Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Jig for Sue

A Jig for Sue (mp3) (pdf)

If you have been to a contra dance in Decorah in the last few years you have almost certainly found yourself helped along by the expert time-keeping of our resident bodhran player, Sue Otte. Sue loves to play jigs and I needed a title for today's tune so here it is. It's a fun tune to play, hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Friendly Spirits

Friendly Spirits (mp3) (pdf)

As mentioned last week, this week's tune was written on Halloween evening while the little ones were navigating our rickety front porch steps and gathering their rewards.

Bullwinkle: "Eenie-meanie, chili-beanie, the spirits are about to speak."

Rocky: "Are they friendly spirits?"

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Elkhart Freight

Elkhart Freight (mp3) (pdf)

Last Tuesday was Halloween and, by chance, I ended up writing a couple of tunes during the trick or treat part of the evening. I had one, called "Friendly Spirits" finished and recorded by Thursday. But then on Friday I returned to a tune I wrote earlier in the year and that's what we have here today.

Back in March I rode the Capitol Limited into Union Station D.C. to play some dances with Contratopia. The train stops at Elkhart on the way east around 9:30 at night and on March 16 we ended up sitting on a siding while a freight train rattled by. I started this tune during that pullover. (The photo above was taken somewhere in Pennsylvania the next morning.)

I enjoyed making the recording of this one. I even used a dropped D tuning on the guitar, something I almost never do. (I have enough trouble with standard tuning.) The tune could certainly go faster but I like the way it kind of rolls along at this tempo.

If you are a friend of Contratopia and you own our Riff City CD your ear may tell you there is some similarity between the beginning of Elkhart and my tune "No Contest" which is the 2nd tune in the Two Bits medley. After some back and forth with my internal editor I decided that's OK.

Hope you enjoy it.

[Update: I finally noticed, and corrected, the mistakes in the pdf sheet music on Tuesday evening. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Witch Hollow Pond

Witch Hollow Pond (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune is an Andante, a walking tune in the key of A major. My typical process, more often than not, is that I will start writing with an instrument in hand and a music notebook. I'll write down the tune as it comes and edit as I go. This often results in a confusing page of scratched notes and measures and little arrows pointing from one place to another as the tune comes together.

At some point the page becomes cluttered and it's time to move the process over to my computer and Sibelius software (still using version 6.2 if you're interested). This is mostly very helpful but one downside is that Sibelius wants to know what the tune is called. Usually I haven't thought about that and I can spin my wheels while I think of a title. Often I'll just use the date as a working title and come back to it later. This year I've been trying harder to make myself come up with a title right away.

This week I had this walking tune and so I thought of recent walks and then more distant ones. I remembered a wonderful morning hike I had taken by myself when we were visiting Mt. Desert Island, Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine back in the Fall of 2011. It was a beautiful day and I managed to get myself turned around and ended up at the Hulls Cove Visitor's Center. In the process I saw much more of Witch Hole Pond than I intended.

I did a little reading about the area and found that long ago Witch Hole Pond was known as Witch Hollow. I decided to use that name for my tune title. This seems particularly apt for a tune that I am sharing on the Sunday before Halloween, or Samhain if you prefer.

Regarding the tune itself, I was pleased that once again I was able to make use of my old Flatiron octave mandolin near then end. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tolley's Jig no. 7

Tolley's Jig no. 7 (mp3) (pdf)

Today's tune is another in a series of jigs named, for lack of a more poetic title, after Tolley our aging "upstairs" cat. The recording was fun and easy to make and I was very pleased that the tune invited me to get out my old Flatiron octave mandolin (mandola, bouzouki, whatever you want to call it). You can hear it on the the bottom during the third pass through the tune.

The photo above is evidence of the hard work performed by a great group of friends who came by last Sunday to help us clean up the borderline "rank vegetation" that was threatening to overtake our yard. I should have taken a before and after series of pictures because the difference was extraordinary.

