Playlists: Part One

I recently subscribed to the YouTube Music streaming app, and have been making playlists. There are now many music apps to choose from. I was using Tidal and before that Spotify. To the neophyte, they’re all pretty much the same, click and listen. But for messing around, collecting music, forming playlists, using the app as a reference and research tool, YouTube Music seems to be working well, with one major caveat: lack of performer credits and original recording info easily obtainable while listening – but in that regard, neither Spotify nor Tidal were much better (Prime Music has some info, but lacks detail amid glitzy formatting, while YouTube Music has imported some Wiki discussion). The YouTube Music library is huge, and the search engine responds intuitively, bringing up at least as often as not what I’m looking for, and when not, the discoveries are a pleasure.

I created a YouTube channel to post my playlists. The playlists I’m making are referenced to songs pulled from my music book collection: songs and pieces from readings from books on music, with a special emphasis on guitar.

The first two playlists I made contain pieces adapted from Jerry Silverman instruction manuals, books I’ve managed to keep around me over the years: The Folksinger’s Guitar Guide: An Instruction Manual by Jerry Silverman, Based on the Folkways Record by Pete Seeger (an Oak Publication, New York, 1962), and The Art of the Folk-Blues Guitar: An Instruction Manual by Jerry Silverman (Oak Publications, New York, 1964, Library of Congress # 64-18168). These two books are similar in format, the old black and white pictures alone worth the price of admission, and include notes, tablature, chord diagrams, lyrics, musical analysis, and historical discussion.

In his introduction to his Folk-Blues guitar book, Silverman outlines his predicament at the time: “… there is more information on blues in general in the New York Public Library, for example, in German and French than there is in English!” (11). And Silverman goes on to describe the problem, how, for example, working on his 1955 New York University Master’s Thesis on blues guitar, and his book “Folk Blues” that followed, discussion was limited to piano arrangements, since it was thought that “bona fide guitar arrangements would limit the book’s general usefullness.” This should come as no surprise – Julian Bream, the classical guitarist, when studying music at the Royal College of Music, in the early 1950’s, was told to leave his guitar at home, literally. The school had no guitar classes, no guitar program; the guitar was not considered a viable, virtuous instrument. There was no academically established canon of guitar music available for study or performance. This prejudice against the instrument, in spite of its obvious public popularity, was no doubt also pervasive and included in the States in attitudes opposed to black music, initially of rock and roll music, and of folk music in general, though what is now called the American folk music revival, lasting from the 30’s to the 60’s, did much to mainstream the popularity of the guitar and of blues and folk music.

Silverman also describes his purpose as follows: “Naturally, some basis of what to listen and watch for and whom to imitate must be laid. Throwing the fledgling bluesnik into the turbulent waters of Bluesville without the necessary basic information and technique would render a distinct disservice to the general cause – not to mention the specific aspirant” (11). Of course whole rivers of water have passed under cities of bridges since Silverman’s early 1960’s comments. But the following statement explains something that has not changed: “To get to know how things really are done you must actually observe the player in action. Since there are so many individual styles one never stops learning if one can get to see as well as hear as many guitarists as possible” (Folksinger’s Guitar Guide, p. 5).

The academic bias against the folk guitar may have been somewhat justified considering Woody Guthrie’s description of his method (quoted by Silverman in Folksinger’s Guitar Guide, p. 6): “Leadbelly learnt to play the guitar the same way I did, by ‘ear’, by ‘touch’ by ‘feel’, by ‘bluff’, by ‘guessin”, by ‘fakin’ and by a great crave and drive to keep on playing.”

Well, these were real folks, with real blues. Hearing the lyrics, the stories, of these old tunes one may be surprised to learn or be reminded of how real and how blue. In creating my playlists, I want to stay true to original material but also to benefit from new styles and covers of these old songs.

Give them a listen:

Songlist adapted from Jerry Silverman’s The Art of the Folk-Blues Guitar, 1964
Songlist adapted from Jerry Silverman’s The Folksinger’s Guitar Guide, 1962

Autumn Leaves

The orange leaves maple red-orange wet
stick to the cement pavement dot dabs
blossom the evergreen rhododendron
leaves a second bloom in a wild season

The squirrels rush along summer songs
kisses and sunburnt hands fall and fail
return to sender on repeat and I did not
see the leaves falling but there they are

like the linoleum floor of the barber shop
where I’ve not been since last fall and Joe
and the Barbettes sing and dance about
the fallen hair the yellow silver hair falls

falling to the floor like the falling leaves
outdoors golden drifts now to be swept
the grating rake the browning mass pile
and the nights grow long not the days

I’ve never understood that Johnny Mercer
line in Autumn Leaves – for the days grow
short not long as the song of winter comes
closer and you my love move further away.

A clear cold morning

The coffee cups crack in the cold
The cat questions the catastrophe
The café down the hill as empty
As any church of barefooted nuns
When He says, “Please be settled.”
The coffeehouse is more than a cup
Accouterments of sugar, cream, style
Off the beam customers each with
Phone, space, and prayer, and me,
I have half a cup and 10% battery
Warning morning this mourning this
Coffee cat cafe of Supreme indifference.

Rubato

One rues the day on pillory display
one’s last tweet skids street stocks
to ad-lib a life one means to loose
the self from one’s love’s strictures
with daily tinctures of absent mind
edness not mindfulness mind you
on free range one affords to ignore
the pranger to be clear (for once)
contempt for public humiliation
only worsens one’s foot whipped
condition and enlivens passersby
to come closer and reach out not
to help but to tickle taking easier
forms of torture of clean beatings
this the dunce cap prepared you
for the report card without wit
and those sounds in the distance
coming over the mountains over
sand dunes and from far down
under the railroad tracks a dark
portentous prattle of pompous
importance back home to roost
one plays out of time for only
so long usually in fact for just
instances in time such that we
often don’t even notice a slip-up
especially in our time when time
has already been so economized
compromised clock punch drunk
now thirsty now dry now thirsty
in the twilight I see glow
blue eyes turn to gold.

