Dear Teacher, You were my very first formal classical guitar instructor…
Thus begins an open letter I wrote years ago.
The new vistas that surfing the ‘net* opened up in the ’90s prompted me to try contacting my first classical guitar teacher to thank her for the role she played in my development as a musician. I posted a copy of my open letter on both** of the forums I was subscribed to at the time in the hopes it would yield a lead towards finding her. As was common in those days, this inadvertently started a new thread on each of those forums…that of honoring those teachers who most influenced the direction of our lives.
However, it did not bring about the desired outcome.
I have always wanted to thank-you for all you did to nurture my first forays into the world of classical guitar. I think you’d be proud of me. Not because I am anyone famous or great, but because you’d recognize the method of love I use in teaching others about our common bond: the classical guitar...
*a term bandied about along with riding the internet highway in the earlier days of internet development.
– continuing with the musical pokes and prods – re: “…David Olney lead to Gregory Alan Isakov who lead to Gavin Luke” –
After a trip down snowy Raton Pass memories, my musical (re)search landed me at the merging of a folk/classical piece performed by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in conjunction with contemporary folk-pop artist, Gregory Alan Isakov. Thus introducing me to a new-to-me younger generation of folkies.
Note: the YouTube featured here is the only media readily available on-line with the CSO/GAI arrangement-performance of this piece. That said, watching it isn’t as important as just listening to this IMHO.
Isakov’s The Stable Song,as performed with the CSO is the type of musical collaboration that excites me as a musician.
Performing in and composing for mixed ensembles has been and continues to be one of my deepest passions as a working musician. Back in the day, it was more unusual for instrumentalists of differing genres to play together in performance or to hear ensembles of unlikely instrumentation in concert outside the University music department recital setting.
It appears these types of cross-over collaborations are becoming more mainstream* – to the delight of musicians and audiences alike.
But that has always been my bent. And upon my life’s reflection, I’m thinking I was perhaps even born into it.
My Dad as a professional jazzman on sax and clarinet was always up for a jam session with me, his daughter, on 12-string acoustic and/or classical guitar. For awhile there we even made the rounds in small performance circles as 3D: Dad Daughter Duo. Our set list comprised of standards, show tunes, contemporary pop, Latin, country, classical repertoire – you name it – with my classical guitar solos and/or 12-string acoustic folkie riffs alternating with his show stopping improvised tenor sax and/or clarinet solos dancing rings around my chordal vamps…Yeah I was born into this.
Finding that sweet-spot key where the natural intonation of disparate instruments sound good while playing together is a greatly rewarding endeavor.
I find it deeply satisfying, stretching the sonic boundaries via unconventional instrumentation and encountering others who explore that same territory in myriad ways.
Included with that exploration is my fascination with anything related to ‘prepared’ instruments. A technique I first encountered during my music school days, John Cage‘s forays into this altered soundscape has since given birth to a wide range of instrument manipulation in the name of New Music. Again, there is cutting edge and then there is what is palatable for mainstream.
Enter Gavin Luke, composer. More of a New Age pianist/composer, I stumbled onto his piece, In Search of Home, while perusing a composer website. The main theme of his piece is compelling, but what I found most interesting was the simple use of felt sheets in his ‘prepared’ piano as central to his composition.
Note: the YouTube featured here is a short 2.5 minutes long in which Gavin demonstrates his process in the creation of this piece.
While I appreciate the creative process as shared by compadre (he)artists regardless of genres, the take-away for me in this case was a surprising appearance of my poetic muse…
*In order to keep this post shorter and to my intended points, I did not go into depth on the well-known, well-received and highly successful collaborations between unlikely genres & musicians over the years such as The Beatles & orchestral musicians/eastern instruments just to name one example.
One of the things I do on a regular basis is search and discover ‘new’ (to me) music via a myriad of ways…all part of being a working musician – seeking, learning, creating.
