|From FIDDLE WORKSHOP WITH ALAN JABBOUR
Person Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
April 28, 1990
Transcribed by Michael Southern, Raleigh NC, April 1990
[Transcriber's comments in brackets]
I was once playing with Burl [Hammons] -- I'm going to tell you this story and play one more tune and then maybe I'll shift
gears a little bit. I was once playing that -- in that tuning [D-A-E-A, high to low] with Burl, and he was teaching it to me --
taught me "Old Sledge" and some other tunes in this tuning. And we spent the afternoon playing, you know, tune after
tune. And that night I was driving back to Washington, D.C. It was late at night -- I think it was a Sunday night -- and it was
a foggy night, and I was tired, and I remember I was almost dozing off and falling asleep. And then all of a sudden (snaps
fingers) a tune just pops in my mind. And -- I'm telling you this story to try to reflect on how creativity works with music. It's
really a little mysterious to me.
The tune popped in my mind, and it wasn't as if I heard the first phrase of it and then I remembered more and more. When
you think of a tune -- a normal fiddle tune takes say thirty seconds to elapse from beginning to end. And as I reflect on this,
how could it be that I think the whole tune popped in my mind? But I do think the whole tune popped in my mind. I didn't
begin the beginning waiting to find out if I would remember what was next. I knew it all. And I sort of thought it through and
then I whistled it, and, you know, I could picture it as if I were playing it, and it was in this tuning of the violin, which I had
been working on all afternoon. I just knew it perfectly. [But] I couldn't remember one thing about it -- I couldn't think of the
name of it. And so I thought, "That's one of those tunes Burl and I were playing; when I get back to West Virginia I'll ask him
what the name is."
So I got on home, and went to bed, and I got up the next morning, and it popped back in my mind. When you go to bed and
get up the next morning and still remember, at least you've got it -- you know, the tune. And I think it wasn't for another
couple of weeks that I actually picked up the fiddle and tried to play with it. And it didn't -- it's funny, I knew it all, just by
habit, except the title -- I didn't know the name of that tune.
So about two or three months later I was back up to visit Burl in West Virginia again. And by and by we got out the fiddles
and started playing, and so I put the fiddle in this tuning, here. And I said "Burl," I said, "There's a tune I think I picked up
from you last time I was up here; let me play it for you." And I played him this tune. And Burl listened to it, and says, "You
know that's a right nice tune. I like that," he says, "but I don't believe I ever heard it before."
I said, "What? You've never heard that tune? How -- " I said, "I'm sure you taught it to me; it was in that tuning you were
giving me last time when I was here." He says, "No, no," he said, "Play some more of that, I'd like to try to get that from you."
I was dumbfounded, mystified. How could this be? It just made no sense. I mean, did I make it up and really teach it to him,
or did he, in the depth of a session, call up something out of his deep recesses which then vanished again, you know?
The mystery -- I was left with that mystery. And the mystery was never solved; in fact, ten years later it was deepened a
little bit. Because ten years later I went back to visit Burl, and we got to playing the fiddle again, you know. And after a while
he put the fiddle in this tuning (plucks strings). And he plays this tune. He plays it right out. And I said, "Burl, where did you
get that tune?" He says, "You know, I can't remember where I got that." [audience laughter] I said, "What's its name?" He
said, "I don't rightly know-" [next phrase inaudible in audience laughter].
And so we're left with the ultimate mystery here. I sort of think of it as “Burl's and My Tune,” and I don't know how to
attribute it further than that.
(Plays "mystery" tune)
Well let's see...
Voice in audience: Did you -- what do you call that? Did you ever give it a name?
Alan: [If] somebody's got a good idea, we can just name it now and be done with it.