On "Mississippi Sawyer" -
Library of Congress's entry and audio of the tune for fiddle notes: "
'Mississippi Sawyer' is one of the most widely distributed Southern fiddle
tunes in America, being
today not just in the South but in all regions of thecountry. It appears in
Knauff, Virginia Reels (1839), vol. 4, #4, entitled 'Love from the Heart.'
Curiously, the same collection has the earliest appearance of the title
'Mississippi Sawyer,' but it is to a quite different tune.
title refers to a frightening phenomenon during floods on the Mississippi.
Great trees would be wrenched from the bank by flood waters and would be
dragged underwater in the raging torrent, only to impale themselves in the
bottom and rise like monsters from the deep to threaten the paths of boats
struggling to navigate the flood. This was the dread Mississippi sawyer.
Folklorist Roger Welsch once suggested that the rocking of the fiddle bow
required to play this tune simulated bobbing along in a Mississippi river
"Sets of 'Mississippi Sawyer' may be found in Ford, Traditional Music of
America, p. 32; Brown, The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina
Folklore vol. 5, 413-414 'Mississippi Lawyer'; Adam, Old Time Fiddlers'
Favorite Barn Dance Tunes #8; Ruth, Pioneer Western Folk Tunes, p. 13. A
related tune is 'Downfall of Paris,' for which see O'Neill's Music of
Ireland #1562, Thomas and Leeder, Singin' Gatherin', p. 59." The Fiddlers
Companion collects and shares much more information on fiddle tunes, should
interest be sparked.
Given that the fiddle was for generations a folk instrument used in many
originally from European sources, the popularity of such folks tunes was in
part the ease with which they could travel. Variations of fiddle tunes are
also found for dulcimer and banjo and in various combinations with regional
stylistic varieties abounding. The notion of reinterpreting this tune
for piano, along a classical scheme of sorts, fits with the survey of other
essays on tunes as have inspired such small sketches. That an individual or
small ensemble could make such energetic and joyous music even in those more
difficult, less prosperous times than today in the West is a testament to
the universal power of music.
notion of cross-tuning of strings and modal colors suggested also some
"wrong note" colors flavor this reinterpretation of the tune for solo piano.
pages, circa 3' 00" - an MP3 demo is here:
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major
commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano