier. More gear could have been carried per man. We portray the 1st Pennsylania Light Artillery, D Battery US, and are also equipped to portray Rockbridge Light Artillery, D Battery CSA. Much research has gone into our impression. My wife's ggguncle James enlisted in the 1st Pa. Light Art'y at the age of 17 in 1861. We have copies of many of his records from the Archives in Washington. He remained in the service on active duty until 1898. If you would take the time to visit the Photoloft Galley available through the permathread, you could view pictures of our camp. I challenge you to find ancronisms!

Most of our music is authentic, but as I pointed out if we do a piece that is not exactly of the period, and we happen to have an audience during our playing we will point out to them that the piece was not of the period we performed it because we felt it was close enough that it would fit. We DO strive for historical accuracy.
As for your thoughts on me living my 'silly' dulcimer at home, it happens to be an instrument I enjoy, and since enjoyment of the weekend and of the company is important to me, I don't think I will heed that advice. If you happen upon my camp and the sound of the dulcimer upsets you that much, please pass us by!


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 07:59 PM

Me again...I have said my piece. I will not respond to any more 'flame' type reponses. That is not the purpose of this thread. Thank you


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 08:07 PM

Thanks all: I understood farb from the context - pre 1840 encampments deal with the same issues . I thought maybe it was a neat acronym like "fake re-enactor bubba," or some such.

Jed - I believe the track played from your CD was "Streets of Falls River," but wouldn't swear to it in court.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 08:07 PM

Please note that the reference to a dulcimer being out of place in a Civil War camp, was based on your own comment of March 9. If a dumcimer is in fact appropriate for a Civil War camp, then why in your March 9th post did you say it was not? This is a good example of how you guys can confuse those of us in the general public when you are not careful. Respectfully yours


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 08:36 PM

My comments were; 'We usually cover a multitude of questions with a few simple answers.,
'Yes, it's a real dulcimer, no it probably would not have been found in a period camp.' 'Yes, the music we play is a close to period as we can produce it'.
I also stated that; Most of our playing is done after the camps are closed to the public. Hopefuly folks like yourself who don't like seeing others enjoy their days off are gone by that time and we can kick back, relax, and play the music we love! We have had folks like yourself come through our camps and start nit picking at every little thing that we have displayed. We have names for folks like that...I'm too polite to mention them here. g'day


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Pete M at work
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 10:51 PM

Well folks, I'm afraid I know little of these early 1860 sitcoms of which you speak, but being generally interested in military history, I've been following the thread with interest.

A couple of thoughts come to mind, one to do with re-enactment. Given the typical supply chain problems in this era and the lengthy marches involved in the US civil war, I would suspect that the "typical" combatant would be wearing a complete mismatch of clothing with the 'official' uniform only vaguely discernible, and occasionally not at all, so having 'Authentic" uniforms may not be very authentic at all. Any comments from those of you who have researched the period, or participated in these events?

Secondly, I'm not sure which version of the planet you re-enact on Old Bull, but I seem to remember that when Deep Thought specified this particular one there were indigenous American art forms including music, several thousand years prior to "Minstrel"

Pete M


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Wotcha
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 01:29 AM

Clearly the writer is venting a little from his perspective. I can empathize somewhat. How often do you watch historical TV shows and view 1970s hair on "actors" portraying 1914 and 1940s folks or they sport incorrectly placed insignia on uniforms etc. I suppose reenactors want to do a bit better than Hollywood. Once you are in the know on a subject, messing up the details can spoil things a bit. However, no point in driving away the people you want to educate either.
What of the folks from across the Pond? Gentlemen of the Sealed Knot have not been mentioned so far. Any comments?
Cheers,
Brian


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 06:21 AM

Pete M makes a very good point. The mismatch of uniform parts was more prevalent in the Southern armies than in the North. Most northern units were much better equipped than their soutehrn counterparts. Using just a bit of imaginitaion the theory could also be advanced that troops on the march, having been known to 'forage' could have found items of clothing in abandoned houses and maybe even some musical instruments which could have been carried back to the camps and used until time to form up and move on. Will GUEST accept that? Did a member of my unit find a silly dulcimer and bring it into camp with him? **BG**


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Wolfgang
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 07:13 AM

What I'll write may seem like a lot of thread creep, but it isn't.

