Many people using the Internet to search for music do not fit the image of the Napster-happy college student — and Ted Boucher could be their poster boy. A 50-year-old retired advertising and public relations manager living in the Washington, D.C., area, Boucher spends his days scouring the Net for traditional folk music, both as a fan and a composer. He discussed everything from the Mudcat Café Web site to the Backstreet Boys with Senior Writer Brian Ploskina.
How would you describe the Mudcat Café?
Its an amazing learning tool and Im eager for more people to know that its there for people learning music at all levels. For people sitting down, like I am, writing a lot of stuff, I regularly look at MIDIs [musical instrument digital interfaces] people posted, strip it down and see how people arranged [the music]. Then I thank them for it.
Who regularly comes to Mudcat?
Its a sharing community and people are there for many different reasons. There are a lot of people that are folk artists and performers, and many people just like to listen to this stuff. And the other thing is, there are people all over the world — mostly, but not exclusively, from the English-speaking world. One of the best things is, if you want to get an idea of what the Mudcat is, just post a question [asking] where a certain song came from, and youll get answers right away. Youll get derivations going back four or five hundred years.
And thats what really sets folk music apart, isnt it? That historical, educational feel?
People like folk music because its a living kind of history. You sing a song, its not like the Backstreet Boys. In most cases, its something thats been in various forms for some time. This is stuff most people dont care about, but if you go to the flea markets, buy the collectibles and want to know where they came from, this is a great way, a great resource. The lyrics and music are there and the people who have collected it are there, and you can talk to them surprisingly quickly.
How difficult was it to find folk music before something like the Mudcat came around?
Before, [you would buy] the record if you could find it, or go to the library and see if you could find the sheet music — and that was really it. It used to be that if you were looking for a song, it would take you five or six months to find something you could actually work with. Im lucky I live in D.C., where I can go to the Library of Congress. But if youre in the Midwest, youd have a hard time. Small libraries dont have a lot of resources, especially when youre talking about folk music. Older libraries have older collections of folk music, but if its something more obscure, youre in trouble.
Today, you just make a post, and you have people writing you back with the answers and where you can find copies of the music.