Greetings one and all and warm welcomes back within The Craneskin Bag! May the pisces new moon this month inspire you to wind up the inner clock of your hearts wishes and untie the tangled knots of your pointed elf brogues so you may emerge with the newly born moon gladly clad in all your truly refined radiance and splendifery. There has been much astir in the world’s web since we last met, has there not?! Well fortunately this humble spider has caught a few flies he would like to share with you all.
One new technological advance is the addition here on my website of a shoppe! (old English spelling). All nine albums of my discography are there to peruse, purchase and listen to. From the first musical outing I recorded in 2001, March to the Sun, all the way to 2019’s Make Believe. Each album is available on either CD, LP and of course all of them as MP3 download. I will highlight an album each month here in The Craneskin Bag and this month I have chosen~
Lasher Keen, Wither ~
The accompanying photos below by Tyler Cook, were taken the night of the winter solstice, 2009 at the album release of Wither.
This album is especially special to me for it marks the beginning of a long running musical collaboration and fruitful friendship with Dawn McCarthy and Nils Frykdahl of Faun Fables and Free Salamander Exhibit respectively. I met this dynamic duo after being enthralled with their highly original musical offerings of which upon listening, I felt an immediate and rare kinship. I was then recording the 2nd Lasher Keen album and was determined to have the one-of-a-kind McCarthy/Frykdahl sound on Wither. This collaboration has continued through the years with countless live shows, album appearances and two plays, the last of which featured their entire family of three fairy-tale daughters, along with mom and pop, acting, singing and performing various instruments on 2019’s Make Believe.
Another friend and musical cohort, Markus Wolff of Crash Worship/Waldteufel, also contributed his enigmatic baritone vocals and percussion to several tracks. In fact, I was so inspired by his work with Waldteufel that I dedicated a piece on Wither, Der Feuetroll, to his project.
Upon release I categorized the genre as manifested on Wither as,
~Wood Metal for Scandinavian Tree Troll Folk~
Wither cover art by Greycat
I believe 12 years later that this genre epithet still holds true. Wither is based on the mythical language of the birds also known as the green language and the language of the God’s. Whether it be the Icelandic hero Sigurd suddenly comprehending bird speech after burring his thumb on the heart of the dragon Fafnir, or the Norse God Odin relying on his two ravens, Hugin and Munin, thought and memory, for news of the world, or as in in ancient Ireland when the highest ranking poet seers, or filid are said to wear sacred robes called tuigens made of many colored birds feathers. This idea of prophetic birds and poetic inspiration is inherent in many cultures the world over.
When I began writing the songs for Wither, I was myself visited by a spirit in the form of a white bird. I would see this bird hither and thither in the narrow corner of my eyes playful socket and I knew this apparition was not wholly of the earth. I named my avian visitor, Wither and began to write a folkloric odyssey in song for this spirit to sing through.
Available now in my very own online store as a CD in a hard-case book with 30 pages in color, original art and all the lyrics included. Here is one of the first songs I wrote for the album, Spirit Flesh, which became the dénouement of this aerial song saga.
Fairy Tale Origins~
Just last week, on March 8th the world celebrated, International Women’s Day and so in honor of this occasion I would like to devote a section here in The Craneskin Bag to the little known yet highly influential women behind… you guessed it, the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales.
Deeply nestled in the hollow hills and emerald mushroom moss of grey-skied glens and fens there lived the six sisters Wild.
Each one was different from the next but they were united in the stories that were told to them as young girls. Like you and me they had next door neighbors, yet the Wilds had for their neighbors two of the most imminent folklorists of the 19th century, The Brothers Grimm. This was fortunate, not for the sisters as much as for the scholarly fairy tale collecting Grimm’s. You see, it was the girl next door and her contemporaries who held the golden key to many of the fairy tales in the Grimm’s famous anthology.
The brothers Grimm did little to repudiate the myth that they collected their tales in the countryside, village to village from peasants, farmers, beggars and widowed crones. They intentionally hid the identities of their most crucial collaborators who were in fact, educated ladies like the Wild sisters. In the forward to their first collection of 86 stories, Children’s and Household Fairy Tales published in 1812, the brothers instead celebrated the~
…nameless poetic soul of German culture and its legions of simple folk who passed down the stories through the generations.
Yet 30 of the original 86 stories were told to the Grimm’s by the sisters Wild including such classics as, The Companionship of Cat and Mouse, Child of Mary, Prince Swan, Hansel and Gretel, The Singing Bone, Frau Holle and Rumpelstilzchen.
The Brothers Grimm, translated by Lucy Crane, illustrated by Walter Crane
Out of the 6 sisters, it was Dortchen Wild who contributed most prolifically. In fact, Dortchen and Wilhelm Grimm had developed more than a mutual respect for German folklore during these early years of story swaps. There was a love story brewing between their pages of inky scribbles which had been blossoming for 15 years. Finally, in 1825 their unspoken amorous affection was celebrated in marriage and later the birth of four children.
