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Author Topic: PC062: The Fiddler of Bayou Teche  (Read 6729 times)
Heradel
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« on: July 21, 2009, 08:37:03 PM »

PodCastle 62: The Fiddler of Bayou Teche

by Delia Sherman.
Read by Elizabeth Green Musselman.

One night, paddling far from home, I see lights that are not the pale feu follets that dance in the swamp at night. They are yellow lights, lantern lights, and they tell me I have come to a farm. I am a little afraid, for Tante Eulalie used to warn me about letting people see me.

“You know how ducks carry on when a strange bird land in their water?” she says. “The good people of Pierreville, they see that white hair and those pink eyes, and they peck at you till there’s nothing left but two-three white feathers.”

I do not want to be pecked, me, so I start to paddle away.

And then I hear the music.

I turn back with a sweep of my paddle and drift clear. I see a wharf and a cabin and an outhouse and a hog pen, and a big barn built on high ground away from the water. The barn doors are open, and they spill yellow light out over a pack of buggies and horses and even cars–only cars I’ve seen outside the magazines Ulysse sometimes brings. I don’t care about the cars, though, for I am caught by the fiddle music that spills out brighter than the lantern light, brighter than anything in the world since Tante Eulalie left it.

Rated PG. for tricksters and fiddle music.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2009, 09:00:30 AM by Heradel » Logged

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Lord McSquash
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2009, 05:59:34 PM »

Wow,

I enjoy the majority of the PodCastle (love the name, so punny) episodes. This story started out slow, but was easy to follow (and I had an art project to work on), so I did my work and hoped for a payout. It was the best yet. This one was one that made me laugh out loud the most of any PodCastle yet, and this laughing was accompanied with wet eyes.

Keep the good stories coming.

Thanks,

Ted
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2009, 07:18:43 PM »

This one was pretty cool. Another one coming from a non-traditional fantasy backdrop (ie the Louisiana swamplands), and playing fast and loose with fantasy conventions. I thought it was interesting to have the Trickster figure as the villain of the piece. It made sense from a certain standpoint; I mean, he cheats people for a living. And to be defeated, not by a better cheater, but by being dragged into the harsh light of day so everyone could see what he really was.

...so, was her friend a werewolf? Isn't that what a loup-garou is?
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Talia
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2009, 08:43:45 PM »

I loved the "voice" of this piece. Very distinct, it really made all the people so much more real. Excellent reading, too.
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Sylvan
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2009, 06:38:39 AM »

This story deserves to be -and is- one of my all time favorites between all of the 'Pods.  I have saved it for future listening.

Not only was the reading beyond perfection with its inflections in bringing the Bayou to life but the subtlety of the magic -the folklore that sprang to life- made this fantasy seem so real that I felt as if I could get into a car and drive to where it took place.  I felt as if this was something that actually happened and that these people, these events, were just waiting to be uncovered:  such was the voice of the author.

The story, itself, was mesmerizing.  This was a faerie tale of the highest order complete with Loup Garou, an Old Woman of the Swamp, and a Deal with the Devil.  And while these elements have graced plenty of stories before, it takes a true master to weave them together in such a way as to make them feel fresh and vibrant like this.  The humanity of the characters -their very souls and personalities- are etched into the words in such a way that they are the fingerprint of the story:  making it unique.

Wonderful tale; I'll be listening to it again and again and again!

Yours,
Sylvan (Dave)
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Portrait in Flesh
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« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2009, 08:35:58 AM »

...so, was her friend a werewolf? Isn't that what a loup-garou is?
Oui, cher.  Prancing warwilfs...got to love it.

And I must chime in and say I loved this story as well.  I'd been having a bad day at work, but once I started listening to this it drew me in and made me forget about the piddly real world around me, if only for a little while.

Just how a great story is supposed to make me feel.  C'est si bon.   Cheesy

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« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2009, 09:10:47 AM »

Ann left out "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" when citing examples of string instruments and the devil in her intro.

... oh, and, great story.  LIKE
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hautdesert
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2009, 10:50:22 AM »

Ann left out "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" when citing examples of string instruments and the devil in her intro.


Only for lack of time.  I also wanted to mention Stravinsky's Histoire du soldat

edited to fix my bad link.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2009, 10:52:18 AM by hautdesert » Logged
Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2009, 01:28:20 PM »

I LOVED this story.  The 'out-tricking* the trickster' trope is probably my favourite storyline - probably stemming from watching way too much Bugs Bunny and Wile E Coyote as a kid.  (Okay, the former is not exactly the same thing, but related, I think.)


Spoiler Alert!
The ending made me a little sad, though.  While I think it's good to thwart the trickster and teach him (are there female tricksters?) his place, I think the world needs its tricksters and they shouldn't be permanently stopped, just kept within reasonable limits.
End of spoiler

I laughed out loud when Ann said, "I sometimes wonder if the preponderance of violins and guitars in 'Musical Deal With the Devil' stories doesn't come from old religious ideas about music and about particular instruments. Then again, maybe I'm just not familiar with the extensive literature of, say, supernatural clarinet stories."

It also got me to thinking.  I suspect it has more to do with the (probable) longer history of stringed instruments, if only because they're so much easier to make.  Anyone can stretch some strings across a hole, however inexpertly, but it's much more exacting to hollow out a tube and make it a particular length.

(Yes, I know that making a good stringed instrument is just as exacting, if not more, but a quick-and-dirty one is far easier than an equivalent wind instrument with more than one note.)

It wouldn't surprise me if the religious ideas stemmed from the same thing: the church disapproved of instruments that anybody could play (and therefore they couldn't control) and declared them suspect/pernicious/evil. And maybe harps are the instruments of angels because they're harder to play.

And finally: the reading.  I think Elizabeth Green Musselman has edged into the position of my favourite Escape Artists reader, which is saying a lot, considering the likes of M. K. Hobson, Alasdair Stuart, Rachel Swirsky, Ann Leckie and more.  This is the first EA story that I'm likely to listen to again, not for the story but for the educational opportunities in listening to and analyzing the narration.


*but not tricking out
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hautdesert
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2009, 03:51:36 PM »



It also got me to thinking.  I suspect it has more to do with the (probable) longer history of stringed instruments, if only because they're so much easier to make.  Anyone can stretch some strings across a hole, however inexpertly, but it's much more exacting to hollow out a tube and make it a particular length.

Though interestingly, some of the oldest instruments around are flutes.  And making a simple flute with three or four notes isn't all that hard.


Quote
It wouldn't surprise me if the religious ideas stemmed from the same thing: the church disapproved of instruments that anybody could play (and therefore they couldn't control) and declared them suspect/pernicious/evil. And maybe harps are the instruments of angels because they're harder to play.

I don't think that's why the church disapproved of instruments.  After all, they completely approved of the one instrument virtually anyone is born possessing, and is able to play to one degree or another--the human voice.  And it's important to remember that the Church's various prohibitions about music had almost no effect on secular music, which went on its merry way no matter what Pope was in office.  Quite the reverse, in fact--church composers' borrowings from secular hits sometimes caused consternation in the Church hierarchy.

The most likely reason early on was likely the association of instrumental music with pagan religious ceremonies.  Later, when most of Europe was Christian, that wasn't an issue so much as the tendency for different sorts of music to make the text difficult to understand, and the use of tunes that originally had profane lyrics. 

I suspect harps are the instrument of angels because of Old Testament references to stringed instruments, and it wouldn't surprise me if Greek ideas about instruments came into play as well--Plato, for instance, thought the children living in his idealized Republic should learn to play the lyre, because it was noble and would build character as well as introduce them to the histories that would form their values.  He thought learning the flute would make a person degenerate.  It's entirely possible he thought that because of the flute's associations with the worship of Dionysus--but that would perhaps undercut my hastily and not entirely seriously planned theory--Orpheus is very strongly associated with Dionysus.  Although, perhaps in my favor, the women who tore him apart were maenads.
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Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2009, 03:57:50 PM »



It also got me to thinking.  I suspect it has more to do with the (probable) longer history of stringed instruments, if only because they're so much easier to make.  Anyone can stretch some strings across a hole, however inexpertly, but it's much more exacting to hollow out a tube and make it a particular length.

Though interestingly, some of the oldest instruments around are flutes.  And making a simple flute with three or four notes isn't all that hard.

Nature produces a fair number of hollow tubes on its own, so I don't think it's too big a leap for caveman Bird to come along, find one(be it bamboo, reeds, or otherwise) that's cracked or has insect holes and figure out that it makes noise when he blows on it that modulates when he covers the holes.
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2009, 06:35:45 PM »

It wouldn't surprise me if the religious ideas stemmed from the same thing: the church disapproved of instruments that anybody could play (and therefore they couldn't control) and declared them suspect/pernicious/evil. And maybe harps are the instruments of angels because they're harder to play.

