Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Afternoon

Christmas Afternoon (mp3) (pdf)

Back on January 8 of this year I posted a recording and music for a new tune "Waltz for the New Year, 2017" and I noted that "with a new year comes new resolve." That phrase was a signal to myself that I had been thinking of trying to compose and record a new piece of music every week in 2017. I didn't mention that thought to anyone else for a long time but here I am today posting tune number fifty-two.

The great majority of the tunes I have posted this year were written in the early part of each week and recorded toward the end of the week. As the year wore on I sometimes worked a little ahead of that schedule. Today's tune was mostly written last Monday, Christmas Day. I tinkered a little with it and recorded it on Thursday.

My plan, at this point, is to not try and write and record a new tune every week in 2018. Instead, as I enter the 12th year of this blog, I'll return to the less structured approach of recording and posting music when I feel like it.

I've been very pleased, honored even, by the number of people who have listened to, liked, shared, and commented on these tunes in the last year. Especially since I started linking to them using Facebook. Thanks to all of you for including some of this music in your busy lives.

On January 8th I mentioned that the temperature had dipped to -4 degrees (Fahrenheit) the night before and we were expecting a high of 17 above during the afternoon. Last night I believe we were down to around -10 and it was still -8 when I took the dog out this morning. Right now (3:00 p.m.) we have climbed to 1 degree above zero but it is a beautiful, sunny day with a fresh dusting of snow. In a world of relentless change some things are more reliable than others.

I hope that your 2018 will be one of the best years ever.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Snow Train

Snow Train (mp3) (pdf)

It's Christmas Eve here in lovely Decorah. We even had a light dusting of snow this morning to brighten things up a little.

Today's tune (no. 51 this year) was partially written while watching a fun video of a Norwegian train slowly climbing into the snow covered mountains outside of Bergen. I hope you enjoy the music.

If you are in the Decorah area I will be playing solo mandolin at Java John's from 7 to 9 on Dec. 26 (Boxing Day). Stop in for something warm to drink if that sounds like a good way to relax after the holiday fun. I'll certainly play today's tune at some point, along with a number of other recent tunes from this blog.

Enjoy your holiday!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Advent Star

The Advent Star (mp3) (pdf)

Yesterday here in Decorah I was privileged to once again take part in the annual community holiday concert known, for the last few years, as Burning Bright. This is always a wonderful event and most years Erik Sessions and I are called to contribute an instrumental tune to the mix of choral and small group performances. Usually we write something new for the event.

Today's tune, The Advent Star, was written for this year's concert and Erik and I performed it at both the 4:00 and 7:00 shows. We also played it at the indoor farmers market yesterday morning. We had a great time playing the tune and the Burning Bright audiences were generous with their applause.

The recording presented here, however, is just me playing guitar and mandolin, recorded on Friday last week.

I have to admit that when I chose the title (which has personal significance) I was unaware that Advent Stars are a thing. I knew nothing about the connection with the Moravian Church or J.S. Bach's Thomaskirche in Leipzig or modern holiday decorating practices. I just like the title.

In any event, I hope you enjoy the tune.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

River Mist Tree Line

River Mist Tree Line (mp3) (pdf)
Deer Track, December 4, 2017 (mp3) (pdf)

We have a twofer today. First a "regular" tune, a jig in Gm, and then a short, new member of my Deer Tracks collection.

I couldn't produce any photos of a misty river but the photo above is the Upper Iowa River near our home after the mist has burned off.

I hope you enjoy the tunes.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Waltz for the Squires

Waltz for the Squires (mp3) (pdf)

Last week's tune provoked some entertaining comments from old friends back in southern Indiana. One remark brought back fond memories of the first band I was ever invited to join, Sir James and the Squires.

I'm pretty sure that it was the fall of 1965, my freshman year in high school, when I became a Squire. I played bass guitar (an old Supro with a Magnatone amp), badly, but I was quick to learn. Soon I could help rather than hinder the group as we played the then standard repertoire: "Pipeline", "You Can't Sit Down", "Last Kiss", "House of the Rising Sun", "We Gotta Get Out of this Place", "Wooly Bully", and many hits by the Kingsmen. These were great times and full of the joy of making loud noises in praise of life. I've tried to keep that attitude and it was nice to be reminded of it last week.

So, this week's tune, while musically pretty unrelated to the Squires' world, is dedicated to that memory and my first bandmates.

This entry in number 48 for 2017, forty-eight consecutive weeks with a new tune. No one is more surprised than me. I've got something I'm working on for next week too. We'll see how the rest of the year goes.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Henryville Forestry

Henryville Forestry (mp3) (pdf)

In 1903 the State of Indiana purchased 2,000 acres near Henryville and created Clark State Forest. I have visited this idyllic place, now grown to over 24,000 acres, many times in my life. The photo above was taken, I believe, near the fire tower on our most recent visit a few years ago. If you find yourself driving between Indianapolis and Louisville on I-65 with an hour or two to spare I highly recommend that you take the Henryville exit and spend a while in this beautiful place.

As a boy we often referred to this example of government at its best as the Henryville forestry, hence today's title. I hope you enjoy the tune.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Jig for Sue

A Jig for Sue (mp3) (pdf)

If you have been to a contra dance in Decorah in the last few years you have almost certainly found yourself helped along by the expert time-keeping of our resident bodhran player, Sue Otte. Sue loves to play jigs and I needed a title for today's tune so here it is. It's a fun tune to play, hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Friendly Spirits

Friendly Spirits (mp3) (pdf)

As mentioned last week, this week's tune was written on Halloween evening while the little ones were navigating our rickety front porch steps and gathering their rewards.