First, look at the authenticity nerd thread for comparison. A deviation from authenticity may bother me in one field and not at all in another. So I understand both camps and have deep respect for both approaches, but don't understand a all the harsh words.

When I was much younger I loved steam engines and miniature trains. There was the authenticity camp. They cringed when a miniature engine was combined with a car from the wrong period or if an engine (in play) stopped at a station where it never has been in reality. They discussed deviations from reality down to the size of tenths of millimeters (in the appropriate scale). They were happy if after one and a half years of hard work they could send one authentic miniature train from one station to another and even the cows were looking correct (cows did change over the decades!).
Then there was the let's play camp who sent loads of trains from one big station to another after 2 weeks of preparation with many wrong decisions in nearly every detail. They didn't care about anything outside of the tracks (surely not about cows or cars) and even didn't care if the engine didn't fit the cars, if only the combination looked good.

I can feel the thrill of both approaches. In some areas I care in others I don't. So what. But I think you could be more tolerant of each other. What is wrong with somebody who has no fun if the play is below his/her standards and what is wrong with somebody who has fun at a lower level of authenticity? Nothing, except that they perhaps should not try to play together.

To sing 'The wild rover' with three guitar chords may be fun and appropriate in many Irish pubs, but you shouldn't try it in a setting in which very good musicians have just finished playing a set of jigs. Just don't assume that other have fun the same way you do.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: artbrooks
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 07:54 AM

Picture a Civil War vintage camp. Big white tents. Cooks boiling everything up in giant iron kettles. Rations. Ammunition. Other stuff. I have the reference around someplace, but my recollection is that the typical Union INFANTRY regiment had a wagon train of several dozen vehicles. The soldier on the march carried his personal weapon and a small pack. The question of fretted or fretless banjo is important to some, but the SIZE of the instrument just isn't relevant...it would have been pitched into a wagon and retrieved later.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 09:44 AM

Dear Pete M;

The same planet as yours I suspect. And we agree (I also suspect)in that the often heard allusion to Jazz is narrow indeed.

And I do concede that I would have been correct to include the term "novel"


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 10:25 AM

"Period instruments are no more expensive than your musket or your Yamaha."

I don't know where you live, Ole Bull, but if period instruments there are cheap, I'm on the next train out.

Mister's Enfield (that's a musket for those of you who may not know) was about $385. Vintage violins AND their bows are easily twice, if not three and four (and more) times that. If one has the time and ability to build a banjo, great. If you buy a reproduction period banjo from George Wunderlich in St. Louis, expect to pay at least $500. If you want the Stauffer 1830s reproduction guitar that Elderly Instruments is selling, hand over your $1500. If you want a real 1850s Martin in playing condition, take out a second mortgage on your house.

Period instruments ARE expensive; and as stated before, no one in their right mind is going to take them camping and subject them to adverse weather and temperature conditions, not to mention the risk of theft.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Nik
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 10:46 AM

Consider this your personal invitation to visit Sharpsburg, Md. over the September 15-16,2001 weekend for the SHARPSBURG HERITAGE FESTIVAL. You'll hear good music popular during the Civil War--and hear townspeople retell battle tales--and tall tales, too. The little town sat at the center of the conflict during the Battle of Antietam. Then, the 1300 townspeople helped care for 11000 wounded soldiers from the North and South. Some were there for months. Yes, they used musical instruments belonging to local families. If its any help to those trying to figure out whether or not the duclimer would be an appropriate instrument, I have a 1845 book of "music for the dulcimore" purchased at an estate sale in Sharpsburg along with a dulcimer shaped like a long thin box.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 01:27 PM

Hi Kim;

I did not say "cheap" but I know a lot of reenactors who spend lot's more on lots of other stuff...

You don't have to get a Martin. I have picked up several 19th century no-name parlor guitars for under $200 dollars (uncluding refit parts- bridges and the like) that I don't mind taking out. And numerous fiddles, bows, and even coffin cases for the same. These can be made period in apearance to pass all but the apraiser's eye. Certainly as "authentic" as your Armi-sport Enfield.

