“There are more than 7 wonders of the world – he (Stevie Wonder) is #8.”
Innervisions – Stevie Wonder
One of my favorite albums during my college years (1972-1977). Here’s a studio clip on recording ‘Living for the City’ which is as fresh and (unfortunately) relevant to today’s issues as it was then… all (he)artistically mastered by a master. What follows is the whole song as recorded on Innervisions.
For a touch of relief in this world of many troubles and plenty of social injustices I end this with Stevie’s “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” on this same album, Innervisions.
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.”
To borrow the March proverb and apply it to our domestic and worldwide on-going state of affairs, I like to think that as 2021 ‘comes in like a lion’ it will ‘go out like a lamb.’
In the meantime –
I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.
This 2020 virtual choir video edition of How Can I Keep from Singing makes me feel less alone – its message, its virtual human presence. It seems just what the doctor ordered to usher in a dose of courage, strength and continued commitment to stay the course during these unrelenting times.
Being raised Catholic, and then doing the Jesus People street theatre scene in the 70s, my knowledge of purely Protestant Hymns is limited. Yet, here in the midst of a 21st century Pandemic, it took a Unitarian quilter blogger buddy to introduce me to this encouraging and joyful Hymn (thank-you, Zippy).
My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation. I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock, I’m clinging. Since love prevails in heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing?
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’…
As mentioned before: herein I will blog, and commenters can comment, without feeling guilty about seeming to disregard the seriousness of our present COVID-19 Reality. In other words, this space is reserved for escaping/managing Reality – however that translates. Anything goes, so here goes!
First and foremost, I just had to show off this piece by my friend, Mariss. I’ve long admired her fiber art – and her curiosity about trying new techniques. After attending a course given at the South African National Quilt Festival in 2019 on Kantha stitching (pre-COVID – remember when?), she decided to experiment with the stitch form by making monthly samplers. As she says, “What has caught my imagination is how the simple running stitch can be used to produce such varied patterns and effects.”
Coincidentally, she began her samplers in January 2020 and they have since become a form of meditative creation for her as this year of the Pandemic has persisted & progressed. (click here and here for photos of each month’s sampler thus far)
Changing gears: How about a little help with my poem WIP? Below are two versions of Making Bread. If you feel so inclined, please read through both and then in the comments below let me know which word you prefer. I waffle between the two of them. Oh and, anybody notice the relationship between the Kantha piece above and something else on this blog post? If so, let me know about your discoveries in the comments.
Making Bread – poem WIP version #1:
Making Bread - poem WIP
(LBL - MMXX)
I become a Builder.
Yeasty gases expanding.
I watch as it shapes a story.
Making Bread – poem WIP version #2:
Making Bread - poem WIP
(LBL - MMXX)
I become a Builder.
Yeasty gases ballooning.
I watch as it shapes a story.
This link goes to a short excerpt of an NBC interview (it’s only 2 minutes, please click and ponder) with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1967…still strikingly relevant to these times…(full interview here).
“White America must see that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. That is one thing that other immigrant groups haven’t had to face…America freed the slaves in 1883 through the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, but gave the slaves no land or nothing in reality…to get started on. At the same time, America was giving away millions of acres of free land in the West and Midwest. Which meant there was a willingness to give the white peasants from Europe an economic base. And yet it refused to give its black peasants from Africa – who came here involuntarily and in chains, and had worked for free here in chains for 244 years – any kind of economic base…” Dr. Martin Luther King
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” John 8: 32
I’m finding it very hard to focus on much of anything these days. How about you guys? I really think it’s a COVID-19 shelter-in-place/isolation induced thing – but that irritation is much better than the actual COVID-19 infection itself, so I’m not complaining really. Just noting it. ~~
I’m not a fast food type of gal, but the other day I craved, just craved, a Burger King Whopper and McDonald’s French fries. Hubby obliged by sitting in each of the two respective drive-throughs to indulge my primal need.
Yeah, he’s a keeper.
In keeping with the French Fry Theme, here is a snappy, happy Celtic inspired piece, Danse des Duex Pommes Frites (aka The French Fry Song) by Steve Baughman and performed in duo with Robin Bullock*.
Musical French fries have zero calories, guys, so enjoy!
Speaking of calories.
About 8 weeks into sheltering-in-place, I glimpsed my reflection in the sliding doors entering the grocery store and my Lord! Forget about that masked (wo)man staring back – is that huge-hipped, thunder-thighed lady, me?
Hubby’s favorite ‘Bridge’ Path – sometimes he comes along for the walk & fresh air, too
After the Coronavirus took away my meager 45-minute daily workouts on the elliptical at the Y, my regular walks around the block and on the McLeod Path across town took on a more immediate level of importance.
I even do a few planks on my Yoga Mat and shake the house down doing jumping jacks in the kitchen…but admittedly, the Coronavirus has limited my exercise options.
Whilst (I love that British term!) taking a walk around the McLeod Path a few weeks ago, I noticed a pair of ladies beside their respective cars, a proper social distance of 6 feet, jumping rope. These ladies were ladies of a certain build that made me think: if they can do this, I can do this!
Look what greeted me at the nearly empty McLeod Path parking lot last week!
Thus began my search for the perfect jump rope and determination to add jumping rope into my anemic Pandemic exercise routine.
Last week, with my new rope in hand, and a 5 minute ‘Beginner’s Guide to Jumping Rope’ video on my phone, I drove back to the McLeod Path parking lot intent on re-learning how to jump rope.
Yep. Re-learn. Turns out, that ‘double hop’ us kiddos did back in the day is detrimental to progress in the realm of jumping rope for fitness.
For the next 20 minutes, I judiciously went through the preliminary exercises devised to help in redirecting old habits. When I felt ready, I set forth and did a full continuous three minutes of jumping rope.
Three excruciating minutes of jumping rope the ‘correct’ way.
The guy in the video even concedes it’s a biggie challenge to begin again on the jump rope exercise scene. He suggests beginners hold back enthusiasm in advancement by restricting jump rope sessions to 3 per week for the first 4 weeks.
Shin splints, muscle aches and cramps, coordination misfire whips against the body by the jump rope itself – all can add up, hurt and hence discourage continuing on in one’s advancement of jumping rope as a total body workout. Being an older adult, I heeded hubby’s suggestion to ease into my new jump rope routine to 2Xs a week for 4 weeks.
Tuesday this week was my second date with that ole jump rope. In that same parking lot.
The mushroom was long gone, but I managed to do two 5-minute spurts of continuous jumping rope! 10 minutes total. I never in a million years thought I could ‘advance’ so quickly on something so taxing and demanding.
I am not the athletic type.
I was always the last chosen on sports teams back during School Gym days. But my enthusiasm and persistence have always been my redemption. I love hiking, skiing, biking, swimming, diving, volleyball, softball – I’ve just not ever been good enough for ‘teams’!
And now: Here I am, beginning my new COVID-19 jump rope exercise regimen. And succeeding!
Next appointment with my rope? Saturday. Can’t wait.
*Hubby and I had a date planned to take in Robin’s show at The Isis Music Hall & Kitchen in Asheville, NC on March 29th, 2020 at 6pm. Guess what happened instead? As I re-looked up the concert venue today, lo & behold to my delight and surprise there is a re-scheduled concert set for September 17, 2020 – we’ll see if we can keep that date!
– 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.