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MK-Ultra and Other Poems

The new episode of The Agency Podcast is now available. Listen here or find it at all the good podcast places.

We have two guests this week. Special agent Sarah talks with us about the CIA and their victims of poisoning, and Madison Joy gives Eugene a hand reading.

If you would also like a hand reading please contact Madison on Instagram at TruthAmplified_Studio

Find Sarah at Swallowing the Camel.

Other topics we discuss in this episode…

Censorship in art
When fiction and reality cross
Philip Guston
Jasper Johns
Safe public protocols
American Rust
Hand reading

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Woodchopper’s Breakdown

I’m not sure the origin of the Woodchopper’s Breakdown. I think it may be a Ned Landry composition. I believe it to be a Canadian tune at least, although it is played in America and other parts of the world as well.

Here’s Ned Landry’s recording:

Here’s a fine performance of the tune by a British fiddler, known as Peakfiddler on YouTube.

Patti Kusturok recorded it for YouTube as part of her 2015 365 Days of Fiddle Tunes. She mentions in the video it comes from an old Don Messer Book. That’s a book I have at home, called Don Messer’s Way Down East Fiddlin’ Tunes. It has loads of great fiddle tunes.

I’m trying to learn this one now. It’s pretty notey and usually played quite fast, so it’s a challenge, but I love this tune and it turns out it’s a lot of fun to play, even for a duffer like me.

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Adventures in Fiddleland

I’ve always admired fiddlers. In jams at banjo camp and at old time festivals, I’ve been in awe at the ability of fiddle players. Humans can’t do this, I decided. These people must be our overlords from another planet. Along the way I’ve learned to play some button accordion and some clawhammer banjo, but I’ve avoided fiddle, thinking the only way a human has any chance at all at learning this instrument is by starting as a child. Starting at the tail end of my 50s had to be crazy.

When my brother announced he was going to rid himself of the fiddle Grandpa gave him as a kid, I thought, what the Hell, I know it’s not possible but I’ll give it a go. It was ugly. Every time I touched bow to strings it sounded like an industrial accident scene. It seemed the learning curve was extremely steep, but then again, I can be pretty stubborn. I thought I’d try an online fiddle course, and I’ll say that started me off on the right foot. It was difficult, but I got to the point where the sounds coming off my fiddle were getting closer to musical. The course was set up as a lengthy series of videos designed to teach skills bit by bit while teaching a series of tunes.

Along the way a few things happened. I started finding lots of other free resources on YouTube and some of these were really good. I found myself spending more time working with these resources and less time working with the course. Another thing that happened is that I started listening more and more to Canadian Old Time music. I discovered I really enjoyed it for all kinds of reasons. I loved that Canadian players included a broader range of musical forms than I was used to playing American old time stringband music. As well as reels, I found myself listening to all kinds of jigs and hornpipes, two-steps and foxtrots. This didn’t diminish my love for the Appalachian old time music I have been playing on the banjo, but still I’d listen to tunes by Ned Landry and Reg Hill and so many other players and think, I’d love to learn to do this.

Charlie Walden’s excellent YouTube channel quickly became a go-to resource for me and eventually I became a Patreon subscriber to access more of his tasty fiddle goodies. Charlie is a Missouri fiddler living in Chicagoland. Curiously, he plays a lot of the Canadian fiddle tunes I’ve been chasing. I’ve been listening to his various live broadcasts – the Big Fiddle Show, the Wednesday night sessions, Twin Fiddle Time and his Camp Possum tutorials. Highly Recommended for fiddle freaks everywhere.

These days I’m taking weekly lessons with a fabulous teacher from the Ottawa Valley, Cindy Thompson, which we do via Facetime. I’m having a blast! My learning has accelerated to the point that I’m now confident I can actually learn to do this. Still, I have lots and lots and lots of work to do to improve my intonation, build speed, get better at figuring out satisfactory bowing, improve my tone, learn to develop variations and so on, not to mention learning a repertoire well enough it sticks in my tiny brain so I’m not dependent on notation.

The more I’m learning the more I want to play. Some days I’ll have 3 fiddle sessions, including a late-night session in my converted garage studio. I can’t seem to get enough right now. In part I think this is because it’s way more fun to play when you can the progress you’re making. The next thing I want to do is start adding some fiddle when I get together to play with my friend Ted on guitar and Tuffy P on gutbucket bass and scrubboard.

I haven’t tried to record any fiddle on video yet. I feel I need to improve both my skills and confidence more before I do that. I do regularly record audio on my phone though. I find that being able to listen to what I just played exposes the areas I need to work on. Listening back, my mistakes seem so obvious, even though I couldn’t appreciate them as I was attempting to play the tune.

I recall while jamming with a couple people a couple years ago, mentioning that I wanted to learn fiddle. The fiddler said something like, “That’s the trouble. We keep losing banjo players. They start playing fiddle and it takes over.” That won’t happen with me I thought. The truth is that fiddle does seem to be taking over. Sure I still play banjo, including regular sessions with Ted and Tuffy P, but I’m putting far more effort now into learning the fiddle, and enjoying every minute of it.

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Porter’s Reel

I came across this performance at the Old Time Tiki Parlor YouTube channel. The players are Jody Kruskal, David Bragger & Susan Platz. I love the concertina with the 2 fiddles. I’m familiar with this tune from a recording by Spencer and Rains.

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Tragedy & Time

We were delayed a day this week, but the new episode is now available. Listen right here or find it at all the good podcast places.

This week’s episode is full of goodies:

Driving instruction and an unfortunate encounter with a hard object.
US Chess Championship (in which Agent Eugene gets a bit mixed up – Fabi Caruana Caruana played Sam Shankland in Round 11 and not Wesley So).
Vendetta – Truth, Lies & the Mafia
The Last Kingdom
Succession, the new season
-more American Rust
Primal Fear
The Guilty (abandoned)
Controversial comedy
Podcast recommendation: Operation Midnight Climax

We love to hear from you. Email us anytime.

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St. Anne’s

Don Messer and his Islanders

Part of learning any instrument or any genre of music is immersing yourself in the music you want to play. I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into learning fiddle and it’s safe to say that much of the time I have a fiddle tune on my brain. These days most of those are either Canadian tunes or tunes in the Canadian old time repertoire – which is pretty wide.

Lately, I’ve been playing one of the most popular fiddle tunes in Canada, the St. Anne’s Reel. I learned the basic tune (in D) and and thanks to help from my fab fiddle teacher, I’m working on a variation too. This one is so much fun to play because it rollicks along beautifully. I love that it’s one of the tunes that most Canadian fiddlers have in their repertoire.

According to the Traditional Tune Archive, St. Anne’s was first recorded by Montreal fiddler Willie Ringuette in 1927 and 3 years later by another Montreal fiddler Joseph Allard. The tune is known by several different names. The name St. Anne’s may refer to one of the bays called St. Anne in eastern Canada, or perhaps Baie Sainte Anne, on St. Anne’s Bay near Mirimishi NB, or possibly the municipality of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue , a suburb on the island of Montreal.

St. Anne’s is played by Irish fiddlers as well, and I believe there might be some people who will claim it as an Irish tune. It’s possible that there are similar Irish tunes, of course and it’s also possible that one of them became the Canadian tune we now call St. Anne’s. The tune has found it’s way into American Old Time and Bluegrass repertoires along the way, and there are some mighty fine versions across the various genres.

Here’s Ferfal Scahill and Aodán Ó Cadhain with a really fun version…