Connecting to Your Roots

Where do you come from? I don’t mean literally where do you reside, as in your city, state or country. I mean that more nebulous quality that includes how you were raised, what ideals you value and how you relate to your neighbor. Musically, that’s important as it defines your life experiences, from which you’ll get a lot of how you express yourself. That’s really where you are coming from.

Traditional music, in all its varied forms – be it bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, folk, new acoustic, blues – places a high value on sticking to our roots. As a matter of fact, I think one of the main differentiating factors between modern rock and traditional music is just that – whether you embrace or leave behind the traditional values you are/were associated with. Just listen to some of the various themes presented in either rock or traditional music and you’ll see that trend. One of these days, I plan to blog on just what it means to be a bluegrass song, and a big part of that is how the song treats roots.

Rock has indeed borrowed very heavily from its own musical roots in traditional music; an ironic twist if ever there was (keeping musical roots versus discarding traditional roots). Combined with this to form rock music are the rhythms of jazz – that first inkling within musical genres that perhaps there was something beyond tradition to explore. That was an overarching theme to music in the early 20th century as traditional music gradually became to share space with new ideas; it could all be summarized by the question: ‘What shall we do with our roots?’

This leads me to an overall observation; see if you agree. Blues and Jazz separate over how to treat their roots; blues embracing them, jazz discarding them, just as bluegrass and rock part over roots in exactly the same way. 

What thinkest thou?

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About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Systems Engineer and part-time banjo and mandolin instructor. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play Scruggs and melodic and am working on becoming more advanced with single string. I'm also working on 4-finger banjo, which is way off the beaten path. I would like to see more jazz techniques integrated into bluegrass situations; counterpoint, especially. So long-term, that's what I'm doing. I'm also very keen on astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, christian homeschooling, martial arts, organic gardening and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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