Saturday, November 24, 2012

Emory's Crossing

Emory's Crossing (mp3)(pdf)

This week's tune is a fairly straightforward reel in Am. The title is intended to refer to a crooked old road that runs between the oldest part of my hometown of Clarksville, Indiana ( that is, the foot of Harrison Ave. at the Falls of the Ohio, where George Rogers Clark built a cabin home and the Lewis and Clark expedition began) and the old highway from modern Clarksville into New Albany, Indiana. As a boy this stretch of road (properly named Emery Crossing) was a little piece of near wilderness, certainly not a place to go after dark.

I've had the tune for a few years and it's been played, off and on, by Contratopia during that time. Currently it's without a spot on our setlist so I thought I'd give it a little airtime here. Recorded in short order with just guitar and mandolin last Saturday.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shenandoah Bound

Shenandoah Bound (mp3)(pdf)

Without looking it up in old notebooks this title suggests to me that I must have written this tune while riding on the Capitol Limited train somewhere near Harper's Ferry, WV. (Thanks to photographer Mark Fickett for generously sharing this panorama under a Creative Commons license.) Crossing the railroad bridge on the right side of this photo, where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, is always one of the high points of the trip for me.

The tune itself, a country kind of waltz with a little blues in the B section, was recorded last weekend. I only used guitar on this one and I indulged in a little improvisation the second time through the tune. You can hear that I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to smoothly segue from improv to melody when going back to the head. We had one of our regular Decorah contra dances last Saturday night so I brought the tune in for the Western Home String Band to play and I think it went pretty well.

See if it works for you.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not an Option

Not an Option (mp3)(pdf)

This entry marks the 5th weekend in a row that I have posted a tune to this blog. A rare, if not unprecedented, event in the history of So Many Tunes. Our tune of the week is also rare in that it was composed and recorded, I believe, on the same day last weekend. (Usually tunes sit around for months or years before I decide to use them here.)

The title was a problem (see last week's entry). I had given this tune a completely different title last weekend but I made the mistake of checking this morning to see if that title had been used for other things. It turns out there are songs, albums, books, even movies, using the other title so I figured I should try something else. "Not an Option" is a commonly used phrase, which is good, but it doesn't appear to be used as a title for songs or tunes that often. So, for now, this little jig has this name.

Recorded quickly and simply with just two mandolin tracks using the built-in mics of the DP-008.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Return to Dream Acres

Return to Dream Acres (mp3)(pdf)

Where do the titles come from? People sometimes ask this question, often referring to a particular tune or piece of music. I also sometimes wonder what, if anything, the composer means when they give a name to a musical composition. Many of us like to think that a certain place, person or event was instrumental (pun intended) in the creation of the music.

In my case, most of the time, the title is chosen shortly before the music is shared with other musicians. "Return to Dream Acres" is a typical example. Above is a copy of what this tune looked like when it was first written down in my music notebook. The 11/26 in the upper right hand corner is not an interesting time signature but an indication of the day when I wrote down the notes below it. I know it was November 26, 2009 because it's in a notebook that covers that time period.

The GL (shorthand for Great Lakes) in the upper left hand corner tells me that, at some point, I was considering using this tune as part of a mandolin orchestra piece I was working on for the Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra. At the time (and this is the exception that proves the rule under discussion) we were using a working title of "Great Lakes Suite" for this piece in progress. (In the end the Kalamazoo commission was titled "The Pleasant Peninsula" and the notes above were not part of that piece.)

I probably wrote the whole tune on the same day although sometimes I come back at a later date to finish or improve tunes. At some point this tune would have been entered into my Sibelius music notation software and I would have given it the title "November 26, 2009." I may or may not have printed it out and shared it with other musicians between then and summer 2012. (My bandmates in Contratopia have stacks of my tunes with dates for titles. This often causes confusion.)

Finally, this summer I had a gig playing for a wedding dance up at Dream Acres farm in Minnesota, a special place that I've been fortunate to visit a number of times over the years. I was gathering some tunes to distribute to the first-rate band for the evening (Bill Deutsch, Rob Hervey & Ehler Orngard) and I decided to use "November 26, 2009." Since I would literally be returning to Dream Acres for the dance, I gave this jig that title.

The recording offered here is from last weekend. As I was recording it I started thinking "this is almost more of a tarantella than a jig." Dance however you wish.

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