Saturday, May 14, 2011

and we'll all go together

I am not at the movies. I thought about going because it might be a historic night, but I cleaned my apartment instead, and now I'm hanging out with mineral water, olives, and YouTube. I love spending leisure time looking through the endless offerings on that site, put up lovingly by fans who want to share whatever it is they love. It's the Internet at its finest, all this performance available and findable.

My latest jones is for American ethnic popular music. MtMn's Viennese forays into blues sparked this. Of course he's met a variety of echte Wiener with impenetrable accents who know more about American blues than both of us put together, and he spent hours on YT listening to rough. tangy gospel and blues from the 20s and 30s in preparation for his gigs. I learned about a time when Texas and Alabama sounded wildly different, and how eventually some of those people would follow the trains and the money up to Chicago and Detroit, bringing their music with them to be shared and changed. Somehow John Lee Hooker leads to Aretha leads to Jay-Z.

My grandfather was born in Ireland. I remember him actually singing "Kathleen Mavourneen" to me once, and "I'll Take you Home Again, Kathleen" (I was well into adulthood before I thought that those songs were not really about me or my name but about the grief and cost of leaving home). There were Clancy Brothers recordings in the house, music from the old country sung for the new country, but largely for the emigres or those with ties to them. I'm fascinated with that era around the great wars, Connie Francis singing in Italian and Lou Monte in dialect, Fanny Brice with her Yiddishisms, all those Irish bands, all the poor people's music becoming popular. These stories pale in comparison to the story of black Americans' musics, their popularization, co-opting, and metamorphosis, but all the stories are damn interesting.

Here I am in opera's old country, avoiding the HD screen and the things I long and dread to see. Instead I use technology to listen to the music of the Kellys, joyous and drunken and sad and nostalgic. No, it's me that's nostalgic - the music is still vibrant and full of information about a people and a way of life. Humorous, raw, tough, irreverent, pious, it still speaks to me.

Across the ocean wild and wide, a father is parting from his daughter forever. I'm reaching through the screen for something that has not yet disappeared.


No comments: