Yes, the dulcimer evolves, but always in full circle
Updated: Feb 14, 2022
A few days ago, David Beede posted a clip of Cyndi Lauper on Everything Dulcimer.
The video is from her 2008 appearance on the Howard Stern show; during her appearance she plays the dulcimer (If the Everything Dulcimer link doesn't allow you in, watch the video directly on Youtube here.)
If you've watched Jean Ritchie's style of playing (e.g., in an earlier blog post here) and/or read the "Dulcimer Evolves" posts one, two and three, then it's time to watch Cyndi as she plays; specifically, take a look at how she plays the instrument. She's not playing it David Schnaufer-style like he does in the "Fisher's Hornpipe" music video; she's playing it with a noter--a little stick that her left hand uses to fret as she sings--just like Jean Ritchie did starting in the nineteen forties. Just like the early American immigrants who flowed into the Appalachian mountains and who turned the zither into a dulcimer. They used a noter to fret. The dulcimer has always evolved, yet it always maintains its roots. Not only doesn't it forget its roots, but the original style of playing is just as pleasurable as is the latest (e.g., Sam Edelston's "sitar-style".) Whatever you desire--simple or complex sound--the dulcimer will literally play along.
The cover story of this February's Dulcimer Players News is entitled, Future is Bright for Dulcimer's New Crew. The cover article focuses on several up and coming young players in the dulcimer world.
All are remarkable people, but two profiles in particular jumped out at me: Amy Hollinrake, a U.K. player, is the first. While studying music in London she took a course on American music in which she first learned about the mountain dulcimer and Appalachian folk music. When she heard Jean Ritchie, she says she was hooked; she connected emotionally with southern Appalachian folk music. Another featured player is from Dubai, Ryan Husain, was a jazz guitarist who made his way to the dulcimer through listening to Jean Ritchie.
Now, don't ever try to convince me that the spirit of the mountain dulcimer isn't full of life, or that it won't do whatever it takes to make its players fall in love with it. Amateurs or aspiring pros, American or not, young people or seniors ... it exists only to please its player.
Oh, and by the way: Cyndi Lauper and David Schnaufer were friends. Guess what brought them together? Read that story in Pluck.