The road ends, but the journey continues...

Tag: artistic reflection (Page 1 of 6)

A Boy And His Tuba

Dear Kaden,

Your Ma texted me some pictures and a video she took of you playing at your most recent concert. You sat tall and straight and played your part well – without tapping your foot – yes, I noticed! Good job.

A few weeks ago, I won this book for you. I read an interview a writer friend of mine had with the author, Mary Winn Heider, about her newly released book, “The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy”. Learning that one of the main characters was a boy whose best friend was his tuba – I knew I had to enter the contest and try to win this book for you! And I did!

I waited to send it on to you because I wanted to read it, too. Your Ma might like that it has references to Chicago (our shared hometown – we’re cousins, you know). I suspect the football team and stadium described in the book is based upon Northwestern University in Evanston, but it’s still fun to have that Chicago connection along with the tuba connection.

One of Winston’s (the tuba player in the book) favorite pieces to play is Darth Vader’s Theme from Star Wars – The Imperial March. So, I printed out a copy for you. Who knows, you might play it in a concert next year?

I found a very short 1-minute YouTube of a student about your age practicing playing it on the sousaphone. Which as you probably already know is the marching band version of a tuba. You might like to see it here.

I also am sending you a link to the author’s book trailer. This is a very short 1-minute Vimeo video where she talks about her book and shows you how she works out her action sequences – very fun!  

I am proud of you Kaden. Keep playing your tuba – it is way cool.

Lots of love & hugs (I get to say that because we’re cousins, too!),

Laura


Thanks to all you music teachers in the schools – you serve as first introducers to the glorious variety of instruments there are in this world to try out and play. And a huge thank-you to L. Marie – you help connect kids with books and readers with authors.


Resources for inspiring aspiring Tuba Players

Losers at the Center of the Universe book cover
  • Let’s start off with this book. It can be found here, here and here.
  • Free sheet music of arrangements of popular tunes for tuba at various proficiency levels by TubaPeter can be found here.
  • Your local Tuba Player Musician/Teacher (ask your music shop or school band teacher for recommendations).

Poetry as a Pandemic Life Line

~~~
Today, this last day in April 2021, is also the last day of National Poetry Month.
~~~

Poetry is a life line.

me, Laura Bruno Lilly

Poetry speaks to our aloneness and draws us into a community of common experiences.

Allusions illuminating the seen and unseen – the felt or unfelt.

Resonant expression. Targeting the heart. Melting into one’s soul.

Before, during and post Pandemic – Poetry is a life line.

Don’t Overlook The Obvious

Once upon a time, in the early 1990s, I experimented with simultaneous double sided quilting and piecing of individual blocks. It seemed a promising way to make a scrap quilt in one easy swoop. Until it wasn’t.

I quickly realized the effort far outweighed the reward and set the project aside.

Scroll forward to the early 2020s:

Whilst (I love it whenever I can use this Brit-term) rummaging through various fabric scrap & abandoned project bins, I came across those four orphan blocks.

For more than three decades, they have survived numerous stash purges with no idea of what to do with them after each re-evaluation of their worth to keep!

Then, a few weeks ago, it came to me. The solution glaringly obvious. Finish them off as…

…Mug Rugs.


In terms of my creative development and output, these past few months have been strangely empowering. It’s as if the scales have dropped from my eyes as I re-examine projects that stalled out for whatever reason.

Seeing the now ‘obvious’ next steps which lead to ‘finishes’ is supremely delightful – from poetry writing to quilting UFOs to all things musical; from 3 measure fixes to going with the flow of an intuitive tempo to mug rug creations.

And more. So much more.


*for those interested

Binding Join Mini-Tutorial

Carolan’s Concerto

Background

Turlough O’Carolan.

Most Celtic music enthusiasts and instrumentalists are familiar with this man’s body of work and prominence of place within the Irish folk tradition.

Turlough O'Carolan on Irish 50 pound note

Long credited as being Ireland’s national composer, Turlough was born in 1670 and lived during the Baroque Era* of Western musical history. That Baroque reference is important to note. While traveling the lands of the Emerald Isle as an itinerant harper, he was in fact a contemporary of Scarlatti, Geminiani and Corelli – all composers of varying prominence of the day.

Put another way: Turlough O’Carolan could be called the Baroque Bard of Ireland.

My off-the-cuff quip notwithstanding, a rich mingling of musical traditions is indeed the basis of Carolan’s Concerto.