Bullwinkle: "Eenie-meanie, chili-beanie, the spirits are about to speak."

Rocky: "Are they friendly spirits?"

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Elkhart Freight

Elkhart Freight (mp3) (pdf)

Last Tuesday was Halloween and, by chance, I ended up writing a couple of tunes during the trick or treat part of the evening. I had one, called "Friendly Spirits" finished and recorded by Thursday. But then on Friday I returned to a tune I wrote earlier in the year and that's what we have here today.

Back in March I rode the Capitol Limited into Union Station D.C. to play some dances with Contratopia. The train stops at Elkhart on the way east around 9:30 at night and on March 16 we ended up sitting on a siding while a freight train rattled by. I started this tune during that pullover. (The photo above was taken somewhere in Pennsylvania the next morning.)

I enjoyed making the recording of this one. I even used a dropped D tuning on the guitar, something I almost never do. (I have enough trouble with standard tuning.) The tune could certainly go faster but I like the way it kind of rolls along at this tempo.

If you are a friend of Contratopia and you own our Riff City CD your ear may tell you there is some similarity between the beginning of Elkhart and my tune "No Contest" which is the 2nd tune in the Two Bits medley. After some back and forth with my internal editor I decided that's OK.

Hope you enjoy it.

[Update: I finally noticed, and corrected, the mistakes in the pdf sheet music on Tuesday evening. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Witch Hollow Pond

Witch Hollow Pond (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune is an Andante, a walking tune in the key of A major. My typical process, more often than not, is that I will start writing with an instrument in hand and a music notebook. I'll write down the tune as it comes and edit as I go. This often results in a confusing page of scratched notes and measures and little arrows pointing from one place to another as the tune comes together.

At some point the page becomes cluttered and it's time to move the process over to my computer and Sibelius software (still using version 6.2 if you're interested). This is mostly very helpful but one downside is that Sibelius wants to know what the tune is called. Usually I haven't thought about that and I can spin my wheels while I think of a title. Often I'll just use the date as a working title and come back to it later. This year I've been trying harder to make myself come up with a title right away.

This week I had this walking tune and so I thought of recent walks and then more distant ones. I remembered a wonderful morning hike I had taken by myself when we were visiting Mt. Desert Island, Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine back in the Fall of 2011. It was a beautiful day and I managed to get myself turned around and ended up at the Hulls Cove Visitor's Center. In the process I saw much more of Witch Hole Pond than I intended.

I did a little reading about the area and found that long ago Witch Hole Pond was known as Witch Hollow. I decided to use that name for my tune title. This seems particularly apt for a tune that I am sharing on the Sunday before Halloween, or Samhain if you prefer.

Regarding the tune itself, I was pleased that once again I was able to make use of my old Flatiron octave mandolin near then end. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tolley's Jig no. 7

Tolley's Jig no. 7 (mp3) (pdf)

Today's tune is another in a series of jigs named, for lack of a more poetic title, after Tolley our aging "upstairs" cat. The recording was fun and easy to make and I was very pleased that the tune invited me to get out my old Flatiron octave mandolin (mandola, bouzouki, whatever you want to call it). You can hear it on the the bottom during the third pass through the tune.

The photo above is evidence of the hard work performed by a great group of friends who came by last Sunday to help us clean up the borderline "rank vegetation" that was threatening to overtake our yard. I should have taken a before and after series of pictures because the difference was extraordinary.

This coming week Milwaukee, Wisconsin will host the annual convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America. This will be the first one of these that I have missed in several years but if you are anywhere in the neighborhood of Milwaukee I strongly encourage you to check out the free public concerts that CMSA will be presenting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the finest mandolinists in the world be performing and giving workshops. Most highly recommended.

If you are already registered as an attendee I wish you another great convention experience. Believe me, I would be there if I could. I'll look forward, though, to seeing many of you in 2018.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chocolate for All

Chocolate for All (mp3) (pdf)

Last Sunday I was pretty sure that I had a nearly complete tune that I would use for this week. Instead I had a fresh idea on Monday, thanks to some inspiring playing by Fergal Scahill with his "a tune a day" videos, and I worked on that one instead.

So today we have "Chocolate for All" which is fun for me to play and, I hope, for you also.

Last Wednesday I played another of my monthly solo mandolin nights at Java John's Coffee House in Decorah and it was an especially good night with a great audience and a relaxed atmosphere. Here's the setlist from that gig:

Java John’s solo mandolin, October 11, 2017
Set 1
1. Goodin: Board Eddy / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Amaranthus
3. Goodin: September Waltz
4. Bach: Bouree & Minuet (from French Suite VI) (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
5. Goodin: Walnuts Too / Acorns Below / Merrills Mills
6. Playford: Wallingford House / Chelsea Reach
7. Sauli: Partita V for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli)
8. Goodin: Deer Track, August 16, 2006 / St. Louis Railyard
9. Lecce: Sonatas-Partitas p. 4 (Francesco Lecco, 18th century)
10. Goodin: Deer Track, February, 2009 / From the Balcony
11. Trad: Boys of Blue Hill /Goodin: Starbird Siding / Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa
                                                           Set 2
1. Trad: Old French / Morpeth Rant / Oswald: East Neuk O Fife
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Candy=Tuft
3. Goodin: Postcards From the Crater: Lower Palisades
4. Playford: Chestnut / Childgrove
5. Goodin: Deer Track, June 8, 2013 / Toledo Moon
6. Telemann:  Adagio & Allegro from Oboe Sonata in Gm TWV 41:g10
7. Telemann: Menuets 13 & 14 (1728)
8. Goodin: The Cairo Sessions
9. Valentine: Allegro from Sonata no. 3 for Mandolin / Goodin: Sherwood & Brooks / Black Stream Crossing
10. Goodin: Birthday Girls

11: Goodin: Deer Track, October, 2002 / Palmer’s House

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Walnuts Too

Walnuts Too (mp3) (pdf)

You have to watch your step this time of year when you are walking on the local trails. Slippery leaves, round things on the path and walnuts still falling from the trees are all part of the equation. Definitely one of my favorite times of the year.

