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I wholeheartedly agree with his advice in the latest issue and it's particularly apropos here: "I suggest that you try a very playful, "what-if" kind of approach. Sometimes I think of the dulcimer as a 'possibility box' -- this helps free the instrument from some of the folk music baggage (expectations or whatever) that sometimes get in the way of the free-flowing creative spirit." AMEN TO THAT.
Musical instruments are
possibility boxes. Tradition is well and good, but it's most powerful when it's a thread in the weave of your own voice and creativity.
Dulcimer historian Ralph Lee Smith documents that the dulcimer tradition only seems to date back into the early 19th century, maybe 1818 or so. Before that, there were no mountain dulcimers
per se, but rather some folks migrating south from Pennsylvania with a different instrument, the scheitholt (a Germanic zither). Once these folks got among the Scotch/Irish people down in the Virginia Appalachians, someone broke with tradition and created something entirely new. It's not hard to imagine that this probably tweaked some of the scheitholt players who wanted to keep things strictly traditional!