This coming week Milwaukee, Wisconsin will host the annual convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America. This will be the first one of these that I have missed in several years but if you are anywhere in the neighborhood of Milwaukee I strongly encourage you to check out the free public concerts that CMSA will be presenting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the finest mandolinists in the world be performing and giving workshops. Most highly recommended.

If you are already registered as an attendee I wish you another great convention experience. Believe me, I would be there if I could. I'll look forward, though, to seeing many of you in 2018.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chocolate for All

Chocolate for All (mp3) (pdf)

Last Sunday I was pretty sure that I had a nearly complete tune that I would use for this week. Instead I had a fresh idea on Monday, thanks to some inspiring playing by Fergal Scahill with his "a tune a day" videos, and I worked on that one instead.

So today we have "Chocolate for All" which is fun for me to play and, I hope, for you also.

Last Wednesday I played another of my monthly solo mandolin nights at Java John's Coffee House in Decorah and it was an especially good night with a great audience and a relaxed atmosphere. Here's the setlist from that gig:

Java John’s solo mandolin, October 11, 2017
Set 1
1. Goodin: Board Eddy / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Amaranthus
3. Goodin: September Waltz
4. Bach: Bouree & Minuet (from French Suite VI) (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
5. Goodin: Walnuts Too / Acorns Below / Merrills Mills
6. Playford: Wallingford House / Chelsea Reach
7. Sauli: Partita V for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli)
8. Goodin: Deer Track, August 16, 2006 / St. Louis Railyard
9. Lecce: Sonatas-Partitas p. 4 (Francesco Lecco, 18th century)
10. Goodin: Deer Track, February, 2009 / From the Balcony
11. Trad: Boys of Blue Hill /Goodin: Starbird Siding / Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa
                                                           Set 2
1. Trad: Old French / Morpeth Rant / Oswald: East Neuk O Fife
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Candy=Tuft
3. Goodin: Postcards From the Crater: Lower Palisades
4. Playford: Chestnut / Childgrove
5. Goodin: Deer Track, June 8, 2013 / Toledo Moon
6. Telemann:  Adagio & Allegro from Oboe Sonata in Gm TWV 41:g10
7. Telemann: Menuets 13 & 14 (1728)
8. Goodin: The Cairo Sessions
9. Valentine: Allegro from Sonata no. 3 for Mandolin / Goodin: Sherwood & Brooks / Black Stream Crossing
10. Goodin: Birthday Girls

11: Goodin: Deer Track, October, 2002 / Palmer’s House

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Walnuts Too

Walnuts Too (mp3) (pdf)

You have to watch your step this time of year when you are walking on the local trails. Slippery leaves, round things on the path and walnuts still falling from the trees are all part of the equation. Definitely one of my favorite times of the year.

Today's tune is pretty straightforward and shouldn't provide too many obstacles to your playing or listening pleasure. It's another glass-half-full kind of tune with a big, bright G major chord at the end.

On the other hand, fiddle tunes are nothing if not flexible and you could reverse the A and B sections so that the tune ends on the E minor chord at the end of the A section. That can make the tune slightly darker if that is more to your taste today.

One of my favorite quotes from the fabled 1960s comes from the brilliant Sylvester Stewart (better known as Sly Stone) and his song "Everyday People": "different strokes for different folks." I suspect that there is music already extant that somehow fits nearly every person and the situation she or he is in at any time but I am still compelled to add my own little bits to the stew.

When I reach for a "new" tune it's partly because it is often easier for me to write something of my own than to search my aging memory for a suitable existing piece of music. Just as important is the pleasure I take in opening the door to see what music is waiting for me to bring in off the porch.

I would do this even if no one else was listening. I've been doing this constantly since I was around 14 or 15. I really enjoy when someone else hears what I've played or composed and finds it pleasurable or meaningful but my impulse is primarily self-centered.

This newfangled technology makes it possible to share music much more easily than I could in the 1970s or 1980s and I know that it's a mixed blessing. So many tunes, so little time. Thanks, though, for listening to this one.
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