In the art world the authenticity of a work of art follows from its provenance—the verifiable record of who made it, who purchased it and for how much, where and when it was exhibited, and so on. Documents are determinant, hearsay is worthless.
In traditional music, hearsay is all. The provenance of a tune is replayed and retold in tones as ephemeral and as necessary as dreams.
Last spring we played the Veterans Hall in Petersburg, NY at the intersection of Routes 2 and 22. The building looks like an army bunker—an enormous, squat half-tube built of corrugated aluminum circa 1947. Beside the front door a hand-lettered sign on fluorescent pink poster board announced our concert. Above it hung the notice of the meetings of the Boys Scout Troop #222, first and third Mondays of the month.
This post is about upstate gigs.
On the flight back from New Mexico last month I finished the novel, My Dream of You by Irish writer Nuala O’Faolain.
O’Faolain’s writing is gorgeous, startling. Think Hilary Mantel unzipped and shipped north. Colm Tóibín said of his friend’s work that it “was like someone breaking glass.” The writing urges you on even as it makes you wish both that it would last forever, and that the pain it records as the price of a certain beauty would stop. I got to the end of the book, rapturous.
This post is about the tune that led me to the book.