Misinformed Informants: The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song
“Folk music is not about press, resumés, schmoozing, or price tags. Its purpose is to foster authentic being-together.” – Staunton R. Livingston
For decades, Stompin’ Tom Connors has attempted to unite Canadians in song. His “The Hockey Song,” “Sudbury Saturday Night,” and “Bud the Spud” – among many others – have spoken across the rural and the urban; they have both lassoed and amplified his nation’s spirit. Although it is not often celebrated or discussed, however, there was a moment in Tom’s aesthetic development when he opened up his craft to other possibilities. “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song”, which folklorist Henry Adam Svec has recently discovered is not the whole story of Tom’s latent tendency away from flag-waving, is a significant document for the archeological study of world-historical consciousness, which is yet to be written.
The debut performance of The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song will unfold in three parts. First, Svec will place the recording he has uncovered into historical, aesthetic, and political contexts. He will play the recording itself, which Tom made in 1974 on a four-track machine. Second, because folk music is about neither celebrities nor individuals (cf. Livingston), Svec will perform and discuss some of the other songs he has gathered on his many folk-collecting journeys. The purpose of this part of the performance will be to locate Tom, not as master craftsman or star, but as one amongst many other equally illuminating (if generally unknown) voices in Canadian folk music.
And lastly, Svec himself will perform a more accurate version of “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song.” Although the recording Svec discovered might seem to be the best document we have of Tom’s original intention – for it is Tom singing and playing on the recording – it has been clear to many working in the fields of folklore and ethnomusicology (e.g. Altman, 1988; Rough, 2004) that the essence of a song cannot be expressed by any particular manifestation of that song. Song qua song transcends the historicity of any and all songs. It follows, then, that Tom’s recorded performance of “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song” (although important and interesting) is not identical with itself. Drawing on very recent research, however, Svec will play what is believed to be the real guts of the work in question.
Henry Adam Svec is a songwriter, actor, and folklorist. His interdisciplinary work has also spanned performance, music, theatre, criticism, and game design. He was raised on a cherry farm near Blenheim, Ontario, and has lived in New Brunswick and Mississippi. He has traveled extensively across Canada and the United States on his many song-catching expeditions, trips on which he has documented authentic folk music and rituals. From 2006-2008 he was the resident folklorist at The National Archives of Canada; it was while working in Ottawa that he famously discovered The CFL Sessions, songs written and recorded by Canadian football players in the 1970s. He has also recorded music from the other side of the microphone, in the bands Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs and The Boy from ET. He is the author of American Folk Music as Tactical Media, a scholarly monograph, and Life Is Like Canadian Football and Other Authentic Folk Songs, a novel. He currently teaches at the University of Waterloo.