Thursday, November 3, 2011

Minnesota Fiddle Music In Wisconsin?

This weekend my search for Minnesota fiddle music took me to Wisconsin. As odd as this may seem, the Center For The Study Of Upper Midwestern Cultures collection is housed at the Mills Music Library (I know, it is a mouthful). I went there specifically to look at the collection of Robert Andresen and Leonard Finseth.

Andresen came from Outing, MN. He devoted a large part of his life to studying, preserving, and performing music from Minnesota. He had a great radio show out of Duluth called The Northern Hoedown which featured music, interviews, and stories of the artists he was collecting.

Finseth is not officially a Minnesotan, but you can barely reference another Minnesota fiddler's name from his generation without including him. He apparently was all over this state playing with the other great fiddlers of his generation. The fact that he lived 30 miles away from the Minnesota border will be overlooked due to his significant influence and collaboration he had with other Minnesota fiddlers.

The Finseth collection is filled with old cassettes of his playing with various people. The reel-to-reels in this collection are what I really wanted to hear. They contain several fiddlers from the fertile Spring Grove area that I have no other links to. Unfortunately, the collage's reel-to-reel player was broken. The Finseth collection is mostly unprocessed due to low interest. I worry that the tapes are degrading, but I had a good chat with the library folks who said that since I have shown interest it might be pushed up on their priority list of items to digitize. I am going to have a good time going through and learning those Finseth tunes from those cassettes.

The Andresen Collection is a real treasure trove which I will be sharing in pieces. It includes correspondences, pictures, newspaper clippings, and personal accounts of Minnesota fiddlers mostly forgotten about. Bob played guitar with a lot of these folks and seemed like he was every one's friend.

Madison, Wisconsin is just a lovely city in general. I love that State street is always bustling with life and imagination and the farmers' market was very impressive, from street theatre, to banjos, accordions, brass bands, and food carts. I could have stayed at the library all night. It was good it closed at 5 each day so I could get out and see a few things. I have to make sure I don't become a research hermit- After all, the point of this project is to keep this music alive.

Here is Andresen talking about his father and Minnesotan fiddle music on his Northern Hoedown radio show.

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