Emulating Tommy Jarrell’s fiddling style had become a single-minded
for John Engle. He had spent the past few years breaking it down to its smallest units
and rebuilding it into a comprehensive sound.
He clicked on a folder. Inside were scores of files, each titled according to the individual
numbers in Jarrell’s repertoire. Engle moved the pointer to one labeled “June Apple” and
clicked. It opened to reveal a string of triangles arranged across the screen, pointing either up
or down. The scheme didn’t look like much, but Engle explained all that had gone into it:
With the help of a piece of computer software, he had slowed each of the tunes down to
a more accessible speed.
At night, with head-hones on, he had listened to every note of every tune, alert to subtle cues
of bow-direction, turning each note over and examining it from every side with an almost
curatorial attention to detail.
“I have what I would describe as ‘fast’ hearing,” he explained. “It’s analogous to a sampling rate
in the recording process. You take five seconds of music, and a typical person’s brain hears it and
builds an image with that. Me, I take 1,500 or 2,000 samples of that same five seconds and build
an image with that. But even at half-speed, with Tommy’s fiddling you still have a tremendous
amount of information going by you.”