On our last day, we stopped in Cambridge Bay, another Inuit village. I grew depressed at the town’s dilapidated homes, an abandoned baby doll on the rocky shore. (As in many Inuit towns, the young mostly leave the old behind to find work farther south.) Still, the villagers threw a great shindig. At a dance party in the gym, there was throat singing, and also reel music learned from 200-year-old Scottish whaling fleets that the Inuit have made their own. The floor yielded to a joyous kind of square dance, bringing together Inuit, tourists, and even a locally stationed Mountie.
Just 24 hours later, I was home. Back to my 22,536 songs. But I didn’t put on Randy Newman’s new record—I pulled out my digital recorder from the trip and pushed play. And as I listened to the wheedling of the fiddles of Cambridge Bay, my mind went clear.