The officially stated theme for the 2016 Camden Writers Anthology #2.
Starting in January, I pulled about four pieces from my stash of vignettes relevant to the 2016 anthology theme – some started but unfinished, others already firmly written and in need of my critique group’s keen insights and suggestions, still others with germinal ideas and notes-to-self on how to proceed.
I discovered early on during critique presentations that even the one piece I thought was 99.9% ready to go, wasn’t. And that really was fine with me. I decided I’d use the submission deadline as the catalyst for getting those pieces and ideas in shape for publication.
Meanwhile I was deeply ensconced in a regular routine spent on the practice stool prepping in anticipation of upcoming recording sessions for my Swimming with Swans: the music project.
Progress towards both project milestones were rolling along smoothly. However, I didn’t factor in the possibility of Dad entering into hospice care in April.
Thank-you readers, from newest to first-to-follow, for marking this milestone with me. This year, I’m commemorating my third year blogiversary by offering the following quotes and links to past posts for you to peruse. Enjoy!
Quotes: 3 Very Different Men, All on the Same Page
my original hand-scored “Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon”
I am in the world only for the purpose of composing. Franz Schubert
Dad (Al Bruno) ~circa 1945 (?)
Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. Charlie Parker
Cesar Chavez in Community Garden-photo by Cathy Murphy
When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of [wo]men we are.Cesar Chavez
This coming Saturday morning, I leave for my third and quite possibly, last, scheduled trip to Colorado to visit with Dad (note-operative word here is scheduled). With it comes the usual deliberation on what to pack; most of which is rote routine. But those few variable items that require more thought on just how to pack along for the trip are often troublesome.
As a musician, it’s always about the music.
Yes, I have my NOTION software available to me on my laptop if the muse tickles my fancy, or I feel the need to work on compositional works-in-progress. Heck, I’m so old-school I consider it a badge of honor to whip out my staff paper notebook and jot down ideas using archaic graphite dots.
But that’s not what I’m meaning. And I’m not talking about iPod, streaming or even radio station music, either.
I’m talking about how does one pack that part of your essential being that doesn’t fit into a suitcase, in the overhead bin on an airplane, or be safely transported as general baggage without risk or costing a fortune? This common question faces all instrumentalists, yet there is no one-size-fits-all answer to it.
Coping with life – the good, the bad and the ugly (to borrow a phrase from a fav Spaghetti Western) – has always been reflected in my music. Prayers, supplications, questions, acceptance; hurts, healings and happy dances; all the dialogue, working through, pouring out – done with my instrument.
Rental ‘beater guitar’ placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983
Borrowing or renting a classical guitar is not as easy as say, a violin. I won’t go into the technical details of why, but suffice it to say that the “beater guitar”* I scouted out to rent during my first extended visit, while hard to procure, did deliver as a sort-of security blanket instrument during that five week time span.
My second visit lasted two weeks, a doable length of time to go without direct instrumental contact so that counted as an easy fix.
But…those were solutions for then. What about now?
This time around, I’m slated for a three week stay. As much as those visits are a precious blessing, they are also very intense; filled with tender moments alongside heart wrenching end-of-life realities.
This time around, hubby booked my flight on another airline, one which allows 1 bag and 1 personal item for free as carry-ons.
This time around, I’ll stuff the computer bag with my wallet, snacks and paperback mystery novel as usual, and tote my UKE as the other carry on.
After all, George Harrison composed ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on his UKE when his primary instrument was unavailable for use.
*”beater guitar” is a term used by cgers and acoustic guitarists alike that refers to an instrument that can be taken anywhere without fear of ruining it…case in point: around the campfire during wilderness treks.
One of my fav renditions of this piece follows and indeed, inspired several of my students at the time to ask me to teach them the UKE…thus forcing me to pursue a certain level of mastery over this little gem of an instrument -
Our front porch Golden Orb, spinning a ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ addition to its web base
The first full summer we lived in the South we encountered massive and prolific webs of this indigenous species of spider, the Golden Orb.
The spiders themselves get to be quite large and are wickedly beautiful…meaning, these are gloriously colored arachnids that come equipped with some seriously sharp and long legs.
What I found most intriguing was the amount of detail in their webs. Many spiders offer intricate designs in their web-construction, but these Golden Orbs use those as a base on which to further weave additional layers of web construction.
please, enjoy the music while you read the following, I promise it is related to the main thrust of this blog post…and since there are several guitar solos, well, you don’t really need to watch the lyrics up on the screen
Okay, so I’ve been starting and stopping in the writing of several blog posts.
