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.
Thank you for your patience while I revised, updated and transferred to another hosting site this space on the internet known as Laura Bruno Lilly – The Journey Continues.
That said, please ‘click around’ the site to view the many changes – not the least of which is a re-design from my former 2012 Child Theme to the more modern Hemingway Theme.
On the menu bar above – or just on the following titles here – be sure to click on the Home, About, and Purple Tulip Music tabs to view exciting new content.
Yep, had to use the word ‘exciting’ because this is after all a ‘Grand Re-Opening’!
And, hey, how about that header? Familiar, yet refreshed with the artwork by my Great Uncle Tran. Whose piece, Colorado, inspired the entire color palette of this site. And whose piece, Colorado, has a whole ‘nother story behind it which I will fully disclose in future blog posts on this newly revised site.
Also, to be revealed in the coming weeks, is a new page waiting to be nestled between the PTM and DMW tabs on the menu bar. It will be published with an accompanying blog post telling its backstory, so stayed tuned folks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every single day, a plan, a plot, a project, a scheme or a great idea screams to be on the front burner: A song that needs to be recorded. A video that needs to be shot. A business deal that needs a push. A website that needs to be built or updated. A relationship that needs to be dealt with.
Important because sometimes our best-laid plans work out, far beyond our expectations. Other times they fall apart and fade away. That’s the nature of a creative, independent lifestyle. However, truth be told, it’s all those big plans, worthy projects and bright ideas that we’re NOT doing that continue to keep us uptight, worked up and edgy.
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs & storiesyou already know that I’m a huge advocate for artists & entrepreneurs. That’s because I’ve been both all my life and in my world there’s no difference between the two. They both dwell in the land of uncertainty and risk and they both have to use creativity and innovation to negotiate their way through it. That’s not all…
A songwriter(composer) composes the music he hears in his head. An entrepreneur creates a vision for the future that she sees in her mind’s eye.
A painter prepares a canvas for her next artistic expression. An entrepreneur prepares a Powerpoint presentation for his next keynote.
A writer processes words that stimulate and entertain. An entrepreneur processes words that motivate and inspire.
A singer (instrumentalist) nervously stands in front of his audience and shares his soul. An entrepreneur nervously stands in front of her shareholders and shares her vision.
Neither one would last long in a regular 9-5 job because both have a relentless muse and an untamable creative spirit which they simply MUST follow. And unlike others, A&E’s have an advantage: the unique ability to devise, create, invent, fabricate, formulate, manifest and cook-up ways to make a buck.
Important because if our world ever crashes, it will be the crazy, genius artists and risk-taking entrepreneurs who will survive to inspire us and point the way out of the rubble and into the light.