The road ends, but the journey continues...

Tag: prepared guitar

The Meaning We Make with Our Hands (Poem)

In reading about the stories we as creatives tell through our (he)art, I came across this phrase from a Quiltfolk blog article.

It resonated. I ruminated. I wrote a poem.



When Do Lightening Bugs Become Fireflies?

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!

my prepared guitar set up

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.

Scroll back to April 6, 2023. Hubby was poised at his computer to be one of the first to enter our names in the Congaree National Park Firefly Viewing Lottery.

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.

In that moment, the original title of the piece died along with using my preferred bug nomenclature in the new title.

“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.”


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