“In Carolan’s time, there were three musical traditions in Ireland – art music, folk music, and the harper tradition. The harper tradition served as a link between art and folk music and was the main conduit for the oral tradition. Carolan created a unique style by combining these art forms, and then adding elements inspired by Italian music which was then fashionable in Ireland. He was a great admirer of Vivaldi and Corelli, whose modern music he would have heard in the homes of his noble Irish patrons, and this admiration is reflected in the melodic construction and forms of many of his pieces. In fact, it’s said that his Carolan’s Concerto was a winning response to a compositional challenge from Geminiani, an acquaintance, colleague, and contemporary.”

Bridget Haggerty, Tribute to Turlough

My Take

Shortly before the beginning of the infamous New Year of 2020, I earnestly tackled composing an arrangement of this piece.

I wanted to adapt it for solo classical guitar in like forever and was pleasantly amazed at how it came together so quickly. I even produced two possible endings and put them up for a vote with my son and son-in-law – both musicians.

Consensus: First ending.

My take on Carolan’s Concerto was proving to be a breath of fresh air and loads of fun.


Carolan's Concerto excerpt
score excerpt ©2020 LBL/Purple Tulip Music

Within weeks of that previously mentioned infamous New Year of 2020, I started serious practice of my new arrangement.

General impression: It is good. It is a completed piece.


Carolan’s Concerto – arr. for solo classical guitar by Laura Bruno Lilly ©2020
(NOTION score computer playback)

A computer generated playback of my arrangement of the Celtic tune Carolan’s Concerto, written by the blind Irish Bard – harpist, troubadour and composer – Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738).


It was also too fast for me to play a tempo.

Discouraged, I set it aside.

Until a few weeks ago. That’s when I pulled it out for a re-look and when the ‘obvious’ hit me.

Why not play it anyway? Who says it has to be performed at such a scathing tempo?

Besides, the traditional tempo set for that piece is also traditionally variable.

A lively rendition of Carolan’s Concerto played ‘a tempo’

Here’s the thing:

Not every guitarist is a shredder, lightening fast player. Plus, my arrangement is not a single line ‘solo’ that can be easily ‘shredded’!

Even after properly practicing certain passages of the piece at slower tempos and then speeding them up incrementally I may never get it up to the tempo as played in the above video.

So what?

Play it. Just. Play it.

“Some players are simply faster than others, the way some athletes are faster, bigger, stronger, etc. Still, none of that means ‘better.’ So, find your own performance tempo, and then bring more of yourself to the piece. Remember, you possess your own sound, tone, phrasing, attack, texture, etc. If you highlight those qualities, I promise you, no one will ever complain about the tempo.”

Shawn Persinger, Wood & Steel magazine, vol 99, Issue 1, 2021

*period or style of Western art music composed from ~1600-1750. A good synopsis of the times, characteristics and elements of the music can be found here.

Thoughts Thought on The Longest Night MMXX

Can a 66 year-old woman begin her own designated Hero’s Journey? Again? Is it too late? Rather, is there time left in her life to dive into yet another Path that would surely reveal itself during that Journey?

In many ways, 2020 has been the dead-end to end the multiple dead-ends I’ve hit over the past few years in my creative life. One could say it has been the ending of an unconscious Hero’s Journey.

My generation has always championed the idea of jumping over one’s shadow. Elements of a traditional “Hero’s Journey” are hardwired into my everyday life. In fact, they were supported and modeled by my folks even as my life took shape. So, facing more adventures, twisty, turny changes, and making do are all just part of the mix. Mostly, knowing that in the midst of it all, surviving & thriving are not mutually exclusive and is a precious insight.

Somewhere along my (he)artist’s way, product and validation overtook process and creation. As such, the muse all but disappeared, the gift all but withered.

The focus to finish and get my project(s) ‘out there’ became so strong it obscured seedlings of exploration, experimentation and self-expression. And in the end, with little to show for that absorbing focus.

The good part to all of this is that the stubborn ruts I’d traveled were more easily seen for what they were – not an obstacle to the Path, but proof that I’d wandered from the Path.

So I have corrected my focus. I am firmly ensconced in choosing repertoire based upon pure desire to play/perfect what I want to play – not based upon some audience type or proficiency parameter. And the composing! Instead of keeping it in check so as not to overshadow my practice time and/or exploration of tangential instruments, I am fully leaning into those juicy sessions.

Yes, I have project(s) that are screaming to be ‘out there’. Many are in fact 99.9% ready to go…but I gave myself permission to just not angst over all the odds and ends I’m clearly not knowledgeable enough to do right now to finish them*.

In other words, I gave myself permission to do what I was meant to do: create music – play around with sound – and commune with the Giver of the Gift in doing so.


Meanwhile, this year marked the entry into one of my favorite type of birthdays – one of duplicate double digits. It’s just one of my things.

The last such marker was 5-5 Revive.

Surprisingly, this year’s spontaneously spoke forth as Route 6-6.

What? Taking to the road again, in this time of lock downs, life threatening environmental obstacles and lack of connection?