A fine example of this occurred recently. As noted in a prior post, CNN’s short video in tribute to David Olney lead me to seek out more of his music. Which lead me to two other seemingly unrelated musicians/composers. I say ‘seemingly’ because I haven’t a clue as to how I arrived at their respective websites/youtube channels/streaming stations but some invisible google-ly algorithm guided me based upon something related to its way of calculating.
I know standard streaming sites routinely offer up an ‘if you like X, then try Y’ approach to new music seekers. However, my pokes and prods seem more organic, focused, personal – with a touch of human (mine) direction in the seeking. In addition, it is not limited to a particular platform.
Anyway, David Olney lead to Gregory Alan Isakov * who lead to Gavin Luke.*
And then I discovered an unexpected related theme – that of home.
David Olney was an itinerant wanderer, Gregory Alan Isakov is a transplanted Boulderite (my hometown) and Gavin Luke is a composer whose style draws deep home yearnings front and center.
Olney’s cover of Snowin’ on Raton** reminds me of all the traveling back and forth between hubby’s and my family homes…driving over Raton Pass in all types of weather from Colorado to New Mexico and back again from New Mexico to Colorado.
Specifically, two significant snow times come to mind.
1977 Cutlass Supreme w T-Tops, image from google
January 1979. Just a little over 6 months into our newlywed-ness, we packed all our belongings in the smallest sized U-Haul trailer and hitched it onto hubby’s 1977 Burnt Orange Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham (complete with T-tops and other extras). Moving in the winter was dicey but needful as hubby was set to resume studies at NMSU that semester requiring our move from Boulder, CO to Las Cruces, NM to begin our new married-student phase of life. He, as an older student to finish his CS degree on the last of his GI Bill (at that time, NMSU was on the cutting edge as one of the few Universities to offer a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science Program). And me, to forge a more direct relationship with my in-laws in hubby’s hometown while exploring our own new surroundings filled with endless possibilities. On the day of our move, we expertly navigated the increasingly dense low visibility January snow storm conditions. We even managed to slip (pun intended) into the climbing lane as we began the long steep grade over the pass…before CDOT closed I25 behind us. Yep, we were the last vehicle allowed on the road to mount up and over Raton Pass into NM. Suffice it to say, we jackknifed only once on the steady upward climb and managed a controlled descent on the other side of the pass into Raton, NM.
January 1982. After hubby graduated in December and with our firstborn less than 4 weeks old, we packed up that same Cutlass – with more precious cargo this time around. The plan was to move back temporarily to CO to stay with my folks while waiting for more details concerning hubby’s new job at HP in the Silicon Valley to determine exactly where we’d be relocating. Again, a January snowstorm. Again, slipping past the road closure signs as the last vehicle going up and over the pass. Safely strapped into her rear facing car seat, our newborn baby girl who’d been sound asleep for most of the trip opened her eyes with a start and immediately began her screaming cries as we began our ascent. She sensed the tension of our situation – and added to it – all the way up & over Raton Pass. This newborn Mother could not – dared not – pick her up to nurse her back to calm – and was thusly initiated into the lifelong Sturm und Drang slice of what it means to be a Mom.
And those are the snowy times when we drove Raton Pass and where listening to Snowin’ on Raton many years hence intersect – hitting squarely through my heart –
Missing home. Missing our baby daughter.
David: I didn’t know your songs until you passed away and I watched a CNN short video in tribute to your life and contributions to the musical world.
Dying while doing what one loves most is a blessing, but still hurtful for those left behind.
…Wish I had ‘known’ you sooner…
RIP David Olney: March 23, 1948 – January 18, 2020
About ‘Death Will Not Divide Us’
David often draws inspiration for his music from classic poetry and literature as well as The Greatest Story Ever Told a/k/a The Bible. A true troubadour, many of his tunes touch on social issues of the day. This track is one of ten on his album, “This Side or The Other.” While not a concept album, David alludes to several recurrent themes. One of which is the frequent reference to walls.
