Thursday, November 29, 2012


If I could have gotten away with keeping the drums I would have, and judging from the chaos of my landlady's basement, maybe I could have, but my first memory of visceral musical pleasure as a kid came from my dad's John McCutcheon hammer dulcimer records. Something about those cascades of sound hit me in a good way (my other early childhood musical memories involve being creeped out by "Riders on the Storm," hating the song "Kokomo" after hearing it on the muzak at Marc's, and liking Creedence), and while I didn't quite get into music until much later in life, there was something I always liked about that instrument.

My dad's cousin played one and let me try it, and now that the student loans are paid off, I started trolling Craigslist for one that wasn't in some Ohiostan middle-of-nowhere locale and didn't cost a ton of money and ended up carrying home a very large one from the suburb next door. The guy I bought it from put me in touch with a friend of his who teaches, and last night I returned to the beloved homeland of Parmastan in search of him at a Ukrainian cultural center I didn't even know existed, nestled behind a small cathedral with a Holodomor memorial in front in the "Ukrainian Village" along State.

I walk in feeling all mutty with my mixed-Catholic heritage of Irish and Polish now somewhat lapsed, there are kids folkdancing in the hall, a bulletin board advertises church goings-on, as well as lessons in the mother tongue and the bandura, and a nice lady directs me up the stairs past paintings of saints and photos of bearded patriarchs. where it's not so much generalized "certain ethnic" as a very specific thing and I wonder if I'll be outed as a curious poser when I sit down in a just-vacated classroom upstairs.

He plays in a local ethnic music ensemble (clip below) and says he can give me lessons, that he knows the Eastern European tradition the best (I had no clue there are several ways to tune my new instrument, no clue about anything really) and what do I want to learn and I don't know how to explain "I just want to sound good and I find things like Dead Can Dance way inspiring" and I feel like I've just tumbled down some beautiful sonic rabbit hole when I watch him play the cimbalom that makes what I have look like a child's toy.

Every year I try to learn something new, and this is what it looks like it will be, and the slide into eccentricity continues.

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