Today's tune is pretty straightforward and shouldn't provide too many obstacles to your playing or listening pleasure. It's another glass-half-full kind of tune with a big, bright G major chord at the end.

On the other hand, fiddle tunes are nothing if not flexible and you could reverse the A and B sections so that the tune ends on the E minor chord at the end of the A section. That can make the tune slightly darker if that is more to your taste today.

One of my favorite quotes from the fabled 1960s comes from the brilliant Sylvester Stewart (better known as Sly Stone) and his song "Everyday People": "different strokes for different folks." I suspect that there is music already extant that somehow fits nearly every person and the situation she or he is in at any time but I am still compelled to add my own little bits to the stew.

When I reach for a "new" tune it's partly because it is often easier for me to write something of my own than to search my aging memory for a suitable existing piece of music. Just as important is the pleasure I take in opening the door to see what music is waiting for me to bring in off the porch.

I would do this even if no one else was listening. I've been doing this constantly since I was around 14 or 15. I really enjoy when someone else hears what I've played or composed and finds it pleasurable or meaningful but my impulse is primarily self-centered.

This newfangled technology makes it possible to share music much more easily than I could in the 1970s or 1980s and I know that it's a mixed blessing. So many tunes, so little time. Thanks, though, for listening to this one.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Acorns Below

Acorns Below (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune was written a few days ago but I didn't get around to recording it until this morning. I was lucky and finished the last track just before one of our neighbors got out his loud leaf blower. In his defense, he has a huge quantity of leaves to deal with.

The photo was taken just before noon from the Trout Run trail near our house looking across the river to the ridge above Ice Cave. There are many acorns dotting the trails that wind around that ridge. Walnuts too.

Today's tune is a good example of what I come up with once I turn away from the notion of writing the Greatest Tune Ever and I just relax and enjoy the music that I find at hand. I hope it works for you too.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Merrills Mills

Merrills Mills (mp3) (pdf)

A jolly little tune titled after another obscure location in southern Piscataquis County, Maine. Hope you enjoy it.

(Note: In a highly unusual move I decided this morning [Monday, 9-25] that the second mandolin part was a little outside of my low standard of acceptability. So I have re-recorded that and re-mixed the tune. Hopefully not too many ears were damaged before this change was made.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September Waltz

September Waltz (mp3) (pdf)

A waltz today, written and recorded before some late week challenges. The photo is from our front sidewalk, facing west.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Propsland (mp3) (pdf)

Just last weekend I drove up to Minneapolis to play for the Saturday night contra dance at Tapestry with Pat's Propellers (Pat O'Loughlin, Karen Mueller, Linda Breitag and me). We had a great time, as usual, and the next morning I started writing today's tune. "Propsland" went through some changes early in the week but it was ready to record by Thursday. Part of the idea was to make a tune with not so many 8th notes.

The photo above is of my "office" at the Winneshiek Farmers Market last Saturday morning. I played solo for the first half and then Erik Sessions joined me for the last set. It's always fun to play at markets like this. I especially enjoy seeing little kids discovering live acoustic music.

Yesterday in Decorah was really fun. Erik and I played the opening set for the Live on Water Street festival in late afternoon and then we joined our Western Home String Band buddies (last night featuring Bill Deutsch, Sue Otte, Sam Beard and Rob Hervey, along with caller Robin Nelson) in the evening for our first local contra dance of the season, also on Water Street at the Lingonberry. The weather was ideal and the music was good.

Finally, on Wednesday this week (Sept. 13) I will once again play a couple of hours of solo mandolin at Java John's. Stop by in if you are in town.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Dover South

Dover South (mp3) (pdf)

This week's new tune is a waltz that takes its title from a lovely area of Piscataquis County, Maine known as Dover South Mills. Brans Mill Pond, pictured above, is the source of the Black Stream that I used for a title a few weeks ago. Thanks to whoever took the photo.

I had a great weekend of music, playing with Erik Sessions on Friday night in McGregor, Iowa and on Saturday morning at the local farmers market and with Pat's Propellers (Pat, Linda and Karen) last night in Minneapolis.  A lot of miles and much good music, today though (after arriving home around 2:30 a.m.) I am taking it easy.

Just in case anyone imagines the life of an older, gigging mandolin player to be financially lucrative, let me just say that the speeding ticket I earned on Friday night pretty much offsets any profit for the weekend. The music, though, was valuable beyond measure.

Next Saturday, however, Erik and I are featured as the opening act of the Live On Water Street festival just a few blocks from home. I should come out financially ahead on that. Our friends at the Water Street Music Series have created another fun event that would be well worth a visit if you are in the area.

The festival ends at 8:00 but Erik and I will then also be playing for our local contra dance that night, held downtown at the Lingonberry event space. Unfortunately this means that I will have to miss a concert featuring acclaimed Danish musicians Gangspil, along with Norwegian Vidar Skrede a few blocks away Vesterheim's Bethania Church. So much to do, so many tunes.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ain't Over

Ain't Over (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune should probably go a little faster than it is presented here. Hopefully the rhythmic, um, inconsistencies won't be bother you as much as they do me. Obviously, however, they don't bother me enough to spend more time trying to tighten it up. Perfection has never been the goal with these blog recordings and I think I can live with this one as it is.

