Thursday, October 03, 2019

Spring Suite, May 2019 (finally arriving in October)

Spring Suite, May 2019 (stream and/or download for free at Bandcamp)

(Octave mandolin version pdf) (Mandocello version pdf)

1. Vernal Signs (mp3)
2. New Growth (mp3)
3. The Little Flowers (mp3)
4. The Cultivator (mp3)
5. Full Bloom (mp3)

Back in February I presented my Winter Suite, February 2019, a suite of tunes aimed at players of the mandocello and the octave mandolin. Today I am finally presenting the suite that I (mostly) composed in May as a follow-up. The delay was partly because Summer arrived and I was really busy and partly because I knew I wasn't quite satisfied with the original versions.

I revisited the pieces a couple of times during the summer and changed a few notes but I still didn't feel like the suite was ready to record. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I took another look and decided I should just rewrite the first section altogether. I did that and the whole suite seemed better balanced somehow.

So here's the Spring Suite, May 2019 (finished in September) for mandocello or octave mandolin. As with the previous suite I have placed the complete composition as an "album" at Bandcamp in case you want to stream and/or download the music (free of charge) without having to click on each section. You can, however, go ahead and just click on each section of the suite here in its mp3 form.

I'm looking forward to seeing a roomful of mandocellists next week at the annual convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America. On Thursday morning Jim Imhoff will present The Solo Mandocello, vol. 2 and I will join August Watters (author of the excellent Exploring Classical Mandolin from Berklee Press) to talk about some of our recent work. This will be a lot of fun.

Speaking of recent work, I was honored last week when Mel Bay published two new books with my name on the cover; Telemann for Two Mandolins and A Baroque Sampler for Octave Mandolin. Both are now available as print volumes and ebooks. Two books in the same week is highly unlikely to ever happen again for me and I really enjoyed hearing from many friends offering their congratulations.

In addition to the new Mel Bay books I am also finishing up a new tunebook to go with my Mandolin Tunes 2 recording from last fall. I will have some of these with me next week on my vendor table at the CMSA meeting in Bloomington-Normal, IL.

Lest you imagine (I don't often get to use "lest" in a sentence) that I'm only working on books I am happy to say that I have played numerous gigs in the last few weeks, including four wedding dances over the course of 8 days. On Sunday afternoon I get to play some tunes with Pat O'Loughlin at the annual Polish Apple Day in Winona, MN. Who could ask for more?

I hope you enjoy the Spring Suite.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fifty Years On

Fifty Years On (mp3) (pdf)

I am a proud graduate of Our Lady of Providence High School, Clarksville, Indiana. This weekend many of the members of my class of 1969 are gathering to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I would love to be there and reminisce with some of my old friends about our glory days, but life here in Iowa is claiming precedence.

Tonight I will be playing for a contra dance with my Contratopia friends on a farm in northwestern Iowa, helping a fine family of musicians, dancers and music lovers celebrate the wedding of one of our good friends, and occasional Contratopian, Ehler Orngard.

Tomorrow night I get to play for a short wedding dance near Decorah with my friends in the Foot-Notes band and, possibly, for a local contra dance after that. Sunday evening Erik Sessions and I are playing tunes for dancing and listening for yet another wedding, this time in the legendary barn at the Seed Savers Exchange just outside of town.

While I will miss the chance to see and learn from the friends of my youth (how young we all were!) back in Indiana, I am always honored when I have the chance to help with the music at weddings and other meaningful occasions. I feel like this kind of music-making is true to the values I learned from the dedicated faculty and staff at Providence back in the late 1960s.

So while Erik and I are driving on the back roads tonight I'm sure that my thoughts will drift back to those days so long ago and reflect on how my days at OLPH have helped me so much over the years.

I hope you enjoy the tune. There's a good chance it will receive a "world premiere" performance tonight in a field near Pilot Mound, Iowa but we'll be playing it for the class of '69 as well.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Hoosier Clockmaker

The Hoosier Clockmaker (mp3) (pdf)

Today is my father's 100th birthday. He's no longer around in person but I encounter the things he made every day. Earl Goodin wasn't one for displays of emotion so I'll keep this brief.

My sister, Sherri, and I were unbelievably lucky in the parent lottery. I, of course, didn't always realize that as a child or young man. Dad and I had our share of misunderstandings and disagreements but it's easy to see in hindsight how fortunate I was.

I don't remember Dad ever missing a Little League or a football game. He was there pretty much every day until I went off to college and then he was always available when I'd come home. (This is Dad's birthday but he would want me to point out that our Mom, Rosie, was practically a saint and he would give her all the credit.)

When I turned to music for meaning in life he was supportive but not wildly encouraging. I can only imagine the reaction he had to the many nights we held band practice in our basement or in the garage. I knew not to play the radio or my record player too loud but he must have endured what seemed like endless hours of foreign sounds coming through the walls.

Dad was a builder and a maker of things. During the day, for money, he made automobiles for the Ford Motor Company. He worked 30 years on the line. No one was ever more proud to be a member of the UAW than Earl Goodin.

At home he built things constantly and he had a fine woodshop in the garage (the garage that he built himself). I know that he was disappointed when I didn't follow in those footsteps but he also enjoyed doing that work in solitude. When he was in his prime I believe that he enjoyed nothing more than repairing a watch or building a clock. Most of those watches are no longer ticking but several of those clocks are still keeping time.

