Artist Blog: Fiddler Laura Cortese on How to Name a Fiddle Tune

By Laura Cortese

How do you come up with titles for fiddle tunes? Is there a story behind all of them?

It can be like giving a name to your baby. I have a friend who is a new father. Cooing, he and his partner call their baby “baby bear” and “baby girl”—and for a few months, no official name surfaced. Perhaps you are thinking, “What? No! Indecisive, much?!” As the judgment and dismay pour out, you might stop and consider this: Why do we expect that a baby would come out crying and immediately be given a name that suits her? You’ve heard stories of women who have dreamed of their baby and its name long before looking into the little one’s eyes. Or the babies who pop out and their mother or father looks into their eyes and a new namenever before discussedpops into their mind. There are all kinds of ways a baby finds his or her way to a name.


But what about a tune baby? There are the tunes that live without a name for months (the naming process gets more convoluted as you stand behind the microphone each night asking your captive audience to offer their recommendations). Then there are tunes that you play through completely for the first time and an image pops into your head that can only be described in two or three scintillating words.

There are also those that you dedicate to a person. Sometimes the name comes before the tunethat’s how it was with “Dyslexic Undresser,” a nod to a flirty moment with an Irish photographer in Limerick, Ireland. And then there are the tunes that go by one name for years only to find a different title once they are mature and out in the world on your CD.

That’s how it was with my tune “The Hunting” from All in Always. I was inspired to write it because of a favorite Quebecois tune called “Cinq, Quatre, Trois” that describes the number of measures each melodic phrase represents. So I wrote “Seven, Six, Five.” I finally recorded it with a dear friend and Galician musician, who had been my guru in questions of the heart since my divorce.

Over months in text messages we discussed virility, connection, and the maintenance of longterm partnerships. We came to this: The skills of courting your partner, once honed, never go away. Your motivation wanes a bit but the instinct remains. Once coupled, in a sort of wooing-retirement, a mysterious glance or one minute of innuendo-infused conversation is a reminder that you are still worthy of pursuing love, and of being pursued. What better name for a tune that contains that tension than “The Hunting”?

By the way . . . back to the baby: Her name is Zaya.

Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards are currently touring their latest release California Calling, out on Compass Records.