Frances Densmore (1867-1957) has been an important role model for me. After training as a classical pianist, she returned home to Minnesota and found her life’s work not in the performance of sonatas, The Well-Tempered Clavier or anything of that nature. Rather, she found a calling for ethnography. With her musical skills, she excelled especially when she turned her gaze to music. Her song transcriptions, descriptions, and early recordings pioneered the scholarly discipline that would later be known as ethnomusicology.
Frances and I have a lot in common. We are both women. We are both from Minnesota. We both were trained in classical music. We both developed a deep thirst for knowledge about other kinds of music. And we both came to believe that learning about other kinds of music can lead us to understand other kinds of people: their beliefs, their way of life. This blog is my journey to learn about niche styles of music, the makers of the music, and their motivations. I will metaphorically retrace Frances’ footsteps — asking the questions that she might ask, and noticing the details that she might notice. There will not be any recording reviews. No recommendations for the music consumer in that capitalist sense. I simply want to look at the nuts and bolts of grassroots music making, and the interesting people who do it.
Ultimately in this venture, I have two goals. First, I hope to inspire more music making. Whether you are a professional or a beginner, I hope that this blog will inspire you to sing, play or dance. I also hope, in the end, to reveal traits that humans share and that we demonstrate when we make music. Humans have a lot in common regardless of culture, religion, or ethnic group. We all have very simple basic needs at our core. Making music has something to do with that. Frances was on to something. And I am going to follow her.