Dortchen Wild telling fairy tales to Wilhelm Grimm. Artist unknown.
However, when the Grimm’s published their second volume of fairy tales in 1819 they decided it was time to pay homage to their most recent collaborator. This was none other than, Dorothea Viehmann, the daughter of an innkeeper from the small village of Zwern. Dorothea contributed over 40 tales to the Fairy Tale collections 2nd edition and while they may be relatively unknown today, they are arguably the most strange and fantastic as some of their titles suggest~ The Devil With Three Golden Hairs, Doctor Know It All, Hans My Hedgehog and The Goose Maid, which was one of the Grimm’s personal favorites.
Dorothea was apparently an elocutionary genius among storytellers who could recite again and again, word for word her tales exactly as she had heard them as a young girl. Here she is depicted in the frontispiece for the 2nd edition.
Frontispiece for the 2nd edition of Grimm's Kinder und HausMarchen 1819
The Grimm's had this to say of their matriarchal treasure trove~
"This woman is still robust, possesses a sturdy and pleasant face that gazed out brightly and crisply from her eyes. When she told a story she did it freely, extemporaneously and shined in the performance. "
It would be incorrect to assume that all the Grimm fairy tales were of German origin. Dorothea's family were Huguenot's and her stories often betrayed their ancestral French origins. This was also true of another integral fairy tale think tank for the Grimm's, this time a family of four sisters, the Hassenpflugs, who contributed over 30 stories to the Brothers Grimm including~ Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty and The Twelve Huntsmen.
A book which I joyously recommend for you lovers of folklore and fairy tale origins is~
Clever Maids: The Secret history of The Grimm Fairy Tales by Valerie Paradiz.
This highly insightful read by Paradiz, a Ph.D. in German studies, goes in-depth behind ALL the women who thankfully kept the beauty of fairy tales alive in their robust memories. From the author~
“…more than half of the 210 fairy tales included in the Grimm anthologies had a woman’s hand in them…With this book I hope to shed light on the poignant humanness nested everywhere in the intimate process of collecting the tales.”
I included Clever Maids in the bibliography for my last album and play, Make Believe for more than just obvious reasons. In 2018 I had begun writing a play with six fairy tale sisters as the main protagonists and it was not until sometime later that I learned of the historical six sisters Wild and their connection to the Grimm’s fairy tales. This serendipitous turn of events led me to believe there is a deeper meaning guiding the work I began with Make Believe. In a humble effort to thank these women for sharing their enduring and remarkably charmed stories I dedicated Make Believe to The Sisters Wild.
The six fairy sisters of Make Believe~ Photo by Douglas Hooper.
Who among us has not heard of The Marx Brothers? Yet how many of us have actually delved within their vast oeuvre? Before last month I myself had only a few dalliances here and there with the silver screens famed comedy trio. However, after seeing three of their films recently, A Day at The Races, Horse Feathers and A Night At The Opera, I consider myself hooked.
Out of the three brothers (In real life there are 5) it is Harpo Marx who really speaks to me. Perhaps this is ironic because in the films he never says a single word, yet that hardly matters, the subtle art of language found expression for Harpo in the form of clowning, pantomime and most impressively in the form of music. Although he never had any formal music education and could not read or write music, Harpo’s re-imagining and highly original interpretation of the classical harp is for me, as a fellow harpist, of tremendous inspiration. When I saw him smash a piano in, A Day At The Races, and then extract the guts out of it and begin playing the stringed innards as one plays a harp, I was in a state of disbelief. You can do that?! See for yourself~
Although classically trained harpists said many disparaging remarks about the nonsensical technique which Harpo developed for his instrument, nevertheless music is music, it is what moves us, what makes us weep, what stirs our emotions to their hidden depths, what transcends the very fabric of time and space. I went straight home and began playing my harp and it was as if I was seeing my instrument in a new light of advanced potential. Thank you Harpo Marx. You are a zany kindred clown to which my heart says,
I too am unafraid to try anything!
Word To The Wise~
The suspicion that the universe is conspiring in your favor.
The belief that everything in the universe is conspiring to support you.
This psychological neologism might only be 38 years old, yet the concept is timeless. It doesn’t matter that pronoia is not officially recognized in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we can safely say that this perception of glamour-tinged reality is a welcome antidote to the disease of thinking the world is dog eat dog.
Pronoia is basically the positive flipside of its dark twin, paranoia, so why not give it a whirl! Become pro pronoia and you might be surprised to find the end of a rainbow one day.
Farewell for now~
As always, I love to hear from you! Though it may it be a month until we meet again, know that I am always thinking of new things to share, new ideas to divulge and of course new words to tickle your literary funny bones with.
Victory and blessings to you dear reader!
Tall and Thin,
Through thick and thin once again,
New Moon, March 13th, 2021