Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bear Creek Blues

Bear Creek Blues (mp3) (pdf)

New Year's Eve, relaxing at home while other musicians are out working for the New Year. I was bringing the alphabetical list of tunes from the So Many Tunes blog up to date and I remembered that a while back I had recorded a short tune and never posted it.

So tonight, for the last tune of 2019, I'm sharing a solo mandolin version of the Bear Creek Blues. It was a couple of months or more back when I did this. I think the tune originated over a decade ago and I found an early version in an old music notebook. I know I altered a few things but I couldn't tell you what.

I hope everyone has a good time tonight and returns safely home to start a new decade.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Blairs' Waltz

Blairs' Waltz (mp3) (pdf)

When we first moved to Decorah in 1994 Mike and Sue Blair were two of the first people we met. The Blairs have recently relocated to nearby Waverly, Iowa and that transition produced this new tune a few weeks ago.

Most of the recordings presented here are recorded by me alone. Today's recording is one of the few that features "guest artists." In this case Mike Blair on guitar and Mike and Sue's daughter, Kate, playing the flute. The tune is beautifully played and I'm happy to share it here.

Over the years I have enjoyed playing music with Mike, and sometimes Sue also, many times for a variety of purposes. For a few years back in the 1990s Mike, Erik Sessions, and I performed around town as the Dug Road Trio. In that group Mike came in as a replacement for our original guitarist after he left town. One notable gig from that time involved providing some dinner entertainment, joined by guest vocalist Ellen Rockne, for the visiting Crown Prince of Norway. Mike has also joined the ever-changing Western Home String Band on guitar for many contra dances over the last 15-20 years.

In Mike's role as Campus Pastor he has often been invited me, and often Erik, to join him for various Luther College events. We have played for many weekday chapel services and other Luther gatherings and have frequently accompanied Mike as he performed one of his always fun parody songs; "On the Cover of the Lutheran", "Sweet Home Decorah, etc."

Erik and I get to join Mike and Sue one more time tomorrow at the annual Burning Bright holiday concerts where we will play one of Mike's fine non-parody original songs. I think there are still a few tickets left. I'm sure that this won't be the last time that we play together, there may even be a trip to Waverly (it's not that far) in our future.

Friday, November 29, 2019


Orngards' (mp3) (pdf)

Back in September Contratopia gathered at the Orngard family farm, near Pilot Mound, Iowa, to play an outdoor contra dance the evening before the wedding of our good friend (and sometimes Contratopia fiddler) Ehler Orngard and his fiance Emily. I wrote this little polka the week before, not just for Ehler, but thinking of the whole Orngard family, musicians and dancers extraordinaire.

I finally got around to recording it last week although we played it at the wedding dance and in Decorah, with the Western Home String Band, a week or two after that.

The lovely autumn weather is gone now and winter has arrived earlier than it should. The photo above was taken on November 23 near Cresco, Iowa on a rare dry and sunny afternoon.

Hope you enjoy the music.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa (live at CMSA 2019)

Medley of solo mandolin tunes from the 2019 CMSA open mic concert on Oct. 10, 2019 in Normal, Illinois. (mp3 of set)

1. Swarbrick Sends a Tune to Iowa (John Goodin) (pdf sheet music)
2. Chief O'Neill's Favorite
3. The Flowers of Edinburgh (James Oswald)

Back in October I attended the annual Classical Mandolin Society of America convention, this year held in Normal, IL. The open mic lunchtime concerts are always special events and I usually play with one or two groups during the course of the week. This year, possibly for the first time, I thought I would play solo. My idea was to give my CSMA friends an example of the kind of thing I have been doing during my solo mandolin nights here in Decorah for the last four years.

I chose to play the set that I almost always open with and it came off better than I hoped. The sound was especially good in the room and I played a little better than usual. So I'm happy to share it around. The focus is a little fuzzy on the video but that's OK with me. There's not much to see anyway.

I originally recorded the tune I wrote in memory of Dave Swarbrick back in August, 2016 and posted it on this blog. You can read more about that here: https://somanytunes.blogspot.com/2016/08/swarbrick-sends-tune-to-iowa.html

I hope you enjoy hearing these tunes, I certainly enjoyed playing them.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Deer Track, October 23, 2019 + CMSA-Normal

Deer Track, October 23, 2019 (mp3) (pdf)

It's been a busy month with little time for recording. But I wrote another of my little Deer Tracks pieces yesterday and managed to record it this morning. I really enjoy the process of letting these pieces unwind themselves until I feel like they come to their end. Then I tinker with them just a bit and call it good. I hope you like this one.