His essay, “Taking Sides and Building Walls” begins, “The Wall is in the news.Trump’s Wall.”
Then David continues to touch on various other walls, “…the infamous Berlin Wall…the Great Wall of China…Hadrian’s Wall…In the Middle Ages, cities built walls around Jewish ghettos. The rationale on the part of the State was that the walls helped protect the Jews. The Holocaust put an end to that particular line of logic.”
‘DEATH WILL NOT DIVIDE US’ was co-written with Abbie Gardner (of Red Molly). David says, “I wanted to catch the spirit of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, Verses 38 and 39*. I love Abbie’s line, ‘There’s a moment of decision when the ground comes up to meet us.’” The new music video echoes our ever-changing world with one constant, opening with a young girl joyfully dancing as she leads a parade of the past into the future. Her movements are whimsical, flowing and childlike while she dons a jester hat. Others follow her “blindly” dancing through town, wandering through historic sites and Romanesque buildings, trusting their fearless leader.
Personal Note: the bookstore in the video is a landmark in Nashville – McKay’s Used Books. A really cool place!
* Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
A few weeks ago, I finally changed strings on the Prisloe (my classical guitar). After a couple of months trying out another brand, some Augustine Regal/Blue High Tensions as recommended by Segovia himself, I’m back to my standard Blue Pack (Savarez Alliance High Tension 540 J’s).
In addition to his pioneering role in elevating the classical guitar to the concert stage around the turn of the 20th century, Segovia partnered with Augustine Strings in the 1940s to develop a revolutionary (at the time) non-gut string option for classical guitars. For many years since, Augustine Strings were one of very few quality options out there for classical guitarists.
All told, those Augustine’s just didn’t agree with me. My style, my fingers; maybe even my guitar. That’s part of being a working musician, trying different things to see how they enhance or detract from one’s playing. When I know I don’t need to depend upon reliability in sound/tone due to a lack of gigs, or recording dates, I often slap on different strings – brands, tensions, material composition – just to test drive the newest innovations, those recommended by colleagues and/or those with the best reviews by other players.
The Augustine strings offered up a strong rich sound in the basses with less buzzes but were harder to coax out tone colors. Plus, the trebles took several days of consistent playing to settle them into a decent tone – albeit with a plastic-y feel and muddled sound. Yes, they lasted longer and handled my hard-driven playing well, but they just didn’t offer up the variety of subtle tone colors I use in my playing or feel good under my fingers.
They also were harder on my hands. Segovia had huge hands with sausage-like fingers and probably really needed the thicker, plastic-y feeling of the strings to accommodate that physical factor. And as far as the relationship between instrument and strings goes, remember: Segovia played a huge Ramirez with 664 fret scale and larger, 54 mm nut width.
For those of you not in-the-know about the great Segovia, I found a quality, yet un-retouched video of him playing sometime in the 1960s when he was actually in his sixties. I chose this one because it’s representative of his tone/style – his signature technique of finding just the right sweet spot on the fretboard for each note, delivering a rich deep vibrancy – all while showcasing his effortless command of the instrument.
The thing of it is, regardless of the strings used, music is played, compositions are created, techniques are explored, expanded and maintained. For myself as a musician, each time I re-string one of my instruments, there is a sense of expectation. A moment in time where everything seems possible, opening up a wide world of sonic possibilities, hopes, dreams and deep expressions of my (he)art flowing through my fingers into the outer realm.
And when the right strings are strung, those aural rewards inspire and invigorate…
The thing of it is, regardless of the strings used, music is played.
Life is lived.
And when the right strings are strung, life is magical.
I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly. John 10:10b NKJV
First off, I’m thrilled to announce that 4 of the 6 ‘Final Finals’ music scores mentioned in the previous post are 100% finished. Nestled in their respective PDFs, each are ready to be distributed in multiple media formats when the time comes. Their timing is intertwined with the release of both the vignette and recorded music parts of related content from the overall SwS project.
