The road ends, but the journey continues...

G Squared: Gregory & Gavin

– 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…

to be shared at another time

*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.


  1. Mary J Puckett

    Well, that was interesting. One of the things I’m looking forward to when we move (still about a year away) is being where we can see more live musical performances again.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Us, too…although Hubby and I were going to make the huge effort to go up to Asheville (~4hrs one way) to see Robin Bullock March 29th in the Lounge at Isis…derailed by you-know-what.
      Take care.

  2. Annika Perry

    Laura, wow! What a wonderful childhood, playing with your father out on gigs … that must have been amazing and what a musical education! I agree, it is fantastic how the borders between music is being blurred and that there is a ‘ stretching the sonic boundaries via unconventional instrumentation’. Through my son I’ve learned to appreciate the classical style of music within many modern songs, including those of gaming … it is quite extraordinary! Happy Playing, Laura! btw. I’m reading a superb music related book called ‘The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton’! It’s almost as if I can hear the cello and violins!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Oh, I’ll have to look up that book! Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Annika.
      I recently finished an Indie book, “Into the Wilderness” by Deborah Lee Luskin. It also has musical references that I enjoyed. The prose was effectively utilitarian in bringing forward the intertwining of a life’s story within the context of a musician’s gift of performing a piece of music.
      Gaming background music is interesting – I actually clicked on one of your son’s YouTube gaming ‘covers’ awhile back…I feel his “classical” playing/arrangements of them offers a gateway to music other than ‘pop’ for his generation…always a good thing!

  3. Ally Bean

    I enjoy music when the performers are happy about what they’re playing. As such I’ve never quite understood any need for genres to be exclusive. This video goes to that point. Interesting post.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Good point, Ally.

  4. Andy

    I like the sound of ‘poetic muse’ !

    • laura bruno lilly

      Somehow, I’m not at all surprised by that, Andy!

  5. Jane Chesebrough

    Love these collaborations! The performance orchestra and Gregory Alan Isakov is lovely. The piano recording comes alive., almost like it is in my living room. I like witnessing the process of a creation. Thank you, Laura.

    • laura bruno lilly

      The process of creation is intriguing to myself, as well. Thanks for ‘tuning in’, Jane. (yep, pun intended!)

  6. Jennie Fitzkee

    I would have loved to been in the audience when the 3D performed and jammed. And of course the greats reached out to classical and other music. Yes, the Beatles is an excellent example.

    • laura bruno lilly

      HA! Wouldn’t that have been something?
      And just to expound a bit here, the ‘other’ music was/is often what’s termed ‘ancient’ music (pre-Renaissance) and also there’s the whole line of influence of ethnomusicology (ie-Bartok) with indigenous music…
      But for now, I’m happy to settle on anything the Beatles has to offer – care to join me in a walk down Abbey Road?

  7. Janis

    Posts like this make me wish there was a “Love” button. “Like” will have to do but I truly loved Isakov’s The Stable Song. The way his banjo kept dancing in and out of the orchestral strings made my heart sing. And, what lovely memories you must have performing with your father. Thank you, once again, for introducing me to music I probably would not have found on my own.

    • laura bruno lilly

      (blush emoji here)
      Janis, it’s a joy to read your comment. The banjo bouncing (love your visual) is exactly what draws me into this piece, also…makes my soul soar.

  8. Deborah Brasket

    I really enjoyed the music you shared today. I too love it when genres play together, in music and literature, and academics. There’s something exciting about when two fields open up a space between them to experiment and see what new thing can emerge. Jazz may have been one of the original music genres do do that. Or is jazz itself the outcome of that kind of play-pairing?
    BTW, as a musician and bluesgrass lover, I’ve always wanted to ask you what you thought of the music that introduced the Justified series. I’ve hear it called “hick-hop” but not sure if that is meant in a kind way. Anyway, I loved that sound, and the series as well.

