I suppose this is a posting about John Fahey. And because of that, it is just as much about everything else too. Fahey quoted and borrowed liberally from countless sources transforming them into something new: bird sounds, classical music from around the world, imagined sounds of refrigerators, collage and trains. Always trains, always turtles.
Below are a small selection of original sources that Fahey used. Often, Fahey's improvisations or building-on-top-of, sounds hardly like the original, which makes hearing them all the more interesting. It is most enjoyable hunting for the line of music that may have been his inspiration. Were one to always listen in this mindset, wouldn't all music be more instructive--a kind of connecting line where there was thought to be none? I certainly would not be listening to Camille Saint-Saens' "Yellow Princess Overture" without Fahey's gesturing.
Too much of this kind of investigation may take all the fun out of listening. I certainly don't have any interest in analyzing Fahey's pieces the way he himself does Charley Patton's music (see the re-printing of his book in the Patton boxset on Revenant). So, I shall only mention a small handful of examples.
Despite listening to many of his records for a number of years now, I often find myself suddenly realizing, when listening to his rendition\expansion of say,'John Henry,' "so that's the melody he heard and built from;" it is easy to hear his pieces and forget the inspiration because of their own immediacy.
What follows first are the original sources, and then Fahey's own, all of which (except the final selection) come from his 1967 Vanguard LP "The Yellow Princess."
The concluding piece leads into a different realm of discussion, perhaps which will be taken up again at a future time.
This is all just my gut feeling, and I may well be wrong, but I think the foundation for his piece can be heard at the 2:18-2:31 minute marking in the Saint-Saens. Compare that segment with 2:34-2:54 minute marking in Fahey's own. Perhaps its the rhythm that draws me to think so, but it is still amazing to hear one and then the other keeping in mind that the former helped give birth to the latter.
Hear more comparisons below the fold...
The Walter Hawkins track can be heard on the Revenant box-set mentioned above; he and Patton both recorded their first sessions at the same studio, and there was potentially some collaboration between the two. The first time I had heard 'Lion,' I certainly had not yet heard Hawkins, nor even knew of him. And, even after I'd heard it, I couldn't quite figure out why it sounded familiar. One day, I realized I knew the melody. John Fahey borrows a section of Hawkins' song for the main theme of his own. Listen to "A Rag Blues" at the 1:47-2:-3 minute marking. Fahey begins his piece with a more elaborate playing of the same melody.
Fahey, as always, of course references other pieces of music regularly; what else do you hear in there?
It's not that the quills sound is merely imitative of a railroad track that this works so well, but that its sound resonates so closely with the train rushing along that it seems they entered into existence simultaneously. Seeing the needle on the track, hearing the sound.
Both of these were recorded at virtually the same time, which in and of itself is not particularly interesting. However, they both use a recording from a Folkways LP titled, "Sounds of a Tropical Rain Forest," and both make use of the very same bird call, as well as a few other shared sounds (the frogs are also particularly heard). Hear the sound on the Fugs recording at the 7:00 minute mark, and then in Fahey's at the 1:15 minute mark. Each time I hear the bird in Fahey's track I am struck to the bone. Yet, how different it sounds in the Fugs track.
I hoped to stumble onto other recordings in my collection that happened to have the "same" sound, yet I found none.Do you know of any other examples?
These perhaps accidental occurences align these two pieces, in a way different from the first three examples. Here we can see not just one person's integration of a source material into his own music, but how the source takes on a new life in someone else's hands.
Searching for elsewhere.