As I sit down to write this foreword, I can’t help but reflect on the overarching vibe of this book, which is not coincidentally the quality that best expresses Donna’s character: Generosity.
This book is packed with so many years of thought, emotion, and experience, imbued with joy and delight, both the inherent delights of the fiddle and Donna’s irrepressible joie de vivre. Donna gets it all right, as far as I’m concerned. A cornucopia of technical and stylistic details flood this book, along with good stories replete with local and universal cultural context, but all the information serves the greater point, which is to get in there and crank that rhythm!
Because of the density and richness of information contained in the book, I suggest that the reader not necessarily try to work straight through, but instead, to treat the book like an encyclopedia. Very few people start at the beginning of an encyclopedia and plow through from A to Z. Open Donna’s book just about anywhere with fiddle in hand and see what catches your eye and ear.
The first third of the book deals with technique and styles; the rest is all tunes, but there are gems of hard-won knowledge on every page. Skip around until you find something that catches your interest. You could possibly mark the pages you’ve worked on with colored marker dots. You’ll get sense of what it might be like to hang around a great fiddler, in that deep knowledge rarely comes in measured, graded doses.
Conversely, this book is also great to just sit around and read cover to cover; I have spent many enjoyable hours on airplanes and in minivans cackling over Donna’s humorous and informative stories and commentary, and she has taken pains to organize her thoughts and material; all the ideas, concepts and tunes follow each other logically and build nicely. In fact, if you start by “cherry- picking,” you’ll probably wind up going back through the book in order, and find gems you didn’t catch on the first or second pass.
I suspect that the general level of fiddle knowledge and playing will take a major uptick soon after this book is published, just as other great music books such as Earl Scruggs’ original banjo book, O’Neill‘s great Irish fiddling reference, and the infamous jazz Real Book influenced the course of musicians’ lives and work.
Lucky us: those of us who can’t hang out in bucolic Amherst, Massachusetts now can have the pleasure of Donna’s virtual company and the benefit of her vast and far-ranging musical experience.
Darol Anger, Fall 2005