Two weeks ago I was in Normal, IL at the annual convention of the CMSA. I had, as usual, a great time but this event was extra special. I received the high honor of being named one of the first CMSA Fellows along with my good friends Jim Bates, Michael Schroeder and Lou Chouinard.

Mike and Lou are both past presidents of CMSA and Jim has conducted the En Masse orchestra for many years. My citation reads:

CMSA recognizes John Goodin as a CMSA Fellow for his contributions to classical mandolin in North America through his original compositions and arrangements for solo mandolin and mandolin ensemble.

This award from my peers in the classical mandolin world is truly amazing to me and I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude to the members of the CMSA Board of Directors for presenting me with this honor. I am especially thankful for the beautiful speech that Nancy King gave as she made the presentation. What a great convention it was!

Last week, with Foot-Notes, we played our final Highlandville Dance of the year at the Highlandville schoolhouse. It was a fine Autumn night with a wonderful group of dancers. This Saturday I get to join Contratopia in St. Paul for a Tapestry-sponsored contra dance at Sokol Hall. I love playing in that old dance hall.

The photo above was taken from my upstairs office window just minutes ago. This is the view I enjoyed while writing the music yesterday and recording it today.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Spring Suite, May 2019 (finally arriving in October)

Spring Suite, May 2019 (stream and/or download for free at Bandcamp)

(Octave mandolin version pdf) (Mandocello version pdf)

1. Vernal Signs (mp3)
2. New Growth (mp3)
3. The Little Flowers (mp3)
4. The Cultivator (mp3)
5. Full Bloom (mp3)

Back in February I presented my Winter Suite, February 2019, a suite of tunes aimed at players of the mandocello and the octave mandolin. Today I am finally presenting the suite that I (mostly) composed in May as a follow-up. The delay was partly because Summer arrived and I was really busy and partly because I knew I wasn't quite satisfied with the original versions.

I revisited the pieces a couple of times during the summer and changed a few notes but I still didn't feel like the suite was ready to record. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I took another look and decided I should just rewrite the first section altogether. I did that and the whole suite seemed better balanced somehow.

So here's the Spring Suite, May 2019 (finished in September) for mandocello or octave mandolin. As with the previous suite I have placed the complete composition as an "album" at Bandcamp in case you want to stream and/or download the music (free of charge) without having to click on each section. You can, however, go ahead and just click on each section of the suite here in its mp3 form.

I'm looking forward to seeing a roomful of mandocellists next week at the annual convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America. On Thursday morning Jim Imhoff will present The Solo Mandocello, vol. 2 and I will join August Watters (author of the excellent Exploring Classical Mandolin from Berklee Press) to talk about some of our recent work. This will be a lot of fun.

Speaking of recent work, I was honored last week when Mel Bay published two new books with my name on the cover; Telemann for Two Mandolins and A Baroque Sampler for Octave Mandolin. Both are now available as print volumes and ebooks. Two books in the same week is highly unlikely to ever happen again for me and I really enjoyed hearing from many friends offering their congratulations.

In addition to the new Mel Bay books I am also finishing up a new tunebook to go with my Mandolin Tunes 2 recording from last fall. I will have some of these with me next week on my vendor table at the CMSA meeting in Bloomington-Normal, IL.

Lest you imagine (I don't often get to use "lest" in a sentence) that I'm only working on books I am happy to say that I have played numerous gigs in the last few weeks, including four wedding dances over the course of 8 days. On Sunday afternoon I get to play some tunes with Pat O'Loughlin at the annual Polish Apple Day in Winona, MN. Who could ask for more?

I hope you enjoy the Spring Suite.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fifty Years On

Fifty Years On (mp3) (pdf)

I am a proud graduate of Our Lady of Providence High School, Clarksville, Indiana. This weekend many of the members of my class of 1969 are gathering to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I would love to be there and reminisce with some of my old friends about our glory days, but life here in Iowa is claiming precedence.

Tonight I will be playing for a contra dance with my Contratopia friends on a farm in northwestern Iowa, helping a fine family of musicians, dancers and music lovers celebrate the wedding of one of our good friends, and occasional Contratopian, Ehler Orngard.