I need to feed the blog, yes, but I gotta say my focus has been a bit wonky since returning from my five weeks visiting Dad. I started to write about that in a post entitled “Spider Webs, Jacob’s Ladder and Losing the Strand” but could only get so far when I’d lose the strand…(to befinished and posted at a later date).
Then on to a relatively easy Shoutout about the great Maestro Ricardo (and my friend) receiving a prestigious award at the annual GFA Convention in Denver, held just one week after I left. I wanted to attend, but those plans got trumped (don’t know if I like that term anymore…) with the Dad-card. No regrets at all, but it does leave the “Shoutout: In Honor of the Maestro Ricardo” in the queue to be sent sometime whenever I can do a final edit on it…again, the focus thing is the limiting factor here. It may never get finished and sent out since it’s more (out)dated news.
I discovered early on that I didn’t have the energy required to return to my current Swimming with Swans projects. This of course lead to frustration because I needed something to do in the realm of creating while navigating this new pattern of four weeks here and two weeks there; along with the emotional stuff that goes along with end-of-life and long distance elder care.
So I picked up the needle…that phrase is loaded, eh? I first mentioned this phrase in my post “The Rusty Quilter” that describes my history and re-introduction to quilting and fiber art.
Whole-cloth quilt top basted and ready for straight stitch machine-quilting
That said, I began in earnest my new ‘now’ project totally unrelated to anything other than as a pleasurable creative outlet: the whole-cloth quilted throw; which will be discussed in greater depth in yet another WIP blog post, as yet unnamed.
During today’s immersion in some straight line machine quilting, I listened to an Amazon Prime Classic Rock Song List.
When ZZ Tops’ tune, The Sharped Dressed Man came on full blast in my earphones and into my brain, I remembered my Jo-Jo and his new obsession with dressing snappy for work.
Joe Lilly is the Sharp Dressed Man
Here’s Joe in his Tuesday morning duds, posing in the dining room of my folks’ house, with the telltale cleaning supplies and messiness in the background. One of the fantastic things I got to do while visiting Dad was to make dinner for our kids. Some of Ma’s cooking stuff is still in the kitchen and so I was able to throw together some makeshift family favorites.
Since Joe still lives in the Denver area, he purposely carved out time to stop by after work and/or pick me up for doing fun stuff together during ‘down times’.
One such outing was going to his gig at the Oriental Theatre. Actually, my sorella-amica Lisa and I went to see our sons* at this wonderful venue. Like most musicians, he’s in several bands/ensembles. This one, Heavy Medicine**, added a horn section recently, of which Joe is their main sax-guy.
The Sharp Dressed Man with his Heavy Medicine Bandmates playing the Oriental Theatre, Denver, CO 6/2016
Me and my son – the sharp dressed man
Lots more of this mother-son stuff is in the future with each trip back to visit Dad.
Oh and on the marquee behind us is the name Leon Russell, significant in that another blog post in the queue needing to be finished is called, “The Buena Vista Social Club, Leon Russell and Dad”.
Last Thursday marked the beginning of forward movement towards the recording of Swimming with Swans: the music. I met with Ken*, the sound engineer and owner of Southern Harmony recording studio here in FloTown**. I had a fantastic time sharing my project, discussing needs, working through technical details and listening to his expertise as applied to contexts unique to solo & ensemble classical guitar.
I am so glad I went with my gut on using this studio for my solo pieces. The selection of quality recording studios nearby is limited. I vetted several this past year covering a 3 hour driving radius and came up with a scattering of possibilities all over the state, but really, the best for my needs are located in Raleigh/Durham, NC. Hubby being my #1 patron and supporter of my art is keeping those options open for me to use if I decide to go that route, regardless.
A page from my journal…
I have to admit that until moving to and living in Florence, SC I took basic musician needs for granted. This scarcity of a vibrant, well-rounded arts-scene will no doubt be a foreign concept/truth to grasp for many of my colleagues. It certainly was for me, but – it is what it is and I’m thrilled to have cracked the code to a satisfying solution; enabling me to thus move forward and march*** to the studio.
