Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mandolin Tunes CD

I believe that this is the first posting on this site that doesn't include a link to a new tune. Instead, this is a PR blog (marketing not being one of my strong points) to let readers of So Many Tunes know that I have put together a collection of tracks from this blog and created a CD that I've titled Mandolin Tunes.

The CD contains 23 of my favorite tunes from the nearly 100 that I've recorded so far for the blog. None of the tunes appear on any of the three Contratopia CDs and they were all recorded here at my house using a no-frills approach. I didn't re-record anything but I did go back to the original wave files and remix a few things. So, if you invest in a copy (either physical or digital) of Mandolin Tunes you won't be buying the product of a high end studio recording environment.

When I started this blog I didn't intend to ever offer these particular recordings for sale. The idea has always been to feature the tunes in a simple way. The standard approach has been for me to record a basic guitar track and then play the melody, without much embellishment, two or three times through so that the listener might be able to learn the tune if he or she finds it interesting. Some of the tracks have harmony parts and once or twice I play a short improv bit.

Why a CD now? Well, last summer the idea of collecting some of my favorite tracks just popped into my head. I enjoyed the process of picking out the ones to keep and putting them together in different orders. I also wanted to experiment with doing a low budget CD production with an eye towards a couple of other projects that I have in mind. I also know there are a lot of folks who have no idea that this blog exists who I thought might enjoy this music.

The companies that manufacture CDs these days, especially Oasis and Disc Makers, have a variety of less expensive options and I chose to have Mandolin Tunes produced in a small quantity as "Pro CD-Rs" rather than more expensive replicated CDs. Pro CD-Rs are duplicated at 4x rather than the 24x (or faster) rate that you and I might use when burning a CD-R at home. This theoretically creates a product with virtually no errors. (So far, no one has contacted me with any playback issues.) I also chose to have the CDs packaged in full-color jackets to lessen the carbon footprint and to take up less space in my house.

Eventually I'll get around to writing some more formal notes about each of the tunes but for now I just wanted to let readers know that the CD is available.

Available where?

CD Baby

CD Baby is the best place to order a physical copy (unless you want to contact me directly) and it looks like emusic has the best mp3 price of the bunch. I also like the way that the emusic page also links to some YouTube video performances of some of my other music.

Of course you could just look up each of the 23 tunes here on the blog and compile your own CD. I guess it depends on how much time you want to spend. Feel free to comment here or, even better, leave some reviews at the various online vendor sites.

I'll get around to posting some more tunes one of these days. I've got a bunch waiting their turn.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Trailer in the High Grass

(photo courtesy of Horia Varlan's public photostream)

Trailer in the High Grass (mp3)(pdf)
This simple tune in E minor comes from earlier this summer, written during a brief visit to lovely Bayfield, Wisconsin and nearby Madeline Island. The "arrangement" is just mando and guitar on the first pass joined by a second mando playing an octave down on the second time through. Another guitar is added playing the melody on the final round.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Dodge the Plow

Dodge the Plow (mp3)(pdf)

This tune comes from sometime last winter when there were plenty of snow plows out keeping our roads clear and safe for travel. I added a bit of harmony on the second time around and overdubbed another mando playing the melody (mostly) an octave down on the third pass.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Old Basement Piano

The Old Basement Piano (mp3)(pdf)(harmony pdf)

Most of my life there was an old upright piano in the basement of my parents' house. It was very much like the one pictured above, although it was painted a different color. I was always told that it had been waterlogged in the historic 1937 Louisville, Kentucky Ohio River flood and that, as a result, it was not very good. But it sounded great to me.

I never spent much time trying to learn how to play piano, I was too much under the spell of the guitar after the Beatles, but I certainly spent many hours picking out little tunes and learning how chords are made. One of the pieces of sheet music that was always on that piano was a simple version of "Sugartime", composed by Charles Phillips and Odis Echols.

The opening measures of this new tune of mine are very similar to the tune of "Sugartime." I noticed this almost as soon as I started to play the melody but I thought I would go ahead and see where it led. I'm glad I did because I've enjoyed playing this new tune quite a bit. The 8th notes are meant to be bouncy and not straight as you can hear on the recording.

I don't know where that old piano is now but I sure hope that it's bringing pleasure to another generation of budding musicians. Maybe that tattered sheet music is still with it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Northern Exposure

A Northern Exposure (mp3)(pdf)(harmony pdf)

Back on June 15 we here in Decorah were treated to a visit from the new Finnish-American duo Kaivama and their Finnish touring partner, the legendary Arto Jarvela. A brief "northern exposure."

In the afternoon Arto led a workshop for about 20 fiddlers, mandoliners, guitarists, bassists and a pennywhistler. Being a big fan of Arto's work, both as a player and a composer, I was very happy for this opportunity. It was, as I expected, both educational and inspirational.

After a short dinner break Kaivama and Arto presented a great concert with some solos, some duos and some trios. They even invited the workshop participants to come up and play one of the tunes we had worked on that afternoon! This was my first chance to hear Arto play in person and he was great. I was also very pleased with Sara and Jonathan. They featured great playing, beautiful tunes and expert arrangements. The trios with Mr. Jarvela were especially strong. I highly recommend the new Kaivama CD and Arto's new Cross-tuned CD as well.