Tomorrow night I get to play for a short wedding dance near Decorah with my friends in the Foot-Notes band and, possibly, for a local contra dance after that. Sunday evening Erik Sessions and I are playing tunes for dancing and listening for yet another wedding, this time in the legendary barn at the Seed Savers Exchange just outside of town.

While I will miss the chance to see and learn from the friends of my youth (how young we all were!) back in Indiana, I am always honored when I have the chance to help with the music at weddings and other meaningful occasions. I feel like this kind of music-making is true to the values I learned from the dedicated faculty and staff at Providence back in the late 1960s.

So while Erik and I are driving on the back roads tonight I'm sure that my thoughts will drift back to those days so long ago and reflect on how my days at OLPH have helped me so much over the years.

I hope you enjoy the tune. There's a good chance it will receive a "world premiere" performance tonight in a field near Pilot Mound, Iowa but we'll be playing it for the class of '69 as well.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Hoosier Clockmaker

The Hoosier Clockmaker (mp3) (pdf)

Today is my father's 100th birthday. He's no longer around in person but I encounter the things he made every day. Earl Goodin wasn't one for displays of emotion so I'll keep this brief.

My sister, Sherri, and I were unbelievably lucky in the parent lottery. I, of course, didn't always realize that as a child or young man. Dad and I had our share of misunderstandings and disagreements but it's easy to see in hindsight how fortunate I was.

I don't remember Dad ever missing a Little League or a football game. He was there pretty much every day until I went off to college and then he was always available when I'd come home. (This is Dad's birthday but he would want me to point out that our Mom, Rosie, was practically a saint and he would give her all the credit.)

When I turned to music for meaning in life he was supportive but not wildly encouraging. I can only imagine the reaction he had to the many nights we held band practice in our basement or in the garage. I knew not to play the radio or my record player too loud but he must have endured what seemed like endless hours of foreign sounds coming through the walls.

Dad was a builder and a maker of things. During the day, for money, he made automobiles for the Ford Motor Company. He worked 30 years on the line. No one was ever more proud to be a member of the UAW than Earl Goodin.

At home he built things constantly and he had a fine woodshop in the garage (the garage that he built himself). I know that he was disappointed when I didn't follow in those footsteps but he also enjoyed doing that work in solitude. When he was in his prime I believe that he enjoyed nothing more than repairing a watch or building a clock. Most of those watches are no longer ticking but several of those clocks are still keeping time.

My outlet was making music and, eventually, songs and tunes. I know that he was proud of my meager ability and was happy for me to have found such pleasure, and some recognition, in my work. So today's simple little jig is called "The Hoosier Clockmaker" in recognition of the life and memory of Dad.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Port William Sunrise

Port William Sunrise (mp3) (pdf)

Back on the morning of August 5 I was sitting here at my desk doodling on the mandolin. A simple little tune started raising it's hand (pick me! pick me!) and, even though it wasn't exciting or particularly innovative, I was enjoying letting it play out. Then a Voice from across the hall called out: "Did you know that today is Wendell Berry's 85th birthday?"

Wherever tunes come from, whatever they are for (assuming, of course, that there is any meaning in anything; but that's a different conversation) I immediately knew that I now had a tune titled "Port William Sunrise."

If you are a reader of Wendell Berry's poetry, novels and essays I suspect that this connection alone will help you enjoy this very plain and simple bit of music. If you haven't yet encountered this great writer's literary work take some time and get to know him. If you try one poem or story or essay and you think you can put him aside in a safely labeled category you have only scratched the surface. Life and people are complicated and complex. Nature has much to teach us and we ignore her lessons at our peril. Wendell Berry's work and perspective can help us see things, both beautiful and challenging, that can change and enrich our lives.

These last few weeks have been full of wonderful music-making opportunities. I have enjoyed playing with some of my best music friends while, hopefully, playing some good notes that have contributed to a variety of community events. Because I've been busier than usual I have added a "Gig Calendar" to this blog, largely to help me keep better track of what's coming next.

In the last 8 days I had the chance to play with Foot-Notes for a dance at the Highlandville Schoolhouse, with the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra in Edina, MN, with Erik Sessions for a great group of friends at Toppling Goliath in Decorah and, last night, with Pat, Tim and Ted at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. Now I get a few days off from my "summer tour" and I'll try and catch up on some of my other music projects, like today's post.

As Wendell Berry said in his poem "The Wild Geese",

And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

So ends today's sermon....

