Just needing me some Ry Cooder – peace entwined within rhythm, amid the blues.
The father asked the prodigal…did you hear the angel band?The Prodigal Son
Just needing me some Ry Cooder – peace entwined within rhythm, amid the blues.
The father asked the prodigal…did you hear the angel band?The Prodigal Son
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’…
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 did not find her.
But I can still honor her***.
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...
***Please find & read my Open Letter page neatly nestled between the PTM and DMW pages on the menu bar as part of my newly revised website.
Hey guys, I’m back!
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.
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.
In the meantime: It’s great to be back!
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
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.
ToDo for the weeks following February 25th:
I’ll start with the most important of these ToDos – Help Flatten the Curve –
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.*
ToDo for the weeks following March 24th:
*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!
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.
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.
*will discuss these two in a later post
**composer/lyricist: Townes Van Zandt
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