I don't think that George W's servicable repro banjo's are outrageous at under $500.

Is it not unreasonable to suggest that people try it? At least players can go nylon and quit the flatpicking. T'would be an improvement, don't you agree?

What do you need? Maybe I can find stuff for you.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Kim C
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 01:36 PM

As a matter of fact, I would love a parlor guitar, and another violin. Those things don't seem to pop up around Nashville. But that will have to wait until after my summer vacation in June.

The most expensive reenacting gear I have ever bought was a pair of shoes at $125.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Bert
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 01:39 PM

I don't think anyone is saying that you should not try to get things right - that's all part of the fun trying to get as close as you can.

One time we had about a week to make four costumes for a Renaissance fair. We looked up period costumes in the libraray, made our own patterns and bought material that looked as close as we could get within our budget. My Oud had just broken and there was no way that I could find another instrument in the time. So I faked it with a paper doily stuck over the soundhole of my Yamaha guitar. There were a couple of people there who did know what they were doing. Fortunately they were quite amused by it and were quite positive in their comments.

It's fun - no one can ever get it completely correct - so don't be so uptight about these things.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Pete M
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 02:34 PM

Hi Old Bull,

thanks for the comments, I've re-read your original post and realise that I may have been a bit hasty. It is a common problem that we are all prey to at some time or another, using the term "American' indiscriminately to mean both the American continent and the political construct of the US. (I know it annoys the hell out of Canadians). So if you were using the term in it's narrow sense to mean an art form indiginous to the USA rather than to the part of the land mass that it occupies or any political construct which preceeded it, then I would think your assertion is correct.

Just shows you have to be bloody careful about your terminology if you want to be 'authentic' ;-)

OK thats my bout of pedantry for today.

Pete M

PS I also realise that you may not be familiar with the "Hitch hikers Guide" and so have taken my comment as being rather more acerbic than I intended.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Irish sergeant
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 07:37 PM

Kim: The remark about button holes was not meant to flame. Hell, if people enjoy sewing them more power. It was meant for those who seem to think everyone but them is doing it wrong. For my guitar, it's a Yamaha I bought used for $150. My musket I bought used for twice that. I use nylon exclusively (Unreinforced neck) and never mastered the art of using a pick. I do try to make the music as close as possible but I don't normally play until the spectators leave and I have friends who like "Lili Marlene" (Circa 1914 for the lyrics and 1935 for the music) And another who likes "Long, Long trail" Circa 1917. Are they unauthentic? You betchum Red Ryder. But when the "Turistas" are gone, we are amusing ourselves. I don't play them around the crowds. I refuse to submit a play list at events. Don't like it don't listen but don't bitch either. I was playing guitar before I was reenacting. You won't hear Dylan around our campfire and you certainly won't hear anything later than 1870 while there are spectators present unless you count Garryowen which predates the U.S. Civil War by decades (It was originally the marching song for Her Majesty's Fifth Irish Lancers) See my above comments. I really don't wish to carp on this anymore. Kindest reguards, Neil


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,johnson
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 09:13 PM

i try this reinacting once, the shooting part was fun. whatpissed me off was in pitching tent, and i had just gotten this tent from sears and everything. some officer types told us we couldn't camp there cause it wasn't period. likr who cares, the shows over. me and my buddy had to sleep on the other side of the field. it was no fun. and the guys buddy is making jokes about the lawn chairs, real jerk. im with you banjer when the day is doen its time to put the stiff collar stuff away and kick back. if i ever try this again ill look for your camp, sounds like you know were its at.


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,LD
Date: 17 Mar 01 - 09:20 AM

Johnson, I'm sorry your experience wasn't the best, but what you need to realize is that authenticity standard don't just end when the "shooting part" is over. A good civil impression continues throughout the whole weekend. I fact many reenactors cherish the camp scene as the most realistic and rewarding part of the day. My two cents.

