Michael Chapdelaine 1956, San Diego, CA – November 16, 2023, Boulder, CO
Michael Chapdelaine, a local, regional and international (he)artist with whom I was acquainted, was the only guitarist ever to win First Prize in the world’s top competitions in both the Classical and Fingerstyle genres – the Guitar Foundation of America International Classical Guitar Competition and the National Fingerstyle Championship at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield.
A contemporary colleague within the world of classical/acoustic guitar who was generous with his time, knowledge and playing, Michael’s presence will be greatly missed.
June is fast approaching and there is much scheduled.
The beginning of the month is my highly anticipated Visiting Artist Presentation/Performance at the Arts Center. The last weekend of the month is a long-planned mother/daughter trip. In between, there’s hubby’s and mine 45th wedding anniversary and Father’s Day. All-in-all a hearty, well-paced meal of events I’ve been looking forward to devouring for several months! HA!
So, what’s all that got to do with the question posed in this blog post title?
In prepping for my presentation/performance, the focus morphed into spotlighting prepared guitar in musical compositions. I fooled around with other composer’s pieces, most notable ‘Kalimba’ the featured piece for a rhythm study by A. Hirsch on the Aaron Shearer Foundation website. The sound was sort-of right, but not quite.
Plus, I wanted something I could incorporate into one of my own compositions. I dug out an experimental duo piece I wrote for classical guitar and banjo about a year ago when I was collaborating with banjo guy. I played through the guitar part in prepared guitar mode and voila! It was made for just such an application!
As often happens with original compositions, until something is marked as Fine// on the score, it is still a WIP. So, I adapted the original duo into a short solo prepared guitar piece to play during my Vising Artist Presentation/Performance. I had loads of fun experimenting with a final guitar ‘preparation’ and ended up using staples on 4 sets of strings to get the sound I wanted.
A great example of Kalimba/Mbira sounding prepared guitar can be heard in this piece played by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ):
“Okay, but what about the Lightening Bug/Firefly thing?” you may be wondering – albeit a bit impatiently.
About 10 days later we were informed we acquired our first-choice date for the event.
In planning for this, I asserted my usage of the term ‘Lightening Bugs’ over ‘Fireflies’. It’s the term I grew up with and cling to even now as a point of identity!
The night of our excursion was a perfect night in the swamp for observing the lightening bugs’ synchronous light show. As we were immersed in Lightening Bug Glow, they seemed to be blinking a tempo (in sync, remember) to the prepared guitar piece I planned on playing for part of my Visiting Artist Presentation/Performance. The piece wafted through my mind (in sync) as the images of the lightening bugs hovered over and around us. I whispered to my hubby about my delightful discovery and he caught the vision, too.
“Fireflies Arising for prepared guitar” rolls off the tongue nice and smooth. It’s a rhythm thing.
What’s your preferred term for these wonderful critters?
About the following video:
“Every year tens of thousands of fireflies (Photuris frontalis) emerge from the leaf litter in Congaree National Park to begin their bioluminescent mating ritual. As darkness falls, this species of firefly, also commonly called a “snappy sync,” begins to flash in unison. The effect is like watching the heartbeat of the swamp, pulsing lights hovering over the bottomlands. This short film was created during the COVID-19 pandemic when the National Park was closed to the public and when the fireflies could be viewed without the interference of external lights.”
My 2007 cd, unexpected, is now available for purchase on Bandcamp as a limited quantity item.
Long available via the now defunct cdbaby store (back in the Derek Sivers days!) and downloadable/streamable via iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, etc. I have re-released both the physical cds & digital downloads of unexpected for additional distribution on my Bandcamp site.
***Please take a listen***
Hop over to my Bandcamp page for details on how to order digital tracks and/or physical cds.
Due in large part to the fact of its prior release taking place during the early days of digital distribution (think: My Space Music, yes I had an account!) – my mixed and mastered wav files were on a special type of cd that I then sent directly to the cd replication studio. I essentially gave them up not knowing I’d need them somewhere down the line.
I won’t get too technical but having to reverse-engineer one of my own cds on hand in order to obtain wav files to upload was a huge obstacle for me.
Oh, not the actual doing of it, but wondering if the quality of said files would be the same as if they’d come directly from the recording studio files. Lordy, I am such asound snob an audiophile.
Add to that the amount of time required for uploading & entering each track individually, complete with a myriad of other digital data paraphernalia. No wonder I put it off for so long. (BTW: the digital files sound just fine!)
However, as I’ve been working on current projects – improving skills on my less dominate instruments, recording ideas, composing like crazy, collaborating with Banjo Guy and laying out pdf scores for future publishing & distribution – I could no longer drag my feet in getting this pesky task completed.
And now it is.
Ready for a new set of ears to hear and hopefully enjoy for hours of listening pleasure.
Long before my Swimming with Swans: The Music – Goat Suite (Saga) was released, L.Marie asked if I would like to be a featured guest on her blog once the Big Day arrived.
Of course I said, “Yes”.
This woman, herself an accomplished author, has a reputation with us creatives as being actively supportive of her fellow (he)artists – both in word and deed. Going the extra mile with surprise encouragements in the snail mail to conducting interviews on her blog, L.Marie unabashedly helps enable & promote others’ newly released works.
She’s a Gem.
Please go here for that interview and while you’re there, maybe have a look around her blog. Enjoy!