(P.S. The photo is of Lake Superior at Grand Marais in August 2012, not the Kentucky River.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Old Growth

Old Growth (mp3) (pdf)

When I see the words "old growth" I immediately think of forests. I like this phrase as a tune title, partly because it can have multiple meanings. What is old? What is growth? Today's tune is recently composed but I mean for it to have a connection to old tunes. Hopefully it demonstrates evidence of growth in my writing, although it's very similar to many other tunes, old and recent. Really I just like the way it sounds, both the title and the music.

If you pay careful attention to this blog you may notice that I have added a Gig Calendar over on the right hand side. People sometimes ask me where and when I'm playing next and this might make it easier for me to answer. You can see that I happen to have several things coming up in August, in various settings and with various music friends.

This past weekend was Decorah's annual Nordic Fest festival and I was fortunate to play twice with my Foot-Notes friends and also a nice afternoon tent gig with Erik Sessions. The weather was excellent and the sound was good. There's nothing quite like watching hundreds of people hop around dancing the schottische on a warm summer's night.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Postcards From the Crater at Bandcamp

If you look back at some blogposts in the Fall of 2016 you will find me sharing pieces of what became my Postcards From the Crater sheet music book. Along with the sheet music I included some hastily recorded, low quality mp3 recordings. I have long intended to do proper, CD quality, recordings of the Postcards and, this past spring, I finally got around to it.

In fact, I recorded them all twice. After I did the first round I decided I didn't like the new recordings well enough so I did them all a second time. This last time I used a recent Collings MTO mandolin equipped with Thomastik strings and I'm quite pleased with the results.

If you are interested you can click on the Bandcamp player embedded above and stream the whole thing for free. There's also a page on my Mandotopia site with more info about the project and links to ordering the sheet music.

I resisted the urge to write long, flowery descriptions and post photos of all of the beautiful places referenced in these pieces. If you are familiar with Decorah no introductions are necessary. If you have never visited Dunning's Spring or the Dug Road you can probably find photos of most of these spots by searching online for those terms; or Ice Cave Road or the Decorah Prairie, etc.

It's a lovely place where we live and well worth a visit sometime.

I hope you check out these new recordings of the Postcards and enjoy them.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Robert Owen's Quickstep

Robert Owen's Quickstep (mp3) (pdf)

This tune was mostly written on May 14, the birthday of Robert Owen (1771-1858), who, among other things, is remembered for financing and engineering the creation of the memorable utopian communal experiment at New Harmony, Indiana in the 1820s. I have long been inspired by the history and physical beauty of New Harmony and I hope to visit there again soon.

The tune itself, while quickly written, has been repeatedly revised during the last few weeks. I think it is a little improved over the original but at some point things get a little blurry and it's time to stop.

On a technical note, this is the first tune appearing in this blog that has been recorded using the Izotope Spire Studio device that I recently purchased. It's a fun gizmo and I'm enjoying playing around with it. In this instance I used a nice condenser mic of my own rather than the built in Spire mic and I did some final tweaking using Audacity but, overall, the Spire was very easy to work with.

I hope you enjoy the result.

Monday, June 10, 2019


Matildaville (mp3) (pdf)

This winter's brief travels with Contratopia yielded some fun tunes. I've already shared The Blue Basket that came from our trip to Bozeman in January. Today I'm presenting a stripped-down, solo mandolin version of Matildaville, from our visit to Great Falls National Park on the Potomac in March.

There is a nice blog article that goes into the checkered history of the Matildaville site in some detail. When we visited in March it was a lovely, early spring day; not too crowded, just right for some tired musicians to stretch their legs.

Hope you enjoy the tune!

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Land of Living Skies

Land of Living Skies (pdf score) (parts available on request)

Back on May 20th the wonderful Regina Mandolin Orchestra (Saskatchewan) gave their first performance of a piece they commissioned from me last November at the Classical Mandolin Society of America's annual convention in Santa Rosa, CA. The RMO is celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2019 and I was honored to be chosen to write them a celebratory piece.

Saskatchewan is known as the Land of Living Skies and I was asked to use that as a title. It was understood that I would not be attempting to paint pictures in sound (not my strong suite) but the title was inspirational anyway. I especially had fun writing for this ensemble because they regularly include some violins and flutes along with the standard plucked string orchestra instrumentation. They also often perform with a fine percussionist.