Best of luck pard


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: wildlone
Date: 17 Mar 01 - 01:31 PM

As a reenactor of many years [over 30 years] I have come across the authentifacists in many diguises.
If we were to play our role as it should be no article of clothing or equipment used is to be older than the period depicted.
Try finding medieval clothing that is totaly original.
What we try to do is depict the life and times of the period, and to do it in as authentic way as we can.
I am now the pioneer of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusileers to kit myself out has cost up to now over £300 pounds and I have just ordered a red coat made from woollen cloth woven by the same weavers that wove wool for the soldiers at Waterloo, veg dyed,hand finished at £200 pounds a bearskin that I have not even asked the price of.
I have also ordered an axe for parade use but as I cannot afford to have it covered in sterling silver [shefield plate] I am having it nickle plated instead
Enough ranting dave


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Subject: RE: BS: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Banjer
Date: 17 Mar 01 - 05:38 PM

I don't mean to upset ya there Johnson, but with your authentic Sears and Rob Bucks tent you ain't gettin' into my camp! All our tents, the 10x12 officers wall tent and the four 9x6 a-lines are all authentic camp material. The only thing I said was that when the crowd has gone home we will be heard playing music that may be later than 1865..We still reamin in uniform and proper authentic mode. Sorry...


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 09 Aug 18 - 07:25 PM

Maybe I'm the only one still around who finds this thread interesting.

There's a movement among some classical musicians to use only historically accurate instruments, so that what we hear is virtually identical to what they heard in the eighteenth century or whenever.

Modern instruments often have a slightly richer and fuller sound.

On the other hand, if you're used to the modern ones, you might fixate on the difference in sound: something, of course, that the original audiences didn't have to think about.

So as usual, the demanded level of "authenticity" at some point becomes a matter of taste. That goes for all trad music-making, perhaps especially in the context of historical re-enactment for audiences who by and large can't tell the styles of Pete Seeger or Joan Baez from those of the Limeliters, Bill Monroe, or Sam Sweeney:

http://civil-war-picket.blogspot.com/2014/01/jeb-stuarts-banjo-player-and-famous.html

Over the years I've been collecting mp3s of Civil War music. It's almost *impossible* to find a recording that sounds "just like" or even "a whole lot like" what we know or can surmise about the sounds of the period. The "folk" voices are too polished, the bands too elaborate, the styles too bluegrassy, pop, or bluesy, the instruments too lush, piano accompaniments too modernist, etc., etc.

Maybe the old-timey fiddle-and-banjo duos come closest to the "folk sound" of the 1860s: but unless the banjo is gut-strung and fretless with a squirrel-hide head, the fiddle kind if squeaky, the tempo a little slower, and the eighth-notes a little scarcer, the sound still won't be absolutely "typical" for the period. Musical instruments could not easily be carried on campaign except in officers' baggage, and foot soldiers wanted to carry as little wight as possible.

The point of this is not to diss current renditions of Civil War music. It's simply to say that absolute authenticity sometimes has to take a back seat to what sounds good enough - or better, as the case may be.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 12 Aug 18 - 05:18 PM

I'd just like to mention that there was, historically, a great spectrum of music played and sung during the Civil War period, both on and off the battlefield, both accompanied and a capella. More formal music could be heard in concert halls and high-class soirees, popular music was dispensed in the form of chapbooks and sheet music to be sung in parlors and social gathering places, religious songs were sung in churches and revival tents, etc etc. These songs migrated between classes and communities, were adapted, parodied, and mis-remembered creating various versions, all "authentic". It's important to understand the social function of music in the culture- to inspire, entertain, mourn or celebrate, sharing ideas, events and feelings.

People would do well to explore archives, journals and historical resources when preparing authentic programming.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 12 Aug 18 - 08:32 PM

All very true, Julia. I would only add that real classical music (say, Rossini's "William Tell Overture," composed in 1829, or opera) could be heard mainly in concert halls in a few big cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. But well-to-do "Civil War people" certainly were familiar with it.

Since this is a "folk music" forum, let me add something about folk music. It's a popular practice to day to sing traditional songs to a lone fiddle accompaniment, but to judge from the comments of later folksong collectors, that practice was extremely rare. "Spanish guitars" were not very common nationally, autoharps uninvented, dulcimers known mainly in the Appalachians, hammered dulcimers rare and expensive.