There's a kind of cool effect (at least to my ears) when the harmony part comes in because it's recorded with the guitar and melody parts playing out loud in the room, thereby bleeding into the harmony track. Oh, and there's a neighborhood lawn mower somewhere in the background too.

I've been going through the early entries in this blog because I'm putting together what might become a tunebook that I may or may not have created and printed in time for the upcoming Classical Mandolin Society of America convention in Milwaukee at the end of October.

Visiting the old tunes and recordings is fun and I'm thinking I might post a couple of them again for any readers who might have missed them the first time.

So today I'll call your attention to a tune from February of 2010 called "Something About a Queen." All of the Neil Young fans know where that title comes from. It's a fairly unusual tune for me and never gets played at gigs but when I listened to the recording recently I enjoyed it quite a bit. Maybe you will too.

Something About a Queen (mp3) (pdf)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Starbird Siding

Starbird Siding (mp3) (pdf)

Traveling north on Maine highway 7 between Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft you will find Starbird Siding to be the first road on the left, shortly after you pass Board Eddy on the right. I'm guessing that "Siding" is a railway reference, there is an old rail track that crosses the road just west of highway 7. "Starbirds" is listed as a locality in Piscataquis County but I don't recall ever seeing anything like an old town there when driving on the short road. In any event it's a great name for this week's tune.

The photo above of the cool amphitheater (the "Bowl") at Highland Prairie Lutheran Church was taken this morning before playing with Foot-Notes for an outdoor picnic event. After we played two sets in the bandstand up the hill from this photo we walked down to the Bowl and played a short acoustic set just for fun. A very memorable gig.

This is a busy week for me. On Tuesday I will drive up to Minneapolis and play solo mandolin from 5:30-7:30 at the Mill City Farmers Market, which should be lots of fun. The next night, Wednesday, I will play my monthly solo mandolin gig at Java John's in Decorah. Finally on Saturday night I will join the Western Home String Band for our annual first year student dance at Luther College.

I am daily reminded of how lucky I am to be able to play music of my choosing with good friends for wonderful audiences on a regular basis. When I'm not playing gigs I get to work on composing, creating music books and various other projects. I don't take this for granted, I am truly grateful that I have these opportunities. With luck I'll get to continue this work for a long time to come. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Black Stream Crossing

Black Stream Crossing (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune (2017, week 32) is a nice jig in F, presented as a duo for two mandolins.

I went through a couple of titles before settling on this one. I'm once again mining the rich vein of places names in Piscataquis County, Maine (which I have just learned is the same size as the state of Connecticut, with a population of around 17,000) for this tune and I think there will be more to come.

The photo above is not of Black Stream but it resembles what I imagine when I think of the spot where Board Eddy Rd. crosses the actual stream. We have often visited the Dover-Foxcroft area in the month of August (although not this year) and this shot was taken overlooking a different creek during August 2009. I hope we will be able to return to this beautiful area soon.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest (mp3) (pdf)

The photo above was taken in August 2009 and it might be a picture of part of the woods that housed the original "Enchanted Forest" near Sangerville, Maine. It was a true dream world for children and their families created by Ardell Flanders and the Flanders family, full of wonderful wooden characters from the world of fairy tales.

In the 1980s and 90s we tried to visit the Forest whenever we were out east and it was always a highlight of our trip. There seems to be little information online about this place that delighted thousands of people during its heyday and some of what you do find is mistaken. I could only find one photo but I'm not using it here because I want to respect the privacy of the child in that photo, plus it only shows a tiny piece of the actual site.

In any event I thought of the Forest while I was casting about for a title for this week's tune. I hope you enjoy the tune itself. We certainly enjoyed the Forest while it lasted.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Queen City Passenger

(photo by Ellen Macdonald)

Queen City Passenger (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune is not entirely new. In fact the first draft was written back in 2013, probably sometime after passing through Cincinnati on our ill-fated ride aboard the Amtrak Cardinal. I found the tune this week while looking for something else and decided to take it up again.

The annual Nordic Fest has once again passed and I was privileged to be part of some fine music-making with my duo partner Erik Sessions and my Foot-Notes bandmates Jon & Beth Rotto and Bill Musser. Erik and I had a great audience of serious listeners and Foot-Notes played two dances for tremendous crowds.

A most special treat was the totally surprise appearance on Friday night of Foot-Notes' original mandolinist Jim Skurdall, along with his wonderful wife Anne-Guri Fritsvold. Everyone was caught completely off guard. We knew that Jim and Anne-Guri were vacationing in California (they live near Oslo, Norway) but they apparently decided on the spur of the moment to fly from Palm Springs to Decorah to attend Nordic Fest. We were more than happy to see them and we especially enjoyed having Jim join us to sing "The Highlandville Waltz" at the end of both the Friday and Saturday nights dances. The photo above was taken last night during the final dance by our friend Ellen Macdonald. You can find another picture or two over at the Foot-Notes fans FB site.