My outlet was making music and, eventually, songs and tunes. I know that he was proud of my meager ability and was happy for me to have found such pleasure, and some recognition, in my work. So today's simple little jig is called "The Hoosier Clockmaker" in recognition of the life and memory of Dad.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Port William Sunrise

Port William Sunrise (mp3) (pdf)

Back on the morning of August 5 I was sitting here at my desk doodling on the mandolin. A simple little tune started raising it's hand (pick me! pick me!) and, even though it wasn't exciting or particularly innovative, I was enjoying letting it play out. Then a Voice from across the hall called out: "Did you know that today is Wendell Berry's 85th birthday?"

Wherever tunes come from, whatever they are for (assuming, of course, that there is any meaning in anything; but that's a different conversation) I immediately knew that I now had a tune titled "Port William Sunrise."

If you are a reader of Wendell Berry's poetry, novels and essays I suspect that this connection alone will help you enjoy this very plain and simple bit of music. If you haven't yet encountered this great writer's literary work take some time and get to know him. If you try one poem or story or essay and you think you can put him aside in a safely labeled category you have only scratched the surface. Life and people are complicated and complex. Nature has much to teach us and we ignore her lessons at our peril. Wendell Berry's work and perspective can help us see things, both beautiful and challenging, that can change and enrich our lives.

These last few weeks have been full of wonderful music-making opportunities. I have enjoyed playing with some of my best music friends while, hopefully, playing some good notes that have contributed to a variety of community events. Because I've been busier than usual I have added a "Gig Calendar" to this blog, largely to help me keep better track of what's coming next.

In the last 8 days I had the chance to play with Foot-Notes for a dance at the Highlandville Schoolhouse, with the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra in Edina, MN, with Erik Sessions for a great group of friends at Toppling Goliath in Decorah and, last night, with Pat, Tim and Ted at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. Now I get a few days off from my "summer tour" and I'll try and catch up on some of my other music projects, like today's post.

As Wendell Berry said in his poem "The Wild Geese",

And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

So ends today's sermon....

(P.S. The photo is of Lake Superior at Grand Marais in August 2012, not the Kentucky River.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Old Growth

Old Growth (mp3) (pdf)

When I see the words "old growth" I immediately think of forests. I like this phrase as a tune title, partly because it can have multiple meanings. What is old? What is growth? Today's tune is recently composed but I mean for it to have a connection to old tunes. Hopefully it demonstrates evidence of growth in my writing, although it's very similar to many other tunes, old and recent. Really I just like the way it sounds, both the title and the music.

If you pay careful attention to this blog you may notice that I have added a Gig Calendar over on the right hand side. People sometimes ask me where and when I'm playing next and this might make it easier for me to answer. You can see that I happen to have several things coming up in August, in various settings and with various music friends.

This past weekend was Decorah's annual Nordic Fest festival and I was fortunate to play twice with my Foot-Notes friends and also a nice afternoon tent gig with Erik Sessions. The weather was excellent and the sound was good. There's nothing quite like watching hundreds of people hop around dancing the schottische on a warm summer's night.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Postcards From the Crater at Bandcamp

If you look back at some blogposts in the Fall of 2016 you will find me sharing pieces of what became my Postcards From the Crater sheet music book. Along with the sheet music I included some hastily recorded, low quality mp3 recordings. I have long intended to do proper, CD quality, recordings of the Postcards and, this past spring, I finally got around to it.

In fact, I recorded them all twice. After I did the first round I decided I didn't like the new recordings well enough so I did them all a second time. This last time I used a recent Collings MTO mandolin equipped with Thomastik strings and I'm quite pleased with the results.

If you are interested you can click on the Bandcamp player embedded above and stream the whole thing for free. There's also a page on my Mandotopia site with more info about the project and links to ordering the sheet music.

I resisted the urge to write long, flowery descriptions and post photos of all of the beautiful places referenced in these pieces. If you are familiar with Decorah no introductions are necessary. If you have never visited Dunning's Spring or the Dug Road you can probably find photos of most of these spots by searching online for those terms; or Ice Cave Road or the Decorah Prairie, etc.

It's a lovely place where we live and well worth a visit sometime.

I hope you check out these new recordings of the Postcards and enjoy them.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Robert Owen's Quickstep

Robert Owen's Quickstep (mp3) (pdf)

This tune was mostly written on May 14, the birthday of Robert Owen (1771-1858), who, among other things, is remembered for financing and engineering the creation of the memorable utopian communal experiment at New Harmony, Indiana in the 1820s. I have long been inspired by the history and physical beauty of New Harmony and I hope to visit there again soon.

The tune itself, while quickly written, has been repeatedly revised during the last few weeks. I think it is a little improved over the original but at some point things get a little blurry and it's time to stop.

On a technical note, this is the first tune appearing in this blog that has been recorded using the Izotope Spire Studio device that I recently purchased. It's a fun gizmo and I'm enjoying playing around with it. In this instance I used a nice condenser mic of my own rather than the built in Spire mic and I did some final tweaking using Audacity but, overall, the Spire was very easy to work with.

I hope you enjoy the result.

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