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.
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.
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.
“I am a northern guy. I have lived the whole of my life in the north west of England. I feel northern. It is in my accent. It is in my attitude. It is in my preferences: my favorite season is winter…”
Thus begins Andrew James Murray in the Forward of his new collection of poems, Heading North.
This idea of ‘northern-ness’ in a non-American context intrigued me.
A mere 35 miles west of Manchester where Andrew resides lies the infamous town of Liverpool. I never thought of The Beatles as being ‘northern’.
And yet, thinking on this further, it begins to fall into place – this marriage of blue-collar work ethic to the arts and education; a gritty, earthy element evident in both (he)artists’ life-work.
Damp, dark mists surround day-to-day living in the North, where cold light slants in mysterious angles. This is where Andrew draws inspiration. Continue reading
Well, I hit a wall on my grant progress shortly after our son left on Wednesday.
The energy of juggling regular meals, avoiding each other’s space when all three of us (both hubby and son are over 6 feet tall, so figure three adult bodies) were camped-out inside our homey 1100 square foot rental, balancing rest and relaxation with a few jaunts here and there, and just the comfy, constant companionship of each other’s company must have triggered my resolve to focus on the grant regardless by squeezing in very productive ‘me times’. (Now how’s that for a sentence?)
I admit, I panicked. After all, my goal is to have all but the Budget Section finished sometime within the first full week of December – which is right around this weekend’s corner. Yikes. So what did I do to allay that panic?
Took a walk. No good.
Took a shower. No good.
Cleaned up the kitchen. No good.
Cleared out the leftovers in the fridge. No good.
Stayed up all night staring at the computer monitor hoping the words would come. No good.
Downed two, yes, two, pots of coffee in the hopes that would help the above. No good.
Then it hit me…It’s all about the music.
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
For the past few months, it’s been all about the music.
Most of my playing focus has been in rep* upkeep and composing/practicing new pieces for my Swimming with Swans project. Before my back spasms in March, I increased technical practice to two hours a day minimum. Outside the realm of being a student in a rigorous University Music School program where two hours is but a blink, that’s a good amount of time spent on keeping those chops up.
As a working musician, the balance between teaching, playing, practicing, composing, rehearsals, sight reading, learning new rep, collaborations, gigging, performing, recording, and giving presentations is an on-going juggling act. These past few years, I’ve been blessed with a space of time that allows me to choose which balls to juggle and for how long.
Since my NaNoRebellion 2014, I’ve been listing out project to-do’s in the form of my “Where I’m At and Where I’m Going” focus sheets. I’m on the fourth such guide, about to compile yet another for the upcoming month. These allow me to jot down specific areas that need to be addressed, quantify what needs to be done and help me to see progress towards completion in a linear fashion.
In other words, they keep me on task.
My Swimming with Swans project.
Imagine a single sunflower blossom, filling the mind-canvas in O’Keefe fashion.
The center, filled with potential protein tidbits to be harvested after the bloom has died, is the current focus of my Swimming with Swans project. It is the source from which all else emanates.
It’s All About The Music.
Prose, dance/animation, fiber art and documentary infuse individual project-petals emerging from that sunflower center.
It’s All About The Music.
Recently, I awoke with that O’Keefe-esque visual imprint in my mind’s eye. Often, the Lord speaks to me through such visuals.
It’s All About The Music.
How that basic fact escaped me during the early days of organizing Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three-year journey between homes can be understood in the reading of its working title. In reigning in the scope of my Swimming with Swans project, first steps were found in the Kevin Powers article I read and wrote about sometime last year. Still, it only addressed the written aspect of my project.
It’s All About The Music.
From the very start of our Between Homes journey and on through to the bittersweet end, music was my calling card. Wherever the work sent us, whatever job opportunity hubby pursued – performing opened doors, initiated relationships and provided supplementary income. The Music also served as a precious tether connection with my true self amidst the current Reality we were navigating.
