Monday, March 20, 2017

Paws Down - Bates no. 10

Paws Down (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 10 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

Today's post (if all goes according to plan) will be published while on a short tour with Contratopia. Last weekend, while playing a dance with Pat's Propellers, Linda Breitag shared the best cat-related tune title ever. I won't steal her thunder by revealing it before it's time but I think "Paws Down" is not that bad.

Bates no. 10 was more challenging than most of its relatives and so this recording is more demo-quality than most. I think it would be more fun, and easier, to play it with an actual partner rather than just a recording of myself.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sherwood & Brooks - Bates no. 10

Sherwood & Brooks (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 9 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

Sherwood & Brooks (an obscure reference to grade school) arrived unbidden on Friday morning. I already had a tune ready for this week but I'll save it for next week. This little jig wrote itself and was entered into Sibelius and then recorded before lunch. Jigs two weeks in a row, not intentional.

The photo is recent also and, while unrelated to the title of the tune, is certainly a good image for this music.

Bates no. 9 is a typically cheerful example of the music in his collection.

I was honored to play a contra dance last night in Minneapolis with Pat's Propellers. We had our usual good time but, because of the onset of Daylight Savings Time, the drive home took an hour longer than usual.

Next weekend I'm looking forward to four dances with Contratopia, all in Maryland. Check out our schedule and stop and say hello if you are in the neighborhood.

I'll be trying to post next week's entry from Takoma Park, we'll see if I succeed.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Bear on the Beach - Bates no. 8

Bear on the Beach (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 8 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

The photo above was taken at Meyers Beach, part of the Apostle Islands National Seashore, during a visit to Bayfield, WI last year. The bear in question is not in the photo. Unlike some of my friends I have no interest in ever encountering a bear while hiking. The mere possibility, however remote, can have a chilling effect on my ability to enjoy the natural beauty around me.

In any event I think the tune here is a fun jig to play. The recording has some rhythmic quirks, partly because (I'm not sure why) I recorded the guitar last. Also I hadn't actually decided on an ending until I was at the end of recording the first track. This meant I had to struggle a little more than usual to get the succeeding tracks to end in the same neighborhood.

Here also is no. 8 of William Bates' duettinos for your enjoyment.

If you are in the Decorah area I will be playing solo mandolin once again at Java John's on Wednesday night, March 8, from 7:00-9:00. I'll be playing some recent tunes from this blog along with a couple of Norman and Nancy Blake tunes, Partita V for mandolin by F. Sauli, and three new arrangements of James Oswald Airs for the Seasons: The Geranium, The Box and The Golden Rod.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two Red Hawks - Bates no. 7 - Deer Track, Feb. 20, 2017

Two Red Hawks (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 7 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score)
Deer Track, February 20, 2017 (mp3) (pdf)

The picture is from a month or so ago but this is near where I saw two red hawks soaring above the Upper Iowa River a couple of days ago. Thanks to the hawks for this week's tune title.

I thought I was done with using "Deer Tracks" as a titling convention but this tune insisted on developing itself in the familiar deer tracks fashion, so I decided to give in and call it what it is. I think now it should go a little faster but, for today, it is fine at this speed.

Here also is no. 7 of William Bates' duettinos, adapted for the mandolin. Only 11 left.

The musical highlight of this week was hearing Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge in Cedar Rapids on Thursday. They worked their magic in a small venue provided by some of the folks who operate Premier Guitar magazine. The show was outstanding in every way. What Julian and Chris do together is unique in its balance of composition, improvisation and virtuosity. I can't recommend them highly enough. Their new CD is Mount Royal. Check out some of the videos.

Today's post marks 8 weeks in a row, which I believe is unprecedented in the 10 year history of this blog. We'll see what next week brings.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Cairo Sessions - Bates no. 6

The Cairo Sessions (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 6 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score)

Norman Blake recently released a new album of music (Brushwood Songs & Stories) and, as usual, he and Nancy sound great. The Bluegrass Situation published a lengthy and informative interview on Feb. 10, titled End of the Road.

I commented on the Mandolin Cafe that I loved the interview but I wished that Joseph Terrell had asked Norman a question or two about his priceless mandolin music. I suggested that even though Mr. Blake is retiring from public performance he might still consider writing some more of his great mandolin tunes. I further suggested that he and Nancy Blake might meet up once again with Peter Ostroushko and record a few of these tunes, perhaps in Cairo ("K-row"), Illinois. I said they could call the record "The Cairo Sessions."