Last Wednesday I played another solo mandolin gig at Java John's and I will post the setlist below:

Java John’s solo mandolin, July 26, 2017
Set 1
1. Goodin: Board Eddy / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Sweet William
3. Goodin: Deer Track, July 8, 2013 / Bear on the Beach / Jaunty Ted / Books and Ladders
4. Telemann: Adagio II and Allegro from Sonata for Oboe in Gm (in D minor): TWV 41:g10 (G.P. Telemann, 1681-1767)
5. Goodin: May Day Green / Playford: Ormond House / Parson’s Farewell
6. Stephenson: Return From Helsinki / Marin: Hundlaten
7. Goodin: No Questions Asked
8. Purcell, Clarke, Handel, J.S. Bach: Menuets in Dm
9 Goodin: Locust Grove
10. Bach: Minuets I & II (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
11. Goodin: Old Annapolis / Pine Bluffs / Sessions: Annapolis Friends / Goodin: The Old White House
                                                           Set 2
1. Trad: Old French / Morpeth Rant / Oswald: East Neuk O Fife
2. Goodin: Deer Track, July 2, 2013 / July 23, 2004 / Return to Dream Acres
3. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Heliotrope
4. Goodin: Old 403
5. Sauli: Partita II for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, early 18th century)
6. Goodin: Red Hawk / Trad: Klemmet Ola
7 Valentine: Adagio Amorosa & Allegro from Sonata no. 2 for Mandolin  (Robert Valentine 1671-1747)
8. Goodin: March in January / May: Fred Picknell’s March
9. Playford: Daphne / Drive the Cold Winter Away
10. Goodin: Postcards From the Crater: Dug Road
11. Goodin: Whistling Britches / French Sneakers / Just Four Guys

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Birthday Girls

Birthday Girls (mp3) (pdf)

Another waltz in C major. I recorded this a little on the slow side. I would play it a faster if I recorded it again. The photo shows the first draft and you can compare that to the final pdf to see how the tune changed over the course of the week.

This coming week will be fun. On Wednesday the 26th I will play solo mandolin at Java John's. Decorah's Nordic Fest begins on Thursday evening and the thousands of RAGBRAI bicyclists will pass through town on Friday morning.

Friday night I will join Foot-Notes to play for a street dance in front of the Winneshiek County courthouse from 9:00-10:30. The next night we will play for another dance at Canopy 1 on Water Street from 7:30-10:00. Immediately before that (from 5:00-7:00) Erik Sessions and I will play two hours of fiddle/mandolin/guitar music, including a fair number of Scandinavian tunes, also at Canopy no. 1.

Nordic Fest is always full of fun and interesting music. This year I am especially looking forward to two performances by The Newlands Co-op (Vidar Skrede and Sara Pajunen). They will perform at 1:00 p.m. both Friday and Saturday in the amazing acoustics of Vesterheim's Bethania Church. I hope to catch both shows.

I expect to be a little tired next Sunday but I still plan on posting a new tune. We'll see.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Board Eddy

Board Eddy (mp3) (pdf)

This week's tune, a slow reel or maybe a hornpipe, is titled for a place in rural Maine that probably only a few thousand people have ever encountered. Board Eddy Rd. runs between the Dexter Rd. (Maine highway 7) and Bear Hill Rd. about halfway between Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft. I've walked along a good stretch of it a few times and it can be very beautiful if the temperature is right and there aren't too many bugs.

I searched at length for a picture of the road. I'm sure I have one somewhere but it remains well hidden. The photo above was taken from a scenic overlook along I-95 not far from the border with New Brunswick.

Last week I updated my alphabetical list of the tunes from this blog. Now it is current, with the exception of today's tune.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Ten Easy Duos - No. 3

Ten Easy Duos - No. 3 (mp3) (pdf)

Another duo piece, fun to play. I was too warm, or lazy, to turn off the window fan while I recorded this one so you might hear some fan noise in the background. Also a neighbor decided to start mowing as I was trying to get a usable take and you might hear a little of that, especially near the end.

We are enjoying some warm weather here in Northeast Iowa. The photo above come from July of 2014, taken in the field near our house.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

If Only Now

If Only Now (mp3) (pdf)

A pretty waltz to mark week 26 of 2017. No one is more surprised than me that I have managed to post a new tune for 26 straight weeks.

The photo was taken in July 2012 during the annual Conference and Campout at the Heritage Farm of the Seed Savers Exchange just outside of town.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Midsummer Walk

Midsummer Walk (mp3) (pdf)

I wrote almost all of this tune before the summer solstice but it took a while to transcribe it, write the simple harmony and record it. There are three parts to the tune but I repeated the A part the first time through and not the other two times.

It's a slow, leisurely walk. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ten Easy Duos - No. 2

Ten Easy Duos - No. 2 (mp3) (pdf)

Another busy week. This quiet, slower piece might be a reaction to that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Driftless (World Premiere) - Tolley's Jig no. 6

Driftless (World Premiere by the members of the 2017 Carlo Aonzo Mandolin Workshop)

Tolley's Jig no. 6 (mp3) (pdf)

Last Sunday I was honored by having my piece "Driftless" performed for the first time during the final concert of the 2017 Carlo Aonzo Mandolin Workshop in Milwaukee. This piece was commissioned by the Workshop last summer and the attendees all received their music well in advance of the weekend. Still they only had a few chances to rehearse the piece together. As you can see and hear they did a wonderful job of bringing the piece to life. Although I was unable to attend I am very pleased that this fine video was created and I am happy to share it with you. Many, many thanks to Carlo, Rene and all of the Workshop players!

I nearly didn't find time to come up with a new tune this week. I almost resorted to passing an older, unheard, tune off as new but I'm pleased that another jig in my Tolley the Cat series popped up on Friday. There are three tracks, first melody, then harmony, then the melody played an octave down during the third time through the tune.

Tomorrow night I'm looking forward to playing a short concert with Erik Sessions at the Dorian Middle School Summer Camp at Luther College. It should be plenty of fun.

