Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snow to Come

Snow to Come (mp3)(pdf)

Back in November, before Thanksgiving, I found this very simple waltz waiting for me. Like many of the simplest tunes, I suspect it may have more borrowed parts than most. If someone recognizes the main theme please let me know where I found it.

There was no snow when I wrote the tune but we have had a few inches here in December. The photo is from outside our back door, looking toward the street, taken just a few minutes ago.

Last week, thanks to some encouragement from my mandolin friend (and fellow CMSA Board member) Barbara Conrad, I took the time to update my Alphabetical list of tunes page. I took a moment to count and I can say that there are now (drum roll, please) over 100 tunes listed. On one hand that sounds like a lot but, on the other hand, it has taken me nearly six years to reach that plateau. I'll see if I can't reach the 200 mark in a little less time.

Thanks for listening, see you in 2013.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Six Duettinos, Summer 2006 no. 1

Six Duettinos, Summer 2006 no. 1 (mp3)(pdf)

From the text on my Six Duettinos, Summer 2006 page:

"I composed these simple duets for 2 mandolins in early June 2006 as I was completing the work of transcribing the Eighteen Duettinos for Two Guittars; Two French Horns or Two Clarinetts" that were published by William Bates around 1770 in London. As I was playing his charming little pieces I thought it might be fun to write a piece or two of my own in the same spirit. I ended up with six in quick succession.

Bates' duettinos are all very limited in scope, mine are only slightly more adventurous. My goal was to keep the music simple (not usually a big problem for me), to limit each piece to one page of paper in my notebook and to have the first mandolin part carry the whole melody with the second part supplying basic harmonies with lots of thirds. These are all characteristics of the pieces in the Bates set."

I also have a page that links to my transcription of the Bates collection. You can find it here.

Back in October of 2010, as part of the announcement of my Midwestern Mandolin Duos collection, I posted a recording of the second of these 6 short pieces. I've been meaning to get around to recording the others ever since. So here's no. 1 of the set. Although written as duos, the top line of all of these pieces work fine as short solos. Also, the pdf link takes you to the sheet music for the full set of six pieces.

Number 3 will be posted sometime soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lemon Water

Lemon Water (mp3)(pdf)

June 2011, a trip to New Orleans, lemon water in the hotel lobby. I recorded this maybe a year ago and forgot that I had done it. Tonight, while waiting for our winter solstice blizzard to begin, I found the recording. Until tonight it was just called "June 26, 2011 Waltz". If I waited until tomorrow to give the tune a title it probably would include something about snow shoveling.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sonata in L(ou)

Sonata in L(ou) - score (pdf)
Sonata in L(ou) - Andante (mp3)
Sonata in L(ou) - Grave (mp3)
Sonata in L(ou) - Allegretto (mp3)

Back in the summer of 2010 I received an email from Vicki Chouinard, wife of Lou Chouinard (my friend and President of the Classical Mandolin Society of America), offering to commission me to write a short piece as a surprise for Lou's birthday in October. That birthday would coincide with the annual convention of the CMSA to be held in Seattle.

While I write a lot of music for mandolin, I tend to write either dance tunes or pieces for mandolin/guitar ensemble. I don't often write for solo mandolin in a "classical" context, although my ongoing series of Deer Tracks pieces are the exception to that rule. My first reaction to Vicki's request was to say "no thanks", partly because I had a couple of other unfinished commissions on my plate and partly because of my insecurity about solo mandolin composition.

Before I said no, however, I slept on the idea and I found the next day that some musical ideas popped up that might fit the bill. So the project went forward and I was happy to present my Sonata in L(ou) to Lou at the Seattle convention. I've been intending to share it more widely ever since (how time flies) and here it is.

Part of my insecurity is that my "composer mind" is missing the "write virtuosic music" piece. I'm partly contained by my own limitations as a player, and that's OK with me. Sometimes, though, I'll come up with something that's a little beyond what I can do personally. I truly envy and admire those composers who write music that requires already brilliant musicians to stretch themselves, that just isn't in my current toolbox. Maybe when I mature....

In any event, Sonata in L(ou) is a fun piece for me to play. For a long time I played it almost every day. It's a good warm-up piece and you can treat it different ways. The recording attached here is just the demo I made to show Vicki and Lou one way it might sound. I encourage each of you to mess around with it. In particular, feel free to skip the repeats if you want. I do about half of the time.

A Note about Commssions

Sonata in L(ou) only exists because Vicki had the great idea to ask someone to write a piece for Lou. I'm going write music whether anyone asks me to or not, but when someone commissions a piece I love the idea that I'm going to write something that will definitely be played by someone besides just me.

If you've never considered asking someone to compose a piece of music for you, I encourage you to think about it. It doesn't hurt to ask. While it's always nice when a commission involves monetary compensation, there are no rules about that. Just by asking you put the thought in the composer's head. In the case of Vicki and Lou my first impulse was to say no, money wasn't part of the equation. But the idea was in my head and the piece had a life of its own.

So, if you think you'd like me to write a piece for you or your group, just ask. If not me ask another composer. Maybe a famous one, maybe a college student you know who's studying composition. Put the idea in their head and see what comes out!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Lazy Susan

Lazy Susan (mp3)(pdf)

Last weekend, while going through a pile of notebooks and loose music paper, I came across a stack of some of my earliest tunes. Most of the tunes I would try and write down in the 70s and 80s are long gone but I have kept a few. "Lazy Susan" is one. I'm pretty sure it was written in the mid-late 70s and it's rarely, if ever, been performed in public. So, here's the way I remembered it last weekend.

By chance, a few days after I recorded this tune, the remarkable guitarist Mickey Baker passed away in France, age 87. I learned most of the chord shapes that I used when I wrote my little tune from his book, Mickey Baker's Complete Course in Jazz Guitar (v.1). The first lessons in that book, one of the few you could buy on the subject back in the 70s, have helped me over and over again in the last 40 years. Further evidence of synchronicity at work is the fact that Mr. Baker was born in Louisville, Kentucky, where I almost certainly would have purchased the book. Thanks, Mickey.

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