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!
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