My book is due in September and the chapters aren’t coming along quickly enough. Doesn’t it seem like only recently I was writing a book about parapsychology? And now, two seconds later, I’m coming to the end of writing a book about singing? How did that happen?

I was thinking how so many people think they can’t sing and they actually can. They’re like me, they may not have the most beautiful voice in the world, but they can mostly sing in tune and they don’t suck. Except they think they do. So, what? Were they surrounded by mean teachers and parents telling them they couldn’t sing?

Then there are the people who really can’t sing trying out for American Idol without a clue as to how bad they are. They had overly kind teachers and parents, I guess.

Well, time to get to work Buddy. I’m working on three chapters, one about singing coal miners, one about a long dead and forgotten composer named Francis Boott, and one about a piece by Morten Lauridsen. What are you working on?? (Buddy’s answer: “My tour of the nap spots in this establishment.”)

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

7 thoughts on “Panicking

  1. I’m practicing a set list for the monthly meeting of the Travellers Rest Historical Society (seriously). It has been sort of difficult to find a balance between traditional fiddle tunes–some of which predate the Civil War–and more recent songs. By recent I mean since the 1920’s or 30’s. Should be a fun show.

    You probably know this already, but it was very common in the early part of the 20th Century for musicians to change their name before embarking on a career in music. It was generally viewed that someone wanting to be a musician was just dodging real work…so I wonder if that’s an effect that has lingered in some way. I know I love music and would sit on my folding chair and play all day, every day if I could…but I never considered it as an option for a job. I wasn’t encouraged to, that’s for certain.

    Then again, the market for early American fiddle tunes probably ins’t huge.

  2. That’s me playing the mandolin. The fiddler is a friend. Fiddle tunes are sort of a hobby…and one that can get away from you. There are countless tunes and regional variants of tunes. You can seemingly never hit the bottom of that well.

    I guess I really should have clarified that I was talking about rural musicians–the Country Blues or stringband variety. If you could pick, why would you want to hoe corn or pick cotton? There were plenty that still did since it looked like you were dodging labor if you didn’t. I don’t think that helped the fiddle’s “Devil’s Box” reputation any.

  3. Oh my god!!!! You guys are great!! (I loved the little boy coming in and out of the scene.) Seriously though, WOW WOW WOW.

    I envy you. Your talent, the effort you summoned to get this good, now you get to sit and play like that.

  4. Thank you! The little boy is my son David, who comes along with me most of the time. As you can tell he always manages to keep himself busy.

    You are so right though–I realized about six months ago that I literally didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on with the world. I had become completely immersed…but I think it paid off. In fact, I am playing some of these tunes for a benefit for the Humane Society tomorrow afternoon.

  5. So that’s today? How did it go? Your son was adorable. The first time he appears he’s like dancing across the scene in the back.

  6. It went very fine indeed, and David kept his front row heckling to a minimum. He is essentially part of every show passing seemingly arbitrary judgements on the music. His only complaint tonight was that our singing was too loud. Turn that down, Daddy, he says. He had a point I suppose. We play step-up style to a single mic in the fashion of the 20’s, and the mic was way too hot.

    They surprised us and put us on first. When we walked off the second band said “We’re supposed to follow that?” I took it as a compliment.

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