This prompted me to write another in a series of tunes that I think of as being a little in the style of those great Norman, Nancy and Peter O. tunes of the past. And, for once, I already had a title. I had a great time working on this during the week and lots of fun trying to actually play the harmony part that I wrote. I hope it's enjoyable.

I'm also continuing my series of William Bates recordings with number 6 of his Duettinos.

In a different part of the vast musical universe I had the great pleasure on Wednesday of rehearsing two sections of Anton Webern's 5 Pieces, op. 10 with members of the Luther College Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Daniel Baldwin. The plan is for the group to perform this piece during the spring concert in April. I am really excited about this chance to play a handful of notes with these fine young musicians and to get to hear this piece from the inside.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

From the Balcony - Bates no. 5

From the Balcony (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 5 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)

This week's new tune is a nice quiet number for solo mandolin. It may be developed more in the future.

Here also is no. 5 from the book of William Bates duettinos.

On Wednesday, the 8th, I had another great time playing solo mandolin at Java John's. Here is the setlist from that event:

Java John’s solo mandolin, January 17, 2017

Set 1

1. Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa (Goodin) / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)

2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Phillyrea

3. The Hogwart’s Express / Steady On

4. Postcards From the Crater: Pines West

5. Bach: Allemande from Partita no. 2 for solo violin (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)

6. Deer Track, February 2009

7. Telemann: 12 Fantasies for solo flute, Allegro from no. 2 / Allegro from no. 11 (G.P. Telemann, 1681-1767)

8. Henrietta Hornpipe / News Boys’ Hornpipe / The New Henrietta (Goodin)

9. O’Carolan: Hewlett / Planxty Irwin (Turlough O’Carolan, 1670-1738)

10. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Holly

11. January Tunes: Waltz for the New Year, 2017 / March in January / Sometimes (the bear eats you) / Big Tree Down

                                                           Set 2

1. Sauli: Partita I for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)

2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Hawthorn

3. Bighorn River Sunset / Goslings Afloat / Halfway Home

4. Bach: Bouree in Am

5. Postcards From the Crater: Ice Cave Road

6. Ellington: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington, 1899-1974)

7. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Snow-Drop

8. Telemann: Gayment from the 36 Fantaisies

9. Sonata in L(ou)

10. Majo: Mandolin Sonata (Gian Francesco di Majo, 1732-1770)

11. Trad: Reel St. Joseph / The Star of Munster / Lady Anne Montgomery

Even though the list indicates a plan to play two sets, as I usually do, in this case I played straight through because a group of listeners arrived right before my intended break. I could see that they had come to hear some mandolin music so I decided to just keep playing.

Finally, last night Contratopia played to an unusually large crowd at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. The band, our caller Beau Farmer, and the many dancers all seemed to have a great time.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Grey Sunny Sunday - Bates no. 4 - Gathering Echoes

Grey Sunny Sunday (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 4 (mp3 pt. 1) (mp3 pt. 2) (pdf score in G)
Gathering Echoes (mp3) (pdf)

Last Sunday was one of those grey winter days that are so common here in northeast Iowa. In mid-afternoon, however, the skies cleared and we had two or three hours of abundant sunshine. This week's new tune was mostly written in the morning and then fiddled with for the next few days. The photo above was taken during my afternoon walk, going up the back road entrance to Palisades Park.

I'm also continuing my William Bates project with duettino no. 4. These are always fun to play and I hope that a few readers are giving these a try.

In addition I'm presenting here a piece I've had for many years that I finally am calling "Gathering Echoes." I don't think I've recorded it before but it's been around for so many years that it might have turned up somewhere in that time. In addition to being a pretty tune (at least to my ears) it's also a nice little exercise. I usually play it in D but you can transpose it to other keys for fun.

This coming Wednesday, Feb. 8, I will be playing another solo mandolin gig at Java John's Coffee House in Decorah. This will be my twelfth consecutive month doing this and I will, as always, be playing some new music. I'll be performing solo versions of three or four more of James Oswald's 96 Airs for the Seasons along with various other pieces from the baroque era. I will also play all four of my new tunes from January 2017, some of my Postcards From the Crater pieces, some fiddle tunes and maybe a couple of jazz standards. It's only Sunday so I'm not close to finalizing the setlist yet.

I'm looking forward to joining my Contratopia band mates on Saturday (Feb. 11) at Tapestry in Minneapolis for our first contra dance of 2017. Come by if you are in the big cities next weekend.
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