Tag Archive | Tim Eriksen

How Come That Blood

You might know that I’m a big fan of Tim Eriksen. Back in 2013 I heard him perform at the Ginkgo Coffeehouse in St. Paul, and he sang some songs from his new-at-the-time album, Josh Billings Voyage Or, Cosmopolite on the Cotton Road. I don’t remember for sure whether he sang “How Come That Blood” on that occasion, but this song is from the album, and I like it very much, for its melody and its sinister text. A young woman (presumably) is asking her love how came that blood on his shirt sleeve, and at first he answers that it’s the blood of his little gray hawk. She says that hawk’s blood was never so red, so he says it was his gray hound’s (greyhound’s?) blood. Same objection. So he says it’s his gray mare’s blood. Nope. Finally he reveals the blood is that of his “brother dear, whom lately I have slain.” Ahhh!

Anyway, not long ago I stumbled upon the duo The Vox Hunters and discovered that their song “Edward” is a version of “How Come That Blood.” The text is similar, but there are differences: in “Edward,” the young man kills his brother-in-law, not his brother, and their falling out was over a holly bush instead of a little nut tree (evidently some people have strong feelings about plants). And then somehow I found out that Sam Amidon, who’s sung some lovely arrangements of shape note tunes, had a version too. In his, it seems like it’s a mother questioning her son. My favorite is still Tim Eriksen’s rendition, probably in part because I heard it first.

In other musical connections news… Last year Isabelle taught me a 16th century French pavane by Thoinot Arbeau called “Belle qui tiens ma vie.” The other day, she heard it on the radio, specifically on KUSC, the classical music station out of USC (which I hadn’t heard of before this!). I was curious, and happily, KUSC posts what pieces they’ve aired, so I was able to look it up. To my surprise, what was listed wasn’t “Belle qui tiens ma vie” but something called “Capriol Suite” by Peter Warlock. Peter Warlock turns out to be a 20th century English composer who apparently chose the pseudonym Warlock because of his fascination with the occult. The movements of Capriol Suite are based on Renaissance tunes. I read that the suite can be considered an original composition, but the Pavane, the second movement, is quite recognizable as “Belle qui tiens ma vie.” I also recognized the first movement as a Susato dance.

Hmm, while writing this post I discovered that Tim Eriksen and Eliza Carthy’s “Castle by the Sea” and Annalivia’s “False Sir John” are clearly related (but it looks like there’s a whole big family for that song). Time to bring this pseudo-musicology post (brought to you in no small part by Wikipedia) to a close, I think.

Musical Detection

I’ve recently discovered some fascinating connections between songs, and I can’t help sharing them with you. This post will probably be as esoteric as that series about The American Songbag. Hooray!

First, I was introduced to Thomas Morley’s “Sing We and Chant It” thanks to Rachel Hartman’s blog. Listening to this English madrigal, I was struck by how much it resembled a hymn tune whose name I always forget. I poked around and found the hymn I was thinking of: In Dir Ist Freude (In Thee Is Joy, or, as the English text goes, “In thee is gladness”). I first remember coming across this tune when I was studying abroad in France and attending the Eglise Réformée de Grenoble. (Aside: It seemed like half the hymns we sang there were from the Genevan Psalter, and they all sounded alike and were kind of boring…) One day, back in the States, the music director of my church played this hymn as an organ postlude. I recognized the melody and asked her what it was, and she told me it was In Dir Ist Freude. You can listen to a brass ensemble version of the tune here. Its resemblance to “Sing We and Chant It” is pretty easy to hear. 

Apparently, this tune was first published by Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi in 1591 with the title “L’innamorato” and a secular text about love (“A lieta vita / Amor ci invita…”). However, Gastoldi’s melody may have been inspired by German sources. The tune was then printed by Johannes Lindemann in 1594 with the sacred “In dir ist Freude” text. It seems “Sing We and Chant It” is an arrangement and embellishment of Gastoldi’s song. Also, J. S. Bach composed an organ chorale prelude for In Dir Ist Freude (BWV 615).  

Second, I discovered the wonderful song “Friendship” on Tim Eriksen’s album Every Sound Below. The title sounded like that of a shape note tune. (There is a tune in The Sacred Harp called “Friendship,” but that one is entirely different.) Anyway, the tune of “Friendship” seemed very familiar to me, and I couldn’t rest until I figured out why. I thought it was a melody I myself had played on the piano, and not that long ago. Given that my repertoire of piano pieces is very small, there weren’t that many possibilities.