Swimming with Swans: The Music – Goat Suite (Saga) is officially released today, 3/11/2022
Brief background of this piece:
Smack dab in the middle of our three-year journey between homes experience, my husband & I lived on the compound in the desert outside Las Cruces, NM, by invitation of family members grieving the loss of a young child. We shared life with various ‘rescues’ of both the animal and human sort. Inspired by our family of rescue goats, their antics and their care for us as we cared for them and initially based upon musical intervals of their bleats, my GS(S) stands as an ‘homage’ to Mama Goat and her kids. In addition, it gives voice to the fact that those of us who have experienced or are currently in a period of displacement in a living situation or even state of mind, are not defined by that but live day-by-day, create works of beauty regardless, and share it with all who will listen.[Dedicated to Justice Marie Norwood (1/30/2008-8/26/2010)- a child filled with light & delight, never to be forgotten.]
Hop over to my Bandcamp page for details on how to order digital tracks and/or physical cds.
…I set an official Release Date: 3/11/2022. I notified my digital distributor* for them to do what they do while I continued doing what I needed to do In the Meantime.
In the Meantime, I finished my Bandcamp storefront with a Pre-Order option for both digital and physical formats along with a free listen to the first movement of my Swimming with Swans: The Music – Goat Suite (Saga).
Pretty nifty, eh? Not just the music (!), but the fact that I can actually embed my Bandcamp music player here in a post on my WP site. Along with that you’ll notice I added a cool button that allows you to ‘Follow’ me there if you so desire.
Now about that Release Date. Yep. It’s still 3/11/2022 for all intents and purposes. However, my distribution service notified me that their side of things will be delayed…so they dropped the ball on the whole ‘release date’ thing as it applies to their delivery to on-line streaming & selling sites.
Because this is my music, my unveiling, my personal pinnacle of an announcement, I still claim 3/11/2022 as my release date. Sooooo…Friday is the party! My distro service may be late to that party, but eventually they will get my music out there where their services promised it to be distributed. I’ll let you know when I get updates on all of that.
In the Meantime, stay tuned here and on my Bandcamp site!
*cdbaby is the (paid for) distro service I’m using for them to send my Swimming with Swans: The Music – Goat Suite (Saga) to streaming & selling companies such as Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc. So my music is basically available free for the listening once they deliver the files to those platforms (and others) as well as being available for purchase on platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, etc. According to the latest update from cdbaby, there’s a delay on their end of things for a formal release on the 3/11/2022 date. All that means is that those sites won’t have it available for streaming/etc until whenever cdbaby gets their side of things cleared up. Nothing I can do about all of that – but darn!
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.
Like most of you, I’ve been getting cookie cutter ‘We’re here for you’ emails from retail stores…some sincere, some not so much. This one is not that. This one is a ‘What we’re doing to make a difference’ with a twist. Please read and/or watch what I found in my email box this morning from a ‘store’ most every working musician is familiar with…and please pass it on to any HealthCare Worker/Hospital Administrator you may know. (And yeah, I kept in the Disc Makers advert of their normal product at the end..a small thing I can do to support their efforts IMHO)
Warning, this Saturday email is longer than usual… or you can just watch the video above from our local NBC affiliate. (However, it’s Saturday, and you’re probably sitting inside being socially distanced—or even quarantined—so go ahead, take the time to read on.)
A little less than two weeks ago, when it became indisputable that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to sweep the nation, I was worried about the future of Disc Makers. Our orders had decreased by 50% literally overnight. We had to cut back our factory hours by 20%, and our salaried staff had agreed to a 20% pay reduction (and significantly more for execs) to make sure we didn’t run out of cash. After almost 74 years in business, I couldn’t believe a virus was the biggest threat this business had ever faced. Could this really be happening in 2020?
Then last Wednesday night, after watching the news and seeing the desperate need for protective equipment for frontline health workers, my wife asks me, “Tony, can’t you guys make some of this?” And that was exactly the spark we needed.
By Friday, our amazing team of manufacturing engineers and operations pros had come up with a prototype for a protective face shield. They ordered supplies, worked through last weekend to finalize the specs, set up workstations Monday, and started manufacturing this past Tuesday! The factory staff who print your inserts, replicate discs, and package your products—as well as office staff from every department—are now soldiers in the battle to literally save lives.
Perhaps best of all, instead of worrying how we’re going to survive on half our CD volume, I’m worrying if we have enough staff to fill the demand. Every single person at Disc Makers is pumped to be helping fight this coronavirus, and without fail, they are prepared to help build face shields. It’s one of the proudest moments of my life. I’m so impressed with how my team turned on a dime, made this happen in 3 working days, and how everyone enthusiastically jumped in to help battle this global crisis. It shows that American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and fighting spirit are second to none.
As a country, we’re not out of the woods yet. There’s more social distancing, more quarantining, more medical emergencies ahead. But it’s heartening to see so many companies rushing to help defeat this crisis—one of them being Disc Makers.
If you have loved ones working in the medical, emergency, janitorial, food service, or any other field without adequate supplies, we’re making face shields as fast as we humanly can and are working on narrow margins to make them affordable. They can be ordered at www.discmakers.com/faceshields. Hospitals that need large quantities can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just forward this email to them.
Let’s go win this war! Tony van Veen CEO, Disc Makers email@example.com
P.S. Our factory is still open and producing CDs, vinyl, and T-shirts. Demand may be down right now because no concerts are happening (though, online sales…), but rest assured that, when you need product now or in a few weeks, we’re here for you.
P.P.S. We are doing all we can to maintain a safe, clean environment at Disc Makers. The only way that potentially impacts you is that we are not accepting any client visits or in-person product pick-ups at our Pennsauken, NJ factory until further notice. You can order online, and we’ll be happy to ship your products right to your door.
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.