That said, the Goat Suite (Saga) scores are not even ‘Final Finals’ yet even though the music has been recorded and ready for mastering since 2017 and the related vignettes are now nearing the formatting stage for publication. The original scores are still scruffy with scribbles from the recording sessions.
Given that Swimming with Swans: Goat Suite (Saga) will be the first section of the project to be released, those scores are now top priority for beginning the Final editing process. For a sense of what’s involved, my Goat Suite (Saga) is written for 2 classical guitars, mandolin, 12-string acoustic guitar and rain stick. I have the Master Score pretty much done, but the details specific to each individual part need to be entered onto each of the extracted part scores.
Here then, is an overview of my basic music score editing process, as promised.
Enter original hand scored piece in NOTION – just the notes, no dynamics, interpretive suggestions, fingerings, etc.
Fix weird quirks that NOTION places in score regardless of how info is entered (ie-stem direction, rests, location of text info, etc.)
Print it out and play from that score to approach fingerings with a fresh eye and jot down
Add fingerings, and simple dynamics in NOTION, print out for spacing/alignments and jot down by hand extra needs for score as play through it.
Continue with edits (#2, #3 & #4) with an eye for keeping the score uncluttered and easy to read for the player yet filled with the needed information.
Add title, composer, dedication, copyright, etc. info and arrange text nicely on score, sometimes defying NOTION conventions.
If composition has more than one instrument, extract each part from Master Score for individual print out.
Print Master Score and any extracted parts scores to PDF and print out to proof.
Proof as needed.
Repeat #5, #8 and #9 until becomes a true FINAL, then print to PDF.
Using my arrangement of Mo Giolla Mear as an example, here are photo’s of the process continuing from its mention in a previous post.
The following two score photos correspond to steps #1, #2 and #3 of the basic process overview:
My hand scored copies alongside (then) newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear
The next score excerpt photo corresponds to steps #5 & #6 – check out measure 8 for an easy to see example of a stem direction fix in addition to the overall inclusions of fingerings, dynamics, etc.
This last score excerpt photo corresponds to step #10 and is from the final PDF:
Whew! I hope this answers some of the questions you my readers have asked about what it means when I mention ‘doing score edits.’ Much like literary edits, it can be tedious but the end result is the pot of gold at the base of a very beautiful rainbow.
Work on post about music score edit process in progress
Get ready for out-of-town trip! √ done and back!
My PFWHK handmade label amidst a flock of PF’s.
All things must come to an end. In this case it is all things Pink Flamingo. The PFWHK is done and done! I am very tempted to hang her up facing the wall to show off the backing fabric and my snazzy label. But she has her eye on me…no can do. HA!
PF sequin eye detail
Our out-of-town trip was action packed. Not so much sight seeing as visiting family and investigating areas for us to relocate. More on that in a later post. Meanwhile, here are some family photos.
The Guys: my cousin Kayden (Gail’s son), my hubby Terry, Uncle Dennis (my Dad’s younger brother)
The Gals: Aunt Adua, me, my cousin Gail
As for that music score edit process post? It’s definitely in the works DONE. To catch a glimpse of the beginning of the process involved, take a look at this post I wrote in 2015. Yikes, has it really been that long ago I started entering my hand scored compositions onto NOTION?
While not mentioned on the goals listed above, the number of actual score edits becoming “Final Finals” now total 6 pieces. Including the Mo Giolla Mear piece featured in the 2015 blog post. This is a big leap in the completion of that portion of my Swimming with Swans:the music project and is worth noting.
My creativity trinity* is as follows: fiber art – MUSIC – writing. Each is intertwined with the other, offering needful respites between projects which in turn aid in the completion of various Works-In-Progress as new perspectives appear from such respites. Ultimately, it’s all about the music but tracking fiber art Works-In-Progress is lots easier to communicate in such a setting as this – hence the linky-party connection.