I've never actually written a notated part for percussion before so I told the RMO Music Director, Natalia Osypenko, that she should feel free to arrange whatever percussion might work with the piece. I take no credit for the cool stuff that is going on in the percussion section.

While not trying to paint the living skies I did find myself being reminded of a couple of my favorite musicians, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, as the piece unfolded. Both Joni and Neil spent significant time in their youth on the Canadian prairie, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, respectively. There is one section in the piece where I intended to invoke a bit of Neil's work with Buffalo Springfield and there are a couple of places that remind me of Joni's early songs as well. Pale imitations at best but they still work well in the piece.

I truly enjoyed writing this piece and working with Natalia and the great folks in Regina. I'm so pleased that they seem to enjoy the music and they intend to perform it a few more times during their anniversary year. Hopefully you will enjoy it too!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Dug Road Rag

Dug Road Rag (mp3) (pdf)

A little over a month ago (around April 10th according to the image above) I was enjoying playing some ragtime tunes from the excellent book Ragtime for Fiddle & Mandolin by Stephen C. Parker, edited by Alan Davis. After playing a number of tunes from the book I found myself playing a "new" tune that is clearly an imitation of the work of the masters of the ragtime era. Some bits of it are borrowed from those masters but a few of the phrases are mine.

The image above from my notebook shows how the tune began and the pdf of the resulting sheet music shows where it ended up. (I almost always write music with a pen, partly because I change my mind a lot. If I use a pencil and then erase things as I go along I find that, later, I wish for the ideas that I erased.)

The recording is a no frills statement of the melody on the mandolin without accompaniment.

The Dug Road in Decorah was once an actual road but today is one of the most beautiful parts of the Trout Run Trail.

Hope you enjoy the tune!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Two for Texas, pt. 2 (live from CMSA Santa Rosa, November 17, 2018)

Two for Texas, pt. 2 (mp3) (pdf score)

Last month I posted an audio recording of a performance from the Saturday Open Mic session of the 2018 Classical Mandolin Society of America convention in Santa Rosa, CA. This month we have video evidence featuring a chamber group of plucked string instruments (including me in a ball cap playing a very fine Collings MT-O mandolin), augmented by a trio of recorders, from the same lunchtime session. I'm also including links to an mp3 recording of the performance and a pdf of the score.

I was greatly honored to have so many of my CMSA friends (plus a couple of folks I didn't know before this who were doing this for their friends) spend the time to work on the music in advance of our only rehearsal. That rehearsal had occurred around 11:00 the night before. Despite our lack of practice together I think you will find very few mistakes if you follow the score.

Two for Texas was commissioned in 2012 by the Dutch mandolin orchestra ONI (led by Cor Roozendaal) and the Rio Brazos Recorder Trio. This came following a big fun weekend in May of 2010 traveling around the Dallas-Fort Worth area with ONI+ and the Rio Brazos trio. I had this opportunity thanks to Alice Derbyshire, Alberdina Markus-Gronefeld and Cor Roozendaal. ONI+ was playing my Louisville Suite on this tour and thought it would be fun to meet me. We all had a terrific time. 

The performance here, by a stellar group of CMSA convention attendees recruited and organized by Alice Derbyshire, was the North American premiere of the piece. We only played the second part of the piece, due to time constraints.

I've written a few pieces for recorders over the years but this was the first time I was ever asked to write for mandolin orchestra and recorder trio. I had a lot of fun adding a "horn section" to the plucked string ensemble sound. 

Special thanks to Sue Weber for agreeing to conduct this group and for doing such a fine job, with minimal rehearsal, of pulling us together. Thanks also to Authentic Audio & Sound and especially to Michael Tognetti for capturing the moment and preparing this video.

The enthusiastic applause at the end was very gratifying and is indicative of the spirit that prevails throughout the CMSA conventions, especially during the Open Mic sessions.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

What Hears Follows (2019 solo version)

What Hears Follows (2019 solo version) (mp3) (pdf)

Today's piece, recorded this morning, began with the title May 30, 2007. Sometime before the publication of my Midwestern Mandolin Duos book in 2010 I added a second part and called it "What Hears Follows."

I have played around with extracting a newer solo version from the duo more than once since 2010 but, recently, I settled on this version. There are some new notes but the piece is more or less the same as the original from May of 2007.

It's a comfortable piece to play on the mandolin and, if you choose, can be a good exercise in playing in the second position with brief movements up to third position.