Even among Irish immigrants, uillean pipes were extremely rare (very expensive). Some Scots immigrants played bagpipes, but they were still solo instruments and not used in marching bands as they were in the British Army. Flutes, of course, were easily portable.

Minstrel troupes typically used a fiddle, a banjo, a tambourine, and a pair of bones. Outside of the drums and wind instruments of military bands, these, plus the recently invented harmonica, were the typical instruments one might find in an army camp on either side. I can't recall any reference to tin whistles, but they were cheap and available.

The most typical musical sound of the period, other than that of the fiddle, flute, banjo, parlor piano, minstrel performance, or fife and drum corps may have been that of the brass band, military or civilian, which played all sorts of music.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 04:02 AM

The Minstrel Boy to war has gone
With his wild harp slung behind him...


If you've seen something like the Trinity College harp... no.

Maybe wild harps had an oilskin over a split cane frame for the body?


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,julia L
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 07:15 AM

Very funny , Jack! Actually there is evidence that some early harps did have a skin soundboard ...

Anyway, regarding "typical music" I would say that hands down the most prevalent music would have been a cappella singing. People sang all the time then . It was part of their education in school and church, as well as common at home and work. And people were better at singing than we are as a result.

Of the thousands of songs recorded in several early 20th C collections that I have been listening to only a small percentage are accompanied by any instrument at all.

The human voice is cheap, portable and capable.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 08:41 AM

Right again.

As for "The Minstrel Boy," maybe it was a trade war.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Brian Peters
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 03:34 PM

It's a popular practice to day to sing traditional songs to a lone fiddle accompaniment, but to judge from the comments of later folksong collectors, that practice was extremely rare.

There are one or two interesting examples, though:

Cecil Sharp noted half a dozen songs from Napoleon Fitzgerald, Beechgrove, VA, 24/5/1918, and wrote: "He began by singing in a very loud and untaught voice while he played the fiddle, putting in as many drone notes as he could. At my request he afterwards sang unaccompanied."

The Hensley family, from whom Sharp recorded a number of songs in Carmen, NC, during 1916 , characteristically performed as an ensemble, with Reuben Hensley stating the melody on the fiddle, before his wife and daughter sang the song in unison. Reuben himself sang a couple of snatches of song with the fiddle.

Alan Lomax recorded nine songs from Jim Howard in Hazard, KY, which I rather like.

Those are obviously some time after the Civil War, of course.

On a related matter, I heard the opinion expressed a little while ago that much of what we now think of as Appalachian fiddle repertoire arose from published Scottish collections copied out into tune books for the use of Civil War musicians. I can provide no supporting publications, though. Any comments?


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 05:04 PM

Those *are* interesting, Brian. Thanks for calling our attention to them.

It isn't surprising that now and again somebody would think to sing while playing the fiddle (or vice versa). It just doesn't seem to have been at all usual.

The first time (and only time for many years) that I heard singer accompanying himself on a fiddle was on an LP reissue of a 78 recording of the song "The Blind Fiddler" (Roud 7833)

Henry Whitter may have been the performer.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 07:33 PM

As for the manuscript tune books of "Civil War musicians," there must have been some, but one would most likely have to be a band member or have an unusually large repertoire to need one.

There were a number of published American collections for fife and drum, which included some traditional tunes like "Garryowen" and "The Girl I Left Behind Me."

There were also "tutors" for banjo and for melodeon (another available but uncommon instrument). These contained lots of minstrel tunes like "Old Zip Coon," but not many tunes that we think of as "Appalachian."

Maybe more to the point, my experience is that these published collections had very little of what we think of as the "Appalachian fiddle repertoire."

I've been searching old newspaper data bases to find early mentions of the names of fiddle tunes (not just the Appalachian ones) and found few named before the 1890's. That's not to say the tunes weren't played, only that they weren't noticed much in print.

Part of the reason may be that till about the time of the First World War, the Appalachians were quite (though certainly not wholly) isolated. Pop tunes were more likely to come in through the railroad than folk tunes would come out.

And it may be a misconception that "most" or even "many" U.S. fiddle tunes "come from the British Isles." Two obvious examples would be "Soldier's Joy" and "The Girl I Left Behind Me" (both from the 18th century). There are others. What obviously came (or at least survived) were the reel and hornpipe forms - and very few jigs like "The Irish Washerwoman."

