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…
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.
Most Celtic music enthusiasts and instrumentalists are familiar with this man’s body of work and prominence of place within the Irish folk tradition.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
This vaguely simplistic concept was brought to light a few days ago while staring down an old (as in a piece I put aside years ago to work on ‘later’) arrangement I began, but never finished, for solo classical guitar. Something about it wasn’t quite right back then and something about it still wasn’t quite right, right now.
There were these 3 measures that, well, just didn’t measure up.
In seeing what I’d done previously with fresh eyes, I couldn’t dismiss it as a throw-away. I’d already invested much time and effort into crafting an original arrangement of a traditional Tarantella. It was, in truth, almost finished.
Stylistically, there are many songs in Italy that qualify as a Tarantella – basically a rowdy, raucous dance tune with moves inspired by – you guessed it – the Tarantula. More specifically, ridding one’s self of one and/or what happens after one gets bitten by one (frenzied madness)!
As is typical in folk music, each town, province, heck – family – has their own version of this. I mention family because coming from a musical family, these things get passed down along with the traditional family recipes. But not necessarily in tangible, written down form.
I knew how to play it in ensemble. That’s just a fancy way of saying I could rock out those rhythmic chords on my 12-string acoustic and/or classical guitar to my Dad’s clarinet/saxophone or my former duo partner’s violin/mandolin melody instruments.
But I really wanted it in my personal arsenal of songs to play for fun in a solo classical guitar context.
That said, I knew how my arrangement needed to sound.
I sight-read the unfinished score on my music stand with its errant 3 measures standing out as ugly as ever. Searching for a solution, I reviewed the source materials referenced in the initial creation of the arrangement and noticed something tucked in between the pages of my notes. All those years ago, I had hand-written a 3 measure idea to insert as a possible replacement for the trouble spot.
Hmm, why hadn’t I just gone with that in the first place?
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’…
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.
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.
Support our Health Care Professionals.
This admittedly hard ToDo is one small effort that makes a huge difference.
It’s heartening to know hunkering down in my tiny home helps in the Grand Scheme of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 – as well as results in rewarding project progress.*
Sample quilt sandwich ready for experimentation!
Since my last ToDoTuesday, I squared up the scrappy blocks (before photo here) I stitched together from the bits of Michelle’s lime green African Fabric wall hanging. I made one up as a sample quilt sandwich for use in exploring different threads & quilting techniques on the wall hanging and another to share with a friend.
A scrappy surprise for my friend (you know who you are!)
Interesting to note that the gold metallic thread shown above and a variegated lime/gold/red metallic thread (not shown) both blended too well into the piece resulting in a blah and dull machine blanket stitch finish around the actual African Fabric blocks. Desiring to use something from my thread basket stash, my eye gravitated towards a spool of copper metallic (not shown) and voilà!Perfetto! (Yep, intentional use of two different language exclamatory words)
As stated before – 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 with my friend, Roseanne. That said, I’ve re-started in earnest the Final Edit process of my Goat Suite (Saga) scores. The first movement is completed in two forms: one for insertion into the total three movement GSS score and the other as an individual first movement score with extracted parts.
ToDo for the weeks following March 24th:
Sew up scraps have on hand
Work on Michelle’s African Fabric wall-hanging
Work on Final scores for Goat Suite (Saga)
*While social distancing, sheltering in place, and lock-down mode are difficult in and of themselves, please know I fully understand I’m far removed from the huge demands many of you are facing right now, such as parenting children in such an environment (much less ‘expecting’ for that matter and the anxiety associated with the logistics of labor & delivery in these times), or care giving elderly relatives or end-of-life issues or fill-in-the-blank life challenges…I wish I could offer you practical respite. Meanwhile, I pray for mercy & grace to be upon us all.
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.
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?
– 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.
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.
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
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
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 🙂
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.