I performed the duo version of this piece at least once at Luther College years ago with the brilliant flutist Carol Hester. I also performed the piece at the 2012 Classical Mandolin Society of America's annual convention in Minneapolis. This performance was part of a short set with Robert Margo, my partner in the Duo Oswald. You can find an mp3 of this performance on this page by scrolling down to Thursday Night Open Mic in the right hand column.

The title What Hears Follows is another phrase borrowed from the poetry of Wendell Berry. It appears in a poem titled "The Strait" from his 1982 collection The Wheel. The hummingbird figures in this poem as well.

I hope you enjoy this little piece. It's a lovely spring day here in Decorah.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Clark's Ramble (live from CMSA Santa Rosa, November 2018)

Clark's Ramble (mp3) (pdf score) (pdf M1) (pdf M2)

Last November I had a great time attending the annual Classical Mandolin Society of America convention in Santa Rosa, CA. One of the highlights for me was presenting the world premiere (with the artful assistance of Dr. Robert Margo, appearing in our guise as Duo Oswald) of a piece now titled "Clark's Ramble."

This piece began back in the 1980s (I think) as an exercise when I was working through William Russo's excellent text Composing Music: A New Approach, a book I highly recommend. It went from a single melody to a three part piece over the years. Planning for the CMSA open mic performance I had the idea to take this old piece and turn it into a duo, while adding a new section at the beginning.

While written for two mandolins, Dr. Margo suggested playing the second mandolin part on an octave mandolin at our performance and the recording that I'm sharing here is of that version. The score and parts are the original two mandolin arrangement but an octave mandolin works fine on the second part.

If anyone sits down with the score and compares it to the recording she or he will quickly discover slight alterations in our rendering of the score. We had rehearsed a couple of times and had practiced in advance but the fun of actually playing it for an appreciative audience (watch your volume control at the end) allowed us to take a few liberties (mostly unintentional) with the written music. At one point I believe we even fall out of sync for a few measures, resulting in some fun new music. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as we did.

The portrait above is of George Rogers Clark, the founder of my hometown of Clarksville, Indiana. A good case can be made that, without his determination and leadership, the United States of America might never have extended its reach beyond the Appalachian mountains. Following that alternate historical line Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, etc. might today be provinces of Canada. Just a thought.

Many thanks to Michael Tognetti for capturing this performance. There's video too but I haven't figured out how to stream it.

Special thanks to my Duo Oswald partner Bob Margo for adding his talents to this recording and for encouraging my composing in many ways.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Water Flowing Under Ice

Water Flowing Under Ice (mp3) (pdf)

Earlier this month Luther College Campus Pastor Mike Blair invited Erik Sessions and me to play some music at a campus chapel service. Mike mentioned in an email that he might read a poem by Wendell Berry between hymns and tunes. I immediately thought of an older tune of mine that I titled "Water Flowing Under Ice", taken from a line in the great Berry poem "Zero." Mike decided to use Zero as his poem and we all played my little tune after it.

A few days ago I finally got around to recording it and here it is played on two mandolins. (Well actually just one mandolin, overdubbed.) I encourage you to seek out the poem and read it. It appears in Berry's collection The Country of Marriage and I believe that it's in his Collected Poems as well. It's a very fitting response to the kind of winter we experienced here in northeast Iowa this year.

In other news, I had a wonderful solo mandolin evening at Java John's a couple of days ago. Today's tune was included, along with a number of "world premieres", including the music from the last two blog posts here. The audience was extraordinary.

I also had a great time traveling with Contratopia to the Washington, DC region to play dances over the St. Patrick's Day weekend. We were grateful for enthusiastic dancers and great weather on Friday and Sunday at Glen Echo Park and on Saturday in Annapolis, MD.

I have a bunch of new tunes ready but not yet recorded, I hope to get to them soon.

I hope you enjoy today's tune.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Winter Suite, February 2019

Winter Suite, February 2019 (stream and/or download for free at Bandcamp)
(Octave Mandolin version pdf) (Octave Mandolin version pdf w/tab)
(Mandocello version pdf) (Mandocello version pdf w/tab)

1. Walking Tune (mp3)
2. Hornpipe (mp3)
3. Saraband (mp3)
4. Reel (mp3)
5. Air (mp3)
6. Jig (mp3)

The larger members of the mandolin family, the mandocello (CGDA) and the octave mandolin (GDAE), don't always receive the attention they deserve. This short and not too difficult Suite was written on the octave mandolin with the mandocello also in mind. I was conscious of the longer stretches required on these instruments and the extra resonance supplied by their open strings. If you are a player of one of these low-voiced mandolins download the sheet music (I've created both standard notation only and notation with tab versions for both instruments) and see what you think.

