Welcome to the Contra Pulse Project, a series of interviews with contra musicians about contra music.

As you walk up the steps to the dance hall, you can already hear the strains of the piano and fiddle slipping out into the night. Then you open the doors; see the roomful of dancers and hear that glorious music in full – propelling everyone on the dance floor. It’s uplifting, it’s energetic, it’s fun, it makes us move, it brings us together.

Where does contra music come from? Why does it sound the way it does? How has it changed over time? In this project, we will be attempting to take the pulse of contra music today through a series of conversations between host Julie Vallimont and prominent contra musicians from all corners.  Join us in this journey through music, dance, time, space, and community.

Episode 38 – Dave Bartley

This episode Julie sits down with Seattle musician Dave Bartley. They explore the myriad influences that have woven their way into Dave’s musical style and repertoire, and in his numerous bands – KGB, Contra Sutra and Bag o'Tricks, and ECD groups Tricky Brits and Roguery. He shares his perspective on the Pacific Northwest dance and music community and even...

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Episode 38 – Dave Bartley

Episode 37 – Ben Smith

This episode, Julie sits down with fiddler, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Ben Smith from the Mean Lids, and his musical alter-ego D.R. Shadow. Ben and Julie’s conversation touches on his early musical experiences in upstate New York with classical violin and the magical moment when he first played for a contra dance. And for the first time on Contra Pulse,...

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Episode 37 – Ben Smith

Episode 36 – Anita Anderson

This episode, Julie sits down with West Coast dance pianist Anita Anderson They revisit Anita’s early musical experiences learning the chord organ where she grew up in Long Beach, California, through her first exposure to contra and ECD in Los Angeles. They discuss the myriad musical collaborations she’s involved in and with the help of some short excerpts from...

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Episode 36 – Anita Anderson

Episode 35 – Sue Songer

This episode, Julie sits down with fellow contra dance pianist and CDSS Lifetime Contribution Award recipient Sue Songer. In addition to playing piano Sue also plays fiddle, coordinates and directs the Portland Megaband, and with her collaborator Clyde Curley compiled the 3 volumes of The Portland Collection. In the interview Sue describes her journey from Suzuki violin lessons to...

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Episode 35 – Sue Songer

Episode 34 – Amy Larkin

This episode, Julie sits down with fiddler Amy Larkin of Falmouth, MA - a quintessential part of the New England contra dance scene playing in too many bands and musical groups to count: Uncle Gizmo, Heyday, LocoMojo, Mr. Spanky, to name a few and a Cajun Zydeco band with her husband, Jonathan Larkin. Amy talks about her formative experiences...

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Episode 34 – Amy Larkin

Episode 33 – Sam Bartlett

Julie sits down with musician, composer, cartoonist, and stuntologist Sam Bartlett. As a musician Sam plays in the Irish and old-time American traditions on the tenor banjo, mandolin, and jaw harp and he has been a huge part of reshaping the face of modern contra dance music. He got his start as a dance musician playing with iconic bands...

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Episode 33 – Sam Bartlett