"This thing feels like a living document to hold it in your hands. It's just beautiful. Even more amazing is to have this come to us through not only a stellar performer of this music, but also someone who grew up in the culture from which this music sprang. Just think of it, sheet music which actually sounds like the source fiddler when played! Astounding!"
-- Rick Martin, traditional fiddler, Troublesome Creek String Band, Crozet, VA
About the book
Imagine a time when there were no radios or televisions, no phonograph records, and no computers. Honestly, take a moment to imagine that. What did people, particularly those in rural areas, do for entertainment? Being largely self-sufficient in most other regards, they naturally made their own. Two of the most popular activities were singing and playing music on string instruments.
As music, either vocal or instrumental, was handed around from one person to the next, it was inevitably subjected to changes, and the individuality of human information processing is part of what makes traditional music so interesting. The book offers a look at this, giving more than one version for a number of the 752 items of traditional music contained in its pages. (For a look at the numerical breakdown, click here.) The authors place emphasis on the fact that none of the versions represent the "correct" one, or anything of the sort. Yet another of the beauties of traditional music is that there is no right or wrong.
Regarding the collectors, David S. McIntosh was a Professor of Music at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and began collecting traditional music in 1932, continuing until around 1960. Garry Harrison, a player and enthusiast of traditional music, collected throughout the 1970s and '80s. Prof. McIntosh favored vocal music; Harrison chiefly collected fiddle tunes. Thus, the two collections compliment each other and together offer a broader view than would either collection alone. It should be noted that the collectors are so-called because they were the archivists and catalogers, the keepers of the collections. Neither of them did the actual collecting solo; both had much help, and all who assisted are credited in the book.
Dear Old Illinois presents the traditional music of downstate Illinois as it would have been performed in now-bygone times. The music was collected from living sources, some of whose first-hand memories reached back to early in the second half of the 19th century, a time when none of the technologies named above were yet known. The book is unusual, perhaps unique, in that it is both an area-specific documentary and a songbook. Though a lengthy, detailed section on background information is given, the authors' focus is as much on enabling users to learn the music as on documenting it. The chords of guitar accompaniment are included, and difficult chords are deliberately avoided. A section is devoted to accompaniment rhythms as well.
And finally, the traditional music story of downstate illinois is made more real by photos of numerous source performers which are scattered throughout the book.
Have a look inside the book.