Saturday, 13 June 2009

Oral Tradition, Bob Dylan, Friday Night...

The music I've played on and off most of my life, and pretty much constantly the last sixteen years, Irish traditional music, is, or used to be, and still mostly is at its core, learned orally, or aurally (I can never work out which is which).

You hear a tune enough times, played by enough people, and then lo and behold, the Magnificent Brain Recording Apparatus has done the business, and you take the fiddle out, and realise you can play it.

That's the first stage. Then you try playing it with the people you've been listening to, or perhaps you had it from other people, and different people play it and you join in, and realise there is a note here, a note there, where you've got it 'wrong'.

So you correct it. Then, you play with some other people again, and they play it how you had it in the first place.

That's why it's good to be adaptable, to know a dozen versions, to be able to be able to play a different version to the ones you know as you come across them.

Onto to dear old Bob. I find it disturbing that he has this website with all his lyrics up. I was humming Isis in my head earlier, and stupidly looked at the lyrics, and realised for more than twenty years I've been hearing him wrong! The bastard!

Four instances:

He has:

I came to a high place of darkness and light.
The dividing line ran through the center of town.
I hitched up my pony to a post on the right,
Went in to a laundry to wash my clothes down.


I have:

I came to a high place of darkness and light.
The body line ran through the center of town.
I hitched up my pony to a post on the right,
Went in to a laundry to wash my clothes down.


He has:

She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise.
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed,
I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes.
I cursed her one time then I rode on ahead.


I have:

She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise.
Blinded by sleep and in need of a bath,
I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes.
I cursed the one time that I rode on ahead.


Full text here.

Well, I prefer my version. I prefer the weird ambiguity of body line, and I love the dirtiness of "in need of a bath", and I really and utterly prefer "I cursed the one time that I rode on ahead" over "I cursed her one time then I rode on ahead."

That said, maybe a gumby was employed to transcribe. Maybe he sings it differently everytime.

But that is the thing about learning by ear. We get it wrong. Songs, tunes, evolve. We do our damnedest to avoid changing them, but they still change, and we hate people who have shite versions because they are too lazy to listen. Change creeps in no matter how good you are. But change from idleness is unforgivable.

See, Friday night. I'm being self-indulgent and blathering on some of the things that I find important.

My apologies.

Other questions I find important?... Too many. Another day.

Keep safe all. Dx

2 comments:

lettersfromexile said...

Misheard lyrics are better. They always mean more to you.

Abysmal Musings said...

Misheard anything is generally better, don't you find?