    • laura bruno lilly

      The first thing that came to me on the Justified Theme music ‘question’ is this: Klezmer Music. The fusion of different genres of music into another form is part of the mix of artistic evolution/creation birthed out of individual styles, tastes, even environment. Who’s to say what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I will say rap is not my favorite style, but I appreciate what it brings to the table – culturally (except the ones with the traditional violent type of content) reflective of one’s place of origin, not to mention driving rhythmic poetic lyrics etc etc. Mixing it with bluegrass is quite interestingly effective and is definitely a ‘niche’ market (so to speak) and even brought it forward into the realm of mainstream acceptance/audiences.
      JUST LIKE Klezmer was/is when it first came out…a fusion of traditional Eastern European Jewish dance/celebration tunes by professional musicians that morphed into what we understand as being Klezmer here in the US after the early Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants came into contact with American jazz….
      There comes with both the Justified music fusion and the American Klezmer music fusion an element of discrimination against it due to the populations from which they originated…but bottom line: you either like it or you don’t however it still has merit as a legitimate form of music IMHO (and in most musicians’ minds I daresay).
      Yep, not bad for a soundbite reply to a huge subject you opened up (which I enjoyed greatly). HA!

  9. Mariss Stevens

    You have piqued my curiosity. Will just have to wait to read about your poetic muse. Enjoyed listening to Stable Song and reading about 3D. What special times and the loveliest of names for your duo

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yes, very special times…and as for that poetic muse, you know how it goes, Quilter Poetess!

  10. Marty

    The Gregory Alan Isakov piece is beautiful. It sort of reminds me of Dan Fogelburg. I knew a lot of music students in college, and one of them introduced me to John Cage one weekend. I had never heard of him (me, at the time, who only knew top 40) and I was blown away.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yessss! John Cage is a fav of mine – I remember doing a paper on his “Suite for Toy Piano” and Marcel Duchamp’s dance/acting routine in Music School…the whole idea of composing for toy piano was-well-wow.

  11. Roseanne

    Hi Laura! Very interesting to me. The whole addition of felt to the piano . . . wow. I’ve never really it much thought but kind of like the addition of a cup at the end of the horn changes the sound. I can’t even imagine writing music for many different types of instruments. ~smile~ Roseanne

    • laura bruno lilly

      Who knew fiber art as such an integral part of the musical arts!?!

  12. Mary

    I’m canceling my trip to AQS Paducah and was not pleased to see the blasé attitude of the AQS show director in a recent interview. I decided not to post about it, so thanks for this opportunity to express my opinion!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Whoa…surprising! Makes them seem very ‘unprofessional’ IMHO.
      I received a special email from an arts center in Boulder, the Dairy, that outlined all they were doing (periodic cleaning of elevator buttons etc through the day was a good one) to help keep it open during this time INCLUDING waiving ticket exchange fees on event tickets especially if due to illness of any sort and refunding 100% if Dairy sponsored event, but up to the discretion of each renting organization if it’s a rent-org based event.
      Also, middle daughter had a huge University conference where she was presenting in Florida and it got cancelled and the airlines refunded her 100% her tickets…
      Crazy days ahead.
      BTW: Happy to oblige a comment space for your opinion!!!!!!!

  13. L. Marie

    This was such a great post. Another quote that really resonated with me from it: “I find it deeply satisfying, stretching the sonic boundaries via unconventional instrumentation and encountering others who explore that same territory in myriad ways.” I’d love to hear more on this. I can’t help mulling over this notion in regard to writing.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thank you so much for your interest in this – believe it or not the notion is not entirely new as certain great composers through out history (Berlioz, Stravinsky so many more) have pushed the soundscape envelope. But the list of 20th century cutting edge composer examples include Steven Reich, John Adams, John Cage (of course) etc. And then here’s an example of 21st century virtuoso cellists, 2cellos – a youtube you might especially like, L.Marie:
      click here
      Oh I could go on and on…
      All this to say, this is at the (he)art of my own music for sure – in my own way of course!

      • L. Marie

        I watched the video! Soooooo gooooood!!!!! Thank you for that link!

        • laura bruno lilly

          Glad to pass it on…and happy it struck a chord with you (pun intended!)

  14. L. Marie

    “*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.”–Laura, I hope in another post you will cover this more. I’m fascinated by the subject of cross-collaboration.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I’m thrilled to have piqued your curiosity and will add this to my idea file…

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