Hi, and welcome to my WordPress blog. My name is Abe Musselman. I’m a Philadelphia native, and I recently finished undergrad with a degree in biology. I could tell you what I do, but the truth is I don’t do much these days except practice banjo, scroll through job listings, and wait for my friends to get home from work. Instead, I’ll just tell you what I like and what I’m planning to write about on this blog. I like music, especially traditional music, especially traditional Celtic and American dance music and ballads. Fiction, especially speculative fiction, especially epic fantasy. Science, especially biology, especially evolution and ecology. I’ll be writing about whatever’s on my mind, and hopefully discovering new things to think about and new ways to think about them. I’ve got plenty of time for that in this stage of my life. I’ll also post occasional guitar/banjo/mandolin/music theory lessons, since music education is a small passion of mine. Now here’s a bit about the title I picked.
“The low and lonesome low”, or “the lowland sea”, is the setting of one of my favorite old ballads, known as “The Golden Vanity”, or “The Golden Willow Tree”, or “The Gallant Victory”, or “The Sweet Trinity”…you get the idea. According to Wikipedia, it dates back to at least 1635, but since then it’s been carried from place to place and from author to author, accumulating lyrical variations and new melodies from nameless musicians over hundreds of years. By the time it made its way to Francis James Child (1825-1896), a musicologist who collected hundreds of ballads from centuries-old Scottish, Irish, and English songwriting traditions, it had even become a popular song of the American Civil War under the title “The Old Virginia Lowlands”. Since its publication in Child’s “English and Scottish Popular Ballads”, it’s become something of a standard among the Peters, Pauls, and Marys of the modern folk-revival scene, each of whom adds their own little tweak to it. When my band plays it (we specialize in sappy Scottish sailor songs), we cut out the drowning scene in favor of a fiddle solo. Much easier on the ears.
The basic story doesn’t change, though, and it’s a weird one. The titular galley is sailing peacefully on the lowland so low when it’s approached by an enemy ship, sometimes Turkish, sometimes British. The captain is presumably making his peace with Davy Jones, when boldly upspeaks a little cabin boy. He’s got a plan. Actually, he’s got something better: a little drill made for the unlikely purpose of sinking warships, which he’s quite prepared to use for the low, low price of the captain’s daughter’s hand in marriage. One could admire his resourcefulness, but I for one refuse to believe he hadn’t been biding his time for that extraordinarily specific opportunity. However, there’s no time for questions, so overboard goes he. He swims, undetected, to the enemy vessel and with the detached, tactical precision of a Navy SEAL proceeds to drill a series of expertly-placed holes at key points along their hull, plunging dozens of husbands, sons, and fathers into the sea as cold as ice. He swims back and cheerfully asks, to a nauseated audience who I’m guessing would give anything for a hug and a Xanax, “hey, can you help a guy out?” It cracks me up every time. I’ll let you listen to the end for yourself, but in short, the captain reconsiders the lowly cabin boy’s suitability as a son-in-law.
So there you have it. I don’t know where the lowland sea is, but I like to imagine it’s a place where strange people find themselves in even stranger situations. I hope you find this blog at least a bit entertaining. I’ll try to keep it weird.