Yep. Maybe not literally, but certainly in allowing the muse, my music, to lead the way…instead of my dragging it along with me. Be the conduit, serve the Gift and enjoy the process.

If I am the only one to hear or see or understand what comes forth, then so be it.

But I’m willing to bet this ‘Hero’s Journey’ change in attitude might alter that solo scenario come 2021.


*That’s the extreme down side of all this DIY stuff that goes along with being an Indie (he)artist – having to do all the business stuff, packaging, marketing, registering, licensing, publishing, etc; and finding/hiring qualified people to do the production side of things. It simply is not as easily available as one would think. Not whining, just sayin’…

ToDoTuesdayNine

Bright Delight is a Grand Slam Finish!

Bright Delight finish #1
Bright Delight 2020 LBL (27.5 in x 35.5 in)

First introduced as Michelle’s African Fabric wall hanging, this project has been a ToDo since ToDoTuesdaySix where I detail the story & history of the fabric along with a few of my initial stabs at working on it. Then came a short progress update on ToDoTuesdaySeven. By then I had chosen the block pattern, sewn the complete quilt top, put together quilt sandwich samples to test deco threads and ultimately chose the copper metallic & variegated green rayon threads for use in the next stage of the project.

I then rolled it all up and set it aside.

After several weeks of leaving it be, I began again in earnest layering and readying it for machine blanket stitching around the design blocks.

Early on I decided to use a double batt – with a low loft poly batt to add some subtle puffiness to the top when machine stitched and an 80/20 batt against the backing fabric for ease of machine stitching while also giving the finished piece a nicer drape against the wall.

Bright Delight machine blanket stitching with copper metallic thread
Spray & hand basted design block machine blanket stitched with copper metallic thread

After spray basting the two batting layers together, I then treated them as a single layer of batting. I continued spray basting the top, batting and backing into a completed quilt sandwich. In addition, I hand basted around each block to give them extra security.

Starting from the center and continuing outwards, each design block in the middle vertical column was machine blanket stitched using the copper metallic thread. The rest of the blocks were machine blanket stitched with the variegated green rayon thread.

Once the deco stitching was finished,* I squared up the quilt and prepped it for the next stage of completion. Using the walking foot, I basted 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the piece attaching the hanging pockets, label and special Cote d’Ivoire selvage tab.

Next steps? Constructed the binding and sewed it onto the front of the piece taking care to miter those corners! Folded over the binding to the back, clamped it in place and took my time hand stitching the final folds to completion.

Now 100% completed and on its way via the USPS to middle daughter Michelle and son-in-law David:

Bright Delight is a Grand Slam Finish!


*I will discuss the details involved with working with metallic and specialty threads in another post, as it required a whole different set of tools and techniques to pull off a consistent finish. Also will detail specifics on constructing hanging pockets, achieving perfect miters & easy binding joins, and a few backstories to keep it all from getting too dry a read! For those of you interested in greater depth on these parts of the process, I look forward to sharing my newfound insights & tips with you at that time.


Thank-you Roseanne for offering this opportunity to share my finish.

Ray's Zen

One hot, humid evening, late last summer, I scrounged the few books I had left on my bookshelves (in my passive-packing,* some of the first items to be packed were ‘books I can do without for now’). I spied my paperback copy of Ray Bradbury’s, Zen in the Art of Writing, and promptly plucked it from the shelf. Thumbing through the pages, I realized its time had come for a re-read.
A compilation of essays Mr. Bradbury wrote at various times about creativity and the act of creating, this is a book I picked up in the late 90’s and wrote on the title page “…deciding to write notes in the margins of this book…3/2000.” How cool to do a re-read with my own ‘notes’ alongside this book as well.
Before beginning my re-read, I skimmed through the various essays and noticed those handwritten notes ended after the essay titled, Just This Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine. I don’t remember why I stopped there but I do know that those ‘notes’ were written during a very dynamic time in my life. Perhaps quitting there was more an indication of satisfaction in what I had already read, or maybe just that I had reached the essay which discussed my favorite novel of his, Dandelion Wine.
No matter.
I do know that I whenever I read such essays I substitute any specific genre of the arts reference with my catch-all word, (he)art. In this case from Ray’s point of view, writer is replaced in my reading mind with, (he)artist.
Here’s a quote from the first few pages of this compilation of essays with my replacement word inserted after the slash.

 “…if you are a writer/(he)artist without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer/(he)artist.…How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?”
~Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Life seems more complicated now with social media spouting out meanness in the name of ‘passion’, but (he)art is (he)art – a very different thing altogether.
Ray’s admonition must not be ignored by us creationists (interesting use of that word,no?)
…regardless of what the twitterers are twittering about!

