Monday, June 9, 2014

Workshops at the Northwest Folklife Festival

Image: Northwest Folklife
From my trip to Fort Nisqually on Saturday, May 24, 214, I found out about the Northwest Folklife
Festival when I overcame my hesitation to talk to one of the interpretive staff at the Fort. He was playing Banjo and let me know about the festival running the same weekend.

So, Sunday morning I was on my way to Seattle City Center to take in the 42nd Annual Northwest Folklife Festival. The festival has been running for 42 years and is a community run event. As such, there is no entry fee but they collect donations throughout the event. It was packed with a lot of people and had a very folky/hippie vibe.

While there I thought the following Buskers/bands were good:
Image: Wikipedia
While at the festival I took in two workshops. The first was about Diatonic Pushbutton Accordions. That was an amazing introduction to the various types of Diatonic Accordions, the differences between them, and how the limitations of each style resulted in the sound that a particular music style has. For example, Cajun music used a style of Accordion which was only available in the key of C or D hence those were the keys used for that style. The Accordion models at the time also had large internal baffles which took longer to inflate meaning that the time from pressing a button to the time you heard the note
was longer than other models of Accordion (such as the accordions used for British Polka) and as such those limitations impacted the Cajun sound.

The Accordion talk was a great look into how musicians, many of them laborers/farmers without formal music instruction, built up a sound of music from the tools they had. It truly is amazing how you don't need a specific instrument to make music, you just need an instrument.

The second Workshop was an Introduction to Blues Slide Guitar with Michael "Hawkeye" Herman. This talk was again, amazing and so worth taking the time to see.

As someone who has been playing slide for a little under a year now, this was great to help fill in some of my knowledge. Hawkeye spoke about the history of the Blues, it's roots in African music, and the instruments available to the Black Slaves when they arrived in America. He spoke about how the Blues is an aural music that has it's roots in spoken language.

The need to be able to have notes in between the 12 note circle of Western music led Blues musicians to start using the slide to play guitars. This is what allows a Blues guitarist to make the guitar speak. He also demonstrated this and explained how many Blues songs are repeating the spoken word but via the guitar. Hence, the singer can stop singing part way through a song and you can still hear the song as if the singing has not stopped.

His demonstration was fantastic and his voice is pure Blues. I was very happy to find another Blues musician to study.

So, I am glad to have found out about this festival and will be back.

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