I don't think that's why the church disapproved of instruments.  After all, they completely approved of the one instrument virtually anyone is born possessing, and is able to play to one degree or another--the human voice.

Just to throw in a tangential monkey wrench of sorts, but Ye Olde Church did put the kibosh on the female voice for quite a while.  No women were allowed to sing during services and whatnot, which is where your castrati came in.  The ability to hit those high notes without, you know, exposing church elders to girl cooties.

But anyway, back to stringed instruments:

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hautdesert
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2009, 10:15:30 PM »



Just to throw in a tangential monkey wrench of sorts, but Ye Olde Church did put the kibosh on the female voice for quite a while.  No women were allowed to sing during services and whatnot, which is where your castrati came in. 

Well, they only came in about the sixteenth century, and were mostly popular in Italy.  Before that, and in other places, boys sang the high parts.

edited to add--I realize that the practice of castrating boys, for various purposes including gambling on their singing voices, predates the sixteenth century by a long while, and has happened in various places around the world.  But the Church didn't take the practice up until the sixteenth century, and during the time castrati were used by the Church, they were mostly in Italy.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2009, 10:26:10 PM by hautdesert » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2009, 12:09:11 AM »

I laughed out loud when Ann said, "I sometimes wonder if the preponderance of violins and guitars in 'Musical Deal With the Devil' stories doesn't come from old religious ideas about music and about particular instruments. Then again, maybe I'm just not familiar with the extensive literature of, say, supernatural clarinet stories."

It also got me to thinking.  I suspect it has more to do with the (probable) longer history of stringed instruments, if only because they're so much easier to make.  Anyone can stretch some strings across a hole, however inexpertly, but it's much more exacting to hollow out a tube and make it a particular length.

(Yes, I know that making a good stringed instrument is just as exacting, if not more, but a quick-and-dirty one is far easier than an equivalent wind instrument with more than one note.)

It wouldn't surprise me if the religious ideas stemmed from the same thing: the church disapproved of instruments that anybody could play (and therefore they couldn't control) and declared them suspect/pernicious/evil. And maybe harps are the instruments of angels because they're harder to play.

I think percussion may have been the very first instrument *(human voice aside.)  Admittedly this is pure conjecture on my part, but it seems striking something is even more basic than plucking a string or blowing on a tube.
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2009, 07:48:57 AM »

Y'know, all this discussion of the damnation of various instruments and voices started making me think along the tangent of yet another fantasy element alluded-to in this story:  the magic of dance.  Think of the famous "Dancing Shoes".  Since before writing, dance has always been something magical to call up spirits or shape the weather.  This story, in a very primal way, combines the magic of the fiddle with the magic of dance in a perfect tapestry of a contemporary faerie tale.

Although, to be honest, it would rather difficult to NOT have dance and music joined in some fashion, no?  Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2009, 05:27:26 PM »

There is a trickster who uses pipes - Pan.  Who of course uses Pan pipes.  But he's a minor trickster in the Greek pantheon, compared to Hermes.  Who of course uses a lyre. 

When I got home after listening to this story, I had to restrain myself from talking in the idiom of the story.  "I had a tough day at work, me." 

In any case, add another voice to those who loved this story. 
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« Reply #16 on: July 27, 2009, 11:09:10 PM »

I think percussion may have been the very first instrument *(human voice aside.)  Admittedly this is pure conjecture on my part, but it seems striking something is even more basic than plucking a string or blowing on a tube.

True, although whacking a hollow tree trunk or whatever is harder to tune. Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2009, 08:19:56 AM »

Loved it, loved it, loved it. Marvellous story - I think every single thing about it worked for me - made even better by a marvellous reading; it's not just that both were good, but the reading was so well suited to the story that the result was even better than the sum of its parts, and the parts are great on their own.
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« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2009, 10:15:06 AM »

Great story - all bayou culture felt completely realized and perfectly told by Delia Sherman. And always nice to see an albino as the protagonist instead of the creepy villian. And the descriptions of the fiddling and the climatic dances...everything just worked so well in this story.

Elizabeth Green Musselman also did a fantastic reading.

Really, I think this is one of Podcastle's best.
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« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2009, 11:02:56 AM »

Echoing everyone else's sentiments about the reading and the story. Very very good.

It did start too slow, I think. And though Ulyse was (pretty clearly to me) a werewolf, I thought the albino girl was also some sort of shapeshifter. It's like, here's this deal-with-the-devil story, and oh yeah a werewolf, but the fact that he's a werewolf doesn't really mean anything. Or did I miss something else?
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