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.
Lately my comments on other people’s blogs – even those I’ve followed for years – have not been appearing on their comment page. I’ve attempted to correct that by notifying them individually either using their contact-page-form or by piggy-backing on other comments made on the same article. This has gotten way too complicated so I’m sending out this blog post in the hopes that it will help rectify the situation.
If you are a blogger I follow and/or someone I comment on your posts from time to time, please check your spam folder and Un-Spam Me!
What a pain, right? But thank you in advance…
Meanwhile, I’ve also notified AKISMET* about the problem. Realistically, though, who knows how long it will take for my humble request to be noticed in the reality that is the internet – a place filled with millions of spammers and legitimate commenters all mixed together in the blogosphere and beyond.
Have you ever had this problem, too? Do you have any pointers on how to rectify the problem?
If so, please comment below and if you can’t ‘get through’ then try my contact page form…maybe it’s happening on my site as well. It does need a huge overhaul…sigh.
Got this postcard from our son Joe in the snail mail a few days ago.
Welcome to the 21st century, Vietnam and Baby Boomers!
The slogans written on the VW bus are as follows:
Make Pho’ Not War
Draft Beer, Not boys
all we need is peace
Hoian (Quang Nam Province)
War is expensive, Peace is priceless
And the best for last:
Vietnam against War (using the V and W in the VW logo)
Coming of age during the Vietnam War, the country itself has never held any appeal for me to visit. Dove or Hawk, protester or soldier, the war in Vietnam was complicated. The dread of the draft during wartime isn’t too much understood these days as we have an all-volunteer army which implies a desire to be involved in the military in some form or another during times of war and of peace. Those days, enlisting was an option that meant a guy of draftable age could at least choose a branch of the military in which to serve. Hubby chose the Navy.
As such, while hubby served during the Vietnam War, his assigned job as a naval optical man. He’s very adamant about making the distinction that he’s a Vietnam era Vet, not a Vietnam Veteran in deference to those who did indeed serve their tour of duty in Southeast Asia.
Anyway, I have to admit our son’s month long trip hiking, biking and scootering the entire length of Vietnam starting in the North and ending in the South, opened my eyes to its natural beauty, culture, native coffees & foods, and as a traveler’s destination.
Like many of you, I was first introduced to those fresh Vietnamese Noodle Bowls in the 1990’s and graduated to the more complex flavors of Pho’ in recent years. So now, Joe’s fun postcard entices me further as he wrote on the back –
Move over Pho – here comes Bun Bo Hue!
‘I found a pho-sibling that is equally delicious! Bon Bo has a deeper roast flavor to the broth…other delicious dishes to look out for are Bohn Beo, Bahn Khoai.’
Yum! I’m all in!
Darn – I don’t think those selections are on any menu around here in Florence, SC. I even double checked via google since FloTown has been changing in recent years…to be fair. However, I did find in the google search a single listing of a Vietnamese Restaurant that debuted in 2015 and closed down in the same year.
Just sayin’…I’ll keep a keen eye for these dishes elsewhere.
Meanwhile, as for the use of Pho’ as a word in the blogpost title rather than as the name of a delicious dish – How did you mentally pronounce the word Pho’? Faux or Fuh?
Hint: the correct pronunciation of Pho’ helps one to understand its relationship to the Sixty in the title of this post and will become evident as you continue to read on…next time in part two…
Many months ago I was rooting around on the internet looking into some music. I happened to come across a young jazz saxophonist named Grace Kelly and was watching her Livestream studio session. I started watching the video and really enjoyed her enthusiasm and music. I thought of our son Joe who is a jazz saxophonist also, but I decided not to send him a link to it as he was off touring New Zealand/Fiji/Australia at that time and wasn’t sure how good his internet was. I also thought of my late father-in-law who had died less than a year and a half before. He also was a jazz saxophonist who played with Benny Goodman and other greats in Chicago and who up to nearly the time that he died was always looking for new trends/music.
On the third song of the Livestream, Grace started explaining how she had come to write the song she was about to play. What she said, and more importantly what she played and sang touched a chord in me. I knew then that the song she wrote was a song that described how I felt about Laura and that that song was going to be our 40th anniversary theme song (not just our 40th but our lifelong song). Our anniversary was still many months away, so I tucked this song away so I could share it with Laura during our anniversary.
I started researching Grace Kelly a little more and it turned out that she was going to be playing in Las Cruces, New Mexico on May 27th. It just so happened that I lived in Las Cruces during high school, went off to serve in the Navy and after the Navy came back to Las Cruces to go to college. While in college on a co-op assignment for NOAA in Boulder, Colorado I met and married Laura and we moved back to Cruces to finish my college education before moving on.
We were planning a trip to Colorado to take care of business in early May and I wanted to go to New Mexico to both see Grace Kelly and to visit my parents’ graves. The timing seemed to be aligning to be able to spring on Laura this song at a Grace Kelly concert. Las Cruces is not a tremendously large town so I even hoped to run into Grace somewhere around town so that I could request that she play the song for Laura (not like trying to find Mr. T on Mulholland Drive or in Bel-Air or Hollywood – inside family story).
Unfortunately, our plans changed and we needed to go to Texas for business purposes before we went to Colorado which meant that we would end up in Las Cruces weeks before Grace Kelly was going to play. Knowing this I sat down with Laura before we left, told her that what she was going to see was the way I felt about her and that it was our anniversary song. I put the Livestream on our TV and jumped to 19:03 for the beginning of the story and the song. We sat there and watched the song (multiple times) trying to hold back the tears of our love for each other.
