Questions for Tim Eriksen
(these questions written as a kind of "trial" by students to see if
we're on the right track)
1. Did Tim find it challenging to
reconcile his interests in hardcore punk with his obvious talents and
passion for traditional American music, especially shape note music?
2. I've listened to some of his stuff from his website and noticed that
even in his rock pieces, his voice sounds very similar to his style
when he is singing shape note music. It makes for a very distinct
sound, and I was wondering what purpose he thinks it serves, besides
merely serving his own musical interests/tastes. Is he trying to convey
something that goes beyond the lyrics?
3. I wasn't very clear on this in class, but what exactly was the
extent of his involvement in the "O Brother" soundtrack?
4. Does he feel that there is a danger of losing the spiritual essence
of shape note music by popularizing it?
5. I was surprised that he doesn't make more of his material available
online. Why is that?
what is the internet and mass
file sharing doing for indian music? for sacred harp music? for obscure
bands like zabe i babe? how would you propose the big record labels
going to deal with the internet's influence on pop music? how do you
see the industry restructuring in the next decade/ do you even see it
1. What is happening in
America/american culture today that is calling back to or needing the
tradition of southern gospel music?
2. How is an old musical tradition changed (preserved,
transformed?) when looked at from a modern/outsider point of view?
3. How has/will Tim's interest in/performance of Sacred Harp
music shape the traditions surrounding it?
4. How are sacred/community centered musical traditions and the
marketed "pop" music traditions related? different?
5. related to above: Are they reconcilable?
1) Do you think Sacred Harp and Punk Rock music sound the same to God?
2) What would your music sound like if you lived alone on a deserted
3) How do you conceive of the role of the voice in American music? And
4) In the Hindu musical tradition, as you well know, music has
important religious significance, and has the potential to harmonize
our souls with the vibration of the universe. But it seems to me that
music in America divides people rather than unites them; between the
old and the young, the cool and the square, the chic and the hick, the
educated rich and the uneducated poor, the academic elite and the
illiterate bard. In America, we rock for Jesus and the antichrist
alike. Is it impossible for America to have a national musical culture,
or to be united by music?
5) What do you think when you wake up in the morning?
1) How do you balance your
interests for both sacred harp music and
2) What effects do your differing influences have on each type of
3) What is the message you are trying to convey with your music?
4) How does the history of sacred harp music restrict or confine
the music you are trying to create, if at all?
5) Does the fact that this music has been around for so long ever
dissuade you from playing it, since much of it is no longer original?
1.) How did Tim read the words from the first little hymnal that did
not sound like words? Simply, how did the sounds that he made translate
on the page?
2.) How does he, or anyone singing in multiple musical fields
(shapenote to punk to rock, etc.) train their voice to cross over? I
feel like that would be a very difficult vocal transition. The types of
singing he performed/played were extremely different. However, I can't
sing, so I might be wrong...
3.) Are the instrumental pieces that he performed with the shapenote
normal, or is that something that he added after the fact? I got the
feeling that shapenote was a very vocal type of music.
4.) Tim talked abobut following the rules of shapenote when he creates
his own music. I remember one example where he was very unsure about a
certain kind of sound because it was unconventional. Are these rules
simply understood by those involved? How would someone getting into
shapenote even know they existed? Are the written down?
5.) He discussed being involved in a lot of the music for Cold
Mountain. Does this mean he was a musical advisor to some other people,
or did he actually create the music?
1.) For Tim: How does one resolve the conflict
between artistic license and religious obligation when working with
2.) For Tim: How do your roots in folk music
impact your rock and more modern music?
3.) For Tim: You talked about your wish to see
a top ten sacred harp song. Do you feel that the integrity of
shape note music is hurt by its popularization at all?
1- I was interested to know about the roots of shape note
singing. Was it something that was brought over from Europe or
did it originate in the States?
2- What instruments were traditionally used in shape note
singing? How do the singers keep rhythm?
3- Some of the songs sung in the movie, "Cold Mountain," don't seem to
have religious meanings; how do these songs stem from the more hymns
(if they do at all)?
4- What kind of a message do Eriksen's mixed cds of punk rock and shape
note songs send to the public? Is it just an interesting
combination or something more meaningful?
5- Eriksen mentioned at one point that punk rock music is becoming
increasingly more popular, continuing by saying that music such as that
in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" could do just as well. What kind
of a future does this more soulful and traditional music have in
societies around the world?
How did shape notes get developed?
Is there a market for international/multinational music?
Why did he get involved in shape note music and become so good at it or
how did he become involved and get so good?
Will shape notes continue to prosper? Because it seems like such
a small group is involved right now, is there any way to keep that
What sort of steps need to be taken to be a Shape Note Master, or one
of those teachers he was talking about?q