Archive for the ‘Old time’ Category

Another geek alert:

Last time I wrote about digitizing LPs. Here’s my newest techno toy: the Zoom H2 digital recorder. I used this on a recent trip to Virginia for the Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition.

My sister Jean, a musician and educator who lives near Wayne in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia had invited me and I decided to test the H2 as a field recorder. I was really impressed. I used it for a story I later did for WHQR. You can find the story, and some of my original files, here.

With an 8G card, the H2 can record about 12 hours of stereo in WAV format, which is far less lossy than mp3. Of course, for the web and for many purposes mp3s are just fine; I use a Mac program called Amadeus to convert WAV to mp3. More on Amadeus later.

The H2 actually uses 4 mikes in pairs to record sound. You can direct the sound recording to the front stereo (facing you as you look at the controls), rear stereo (facing away), 2-channel front and rear, and 4-channel surround.

I quickly realized that for audio production I got best results from the 4-channel. In this mode the H2 actually makes simultaneous recordings from the front 2-channel and rear 2-channel. You can choose whichever one you like, or both. The front version takes in a 90-degree stereo field, good for a small group of musicians, for example. The rear setting’s field is 120 degrees, better for a larger group.

For my music recordings, even though I recorded in 4-channel mode, I only used the rear track since I was recording a fairly large group and didn’t need anything from my direction. What really fascinated me, though, was the way it worked for my interview with Erynn Marshall of the Blue Ridge Music Center.

I held the mike about halfway between the 2 of us, so the front channel got my voice and the rear channel got hers. All around us was the ambient noise of people cleaning up after a concert by Doc Watson.

You can see what this looks like in this Amadeus wave file. Originally these were two separate files; I copied and pasted one into the other, after clicking “Add New Stereo Track.” So now there are 2 stereo tracks here. My voice is in the 2 upper channels, hers in the lower 2. You can easily see who speaks when.

What’s remarkable is that the makers of the H2 thought to flip the stereo image between front and back, so the surrounding ambience is correct even though they point 180 degrees opposite each other.

We’re still not at a satisfactory stereo image, though. So I click on the upper track (my voice) and click “Merge With Next Track”. Voila! one single track with nice stereo ambience, and both of our voices in the middle.

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Grayson-Highlands State Park, near Mouth of Wilson, VA. My li’l sister Jean is Secretary of the Festival Committee. “Always the 3rd Saturday in June, rain or shine.”

Wayne is a celebrated  old-time musician and guitar builder who famously kept Eric Clapton waiting 10 years for his to be built.

Update 7/12/10: Voice of America recently did a feature story about Wayne. Thanks, Jean!

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DrRalphStanleyBookIn a recent thread on the Fasola discussions group (about Sacred Harp and other shape-note styles), I wrote about the close connection between music and its place of origin.

I should have let the great Ralph Stanley do the talking. Here’s a quote from the 11/16 Newsweek, taken from Ralph’s book Man of Constant Sorrow:

We were the last generation from these mountains to live from the earth . . . It was a hard life and there was a lot of suffering. But the music we made couldn’t have come from any other place or time. The suffering was part of what made the music strong, and I reckon that’s why it’s lasted . . . What’s real doesn’t die.

He’s talking about his kind of old-time music, of course, but to me this speaks to Sacred Harp as well.

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John Stinson’s #2

In my last post I mentioned that my sister Jean was getting ready to present her first house concert. Here’s a YouTube clip of one of her selections on lap dulcimer, a tune known to old time musicians as John Stinson’s #2. Jean learned this version from Mary Z. Cox.

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My li’l sister Jean Callison will present her first house concert tonight. She’s been playing and singing Appalachian music for years. She’ll perform at my sister Margaret’s house on hammered dulcimer, autoharp, guitar, banjo and more.

Jean just took a teaching position at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, VA. It’s right off US 58 (a/k/a The Crooked Road), so she’s certain to be involved with music. She also just returned from a week of music at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, and is really enthused about this.

I’ll be videotaping some of it and we’ll see what happens. Way to go, Jeanie Beans!

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