Q&A December, Part III

Richard - the violin on Dream Attic seems to be a halfway step to going back to what is to me - and others I know - in many ways your best and defining sound, when you had John Kirkpatrick on squeezebox. The man is a backing group in himself, and the melancholy fits your work so well. Any plans to work with JK again?

No plans, but I love John's music. He really wanted to do less of the big international tours, so stopped being available for the RT band.

And a supplementary - Circa Liege and Lief you played mountain dulcimer. Any plans to use one again? Best wishes. Alan Kind

We used one on Mock Tudor ('Uninhabited Man') and it's cropped up from time to time. There's a bit on Strict Tempo as well.

Re: Richard Thompson song books
I've recently wanted to learn BABY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH HERSELF, but it's a bit of a mystery because Danny Thompson's bass is extremely high in the mix. A friend figured it's drop D capo on the 2nd and I think I can play the intro that way. I would love to buy the books, but lack the funds. Incidentally even though those two songs appear consecutively on the YOU? ME? US? album they seem to be split in the songbook volumes. I would love to be able to buy single docs of the individual songs I want to be able to play, do you know if there may be an online feature of the merch where I may be able to do this? Thanks for your time. Jason Collins

We hope to have this feature, administered by MusicNotes, up and running by the end of the month. You will be able to download individual songs from the songbook.

Was absolutely amazed by Cabaret Of Souls; thank you for doing it in California!

"Auldie Riggs' Dance"---is that a "trad.arr" or is that all Thompson? Definitely harkens to Full House days. Will it (or anything else from CoS) ever make a setlist as a stand-alone? Or could you donate it to the Fairports to give it their spin? Also, will CoS lyrics be posted soon? Thanks, Mike in Lompoc CA

Auldie Riggs Dance is an original composition. There are several songs that I have performed in solo shows from COS, and I'll try to expand that in the future. We will try to have the lyrics up soon.

In earlier Q & A you've written straightforwardly and elegantly about your working habits as a composer, in ways that are useful to all manners of creative writers and artists. Such discussions both demystify the sources of creativity and, at the same time, provide an honest picture of the real labor involved in creative processes. In a similar vein, I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind saying a few words about your research methods. From the Fairport days through "Nutmeg and Ginger," your work has consistently demonstrated an historical, even archival depth.  Beyond the habits of an active listener of music, are there particular ways in which you go about pursuing research topics in your music?  In other words, how much do you find yourself rifling through old recordings, perusing volumes by the likes of Francis Child and Thomas Crampton, and/or making use of the enormous amount of material available on the internet?  Your thoughts on this would be most illuminating.  Thanks very much!
Sincerely, Jonathan P. Eburne, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and English

I suppose I research a bit all the time, just following interesting musical leads. This is not dissimilar to any music fan, finding something enjoyable, and looking for more in the same vein. I am also a student of music, and listen to some things with the idea of learning something - this is mostly in the area of jazz and classical music. For the Cabaret Of Souls piece, for instance, I listened to a lot of 20th century string music, and also purchased scores of the same. For the 1,000 Years of Popular Music show, I do some more serious research, finding some things on the web, but also going through old scores in music shops, uncovering all kinds of treasures. I have a small library at home of things like ballads and dance tunes, so I can compare versions of potential performance material - I also know people who know a lot! That is the very handiest thing of all. Also, If I find myself in unpromising musical situations - on a long flight, in the dentist's waiting room - I try to make the best of whatever soundtrack is playing by picking apart the arrangement or the score. If it's bad lounge or muzak, I might try to guess the instrumentation - how many strings, how many French horns, etc. - and if it's classical but dull, establish the key and then follow the changes in tone centre, and the tricks to get back to the keynote.

Have always meant to ask - is that reference to the 'Teatime of the Soul' a coincidence or an homage to the late, great Douglas Adams? Ex-pat Brit in California and underrated genius - separated at birth or what? Bob Battersby

Coincidence, much as I admire Mr. Adams. The phrase is a lot older - I'm sure I've been hearing it since the 60s, usually as 'the Sunday teatime of the soul', and it surely relates to that deep, depressing hole between the end of Round The Horne at 1:30 (the subsequent Clitheroe Kid only added to the gloom, to my taste) and the start of Hancocks Half Hour at 7:30.

Since leaving the Bay Area for the wilds of an Oregon forest I have had limited opportunities to see you the way I prefer to see you, which is live (although DVD's are great, too, as I don't have to drive, or even get dressed to catch a performance). This is bad enough, but I had a wee fit when I realized that I missed the recording of what became "The Dream Attic." Will you be bringing "The Dream Attic" tour back to Eugene and/or Portland? (Please say Yes.)

No plans, but you never know.