If you are in Decorah next weekend I will be playing a dance with Foot-Notes at the Highlandville schoolhouse on Friday night, June 16, from 7:00-10:00. I will follow that with some music, probably joined by Erik Sessions for at least part of the time, at the Winneshiek Farmers Market on Saturday morning, June 17.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Pine Bluffs

Pine Bluffs (mp3) (pdf)

In the last week I've had the great pleasure of playing for two separate, multi-family, high school graduation dance parties with my friends in the Foot-Notes band. The first one, last Saturday, was at the local Pine Bluff 4H camp. Yesterday's event was in the community building at the county fairgrounds. These are the kinds of gigs that can recharge the batteries of musicians who might sometimes become a little jaded about the "music business."

I wrote most of today's new tune, meant to be a polka, last Sunday morning but I continued to change a note or two all through the week. I recorded on Friday but I had to keep making the harmony part less and less busy because I just couldn't play my original notes.

This coming week I get to play two solo mandolin gigs in Decorah (one at Java John's Coffee House and one at the Porter House Museum) and a contra dance on Friday with some of my Western Home String Band friends. The dance will be just a small part of the amazing Village Fire singing weekend held this year at, you guessed it, Pine Bluff camp.

Today is also special for me because the participants in the 2017 Carlo Aonzo Mandolin Workshop will present the world premiere of a new mandolin orchestra piece that I composed for them titled "Driftless." I had intended to be part of the workshop (I certainly could benefit from the guidance and focused practice time) but, for various reasons, I needed to change my plans. I know that my friends at the Workshop will sound great and I hope to hear a recording someday. Many thanks to Carlo and Rene!

I still intend to write another new tune for this blog before next weekend also. Check next week to see if that happens.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ten Easy Duos - No. 1

Ten Easy Duos - No. 1 (mp3) (pdf)

A busy week and a busier weekend, so far. I wrote this little piece for two this week and, when faced with the title dilemma, I thought to call it an "easy duo." Then I thought a number would sound better at the start of the title. I picked 10 fairly randomly. We'll see if I actually write nine more like this.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Old Gibson Waltz

The Old Gibson Waltz (mp3) (pdf)

This week's new tune is named for an old friend. Last Sunday night I was contemplating taking this wonderful instrument up to La Crosse, WI to visit our favorite local luthier, Carl Meine, at Dave's Guitar Shop. I thought I'd try and write an old-fashioned waltz and this is what came out.

I didn't know when I stopped at Dave's that another old Gibson would capture my attention. The guys there were very nice about letting me play the Loar F5 that they have on consignment (only $150,000 !) but while I was enjoying that process I kept coming back to another old Gibson on sale for a tiny fraction of the Loar's price.

Carl did his usual great job fixing up my A model but when I got home I was still thinking about the other Gibson. So the next day I returned with a couple of instruments to trade and now I have a second 1920s Gibson to keep my A model company.

Today's tune is recorded using the A model on the melody part and the new (to me) 1920 F4 playing the two harmony parts. I hope you enjoy the tune.

This post marks 20 weeks of 2017 with a new tune each week. I've got my fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pilsen Jig - Mother's Day - Bates no. 18

Pilsen Jig (mp3) (pdf)
Mother's Day (live version mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 18 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

The photo above was taken on Friday afternoon from a scenic pullover overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, driving south on the Wisconsin side, somewhere in the Maiden Rock-Stockholm vicinity. We were taking the leisurely route back to Decorah after enjoying an inspiring matinee concert of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Ordway in St. Paul featuring Pekka Kuusisto, Sam Amidon, and Gabriel Kahane.

Friday also saw the official release of my new Mel Bay publication Playford for Mandolin. This release was accompanied by a spot on the front page of the Mandolin Cafe (thanks Scott!). You can check out some sample pages and the lengthy table of contents at the Mel Bay site.

Of course today is Mother's Day and I am including a link to a live Contratopia recording of my Mother's Day waltz above. I used this a couple of years ago also but I still like hearing it. Here is part of what I wrote back in 2014:

"I believe this recording was made on the Sunday morning of the Spring Dance Romance weekend in April of 2003 and I believe it was the first tune we played that morning. So it's a little ragged as we settle into our seats and loosen up our hands but it's a nice example of Contratopia at play in a relaxed mode. Somewhere in the middle I play the tune in the upper octave of my mandolin and there are a few humorous moments where I am clearly trying to figure out where the next note might be in that less familiar region of the fingerboard. Still, the good notes make up for the bad."

This week's new tune was finished up on Monday, which was being celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) Day. As I searched for a title, knowing that the tune would appear in this blog on Mother's Day, I thought of my Dad. On the actual VE Day he would have been a very happy man. He was serving as an MP with the V Corps Headquarters and they had recently arrived in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia as part of the U.S. 3rd Army. Having survived a march across Western Europe I am sure that my Dad and his buddies had a fine celebration that day, they might even have danced a jig.

Today also celebrates the completion of my project to record all 18 of the duettinos published by William Bates around 1770. I have certainly enjoyed making these recordings and I hope that some readers have downloaded the score and spent a little time playing these pieces also.

I wanted to find a way to make it easier to find all of the recordings in one place and I decided that the simplest way would be to pull them together as an album and publish it on Bandcamp. So, if you would like to stream, for free, all, or any portion, of my Bates recordings you can go to this link. Of course you also have the option to purchase the album at a low, low price, which gets you access to high quality files that you can download, etc. 

This is a digital only collection and I have no intention of printing physical CDs. Much like my earlier Mandolin Tunes CD, these recordings were created primarily for this blog and collecting them this way was an afterthought.

Finishing the Bates collection also led me to update, ever so slightly, my Mandotopia page; both the home page and the Bates page.