The highlight of the night for me was when Arto played my old blacktop Gibson mandolin on one number during the show. I've never heard it played better.

I will benefit from this exposure for years to come in terms of inspiration but the immediate payoff came the next morning when today's featured tune popped out of wherever tunes come from into my fingers as I played my mandolin. I'm guessing maybe Arto left it behind when he played it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Waterloo Polka

Waterloo Polka (mp3)(pdf)

This tune comes from a train ride back in March of 2010. I decided to treat myself to sleeping car accommodations on the Capitol Limited from Chicago to D.C. to join up with Contratopia for a short weekend tour. It was my first time on an overnight train and I discovered that train rides are great tune generators. This one appears in my notebook with "Waterloo" scribbled beside it so it must have been at least partly written while we made a brief stop in Waterloo, Indiana.

The mandolin featured here is an old Gibson snakehead A-jr. and the guitar is a recently made Martin 000-15M.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In the Shape of a Pear

Deer Tracks Suite No. 1
1. January 22, 2011 (mp3)(pdf)
2. December 26, 2008 (mp3)(pdf)
3. February 2009 (mp3)(pdf)
4. August 31, 2009 (mp3)(pdf)

Last Wednesday, March 16, I was honored to be a contributor to the Music in the Shape of a Pear concert, titled "Etudes", presented in the Noble Recital Hall at Luther College. For the occasion I combined four of my short Deer Tracks pieces into Deer Tracks Suite No. 1 and played them on my old Gibson A model mandolin. I also performed my piece The Autumn After, dedicated to Alison Stephens, on octave mandolin as a distant, belated contribution to the memorial concert that had been held in her honor on March 11 in London.

The Deer Tracks recordings presented here are not from the concert itself. In fact two of them have already appeared in earlier entries of this blog. I recorded the other two (nos. 1 & 4) yesterday here at home. I figured I would post them all together so you could get an idea of what they sound like as a Suite. When I get a chance to hear the concert recordings I may post them as well although my recollection of my performance tells me that there are some mistakes that I might not want to share on the web.

The concert itself was a wonderfully varied program of fun and interesting music thanks to the vision and hard work of Luther College's composition professor Brooke Joyce. It began with a Polyrhythmic Etude for carillon by Wim Franken, performed by Dr. Joyce on celeste. A short electronic piece by Pierre Schaeffer, Etude aux Chemins de Fer, followed. My section came next and then we heard Brooke's own piece Prairie Etudes for electronics and English horn, accompanied by projected images. Luther professor Heather Armstrong played the horn part beautifully. I had the good fortune to hear the piece twice (once in rehearsal) and I look forward to hearing it again someday.

The featured piece on the concert was Exotic Etudes by Stephen Paulus, written for the uncommon combination of solo viola with a quartet of piano, violin, viola, and cello. Luther professor Spencer Martin led the ensemble of Luther students with his viola and both the piece and the performances were inspirational. I was disappointed to learn after the concert that the piece isn't available on a commercial recording. It features some truly beautiful passages. 

Between each section of the concert a small group of Luther College student singers performed newly composed Canons I-IV composed by Brooke Joyce. These were wonderful short pieces and were sung from locations around the hall while the stage was being reset for the next performance. I hope to hear these performed from the stage at a future concert. In addition, local composer Steve Smith presented his new work graphicScore, an interactive piece of software for computer + computer user in the lobby before and after the concert. Six or seven laptops with headphones were available for concert goers to experiment with this graphical approach to sound creation.

Amateur that I am, I was a little nervous when I learned that Stephen Paulus would actually be at the concert. I'm usually very comfortable in less formal performance situations but playing my own modest compositions before a major American composer was a little daunting. Not surprisingly Stephen was very friendly and complimentary and I managed to enjoy the whole event a great deal.

In other composer news I should mention that on March 13 I had the pleasure of playing with my friends in the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra at the winter weekend of the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Association in Plymouth, MN. The MMO premiered the mandolin orchestra arrangement of my Off to Minnesota tune that I created for them and we had a great time. I'm hoping that I'll get a chance to play with them again this summer at one of their outdoor shows.

Monday, February 07, 2011

November Duo, 2005

November Duo, 2005 (mp3)(pdf)

It's been a while since I found the time to put together something for this blog but last Saturday morning I had a chance to do a little more recording. This time I'm offering another duo from my Midwestern Mandolin Duos collection, one which defied all my attempts to think of a colorful title.

I've not been idle since the last post. I've completed two mandolin orchestra commissions: The Pleasant Peninsula for my friends in the Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra and Poets in Time for the remarkable Fretworks group that Doug Back leads at the Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet School in Montgomery, Alabama. I had a great time working on these pieces and they both will be premiered in the next few months.

In addition my Telemann for Mandolin book has been published by Mel Bay and I've received a lot of positive and friendly feedback about that.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.