The winter must be well on the wane; the weather's been beautiful and the fog horns have been bellowing from Point Bonita and the Golden Gate. A few months ago I attempted to make a decent recording of the foghorn soundscape from my apartment. I think I'll need a better recording set up if I want minimize the effects of the wind and electronics, and maximize the echoing horns and swelling waves. Here's how the five horns on the Bridge sounded out at the end of Chrissy Field a few months ago.
FOGHORNS FROM CHRISSY FIELD
It's a long track, but maybe you can put it on to fall asleep to. I had a tape of foghorns recorded around the bay that I used to listen to at night when I was younger. I remember thinking then that the tape was old and that they didn't have fog horns any more. I moved into my apartment on a foggy day and was immediately enchanted.
The show continues with a recording I made about a month ago as I was catching a train to the East Bay. Sitting outside of the turnstiles of the Embarcadero BART/Muni station I spotted the bearded and smiling Dick Stanley playing the banjo in a spirited and idiosyncratic style. After listening for a few songs I leaned over the fare barriers and struck up a conversation with him. When I realized that his strange style was caused by the fact that his fifth string peg was busted and that he couldn't afford to replace it I decided I'd forfeit my BART fare and set down my lap top for a spell. Here's my favorite part of the recording; it's Dick's rendition of Deep Ellum Blues and Little Maggie with, I believe, some Old Joe Clark thrown in between, probably (as you can hear) a result of my unsuccessful attempt at identifying Deep Ellum.
DEEP ELLUM BLUES - Dick Stanley
OLD JOE CLARK / LITTLE MAGGIE - Dick Stanley
DEEP ELLUM BLUES - OLD JOE CLARK / LITTLE MAGGIE (COMBINED) - Dick Stanley
"Oh yonder stands little Maggie
With a dram glass in her hands
She's drinking away her troubles
She's a courting some other man
Sounds like that song's about Angelina Jolie!"
"One In 8 Million" project) even did a little online feature on him. (This was published last October and I notice that his fifth string peg was gone even then. I'm starting to wonder if his story about affording a new one is a ruse and that perhaps this is just his four-string playing style, even though he's still very much within the 5-string banjo tradition. Curious.) Maybe it's his prime location or maybe it's just the way we look at a banjo and tie it to a whole web of ideas about musical truth and Americanism. Think about it. The street performer with a guitar and the one with the banjo: which do you see as the real American folk musician?
I like how that last image seems so discordant. It feels like a stretch to think of street performers as folk musicians (not to mention as "performers"). Folk is so clean-cut and white, right? I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an old-time banjo player and record collector who, while discussing the "folk" in "folk music," pointed out that they didn't call the guitar player on the 78 we were listening to "Peg Leg" for the hell of it. "These were dirty mother-fuckers!"