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More About Our “Uberlocal” Music Project

Our private concerts resemble a number of types of familiar gatherings, including the house concert, the speakeasy and the house-church, with some Middle Ages traveler hospitality and old-fashioned Southern barbecue energy tossed in.
The difficulty of either bringing our boys on the road with us or leaving them behind, combined with rapid changes in the music business have led us to perform here as an experiment. We are not aware of other musicians who are doing anything like this, and we are unsure if it is even sustainable. It could be a gateway to the musical future, or a symptom of a dying era. If younger people and families show up in larger numbers we’ll feel greatly encouraged.

We (Harvey Reid & Joyce Andersen) decided rrecently to create a high-quality live music experience in our 1888 carriage house in York, Maine. This grew out of quite a number of things:

* The music business is changing rapidly, and one consequence is that many people no longer spend money on music, especially recordings, which have been a big part of our income for decades.

* Travel keeps getting more difficult and expensive. Doing out-of-town concerts either with our kids or without them has become very hard for us.

* Now that we have children, we want them to learn about music, and having them and their friends see us play is a big part of that. Most of our concerts are too far away or too late at night for them to attend.

* We are now getting deeply involved in music education, and want to start locally. We realized that we can't reasonably teach our neighbors about music if they aren't more familiar with it. How can you hope to give meaningful violin lessons to a child who hasn't been enraptured by seeing someone play the fiddle? We are troubadours, very skilled musicians, and we want families in our town to have a chance to see real, home-made, hand-crafted music up-close. We don't believe that pop music and American Idol-type performing are the kinds of things you do in your home with your friends and family, and want to present another model of what a musician is.

* It's interesting that this "new model" we have arrived at is basically the "old model" of how music was played for centuries before there was a centralized music business or broadcast & recording industries.

* It's also interesting that our old wood building has better ambience, better acoustics, more comfortable seating, and a nicer stage than almost any of the thousands of gigs we have ever played in our careers. We'd rather play here than anywhere we can think of, and we can bring all our instruments.

* We may be inviting you to our private parties, and we may also encourage you to bring or share food, and to bring your children of any age.

* We offer for sale at our concerts the many critically-acclaimed recordings and books we have created, and we accept donations and contributions from audience to support the project. We have now added heaters to the building for at least 3-season comfort, and we also installed cameras to film what we are doing, for those of you who don't live nearby but would like to watch online.


About "The People's Music"

Prior to the arrival of the recording & broadcasting industries in the 1920’s, musicians often played a significant local role in culture, though few were what we would now call “professional.” For centuries, independent musicians and entertainers proliferated throughout Europe, and many were sought and employed by the rich and powerful.
After a long period of being respected and valued, unschooled “troubadours” and “peasant musicians” were actually outlawed in many parts of Europe in the 1500’s. It was decreed in 1572 by the king of England that any minstrel who was unlicensed or did not belong to “an honourable person of great degree” was to be “grievously whipped and burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron of the compass of an inch about.” (Ouch!)
The English people who emigrated to this area came from a world where this kind of regulation was established and commonplace. The streets and taverns of colonial villages were not filled with the sound of fiddles and ballad singers as we modern people might imagine. Puritan ideals permeated the society, and the idea of “common people” providing their “uncouth” music for the community was apparently little-known and done privately in colonial New England.
The much-celebrated American folk, country, blues, jazz, rock and rap music originated here because North America was the place where European and African cultures collided head-on. The “cultural soup” was richer and more diverse in the South than in regulated and staid New England. The fires of what we now think of as “roots” music burned hottest on the lawless frontier and in proximity to the influence of African-American culture.
The primary music in the Northern colonies was in churches, and that consisted almost solely of psalmody, the congregations’ unaccompanied singing of psalms and songs from the Bible. Playing of instruments and reading music were largely unknown in churches or public life for the first two centuries in colonial New England. Pipe organs didn’t even begin appearing commonly in churches here until the mid 1800’s.

The Era of Corporate Music

Modern people are immersed in a world where music has been overwhelmingly dominated by corporate money-making. Back when horses were living in our carriage house the concepts of a rich musician or a “rock star” were still unthinkable. The “music industry” mostly consisted of sheet music sold to families to play at the piano. The $30 paid to a blues or hillbilly artist who recorded a 78 record in the 1920’s grew into the startling idea that self-educated “peasant” guitar strummers could become multi-millionaires and cultural icons.
The establishment of recording and broadcasting industries and the monetizing of intellectual property caused dramatic changes in the business life and aspirations of nearly every American musician. It took a few decades and the explosion of rock & roll in the 1950’s to build the giant music industry as we now know it. Huge sales of recordings and popularity of commercial music pushed commercial music sales to a peak around 1999 before the rise of digital technology and cheap music on the internet cooled the inferno.
We own this property because of the dozens of recordings we made, and our constant touring over the past 30 years. People bought our CD’s, DJ’s played them on the radio, and listeners all over the country bought tickets to see us perform.

The People’s Music in the 21st Century
Though music remains important in 21st century life, in the digital age it is quickly taking new forms, both old-fashioned and modern.
Radio and television brought on a huge shift in how musical information passed through the culture, and now the digital revolution is birthing the next phase of the evolutionary process. Sales of recorded music have plunged, and radio is no longer the primary driver of new music. Large numbers of independent musicians who are not allied with entertainment corporations are now successfully creating, performing and disseminating their own music in all sorts of new ways. Music itself and the information about how to play it have never been so widely and easily available.
These changes are moving in several directions; toward technology-based models centered around the internet and electronic devices, but also toward more “retro,” community, local and even tribal forms.

“Music Is Food”
Most of us are now aware of the fast-growing movement to re-establish the prevalence of local and organic food. All food was local and “natural” before the corporate food industry took control, and music may be poised to follow a similar path. As the centralized music industry unravels, American “free range” music is set to begin a vibrant new chapter in its history. We personally consider that “music is food,” and that both should be similarly honored and nurtured.
We have chosen to perform and share our music in this 1880’s carriage house, not in pursuit of fame or wealth, but of sustenance and hopefully larger and less tangible things. These crooked but sturdy wooden walls and floors, together with the artifacts and ambience here, can perhaps remind us of where music has come from, even as we wonder where it might be going.
Music perhaps springs from a human connection to the divine, though the sharing and transmission of music is also something we hold to be sacred. All types of people have enjoyed music throughout all human history, primarily by being physically present while it was happening. It is not the same to play music to an empty room or into a camera lens.