I did some research on the tune “Friendship” to try to find out why it might sound familiar to me. From various sources, I learned that the lovely text Tim Eriksen sings (“Friendship, to ev’ry willing mind, / Opens a heavenly treasure”) is attributed to a Mr. Bidwell of Connecticut and was published in the Philadelphia Songster in 1789. The tune is attributed to one G. Cook. “Friendship” was a popular 18th century song that found its way into shape note books in the early 19th century and was published, among other places, in The Hesperian Harp (1848).

The melody is in the tenor line, the third one down

The melody is in the tenor line, the third one down

So, back to my suspicions that I had played this tune on the piano. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that the piece I was remembering was the very first one in a collection of easy Handel works my mother had given me for Christmas. I asked her to photograph the music for me, and as it turned out, this Gavotte in C major was the one I had been thinking of. If you read music, you can see for yourself that the melody is very close to that of “Friendship,” and you can also listen to someone playing it on the piano here.

I was very pleased with myself for having discovered this connection. But then I found this post by Rachel Wells Hall, a Philadelphia Sacred Harp singer and one of the authors of the new Shenandoah Harmony, and I realized someone else had already written all about it. It turns out the gavotte above is the same as the chorus “Viva la face, viva l’amor” from Handel’s 1736 opera Atalanta. And what’s more, “Friendship” is in The Shenandoah Harmony, so I have the music!

Third, I heard the song “La solette et le limandin” by the Breton band Tri Yann on Pandora. I noticed that it sounded rather like a song I’d learned in elementary school, whose tune I vaguely remembered was the same as the Israeli national anthem. I looked up the national anthem, which is called “Hatikvah,” and sure enough, it was the tune I was thinking of. The words I learned in school began “Autour de la flamme quand le jour se meurt / Nos chants proclament un monde meilleur” (“Around the flame as the day dies / Our singing proclaims a better world”–apologies for the clunky translation). Funnily enough, Googling these lyrics reveals that this is a song from Lac du Bois, the French summer camp in northern Minnesota I attended once, but I definitely learned it at school, not at camp.

In any case, I tried to unearth some background on the Tri Yann song to see if any connection to “Hatikvah” was acknowledged, but instead I read that “La solette et le limandin” bore a close resemblance to a 16th century Italian song called “Il Ballo di Mantova”! Not what I was expecting. The Italian song was composed by Giuseppino del Biado, and its original text begins “Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi da questo cielo”. As it turns out, though, “Il Ballo di Mantova” has quite the legacy. It was quoted in Bedřich Smetana’s symphonic poem Die Moldau (Vltava), which I have played, and it inspired “Hatikvah” (possibly through the intermediary of a Romanian folksong–it sounds like the Italian tune spread throughout Europe during the Renaissance). A version of it is even in John Playford’s The Dancing Master (1657), under the title “An Italian Rant,” so one could do an English country dance to this tune!

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for a fantastic and fulfilling 2014!

Here is a highly selective overview of what I did in 2013 (pie is heavily featured):

In January, I baked a galette des rois for Epiphany, visited UC Santa Barbara, and went to the St. Paul Winter Carnival, where my hopes of seeing an ice palace were dashed.

No ice palace, alas, so this ice sculpture of the St. Paul Cathedral had to do.

No ice palace, alas, so this ice sculpture of the St. Paul Cathedral had to do.

In February, I spent a week in Istanbul with my family. Later in the month, my organization held its annual Day on the Hill at the Minnesota State Capitol, from whence I went straight to the airport to catch a flight to Tucson and the University of Arizona. Also: crêpes for Mardi Gras.

The Yeni Cami (New Mosque) at sunset

The Yeni Cami (New Mosque) at sunset

In March, I returned from a visit to UC San Diego just in time to attend my first Playford Ball.  I also went to open houses at Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA. So much flying. Oh, and I baked a pie for Pi Day.


In April, I went to a singing workshop given by the Georgian ensemble Zedashe and attended a Tim Eriksen concert. I decided on UCLA for grad school and traveled up to the Iron Range for the first time on a work-related trip. It snowed endlessly in Minnesota. Sparkers went on submission on April 30th.

On my way to the bus stop, one fine April morning

On my way to the bus stop, one fine April morning

I spent most of May on submission. I celebrated May Day in Powderhorn Park. On May 14th, I watched Gov. Dayton sign Minnesota’s marriage equality bill into law on the Capitol steps and then went out for ice cream with my housemates at Izzy’s, where we encountered Morris dancers! And then Sparkers sold at the end of the month! May was pretty great.