Maybe somebody can expand the list. I believe that the tune of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" is a cousin of "John Anderson, My Jo." But neither is a typical "Appalachian fiddle tune."

There may have been some French and German influences on the Appalachian repertoire as well. While the "Scotch-Irish" may have constituted the largest number of settlers, there were nearly as many English, and more French and Germans than one would expect.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 09:42 PM

Re: fiddle tunes - there were hundreds of collections and tune books printed prior to 1860 and these would have been learned, passed on and adapted. Many songs were sung to these melodies as well
Howe's 1000 jigs and reels (published by Mel Bay) Howe produced dozens of books like this
Ryan's mammoth tune books
etc etc


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 09:46 PM

By the way, Howe's book contains what he calls "Ethiopian melodies" such as 10 little Negroes, Happy are we darkies so gay,Get along home my yaller gals, plus Old Dan Tucker,Jim Crack Corn, and Jim Crow


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Aug 18 - 10:09 PM

> Howe's 1000 jigs and reels (published by Mel Bay) Howe produced dozens of books like this
Ryan's mammoth tune books

Lots of British and Irish tunes in these. I don't think you'll find "Old Joe Clark," "Barlow Knife," or "Last of Callahan," for example.

The "Ethiopian melodies" are, of course, minstrel productions.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Aug 18 - 03:32 AM

The Howe and Ryan books postdate the Civil War, surely?

There were very few British dance tune books in print at the time, either. There was Surenne's in Scotland, but that was deluxe and expensive. Kerr in the late 1870s was the first big cheap one.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Aug 18 - 10:20 AM

Hi, Jack. "Ryan's Mammoth" first appeared in 1883.

Howe's "1,000 Jigs and Reels" antedates the war, however, having appeared in 1860.

It would be interesting to analyze its sources. But since Howe was a publisher, not a tune collector, any "traditional fiddle tunes" not in earlier publications could only have come from Howe's acquaintances in the Boston area, even if some may have originated farther afield.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 15 Aug 18 - 09:30 AM

Actually Howe's books, and others, are even earlier (The Musician's Companion 1840)and were a reaction to the expense of individual sheet music. In fact, these collections go back into the 17th C and were used by dance masters, such as Playford, to teach various dances of the time as well as provide tunes for the many collections of lyrics compiled for public use (Caledonian Pocket Companion etc etc). There are way too many to mention here; various archives are full of them. They were learned and passed through the oral/aural tradition as well.

Regarding the tunes mentioned, please remember that people would often change or replace the names of tunes for various reasons- one would have to do an extensive analysis of the collections to say that these tunes did not exist previously.
See Planxty George Barbazon / The Isle of Skye/ Twa Bonny Maidens- all the same tune, some with additional parts.

best- J


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Aug 18 - 01:01 PM

The Caledonian Pocket Companion was intended for deep pockets in every sense. The budget option in the later 18th century was Aird's books, which got everywhere and were very widely copied (witness the Village Music Project's manuscripts from early 19th century England).

But nothing like that was published in Britain in the early 1800s. Middleton and Cameron were first to produce cheap sizable collections, but nobody until Kerr published anything affordable with Aird's scope.


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Subject: RE: Opinionated Civil War Music Article
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Aug 18 - 03:13 PM

Julia and Jack,

While Howe's collection and others may be chock-full of Appalachian fiddle tunes under different (presumably Hiberno-British) titles, nobody has shown this to be the case. From my own limited experience, I'm extremely skeptical of this idea. I'm somewhat more familiar with O'Neill, and over the years have noticed almost nothing identifiably American in his books, except, if I recall correctly, a few international hits of the late 19th century like "Turkeys [sic] in the Straw," "Arkansas Traveler," and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again."

But I'd defer to someone who's actually examined the question.

The burden is on the many writers in the past who asserted, on scanty evidence and a lot of assumptions, that American fiddle tunes were imported from Britain in great numbers. In the absence of actual analysis, the reasoning seems to be that it could be true, so it's probably true and therefore really is true.

Levels of folk-music scholarship have varied wildly.


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