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Dvořâking


It sounds like folk music, straight out of a place with mountains and clear streams. A place where insects teem. Where mists lie low in the grass clearings and people say things like "over there in the holler, there's a feller who keeps mostly to himself." At night, the sky goes deep black and fills with stars that aren't even close to visible in the dingy coastal cities, even though they're always there. One starts to think that there's something about being in the country that makes everything more visible. The pace, the exhaust, the urgency and sweat of the city all congeal to keep hidden the purity (or whatever) of life.

It's incredible that this guy from Prague could stay here for a few months and strip the ostensible pastoral secrets (which, it seems, a log of folks like to believe are written somehow into the national DNA) of this place -- to unpack its mysteries and say, "Hey guys, look, I got 'em right here! It goes like this right?"

He starts playing, and yep: there go the deer frolicking in the fields, and the mind is overtaken by overhead drone shots of blue mountains wrapped in fog. There's the exact right exuberance, the precise tug on the heart's left ventricle: that pull toward a kind of vacant nostalgia (vacant because, let's face it, you likely never owned a cabin in West Virginia, and you don't actually know what a holler is, if you're being honest).

It's possible that what you're remembering is a commercial for Beef (it's what's for dinner) and the idea that you're always going back home to the country -- that the whole nation has some secret home there among the trees and the peaceful brooks.

Because, he gets that an American wants to feel as though the countryside is different here, than in other places. Elsewhere the rural equates with rest and the storing up of energies: with traditions that involve the propriety that comes with long-held lands. Here, the countryside is meant to awaken and enliven, to fill with tears of gladness and a sense of peace. To slacken the jaw and the waist of one's pants. And to swing around the barn until past moonset.

He understood. He took notes. Like de Tocqueville, he understood America better than any American could understand it. And then he decamped again for Prague, where he told stories of the lovely and savage and simple and beautiful bumpkins he met in the various corners of the country that he trundled through by train. And he brought this folk music with him and made it something entirely his own.

One feels robbed and honored, befuddled because it sounds derivative, cliche, and like it's a higher, better, purer version of something that would otherwise have been derided, forgotten, and left to the simpler folks ignored in the dominant ways of thinking about music and its value. And it feels crummy to realize that one has no one to blame but oneself for a lack of curiosity into the beautiful phenomena that lie hidden right there.