December 21, 2019

From the ACTA family to yours, we are pleased to present you with two pieces of American old time music. These pieces of music come to you from the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention (BOTMC), one of 40 organizations supported by ACTA’s 2019 Living Cultures Grants Program.

According to BOTMC, old time music combines Anglo, African-American, and Native American traditions to create a uniquely American vernacular art form. This music originally developed in the rural areas of the southern Appalachians, but as people have gradually left the countryside to seek work in the city, old-time music increasingly takes place in urban settings. The tracks below are yours to download to your personal library, with the compliments of the artists. Feel free to share it with others.

As you listen, consider what you make possible when you donate to ACTA. You can help us support organizations like BOTMC. You can nurture vibrant cultural communities. You can make California a better place for all of us.

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Three Way Hornpipe

This piece is a cross-generational, cross-continental collaboration between musicians from Tennessee and California, featuring master fiddler Mike Bryant with his former apprentice, Joseph Decosimo, on banjo; both are from Tennessee. They are joined by San Francisco guitarist Karen Celia Heil. Karen first met and performed with Mike and Joseph at the BOTMC, and has since recorded three critically acclaimed CDs and toured in the U.S. and Europe as part of Joseph’s band, the Bucking Mules.

Their rendition of Three Way Hornpipe, a dance tune (which is not actually a hornpipe) learned from Tennessee fiddler John Sharp Sr., is a perfect example of the mesmerizing, trance-like feeling that is emblematic of old-time fiddle music. Old time dance fiddling does not feature solos, and privileges rhythm and ensemble playing over virtuosity. The fiddle and banjo play the melody together, steam-roller style, over and over and over without much variation.

Much like chanting in various types of spiritual practices, these hypnotic repetitions create a shared creative experience in which the self becomes subsumed into a larger entity.

Darlin’ Don’t You Know That’s Wrong

Traditional singer Ginny Hawker, from West Virginia, sings an unaccompanied song which she learned from ballad singer Addie Graham.  Both women were raised in the Old Baptist church tradition, which forbids the use of musical instruments.  The power and intensity of Ginny’s voice in this seemingly simple song tells a whole story in four brief verses.

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