Thursday, August 11, 2011

Craftsmanship -- Part I

     I believe that a well-played traditional tune and an expertly handcrafted object have much in common.

     The handcrafted object has a dual purpose -- it awakens a sense of beauty for the beholder, and it performs a function.  Form and function are intermingled.  A tune is a delight to hear -- and perhaps to watch as a musicians plays it -- but it also serves a social function by providing a rhythm required for a specific dance.

     In a handcrafted object, the beholder can perceive the maker's expression of individuality.  Likewise, a tune conveys the individual touch of the musician.

     Conversely, the marks of the maker of a handcrafted object bear the indirect imprint of the maker's master, and the master's master, and so on.  In some cases, this lineage extends back for hundreds of years.  I know a baker whose loaves seem to carry that kind of weight, in juxtaposition to the lightness of his own touch.  I've heard musicians play a tune in which it seemed that generations of ancestors were touching the strings.

     When an artisan crafts an object to bring it into the world, its physical presence resonates with the consciousness and focus of the processes that created it.  I cherish the memories of two fiddlers who played tune after tune, delving into memories of places and friends to bring each melody forth like a glowing jewel.


  1. That's a good piece of writing, Andy, and thoughtful. I sometimes find the "noble savage" element of folk music a bit trying ... the sort who say, "Just play and stop thinking about it." Yes, it's a balance, and at some point you have to "just play" ("let go" or "trust your instincts"), but the care and thought that goes into good playing (and the appreciation of good playing) is equally essential.

  2. The problem with "just playing" is that when one does that, what comes out bears traces of the status quo, which is mostly commercial, corporate music-like noise.