We tracked him down to a class at Belmont and then to his apartment, which was like a shrine to his main love, the "Delcimore." All kinds of shapes and sizes of this peculiar American instrument adorned the walls and floors of his humble abode. Cyndi and I became fascinated with the Tennessee Music box and especially when we heard the tales, so eloquently told, of its origins. We invited him out to the studio to record with us for Cyndi's "Sisters of Avalon" album. That turned into one of those special magical nights along with one of the coldest! Not only did we record Cyndi's beautiful song "Fearless" live, with Cyndi strumming mountain dulcimer and David bowing the Tennessee Music Box but David regaled us with stories of the Melungeons and so the dance tune we were working on became a "Melungeon stomp." The Ballad of Cleo and Joe (as it was called) became a big club hit.
All over the world the strains of the TN music box has been heard mixed in with the pumping beats of disco! Next to fall under the spell of its primitive sound was my brother Nigel Pulsford, guitar player with the multi platinum rock band Bush. He used David both speaking and playing the box on his solo album "Heavenly Toast on the Paradise Road" Two female guitarists also used David on their recordings. Kat Dyson from Prince's band the New Generation and Felicia Collins from the David Letterman show both loved to play and talk with him. In fact recently when Felicia was the featured artist on the Apple Computer Site she mentioned David.
He met Keki Mingus, daughter of the late jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus, and with Stephen Seifert arranged and recorded "Self Portrait in Three Colors" A rare feat for a mountain dulcimer to play the intricacies of such a jazz classic. David loved experimenting and mixing the various styles but his first love was always the raw beauty of the sound of the dulcimer. That is what we tried to capture on "Delcimore" an album I was excited to produce. This ambitious CD turned into an extensive labor of love - Cyndi Lauper offered to sing on it, brother Nigel contributed the Mingus track he had produced, Stephen Seifert played on many of the traditional tracks with David.
We tried to make it in the spirit of a "field recording" dragging the microphones out into the woods to capture the spirit of the moment that coincided with the arrival of the thirteen-year cicadas, a beautiful noise that started and finished the eclectic album. We used a live recording of the concerto that David had helped Connie Ellisor compose called Blackberry Winter and one of our big thrills was the letter David received from President Jimmy Carter complimenting him on the CD along with it being short listed for a Grammy nomination. The release of Delcimore coincided with the first days of the Internet and David wanted to be a part of that. Despite his apparent fear of computers he knew that the music of the dulcimer could be made available to the world at the click of a mouse! He was delighted to let his music be available for downloading and to release the CD on Collecting Dust, one of the first independent on line CD stores.
For a while he had his own web page and when I became a beta tester for the Rocket Network, linking musicians all over the world via the Internet, David was there too. We wrote and recorded a piece of music called "Twanging Dude" with a guitar player in Finland, experimented with DJs in London, doing dance remixes of Black mountain rag and Train Upon the Mountain along with mixing what later became known as electronica with dulcimer. In this respect I saw him bringing the music of the early pioneers to the music of the pioneers of the 20th century technology. We recorded "In the Bleak Mid Winter" for the Farmer's Almanac "Celebration of the American Farm" and flew up to Connecticut to work on Cyndi Lauper's Christmas CD.
Again the plaintive drones of the TN Music box can be heard on that record. We performed with Cyndi at the Arena and Opryland. Everywhere people commented on the sound of that "strange" instrument and David would enthrall people with his animated explanation of its history. David wanted to make sure he had all of his songs recorded and embarked on a kitchen recording of his album Uncle Dulcimer.
I helped compile this collection. Again the rawness of the moment enhanced the beauty of the songs. Unfortunately David would disappear for long periods of time whilst he grappled with ill health. One day, just out of the blue, he arrived at the studio, dulcimers in hand, with an idea to do an album of piano and dulcimer pieces in the style of parlor music from Stephen Foster to traditional folk tunes.
No one had done that he exclaimed! We worked for many weeks, getting music from the American songbook ready, arranging voicings that would compliment both instruments. Our aim was to debut the album in Rugby, Tennessee but unfortunately the CD never got mixed. David disappeared again and a phone call explained his decision to go into academia and dedicate his life to documenting the history of the dulcimer. I didn’t see David for a while and then I heard rumors of how seriously ill he was.
He had always bounced back. His memory lives online with the building of a memorial to him in the 3D virtual world of Second Life alongside a page on my space, a website and blog. Hundreds of visitors to these sites will make sure that David and his legacy will never be forgotten. I believe the Folklife Heritage Award would be a fitting tribute to the man who did and is still doing so much for preserving and championing the folk music of this great state of Tennessee.
Yours sincerely, Janet Lee Pulsford This letter, sent recommending David for the Folklife Heritage award, sums up my time recording and making music with David Schnaufer. There are many hours of recordings which I hope to release as time and circumstance permit. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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