Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clifty Falls, Stonehead

Clifty Falls (mp3) (pdf)
Stonehead (mp3) (pdf)

Here are two simple duets for two mandolins (or any other instruments with similar ranges) that I wrote down sometime around 1980. Clifty Falls is a lovely Indiana state park not far from my hometown. Stonehead gets its title from the memorable stone marker that you will encounter at the juncture of Ind. 135 and Bellesville Pike if you turn south off of Ind. highway 46 between Nashville and Columbus.

Both of these pieces were written during one of the two summers that I spent living in southeastern Brown County, IN, allegedly helping out at a Catholic summer camp. One of those summers I was a part time dishwasher at Rudi's Country Kitchen in Nashville and my route back to camp involved a left turn at the Stonehead intersection.

The recordings were done a few years ago for the second volume of the CoMando Sessions project of the CoMando listserv and this version of Clifty Falls appears on the second disc of that set.

The challenge in playing these short tunes is to keep them from sounding mechanical and to allow them to breathe a little. Both pieces are also suitable for recorder with soprano playing the top line and alto (transposed up an octave) playing the bottom.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Highlandville, May 14, 2004

Highlandville, May 14, 2004 (mp3) (pdf)

The photograph above was taken by Pat O'Loughlin in early May 2006 but May 14, 2004 was a night very much like it. I had driven out to the Highlandville schoolhouse to sit in with my friends in the wonderful Norwegian-American old-time band Foot-Notes at one of their regular dances.

The dance was well underway and I parked just where the cars are in the right hand side of the photo. I thought I would tune my old Flatiron octave mandolin in the car before I went into the noisy hall but a little snatch of melody fell out in the process. I decided to see where it led and I closed the car up so that I could see the dancers inside but couldn't hear the music from the band.

After a minute I thought (as you might when you hear the tune) "oh, it's just another pale imitation of Soldier's Joy" but I put that devil behind me. Before the band took their break I packed up the octave and went in and spent the rest of the night playing the wonderful polkas, schottisches, waltzes and two steps that are the soundtrack to the Highlandville Dance.

A day or two later I went back to this tune and decided I liked it, pale imitation that it is. It's been played off and on by Contratopia and I've arranged it for mandolin orchestra also as part of my piece Another Late Spring in Iowa, which has been performed by both the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra.

The recording here was hastily done last Saturday morning while preparing to play a contra dance at the schoolhouse with Contratopia. I used the Flatiron octave (early 80's, pre-Gibson) and my Pomeroy.

If you haven't been to Highlandville it's well worth a visit. Especially if you can make it when Foot-Notes is holding court at a Saturday night dance.
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