Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Raccoon in the Bird Feeder

Raccoon in the Bird Feeder (mp3) (pdf)

Had a fun time playing for "John's Send-off Shindig" at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, MN a couple of weeks ago. Near the end of the event some of the kids pointed out to us that there was an apparently ravenous raccoon happily sitting in the large bird feeder behind us. Knowing that I'm always on the lookout for tune titles, several of my band-mates suggested I could do something with this. I've failed to come up with anything clever or poetic and have settled on this literal title.

The tune itself appeared a day or two later. Clearly, at least to me, a relative of the "Red-Haired Boy" I almost didn't write it down. I recorded it while still fresh using my old black Gibson A model, melody first and then the backup.

I've always loved the sound of two mandolin family instruments playing together. One of my absolute favorite examples is found on the Norman Blake/Peter Ostroushko CD Meeting On Southern Soil where they play "Muddy Creek" on mando and mandola. I only wish they had repeated the tune four or five more times.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Smitten (for mandolin orchestra)

Smitten (YouTube performance) (pdf score and parts)

I was delighted today to receive a link to a video of The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra performing my mandolin orchestra arrangement of Smitten a few days ago at the Shoreham Airport as part of the Adur Festival 2007.

Granted that the recorded sound is fairly lo-fi it still sounds great to me. The performance is excellent and the audience (except for the ones who seem to be nodding off) seem to be enjoying it. This mando orchestra version was premiered at the 2006 Classical Mandolin Society of America convention by the Atlanta Mandolin Orchestra and I was able to join them in that performance. The AMO did a great job as well, despite my presence on stage.

The tune has been played as a waltz many, many times by Contratopia and is the title track of our third CD. We attempted to record it on our first CD as part of an overly complicated medley and gave up. We intended for it to be an important number on our second CD, the all-waltz collection Ballroom Echoes and succeeded in recording a now-legendary "perfect first take". Unfortunately, at the end of a long day, one of us (no need to name names) made the fatal mistake of unplugging our digital audio workstation before the track was saved.

We finally captured a lovely version of the tune at the sessions for our third CD although I nearly ruined that one by bringing the tune to an end a little earlier than everyone expected. Thanks to Matthew Zimmerman (owner/operator of Wild Sound in Minneapolis) and the magic of digital editing the track survived that small train wreck and finally made it onto disc.

Let me offer my heartfelt thanks to Jacky, Ian and all the gang from the Fretful Federation for producing such a beautiful performance of my piece and for sharing their performance via YouTube.
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