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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Legacy of Woody Guthrie

Sound and Recording
B. Thomas Cooper

Editors Note:
This is the second of a series of articles about Bluegrass and American folk music I prepared for I hope you find it interesting.

The legacy of Woody Guthrie is indeed a measure of the man himself. During his brief but extraordinary life, Guthrie changed America. Guthrie was more than just another American folk singer. He lived the American dream and lived it to the fullest.

Born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie on July 14th, 1912, this gifted young musician was profoundly effected by the Great Depression' and the Dust Bowl both which he experienced first hand. His vast body of work encompasses literally hundreds of songs, including children's songs, traditional folk, patriotic songs and songs for traveling the trains, which Guthrie often did. Woody even once referred to himself as "The Great Historical Bum". His guitar, his instrument of choice, often displayed the words: "This Machine Kills Fascists."

Woody's interest in music began as a child. His father, a cowboy himself, taught young Woody Irish and traditional western folk songs. His mother, also a musician, was equally influential. Today, Woody Guthrie is probably best known for his inspirational anthem, This Land Is Your Land', but his list of achievements goes on and on. Jobs included stints as a painter, radio show host, fruit picker and even sailor, but folk music was always at the heart of his endeavors.

On October 3rd, 1967 Woody Guthrie succumbed to the ravages of Huntington's disease. He was 55 years old.

Woody Guthrie didn't just sing about America. He savored the broth of this great country as few others have. He demonstrated a love and loyalty to his country in an unforgettable manner, openly sharing his passion. Woody Guthrie is more than just another American folk music Icon. He is a true American hero.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pickin' On Bluegrass

Sound and Recording
B. Thomas Cooper

Editors Note:
This article was originally prepared for

On a cold and rainy morning
in mid September the gathering begins in earnest, as a bevy of blue-hairs descend upon the muddy field. A seemingly endless parade of motor-homes jostle for position, awaiting their turn to brave the ever deepening ruts. Already, a large silver craft is bogged down near the port-a johns, perhaps not the best beginning for a weekend at the Cascade Farms Bluegrass Festival.


There’s an old joke that follows these festivals. How do you know when the stage is level? The banjo players drool evenly from both sides of their mouths. Cruel, you say? In the Bluegrass community, these are words to live by.

Bluegrass, a form of American folk music, originated in the Appalachian region of the United States, although it’s roots can be traced back to Scottish- Irish folk music and remains similar in many aspects. As a rule, Bluegrass music relies on acoustic instrumentation. Primarily, these are the fiddle, the mandolin, the acoustic guitar and the banjo, which is generally played ‘claw hammer’ style. However, Bluegrass songs may also include harmonica, mouth-harp and other instruments.

Bluegrass never really developed as a genre until the 1940’s when Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe and his band introduced the music to a larger audience. As the crowds grew, so did the music, adding new sounds and techniques. Interestingly, Bluegrass music continues to grow in spite of little or no radio exposure. Players learn from other players, and true to the ‘folk’ nature of the music, ideas are passed down from person to person as well.

The vocals are especially curious in Bluegrass music. The harmonies can be downright haunting at times, as can the lyrics. Still, it’s simple music for simple times. Three or four chords are plenty, laying down the foundation for exciting interaction between players. Oh, and back to that unseemly joke about the banjo pickers. Don’t let it fool for a moments, as those guys earned the punch line by being true masters of their art form, no small achievement.

Meanwhile, somewhere back at Cascade Farms the sun is beginning to set and countless bonfires light up the night sky. The echoed strains of Rocky Top can be heard in the distance. Everyone is relaxed now, and the rain has passed. It is beginning to look like this weekend may turn out just fine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Product Review - SONY MDR-V600 Dynamic Stereo Headphones

Sound and Recording
B. Thomas Cooper

Product Review

SONY MDR-V600 Dynamic Stereo Headphones

This is a fine offering by Sony, a sturdy set of headphones, with firm, comfortable ear pieces and a warm, desirable frequency response. In simple words… a good investment for anyone looking for a reliable set of headphones.


I purchased my first pair of few years ago, and have really appreciated their durability and sound quality. After unconscionable abuse, the material on the ear pieces was beginning to wear thin, so I went in search of a new set, not really expecting to settle on another pair of Sony V600’s. However, once I’d listened to about two dozen different sets, I found myself eager to lay down the very reasonable ninety-nine dollar retail price. I suppose I could have saved myself some time and money by ordering the MDR-V600’s online, but hey, it was well worth getting out there and hearing for myself what was available. The result is that I now own two pair of MDR-V600‘s. I rate the product very highly.

Driver (40mm Aura-Normic Designed Driver)
Impedance (45ohms)
Frequency Response (5Hz to 30,000Hz)
Rated Power (500mW) *1/2 watt*
Max Power (1,000mW) *1 watt* (not recommended)
Cord Length (9.8 feet)




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