Use your gift, (he)artists!

*update forthcoming on hold until after COVID-19 plays out?

ToDoTuesdaySix

It’s been 19 weeks since my last ToDoTuesday post*.
Here’s my first in 2020!
~~~
On-going goals since October 15th, 2019:

  • Work on Michelle’s lime green African Fabric wall hanging in progress
  • Sew up scraps have on hand in progress
  • Practice free motion quilting in progress
    ~~~

How to use my growing stash of glorious authentic African fabrics without compromising the scale of design? That question is always the number one concern whenever I pull out those lengths of fabrics for consideration of use in a ‘special’ quilt project. Stumped for a satisfactory solution, I usually end up draping them over armchairs, the couch and the living room floor admiring their textures, rich colorations, and design elements. Soaking in their exotic vibes, breathing in their subtle, yet specific cloth scents – all feeding my imagination, yet still coming up short on a way through my dilemma.
And then, Along Comes Mary**from Zippy Quilts! A few months ago, she posted a quilt design that seemed to answer that question. For one set of fabrics at least.

Woodin Fabric selvages

Cote d’Ivoire/Woodin fabric selvages


The latest yardage given to me by our middle daughter acquired during her last PhD trip to Cote d’Ivoire included a deliciously vibrant patterned Woodin material paired with a complimentary solid lime green waxy-shiny chintz fabric. The solid fabric is not African, but commonly added as a free component in the sale. Interestingly, this is because all dresses are sewn with linings. Michelle told the vendor she wasn’t going to have the material made into a dress, but he insisted it was part of the deal, regardless.
Floating Block Lattice wall hanging top

Floating Block Lattice wall-hanging top


Using the two together, this is the completed wall-hanging top. At this stage I can safely roll it up and pack it away to be finished at a later date. Meanwhile, I have a roadmap figured out for the next steps needed to finish this project:

  • I’ll be using the 80/20 batting to help stabilize the two fabrics under the needle when I do the machine quilting (the lime green chintz is thinner than the more densely woven African fabric)
  • Quilting pattern inspired by the gold streaks in the African fabric – as an all over design on lime green fabric with lime green thread and gold metallic thread as accents on some of the gold streaks on the African fabric
  • Binding is still up for grabs as is an actual backing fabric

 

African fabric scraps

Scrappy sewing is my favorite type of piecing!


As most of you know, I am a scrap-lover and enjoy sewing up the bits & odd shapes leftover from on-going projects on a regular basis. Heck, I even pull out old scraps from my scrap stash to fiddle with as a tension reliever! In this instance, I decided to use only the scraps generated from these two fabrics in the construction of the wall-hanging top.
I think they look quite artistic for such minimal effort on my part – yet with great therapeutic payback in the doing of it!
Speaking of therapy, on a whim, I picked up one of my made-from-scraps quilt sandwich samples to practice my free-motion quilting skills. This has been a frustrating technique for me to feel comfortable with, but it calls to me often to keep at it!
Well, to my surprise and delight, this impromptu session yielded a break through! My hand direction/foot pedal co-ordination/stitching speed miraculously fell into sync where the whirls of design took on a life of its own…what a thrill!
That’s it for now!

~~~
ToDo for the weeks following February 25th:

  • Continue on-going goals

Thank you Roseanne for this opportunity to share and reflect

And thank you Zippy for showing off my completed top on your blog

*Geesh, almost sounds like a confession…Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been X weeks since my last confession…Just sayin’.
**
This link leads to the YouTube of the song (give it a listen, it’s only about 2 minutes long) – which Zippy will no doubt recall listening to back in the day 🙂

Re-stringing a Life

Andres Segovia & Augustine StringsA 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

SwS project status & my basic music score editing process

4/6 'Final Finals' music scores 100% finished!

4/6 ‘Final Finals’ music scores 100% finished!


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.

  1. Enter original hand scored piece in NOTION – just the notes, no dynamics, interpretive suggestions, fingerings, etc.
  2. Fix weird quirks that NOTION places in score regardless of how info is entered (ie-stem direction, rests, location of text info, etc.)
  3. Print it out and play from that score to approach fingerings with a fresh eye and jot down
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Add title, composer, dedication, copyright, etc. info and arrange text nicely on score, sometimes defying NOTION conventions.
  7. If composition has more than one instrument, extract each part from Master Score for individual print out.
  8. Print Master Score and any extracted parts scores to PDF and print out to proof.
  9. Proof as needed.
  10. 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 newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

My hand scored copies alongside (then) newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear


Mo Giolla Mear excerpt

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.

Mo Giolla Mear edited excerpt

 This last score excerpt photo corresponds to step #10 and is from the final PDF:

3 Mo Giolla Mear Final Excerpt

 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.

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