Finally (is this the longest So Many Tunes post ever?) I realized this week that I forgot to include my Java John's setlist from 10 days ago. It's helpful for me to have these lists included here as I work on choosing pieces for each new solo mandolin gig. So below is the setlist from May 4, 2017:

Java John’s solo mandolin, May 4, 2017

Set 1
1. Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa (Goodin) / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Frier’s Cowl
3. Goodin: Deer Track, May 19, 2013 / The First of May (trad.) / May Day Green
4. Goodin: Butterfly Prairie
5. Bach: Bouree I (from French Ouverture for Keyboard) (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
6. Playford Tunes: Buskin / Blackheath
7. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Cowslip
8. Ave Regina Caelorum (plainchant)
9. Goodin: Old Annapolis / Sessions: Annapolis Friends (Erik Sessions)
10. Goodin: Deer Track, April 2017-1 / No Argument at All / Tolley’s Jig no. 5 / Conway to Lincoln
                                                           Set 2
1. Sauli: Partita VI for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)
2. Bach: Bouree (from French Suite VI)
3. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Pyracantha
4. Goodin: Deer Track, May 30, 2013 / The Orsinian Waltz
5. Alman II (Robert Johnson, c. 1583-1633) / Chestnut (Playford collection)
6. Goodin: Pines West
7. Goodin: Deer Track, May 8-9, 2012
8. Bach: Allegro (from Flute Sonata, BWV 1033)(possibly by C.P.E. Bach)
9. Goodin: Toledo Moon
10. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Crown Imperial
11. Goodin: Shelter Dogs / Motion Detector

If you have read this far I think it's about time you should get out your instrument of choice and play some music!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

May Day Green - Bates no. 17

May Day Green (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 17 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

A busy day today so I'll be brief. Here's this week's new tune, written on May 1 while I was also spending some time exploring the wonders of James Bryan's version of "The First of May" from his classic album of the same name.

Here also is the second to last entry from the William Bates collection, no. 17. With luck I'll post the final number from that collection next weekend.

If you enjoy checking this blog from time to time you will almost certainly enjoy the brilliant work that Fergal Scahill (of We Banjo 3) is sharing with his "a tune a day - 2017" project over on facebook. Every day he posts a video of himself playing a tune on the fiddle, often with a friend or two to add to the fun. The quality of the playing is extraordinarily high. Don't try to catch up all at once though because yesterday was day 126, meaning that it would take around 4 hours to hear everything so far.
Here's the link:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

No Argument at All - Bates no. 16

No Argument at All (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 16 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

I wrote today's tune early in the week and enjoyed playing it at different tempos throughout the week. I finally settled on a slower, walking feel, perhaps influenced by watching the house pictured above move through our neighborhood at its measured pace on Wednesday morning. I'm standing at the intersection of Winneshiek Ave., 5th street and the Trout Run bicycle trail crossing as the house begins moving over the Upper Iowa prior to climbing the curvy Quarry Hill Road.

The tune itself feels good to play. It takes its title from Van Morrison's classic tune "Domino":

"There's no need for argument, there's no argument at all"

It was a good week for music, starting last Saturday night playing a dance at Tapestry with Pat's Propellers, including a very special guest who joined us on fiddle for most of the evening. Thursday night Erik Sessions and I played three short sets to three separate audiences in a lovely Decorah home as part of the Water Street Music Series' fund-raising event. We were able to play without mics and speakers and really enjoyed ourselves, largely thanks to the careful attention we received from each group of listeners.

Today, in a couple of hours, I have the honor of performing with the Luther College Chamber Orchestra during their spring concert. Only a few notes but each one is a special challenge for me and I am really looking forward to being a small part of the performance of Anton Webern's Five Pieces for Orchestra, op. 10.

The coming week promises to be much fun as well. On Thursday I will play a bunch of new music (to me) at my monthly Java John's gig. I have four James Oswald Airs for the Seasons ready to play along with some new pieces from J.S. Bach (including one that might have been written by C.P.E. Bach) and a number of my own recent tunes from this blog and elsewhere. I'm hoping to add a set or two of Renaissance and/or Playford tunes as well. Stop by if you are in town Thursday night.

On Saturday night May 6 (Derby Day) we will play for a Decorah contra dance at a new downtown location, the Lingonberry. Erik and I will play along with our Western Home String Band friends and Bill Deutsch will call the dances.

On Sunday evening, May 7, I will play with Foot-Notes at our first Highlandville dance in the newly refurbished schoolhouse. Check out the Foot-Notes fans FB page for some photos. Dance is from 7-10.

You can see I've got some practicing ahead of me this week.

Finally, here is Bates' duettino no. 16. Only two left after today.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Conway to Lincoln - Bates no. 15

Conway to Lincoln (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 15 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

This week's tune is titled in memory of drive we took one morning a couple of years ago on rt. 112, the Kancamagus highway, from Conway to Lincoln, New Hampshire. I'd love to do that again sometime. We were on our way to catch a flight out of Manchester we couldn't dawdle much but I hope next time we can.

Also, I'm adding no. 15 from Mr. Bates. Three to go.

This week on Thursday Erik Sessions and I will play some tunes as part of a fund raiser for the local Water Street Music Series. It's a progressive evening of food, drink and music held in three lovely local homes. And it's for a good cause. I think there are still a few tickets left.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tolley's Jig no. 5 - Bates no. 14

Tolley's Jig no. 5 (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 14 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

This week's tune is another jig named after Tolley the cat. The recording is a little wobbly but still fits within my flexible demo quality standard.

A careful listen will reveal that the tune is played 3 times. The first time a short guitar intro is followed by the melody on mandolin. The second time through a harmony mandolin part is added, more or less as written in the pdf above. The third time through I doubled the melody an octave down (with a couple of changes) during the A sections but I added a third harmony part in the B section. This extra harmony is not written but shouldn't be too hard to transcribe if you want to take the time.