Minnesota State Capitol, May 14th, 2013

Minnesota State Capitol, May 14th, 2013

In June, I went to the all-night arts festival Northern Spark at the St. Paul Union Depot, where I watched a replica house burn down at 2 a.m.

Gives a new meaning to my title...

Gives a new meaning to my title…

In July, my volunteer year came to an end. I also recorded a short cello part for a friend, who hopes to produce pop-rock songs for a Mainland Chinese audience. Who knows, maybe he’ll become famous in China, and then I’ll be able to say I played the 18-bar cello line in that one song…

I made this rhubarb pie in July

I made this rhubarb pie in July

In August, I brushed up on my phonology and syntax and road tripped to California with my family, stopping at Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon on the way.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

In September, I moved into my new apartment in Los Angeles and promptly became a hermit while I worked on Sparkers line edits. I finished just in time to start grad school at UCLA.

Hello Kitty

I do not actually own this creature…

In October, I made a pumpkin pie for the Linguistics Department’s Halloween party. And I listened to the livestream of Osmo Vänskä’s last concert as the conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra


In November, I started this blog and had a joint birthday party with two other first-years in my program. The day after Thanksgiving, I attended my first high school reunion in Minneapolis.

Joint birthday cake

Joint birthday cake

In December, I finished knitting my second pair of socks ever and baked a chocolate tart for Christmas Eve dinner. And I read a lot of books! What could be better?


I have high hopes for 2014. Sparkers will come out in the fall. I can’t even really imagine what that’s going to be like, so I’m not going to try. Happy New Year!

The American Songbag, Part III: The Lover’s Lament

Today I conclude my series on The American Songbag. You can also read Part I and Part II. This post is a continuation of Part II.

Last week, I talked about finding in “The True Lover’s Farewell” elements from different songs I hadn’t thought were related. I then discovered a third song in The American Songbag, “The Lover’s Lament.” “Blendings from five or six old ballads are in this song of parting lovers,” Carl Sandburg says. This song has an A and a B text, but there is no indication as to whether they have different sources. Anyway, the verses of “The Lover’s Lament” seem to connect everything even more. Get ready for a lot of texts!

Before acquiring The American Songbag, I heard Tim Eriksen’s “Every Day Is Three” (from the album Josh Billings Voyage) and noticed its textual similarities to “The Blackest Crow.” Here is a comparison of the relevant verses of each:

“The Blackest Crow”

As time draws near, my dearest dear
When you and I must part
How little you know of the grief and woe
In my poor aching heart
‘Tis but I suffer for your sake
Believe me dear it’s true
I wish that you were staying here
Or I was going with you

I wish my breast was made of glass
Wherein you might behold
Upon my chest your name lies wrote
In letters made of gold
In letters made of gold, my love
Believe me when I say
You are the one I will adore
Until my dying day

The blackest crow that ever flew
Would surely turn to white
If ever I prove false to you
Bright day would turn to night
Bright day would turn to night, my love
The element’s would mourn
If ever I prove false to you
The sea would rage and burn

“Every Day Is Three”

Oh, my dearest dear, the time has come when we must part
No one knows the inner grief of my poor aching heart
Or what I set sail or sank for the one I love so dear
I wish that I could go with you or you could tarry here

I wish my breast was made of glass and in it you might behold
Your name in secret I would write in letters of bright gold
In letters of bright gold true love, pray believe me what I say
You are the one that I love best until the dying day

The crow that’s black, my dearest dear, will turn its colors white
If ever I prove false to be the brightest days to night
The brightest days to night, true love, all the elements shall mourn
If ever I prove false to be the raging seas shall burn

Now, we can dive into “The Lover’s Lament,” whose stanzas strongly resemble selected stanzas from “The Blackest Crow,” “Winter’s Night,” and “Every Day Is Three” (as well as the other American Songbag songs I’ve mentioned—but the text of “The Lover’s Lament” is actual closer to those of Molly & Maggie’s, Crowfoot’s, and Tim Eriksen’s songs than to the others in Sandburg’s book, which almost suggests these three more recent songs were derived from this text or a connected source). Interestingly, “The Lover’s Lament” has a refrain that doesn’t look much like anything else I’ve seen.