Early on, a colleague jokingly spoke of our Between Homes lifestyle as my personal sabbatical. While I was certainly immersed in composing, playing, performing and practicing, the circumstance of our journey was not something I’d label as a sabbatical.*
But truly, output gleaned from that Between Homes time resulted in a large body of work. A large body of quality work, some of which has been presented in bits and pieces on this blog in the form of ‘individual prose-project-petals’ as re-edited vignettes, reflections of re-entry into the mainstream, photos of fiber art created as a result of that experience, and the desire to Give Voice to the experiences of others in similar situations across the country.
All to the exclusion of its core element: The Music.
It’s All About The Music.
To be fair,** the sharing of musical projects on a blog is not easily achieved. Posting mp3 audio snippets or pdf score excerpts of works in progress is problematic on many fronts. Copyright protection just doesn’t seem to count for much of anything in this digital age. Aside from that, there is this old timey view of discussing current projects and ideas that I hold as truth. Any creative (he)artist knows what I’m talking about: the dreaded speak it, talk it, discuss it, and it will disappear! In other words, don’t share all the details of a current project or idea during the creating of it or the energy will just vaporize; just do it!
And that’s exactly what I have been doing since the beginning of the New Year…
It’s All About The Music.
With the music in its proper place, Swimming with Swans is fleshing out naturally. It is beginning to glide effortlessly across the lake of completion with strokes of fluid motion, like the swans themselves.
*Definitely something worth writing about more deeply in another post/vignette.
**and in the spirit of full disclosure: the last few months of our three year journey, I walked away from the deepest part of my self-the music- which took longer to heal after our reentry. That time to the beginning of this year represents a period of restoration and reconciliation that is relevant but not appropriate to recount in this post. Possibly open to dialogue further in another one, though.
In 1994 I purchased my first custom handmade classical guitar. A Thomas Prisloe. Crafted with an Englemann Spruce top, Indian Rosewood sides and back and customized features, it came housed in a Pro Tec International case.
Both have served me well these past 21 years of gigging, performing, recording, teaching and traveling.
The woods of this guitar have long since opened up, developing a tone quality shaped by the touch of my fingers and style of playing. The case remains a stalwart protector of its charge.
Heavily padded, yet extremely lightweight and durable, this case kept the Prisloe at a consistent temperature and humidity level as well as safe and secure during transport. It didn’t show signs of falling apart until we ended our between homes journey in July 2012. Continue reading
Okay. So I’m laid up a bit from a pesky back muscle spasm. In my mature wisdom, I know it is nothing as incapacitating as what many of my favorite Wounded Warriors have had to endure in a life less than half the length of my own. But, when one is on a roll with a project that has been working its way to the top of the slush pile of my creative mind, the intrusion of this mini-disability is an aggravation.
In keeping with a term I earned back during my horse rescue days, I choose to ‘Cowgirl Up.’
Yep, being (he)artistic and horsey walk hand in hand in this lady’s life.
I confess to times of grumpiness, but mostly I’ve been reading lots, listening lots and vegging lots. Never one to run from the creative crock pot of silence, the waiting is invigorating, but the physical stillness is my undoing!
Here then is a sampling of stuff I love, especially when I can’t position myself on my own practice stool and work on my own music. Enjoy! Continue reading
from-Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes
(Goat Suite Saga #5b)
February-March-April 2011 (the desert outside Las Cruces, NM)
“Happy Easter, Happy Spring everyone”…thus began the preface to the e-mail I wrote to my ‘little list.’ “I hope this longer vignette offers to you some music interest along with a little encouragement in whatever you’re facing today. And, this season instead of thinking ‘bunnies and peeps’ think: goats!”
After recounting my ‘goats in the garden’ incident; revealing both my strange emotional response to it as well as the overall musical inspiration I’d been receiving from those goofy goats, I pushed the ‘send’ button.
It was quite cathartic. Continue reading