Cats

Some cats are wiry others fat away
this one wary that one behind naive
a cat for all seasons for every girl
and all good boys out on the town.

The Falstaffian cat scats doo-doo-pow
night’s toil scratched in a kit lit box
drops his slow slurs keeps us a lilt
trolls nixie but in the end refuses.

The cat who comments with nothing
to say falls late into Trouble Tavern
the cat who daily cancels negates
good counsel and drinks all down.

All this cats lie about and lie in wait
for the day is hot long and the night
yet weary the stop cease and go of it
infinite but as quick as this conscript.

The Cat’s Meough

The cat comes quietly a Sunday morning
blue eyes lightly freckled cheeks glossy
smooth silver fur tasselling corn down
lips oysters on the half shell half open
legs the dance of life waiting to erupt
on the private stage of her boudoir.

She walks in weird beauty this cat
on two legs with patience galore
knows full well her lustrous sheen
when seen in the crackling of old
magazines etiolates the cold celery
stalks flowering in the veggie garden.

For a cymbal cup of truth and trust
and what good has it ever done
her to have even one man shun
while another calls her gorgeous
rather have the cat in your lap
purring your fingers thru her pelt.

This Bird has Flown

Sung to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”

Must be some way out of here,
said the birdie to the fan.
There’s too much collusion,
I can’t get no peace.
Tycoons pluck my feathers,
bots bugger my burrows,
and the policymakers know
not what anything is worth.

Now let’s not get uptight,
the fan whispered in delight.
The whole point of the site
has always been an in-joke.
What’s trending now changes
peeply, and real Bluechecks
don’t look or follow back.
No one knows what time it is.

All along the virtuality
enabled users awoke.
Social dullsville friends
and fiends came and went.
Outside in the distance
a new reality did growl,
two Martians were approaching,
and the Earth began to howl.

Down by the Bay

Summer so dry
waiting for rain
under a tree
radio plays.

Sign by the road
cafe ice cold beer
and the night
falls so slow
down by the bay.

White caps like snow
valley so low
river unfolds
down by the sea.

Walking alone
at night red tide beach
and the sun
takes a bath
down by the bay.

Waiting for you
out in the waves
sand dunes so blue
down by the bay.

And a Song of Despair

And despair is to separate to break up
to stop falling in love and hit bottom
down from to hope and to be the despair
of another now absent and in a state
of disrepair collapse and abandonment
like the house on a dead moon unplugged
in the mist of space dust floating falling.

To disengage throw away toss out fall
back without limbs to swim or fins to flap
the earnest muscles sore as a dam morn
train slowly pulling out of a foggy station
leaving your sad waves to platform alone
waiting for the next train hands waving
from disappearing windows brakes off.

Dissed and pool pissed despondent one
the heart crestfallen full of sorrow sick
as a parrot unable to breathe or repeat
how hap hap happy we were when we
happily eschewed commas and went non
stop without regard for clarity to others
or any kind of on time railroad timetable.

From pillow to pillow I missed you
but love is on the dot not wanting
a life of one’s own but a share
of the Earth a clear spot to bed
down without fear of knowing
what can never be fully known
or understood the random odds

and ends the noise some call music
others say poppycock and applesauce
I wash my eyes out with vinegar
and oil my hair for the dark night
of the soul is here drumming door
rhythms untuned sonic booms
as I fall through the night gloom

destined to wreck on the jetty pokes
into the ocean waves oh Lord please
let me be misunderstood disregarded
by anyone but with her I cannot be
seen this drowning in words won’t
work then or now what silence wanted
was for me to go up into love the altar

boy who understood but a few words
of Latin and even then daydreamed
through the mass of the sea and waves
fell asleep on the altar but awoke quick
and jangled the bells upsetting sisters
yes an old story now how then he met
the girl of not dreams but awakening.

What is sundered cannot be surrendered
alone now at the end of the voyage one
sees coming through the morning ocean
fog your bright sun of yellow hair your sky
of blue eyes your cotton candy cheeks
of dunes freckled with tiny sad flowers
your strong legs soft hands your sand

highs and little lows your kisses full
of compassion your fall frowns your
annoying finger in my yawns your grab
pulling the rear view mirror off its mount
laughing tussled hair your silence in my
despair your stubborn insistence we
make a life together out of despair.

Twenty Love Poems: 20

Mornings stolen cold dirty socks on damp
feet slushed street Bathsheba and the kids
sleep past the cryptic graffiti on the corner
phone booth an annunciation to be glad
to rejoice as we once recess Angelus rings
asked joy in backyard bestowed with sun.

Between no yes we stopped and I touched
the fruit of your wamb womb cherry bomb
compassionately swallowed your freckled
cheeks whole like the great horned owl
absorbs the snouty mouse grace flavored
rain blurred eyes wiper smeared drive.

Byssus threaded hand in hand hip to hip
we survived ice storms attached to rocks
blessed grace full I kissed your salt but
now thin and weak bland unpalatable
the beach is closed to surfers who pray
for waves gone by sucked into sand.

Our songs drift into space beyond sound
what cannot be seen or measured is love
yeah we rocked and rolled and jazzed it
up but in the end we are just a folk duo
doomed to sing our same old love song
oldie of oldies on infinite scratched repeat.

Soma of couple submerged together sing
a sleeping song awake these hundreds
of years adoring each breast to breast
and now my heart before need of repair
asks to roll up what sweetness remains
into one last rollicking bollocking ball.