There is one other semi-appropriate studio in Colombia that Joe and I toured during his Thanksgiving visit. It was more attuned to the needs of classical/jazz musicians, but the space didn’t feel good. It offers the use of a superior quality grand piano, but that’s not something I need. Also, the sound engineer didn’t have any project tracks to play for me to listen to that were relevant to my instruments. The ones we gave a listen to were mostly of brass instruments, which sounded great…but. After doing some of my own digging on the internet for sound samples from his client list, I found a few background tracks with acoustic guitar that sounded – well, let’s just say they were not to my liking.
As a musician, the bottom line is one’s tone, one’s sound. If that gets messed up, no amount of playing technique or flourish will save the day. After listening to some of Ken’s current projects highlighting a variety of acoustic instruments, I believe I can trust his ear. We certainly have a great rapport, which also counts as a keen element in the recording process/experience.
Meanwhile, I’m doing time on the ole’ practice stool, fine tuning my solo pieces, getting ready for recording and keeping up my chops. I hope to start sessions by mid-late March.
I am definitely psyched…
*If you visit Southern Harmony, you’ll find Ken is quite modest…his creds include an impressive resume of work in the LA scene for most of his 20 years of experience before moving to FloTown, yet not listed on his website.
**Local name for Florence, South Carolina
***Yes, pun is intentional.
‘It will be new whether you make it new or not’ – Alice Fulton, Poetry, October 2013
I have to admit that when I first saw this quote, I didn’t fully comprehend its meaning. While the artwork makes for a beautiful visual, it didn’t aid in my understanding of the written text. But something subliminal captured the attention of my subconscious brain, prompting a silent rumination over the course of several months.
Bits and pieces of enlightenment would come to the forefront of my consciousness, until at last I had a mini-Aha! moment:
Beethoven and my first encounter with his 9th Symphony.
When I was a teenager, I dug out my parents’ old 78s from the shelves in their walk-in cedar closet. Sorting through the stacks, I recognized most of the tunes and placed them in their respective piles – Ma’s stuff, Dad’s stuff and corny stuff. My baby brother and I grew up dancing in the living room listening to all of it, including the ever present live gig-prep practicing of Dad’s – From Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (Ma’s stuff) to Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Suite (Dad’s stuff) to Jimmy Durante’s Bill Bailey (corny stuff).
Scattered among those records were some 33s pressed on yellow-vinyl. Intrigued, I noticed they were mostly classical (by genre, not era) recordings. Beethoven’s Symphonies were recorded in a huge boxed set of 33s. I decided to listen to all of them, going from last to first.
That 9th symphony – composed in 1824 – was new to my 1971 ears.
“It will be new whether you make it new or not”
I listened to it over and over alongside some of my favorite records at the time: The White Album, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Beethoven, the Beatles and Andrew Lloyd Webber. A motley crew, all strangely powerful and new to me.
Now, I am no Beethoven, but that mini-Aha! moment became more of a major-Aha! moment for me recently.
Since last May, sales of music from my cd, unexpected, increased significantly. Why? This recording was released in 2007. In terms of musical output, it represents old stuff. I use it now more as a demo of sorts; an example of the breadth and quality of my playing for marketing, colleague introductions, resume point of reference and so on.
There have been many projects, performances and pieces learned since then till now. Immersed as I’ve been in my Swimming with Swans: the music project, striving to put out this new material, I’d forgotten that to those who’d never heard my stuff before:
“It will be new whether I (you) make it new or not”
Below is the single off of unexpected with the most digital listens since its release in 2007, Hatikvah.
My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear
The other day I came off of the practice stool elated. It was one of those sessions where everything went right. The tone from my perfectly honed right hand nails emitted a luscious aural tapestry of sound while working through completed scores of my own creation or arrangement. Fluidity of movement in the left hand during execution of certain passages, coupled with the flow of interpretive playing all within acceptable tempos…this is my dance, this is my place, this is my praise to the Giver of Gifts.
I was particularly pleased to master specific measures in my classical guitar arrangement of the traditional Celtic piece, Mo Giolla Mear. Written during our between homes time, it is part of my Swimming with Swans: the music project.
Yes, there is an entire story behind the discovery of this piece of music and how it relates to our life on the road. It remains scattered in the bits and nits of my mind, journals and ‘little list’ e-mail updates jotted down at the time. For some reason the words do not come easily right now. The challenge remains for me to sit down, focus and craft a vignette to include in my Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes manuscript.
However, while immersed in my music, that challenge is mercifully set aside. Continue reading →