Here also is Bates' duettino no. 14. That leaves four to go.

I hope you are enjoying this holiday weekend and that you have at least some spring weather this week.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Deer Track, April 2017 no. 1 - Bates no. 13

Deer Track, April 2017 no. 1 (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 13 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

This week's new tune turned out to be another Deer Track piece. I had a lot of fun working with these notes. We've seen a little bit of spring-like weather this week which has made for some enjoyable walks around the city park system. (The picture above is not recent but is a good example of the kinds of deer paths that I often see on my walks.)

Musically this was an eventful week. Erik Sessions and I worked up a couple of new tunes, including last week's "Old Annapolis", to perform at an open mic event at Java John's on Wednesday. Then on Thursday night I played my monthly solo mandolin gig at JJ's. Here's the setlist:

Java John’s solo mandolin, April 6, 2017

Set 1
1. Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa (Goodin) / O’Neill’s Favorite (trad.) / Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald, 1710-1769)
2. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Auricula
3. Goodin: Bear on the Beach / Sherwood & Brookes / Tolley’s Jig no. 4
4. Bach: Minuets 1 & 2 (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)
5: Goodin: Old Annapolis / Sessions: Annapolis Friends (Erik Sessions)
5. Sauli: Partita VI for Mandolin (Filippo Sauli, c. 1710)
6. Goodin: Red Hawk Schottische / Marin: Hundlaten (Mikael Marin, 1965- )
7. O’Carolan: Lady Gethin / Carolan’s Draught (Turlough O’Carolan, 1670-1738)
8. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Junquill
9. Goodin: Toledo Moon
10. Telemann: 1730 Menuets nos. 47 & 43 (G.P. Telemann, 1681-1767)
11. Bach: Partita no. 2 for solo violin: Allemanda (J.S. Bach, 1685-1750)

                                                           Set 2
1. Trad.: Old French / Morpeth Rant / The Rights of Man
2. Barbella: Sonata – GIMO 18 (Emmanuele Barbella, 1718-1777)
3. Goodin: From the Balcony / If Only Now /Paws Down
4. Oswald: Airs for the Seasons / The Crocus
5. Tallroth: Marsch i April (Roger Tallroth, 1958 - )/ Jarvela: Maknads Marsch (Arto Jarvela, 1964-) / Bach: March in G
6. Goodin: Deer Track, April 8, 2004 / Dunn Meadow / Canny Crow
7. Valentine: Allegro from Sonata no. 3 for Mandolin (Robert Valentine, 1671-1747)
8. Goodin: September Last
9. Bach: Bouree in Am
10. Goodin: Elkhart Freight / Motion Detector

I managed to play everything on the list with about 5 minutes to spare. I also had a great group of listeners, many who stayed for the whole two hours. I'm looking forward to next month already.

Many thanks to Mike Blevins for taking the candid photo above. It's a good shot of my recently acquired Weber Custom Vintage A oval hole mandolin. I used this mando for this week's recordings as well, along with a new set of Thomastik strings.

I was also able to play a few notes of Webern's op. 10 along with members of the Luther College Chamber Orchestra during two rehearsals this week. It is such a pleasure to sit in with these talented young musicians and to be conducted by Maestro Dan Baldwin. Our performance occurs on April 30 so I am trying to be prepared.

Finally, I sat down yesterday and recorded Bates no. 13, another fun tidbit from the 18th century.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Old Annapolis - Bates no. 12

Old Annapolis (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 12 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

When Contratopia was out in the D.C. area a couple of weekends ago we had the opportunity to play a dance on the Saturday night in Annapolis, MD. We were able to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon playing tourist and we really enjoyed our visit. Today's new tune emerged last week and it seemed appropriate to give it this title.

Bates' divertimento no. 12 appears here also. Another charming example from his collection.

Last night in Minneapolis Contratopia would up its Fall 2016-Spring 2017 season, playing to an enthusiastic group of dancers. Even though it was a few gigs shorter than most years we had a really good season. We are planning ahead to next year and we haven't run out of ideas yet.

This week, on Thursday, I will be playing solo mandolin at Java John's in Decorah from 7:00-9:00. On Wednesday Java John's is hosting an Open Mic night and I will probably be playing a couple of tunes with Erik Sessions sometime during that event. Drop by either night if you are in town.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tolley's Jig no. 4 - Bates no. 11

Tolley's Jig no. 4 (mp3) (pdf)
Bates no. 11 (mp3 pt.1) (mp3 pt.2) (pdf score)

Today's new tune was written on Thursday, after I returned from a short trip out to the Washington D.C. area with Contratopia. The photo above was taken from my sleeper compartment window on the Capitol Limited on the morning of Friday March 17, on my ride into Union Station, somewhere south of Pittsburgh.

I wrote, as I usually do, a few new tunes during the train rides that book-ended this tour and I thought I would present one of them this week. I'll try to get some of those posted here in the coming weeks.

The tour itself was great fun, four dances in three days, friends old and new. You can read a little more about it in the Contratopia 2.0 blog here.

I'm posting my recording of Bates' duettino no. 11 here also. I have recorded no. 12 to be ready for next week. After that there are only six to go.

I was very pleased during the tour to encounter a few people who actually read and listen to this blog. I also made a couple of new friends on the train ride who may take a look here also. I even managed to post last week's entry, albeit on Monday instead of Sunday, from Takoma Park, MD. I was especially pleased to hear from a friend in Norway who had been playing along on guitar with last week's tune, "Paws Down."

I encourage you to break out your mandolin or fiddle, or flute, or guitar and play along with these recordings.

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