There are some songs that have a special meaning to me about Laura, like Leon Russell’s “A Song For You” and now Grace Kelly’s “Feels Like Home”.
Our anniversary this year falls on Father’s day and I can’t think of a better Father’s day gift than sharing this song which beautifully expresses the way I feel about Laura.
Laura shortly after found the song (sans Grace’s explanation) which is shown below. The full video is here, start at 19:03 for story before song.
Thank you Grace for this beautiful song and thank you Laura for a lifetime of “Feels Like Home”.
Photo seen on my Manc* buddy Andy’s blog
(oh, yes, he’s a published poet, check out his books here – perfect for gift-giving, IMHO)
“Whoa, what are those odd round-y tilted buildings?” I asked him in the comment section.
To which he responded with a link to something called NOMA Earth Tubes.
NOMA? What the heck is that?
He further elaborated,
“The atrium is fundamental to the building’s ventilation strategy. Each of its three corners houses one of the building’s vertical service cores. Some 50m3/s of fresh air is sucked into the building from its landscaped forecourt through three giant earth tubes buried beneath the building; this helps temper the air, cooling it in summer and warming it in winter. Air is heated or cooled in a huge basement plant room before giant fans push it up the service cores to the floor plates.”
Sufficiently curious, I clicked on his link reference thus beginning a fun google research journey for this lady on a pleasantly cozy, rainy Saturday afternoon. Continue reading
Last Thursday marked the beginning of forward movement towards the recording of Swimming with Swans: the music. I met with Ken*, the sound engineer and owner of Southern Harmony recording studio here in FloTown**. I had a fantastic time sharing my project, discussing needs, working through technical details and listening to his expertise as applied to contexts unique to solo & ensemble classical guitar.
I am so glad I went with my gut on using this studio for my solo pieces. The selection of quality recording studios nearby is limited. I vetted several this past year covering a 3 hour driving radius and came up with a scattering of possibilities all over the state, but really, the best for my needs are located in Raleigh/Durham, NC. Hubby being my #1 patron and supporter of my art is keeping those options open for me to use if I decide to go that route, regardless.
A page from my journal…
I have to admit that until moving to and living in Florence, SC I took basic musician needs for granted. This scarcity of a vibrant, well-rounded arts-scene will no doubt be a foreign concept/truth to grasp for many of my colleagues. It certainly was for me, but – it is what it is and I’m thrilled to have cracked the code to a satisfying solution; enabling me to thus move forward and march*** to the studio.
There is one other semi-appropriate studio in Colombia that Joe and I toured during his Thanksgiving visit. It was more attuned to the needs of classical/jazz musicians, but the space didn’t feel good. It offers the use of a superior quality grand piano, but that’s not something I need. Also, the sound engineer didn’t have any project tracks to play for me to listen to that were relevant to my instruments. The ones we gave a listen to were mostly of brass instruments, which sounded great…but. After doing some of my own digging on the internet for sound samples from his client list, I found a few background tracks with acoustic guitar that sounded – well, let’s just say they were not to my liking.
As a musician, the bottom line is one’s tone, one’s sound. If that gets messed up, no amount of playing technique or flourish will save the day. After listening to some of Ken’s current projects highlighting a variety of acoustic instruments, I believe I can trust his ear. We certainly have a great rapport, which also counts as a keen element in the recording process/experience. Meanwhile, I’m doing time on the ole’ practice stool, fine tuning my solo pieces, getting ready for recording and keeping up my chops. I hope to start sessions by mid-late March.
I am definitely psyched…
*If you visit Southern Harmony, you’ll find Ken is quite modest…his creds include an impressive resume of work in the LA scene for most of his 20 years of experience before moving to FloTown, yet not listed on his website.
**Local name for Florence, South Carolina
***Yes, pun is intentional.
In 1994 I purchased my first custom handmade classical guitar. A Thomas Prisloe. Crafted with an Englemann Spruce top, Indian Rosewood sides and back and customized features, it came housed in a Pro Tec International case.
My 1994 Prisloe nestled in its original Pro Tec International case, 2015
Both have served me well these past 21 years of gigging, performing, recording, teaching and traveling.
The woods of this guitar have long since opened up, developing a tone quality shaped by the touch of my fingers and style of playing. The case remains a stalwart protector of its charge.
Heavily padded, yet extremely lightweight and durable, this case kept the Prisloe at a consistent temperature and humidity level as well as safe and secure during transport. It didn’t show signs of falling apart until we ended our between homes journey in July 2012. Continue reading
Okay. So I’m laid up a bit from a pesky back muscle spasm. In my mature wisdom, I know it is nothing as incapacitating as what many of my favorite Wounded Warriors have had to endure in a life less than half the length of my own. But, when one is on a roll with a project that has been working its way to the top of the slush pile of my creative mind, the intrusion of this mini-disability is an aggravation.
In keeping with a term I earned back during my horse rescue days, I choose to ‘Cowgirl Up.’
Yep, being (he)artistic and horsey walk hand in hand in this lady’s life.
I confess to times of grumpiness, but mostly I’ve been reading lots, listening lots and vegging lots. Never one to run from the creative crock pot of silence, the waiting is invigorating, but the physical stillness is my undoing!
Here then is a sampling of stuff I love, especially when I can’t position myself on my own practice stool and work on my own music. Enjoy! Continue reading