If you really enjoy playing the piece you are always welcome to make a small donation, using the Paypal donation button, through my Mandotopia site but that's completely optional. I have also added my recording of the piece, on octave mandolin, to my Bandcamp site where it is free to stream or download. Or you can listen and download the individual parts of the piece here, as usual.

I purchased a beautiful Flatiron octave mandolin in the early 1980s but I used a recent Eastman MDO 305 octave, with a shorter scale, while writing and recording this piece. I've never owned a mandocello but I have enjoyed playing several over the years and I'm confident that this Suite can be comfortably played by the cello as well. I'd love to hear a recording of such if anyone feels like sharing.

The photo above was taken about a week ago, before a significant blizzard that we had last weekend. Depending on how much snow falls today we may well break the all-time record for February snow in Decorah this year. The snow has been compounded by the unusually cold weather this month including a couple of nights where the temperature was in the -30 degrees Fahrenheit range, with wind chills around -60. It has been a trying winter so far with no relief in sight.

The idea for a Winter Suite came as I was reading the excellent biography of Lou Harrison recently written by Bill Alves and Brett Campbell. It's a fascinating and inspiring story of a great American composer. Harrison would often write short pieces using the suite format and, while reading during breakfast a couple of weeks ago, I had the idea to do something similar aimed at mandocello and octave mandolin players.

Finally, I should mention, if it hasn't already occurred to my mandolin playing friends, that the octave mandolin music (including the tab) is also mandolin-friendly. Also, each of the six parts of this suite can be repeated as often as you like. I recorded them each once through (partly to minimize the potential for mistakes) but I will certainly play the Reel and the Jig more than once when I play the piece in public. In addition feel free to throw in open strings for drones and added harmonies as you play.

I hope you enjoy the music.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Clark's Delight / The Blue Basket

Clark's Delight (mp3) (pdf) (pdf w/tab)
The Blue Basket (mp3) (pdf) (pdf w/tab)

We've had some pretty challenging winter weather for the last couple of weeks and I finally got around to recording a couple of recent tunes. These were both done in bare bones fashion, no harmony parts, no extra instruments. Just guitar chords and mandolin melody, three times through each tune.

I've also added mandolin tab versions of these tunes because a couple of folks have expressed some interest in that.

The photo is from just outside our back door this morning. Here at 9:30 it's -6 degrees. They say it will be -13 tonight. With luck this will be the last of the serious cold for this winter but we have a good deal of snow forecast over the next few days.

Clark's Delight was written on or around January 11 and, I believe, came after a pleasant hour playing tunes from the great John of the Green book compiled by John Offord in England. I think of it as a potential English Country Dance tune. The Clark in question here is George Rogers, founder of my hometown, Clarksville, Indiana.

The Blue Basket was made after returning from Contratopia's recent visit to the Wintergreen dance weekend in Bozeman. (Read a little about that here.) I was partly trying to capture a little of the feeling that Adam and Johanna from Sassafras Stomp brought to their playing at the weekend.

Both of these tunes are pretty straightforward and I hope that you enjoy listening to and playing them.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ten Easy Duos no. 6 - Deer Track, April 21, 2018

Ten Easy Duos, no. 6 (mp3) (pdf)
Deer Track, April 21, 2018 (mp3) (pdf)

This post begins the 13th year of this blog. Overall it has been a very satisfying and useful project that has motivated me and made it possible for me to create and share a great deal of music.

I just did a quick (and sloppy) count of the entries in my alphabetical list of titles from this blog. There are several titles not yet listed but I am confident that there are nearly 300 entries, if not more.
Not every tune is a gem but I'm pleased on the whole with the quality of these tunes and I intend to add quite a few more this year.

I foolishly titled a piece "Ten Easy Duos, no. 1" back in 2017 thinking that I would quickly write 9 more. Number 6 was written not long after attending the CMSA convention in Santa Rosa back in November of 2018. Maybe I'll get the others written this year.

In April of 2018 I wandered onto another Deer Track and I have played this one numerous times at my semi-regular solo mandolin gigs in Decorah since then. I really enjoy the feel of it and people often make positive comments about it after I play it. See what you think.

Happy New Year to all visitors, thanks for listening.
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