Every single day, a plan, a plot, a project, a scheme or a great idea screams to be on the front burner: A song that needs to be recorded. A video that needs to be shot. A business deal that needs a push. A website that needs to be built or updated. A relationship that needs to be dealt with.
Important because sometimes our best-laid plans work out, far beyond our expectations. Other times they fall apart and fade away. That’s the nature of a creative, independent lifestyle. However, truth be told, it’s all those big plans, worthy projects and bright ideas that we’re NOT doing that continue to keep us uptight, worked up and edgy.
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs & storiesyou already know that I’m a huge advocate for artists & entrepreneurs. That’s because I’ve been both all my life and in my world there’s no difference between the two. They both dwell in the land of uncertainty and risk and they both have to use creativity and innovation to negotiate their way through it. That’s not all…
A songwriter(composer) composes the music he hears in his head. An entrepreneur creates a vision for the future that she sees in her mind’s eye.
A painter prepares a canvas for her next artistic expression. An entrepreneur prepares a Powerpoint presentation for his next keynote.
A writer processes words that stimulate and entertain. An entrepreneur processes words that motivate and inspire.
A singer (instrumentalist) nervously stands in front of his audience and shares his soul. An entrepreneur nervously stands in front of her shareholders and shares her vision.
Neither one would last long in a regular 9-5 job because both have a relentless muse and an untamable creative spirit which they simply MUST follow. And unlike others, A&E’s have an advantage: the unique ability to devise, create, invent, fabricate, formulate, manifest and cook-up ways to make a buck.
Important because if our world ever crashes, it will be the crazy, genius artists and risk-taking entrepreneurs who will survive to inspire us and point the way out of the rubble and into the light.
Even though I feel like there’s not much to report, I’m chiming in on this week’s linky-party for the sake of continuity. And, remember, Roseanne at Home Sewn by Us who sponsors this says it’s okay however I decide to participate!
My creativity trinity* is as follows: fiber art – MUSIC – writing. Each is intertwined with the other, offering needful respites between projects which in turn aid in the completion of various Works-In-Progress as new perspectives appear from such respites. Ultimately, it’s all about the music but tracking fiber art Works-In-Progress is lots easier to communicate in such a setting as this and hence the linky-party connection.
My goals for the week from August 20th through August 26th:
Continue edits on various NOTION scores √ – “Christmas Medley” almost finished and soon to move onto another score-edit
Finish PFWHK Ø – decidedly not finished!
Maybe have something to post on next week’s ToDo Tuesday linky party √ – today’s posting is evidence of this!
Yes, I worked on NOTION score edits for the “Christmas Medley” piece and realized I needed to de-clutter the score by 80% of previously inserted information. There is a delicate balance in music scoring between suggested fingerings and performance directions and OCD control of the performers every interpretation of the musical score. The fact that I de-cluttered a slew of fingerings shows I am closer to completion than before. In fact, with this particular piece, I have only to recheck for notation mistakes (think of this as being like ‘spell-checking’ the score) and add the fun stuff like title, arranger/name, date, copyright and dedication (if so choose to do). Then it is done and onto another piece to score-edit.
The PFWHK is not finished. Duh. In fact, as I continued with the vertical machine quilting, I found myself making dumb mistakes. So, I wisely decided to quit while I was ahead. Meaning: I did a few lines of reverse-sewing and set the PFWHK aside for another day/week. The interesting thing of note here is that the reverse-sewing (okay, seam-stitch ripping out!) went smoothly and left absolutely no small holes in the fabric top or back. I think that is due to two things: 1- the quality of the fabric itself and 2- the use of fine 60 wt thread in the bobbin.
ToDo for the week of August 27th through September 3rd:
Finish “Christmas Medley” and start another NOTION score-edit piece
Finish PFWHK vertical quilting, start 3-D portion of project, figure out something special to add to PF’s eye (button, sequins?)
Enjoy a time to snuggle down and read newest novel(s)
If it’s cool enough (big IF), share some porch-time with hubby and a glass of Chardonnay (me), Beaujolais (him)