Verse 1 of Text A of “The Lover’s Lament” is very close to the first half of verse 1 of “The Blackest Crow”:

“The Lover’s Lament”

My dearest dear, the time draws near
When you and I must part;
But little do you know the grief or woe
Of my poor troubled heart.

“The Blackest Crow”

As time draws near, my dearest dear
When you and I must part
How little you know of the grief and woe
In my poor aching heart

Then, verses 2 through 6 of “The Lover’s Lament” are similar to just about all of the verses of “Winter’s Night” (excluding refrains! Because, in fact, “The Lover’s Lament” is the first song with the shoes/gloves/kisses motif that never mentions “ten thousand miles”!):

“The Lover’s Lament”

As I walked out one clear summer night,
A-drinking of sweet wine,
It was then I saw that pretty little girl
That stole this heart of mine.

Her cheeks was like some pink or rose
That blooms in the month of June,
Her lips was like some musical instrument,
That sung this doleful tune.

[Omitting verses about shoes, etc.]

You are like unto some turtle dove,
That flies from tree to tree,
A-mourning for its own true love
Just as I mourn for thee.

“Winter’s Night”

As I walk down on a winter’s night
Drinking of sweet wine
Walking with the girl I love
The one who stole this heart of mine

My love is like a red, red rose
Newly sprung in June
She is like a violin
Sweetly played in tune

[Omitting verses about shoes, etc.]

Don’t you see that lonesome dove
Flying from vine to vine
She mourns the loss of her own true love
Why not me for mine?

Just as a side note, I think Crowfoot’s version is an improvement upon the words in “The Lover’s Lament.” I mean, “Her lips was like some musical instrument”?!

Verse 7 of “The Lover’s Lament” shares part of its text with “The Blackest Crow” and “Every Day Is Three,” though its first half does not overlap with these other two songs, which instead share the imagery of bright day and night:

“The Lover’s Lament”

You are like unto some sailing ship
That sails the raging main,
If I prove false to you, my love,
The raging seas will burn.

“The Blackest Crow”

Bright day would turn to night, my love
The element’s would mourn
If ever I prove false to you
The sea would rage and burn

“Every Day Is Three”

The brightest days to night, true love,
all the elements shall mourn
If ever I prove false to be
the raging seas shall burn

Verses 1 and 2 of Text B of “The Lover’s Lament” are very similar to the second verse of both “The Blackest Crow” and “Every Day Is Three,” but the greater similarity is with Tim Eriksen’s song:

“The Lover’s Lament”

I wish your breast was made of glass,
All in it I might behold;
Your name in secret I would write
In letters of bright gold.
Your name in secret I would write,
Pray believe in what I say;
You are the man that I love best
Unto my dying day.

“Every Day Is Three”

I wish my breast was made of glass
and in it you might behold
Your name in secret I would write
in letters of bright gold
In letters of bright gold, true love,
pray believe me what I say
You are the one that I love best
until the dying day

If you’re wondering why “Every Day Is Three” has that title, it’s because Tim Eriksen’s version of the song has two more verses that don’t overlap with anything in “The Blackest Crow” or “The Lover’s Lament.” Also, it’s worth noticing that Text B of “The Lover’s Lament” is addressed to a man, while most of Text A is addressed to a woman, like in “Winter’s Night”. Lastly, despite the fact that “The Lover’s Lament” contains material that matches the first and second verses of “The Blackest Crow” and “Every Day Is Three,” it does not mention the black crow!

What do I conclude from all of this? I’m no ethnomusicologist, but it seems to me that there is a set of WHO WILL SHOE YOUR FEET songs and a set of BLACK CROW songs, and then there are songs that belong to both sets, pointing perhaps to some common origin or else the mixing of texts with common themes. Carl Sandburg did call “The Lover’s Lament” a blended text, but is that also the case with “The True Lover’s Farewell”? Before poring over The American Songbag, I never thought there was any connection between two of my favorite songs: Crowfoot’s “Winter’s Night” and Molly & Maggie and The Ephemeral Stringband’s “The Blackest Crow.” Now I know! And because I couldn’t help myself, I created this chart comparing the imagery in all the songs discussed in this post and the last one! Song Chart

P.S. At a recent shape note singing in Los Angeles, we sang “Forster” from Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music (1813), and I noticed one of the verses begins: “We’re often like the lonesome dove / Who mourns her absent mate / From hill to hill, from vale to vale / Her sorrows to relate.” Could there be a connection? Of course, this is sacred music, so the next line is: “But Canaan’s land is just before…”