Sevens/Glass Island Reel:
(two flutes, piano accordion, Garageband loops)
Sevens. I learned this Liz Carroll original from her 2000 album Lost In the Loop. At first glance this tune does not seem flute friendly because too much of the drone melody sits on the lowest fiddle string (out of flute range). But I found most of the low drones were still convincing when brought up an octave.
Glass Island. Ethan Hazzard-Watkins wrote this contemporary contra dance tune in 1997. He’s writes that it was “never intended to be an Irish session tune.” But someone else captured a session recording and started emailing it around. I ran across that recording when local fiddler Joel Mesnikoff sent it to me in October this year.
(flute, accordion, Garageband loops, palm banging on Ikea bookshelf)
I’ve been playing games with meter and rhythmic emphasis. Palm Sunday is a traditional double jig in 6/8, and here I follow it with a “reel-ified” version of itself. At the metric transition (1:04) I keep the eighth note beat the same but force the tune into 3/4. One musician friend calls it “a heinous and impossibly fast death waltz,” but I think of it more as a reel with 6 subdivisions per strong beat (as opposed to the usual 4 subdivisions per strong beat).
Parts of the original 6/8 tune resemble a slide instead of a jig, so it already has some atypical phrase shaping that makes the tune feel a bit “off,” and I distort those phrases even more with the additional melody notes in my 3/4 version. Some traditional music practitioners find the 3/4 adaptation to be quite disturbing – they feel it goes too far beyond the form and thus isn’t stable enough. I don’t know what I think yet.
if a hickory nut faced woman were to study songs and their places of origin, what would that look like?
• antique camera found on travels • photo of traditional irish musicians, one known one unknown • arm of an uncomfortable couch • hickory nut woman from Grandma Dot’s old shelves • afternoon light from generous living room window
My long lost friend Hans Fex generously lent me this twinkly music box. Use a special hole puncher to punch out individual notes on a strip of paper, then run the paper through the machine to hear the results. The templates come printed with a grid so you can hit each note dead center.
This composition for punch hole music box, Melancholy and Rust, is more than just a lovely tune. Its melody and accompaniment are designed so that the piece can be run through the machine right side up, upside down, and backward-upside-down. For you music geeks out there, that’s a shout out to the principles of 12-tone composition, here using prime, inversion, and retrograde inversion techniques. Only instead of flipping staves upside down and backward, we are flipping a piece of paper. This particular music box has a diatonic 1 octave+6th range (C to A), so if you use the full range of notes, A minor will invert to C major, and vice versa.
Oh, toss all that theoretical nonsense aside! Begone academia! The real delights here are the twinkly tone, the creaking and rattling of the mechanism, the astonishing power of the miniature resonating box. And what about the delight of (mis)punching holes and surprising yourself with the results? True, it tries my patience to meticulously scotch tape closed any mistaken punches, but it’s usually best to just integrate them the final product. Best of all, musicians and non-musicians alike can punch-compose, perhaps using musical knowledge, visual patterns, random bites, blind inspiration, or other aesthetics.
Now, Melancholy and Rust, played in three different orientations.
Oh, twinkly music box. <sigh>
in december i boarded an airplane
and bumped into two marvelous friends, co-creator-musicator-collaborators of the Star Wars Cantina Band Reborn
yes, a Bith and a Hammerhead were on my very own southwest flight to chicago
in my delight, i hastily scribbled a score, a duet for two Bith musical minds
little did i expect these friends, plus other beloved fellow space creature collaborators , to bring my creation to life. blind composition turned quirky performance. thank you so much jD (hammerhead), Logan (clarinet), Deb (flute), and David (filmmaker)!
Last week I played in a small recital by the UC Berkeley Music Department undergraduates studying world music performance. The concert featured Chinese erhu, traditional Indian singing, and traditional Irish flute. I was, obviously, the one playing flute, and shared a spicy salad of traditional and neo-traditional tunes. Joining me was local guitarist and fiddler Will Wheeler, whose keen chord choices were a real treat. (Check out Will’s latest project – Golden Toad Music and Dance Camp – an upcoming festival that promises a week of sleepless musical bliss.)
Here are live recordings of our three-set performance.
Maids of Mitchelstown/I Buried My Wife/Cliffs of Moher:
Crow in the Sun:
Jim Donoghue’s/The Lilac/Sligo Creek:
This concert was a pleasure because its somewhat impromptu nature allowed for a casual approach to the music- a good reminder that playing ought to be fun!
two tunes using artificially galactic instrument sounds. space piano is created by adding a phaser effect. space flute uses amp simulation and speech enhancer.
Piano improvisation/Price of My Pig:
Here the piano plays an A pedal as the downbeat of every measure. The remaining notes in each measure are natural minor fillers, keys where my fingers fell (often with eyes closed.) Over this the flute is playing an altered version of a traditional double jig, Price of My Pig, omitting the tune’s usual F#s and stripping it of its dorian flavor.
Some years back I learned this tune from piper E.J. Jones at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. My sweet and eager piano wished to be both accompanist and melody partner. I could not say no.
When E.J. recorded it on his excellent album The Willow he included these brilliant liner notes about this tune —
“This is a dance tune often done at night festivals in Brittany. It has words which tell a story of a ten year old boy who tries to impress all the pretty girls in the town with a song and a gift of the eels he caught. ‘Je n’avais pas dix ans que je pêchais l’anguille pour en faire un présent à toutes ces joiles filles. Assis de sur un banc, je leur parle d’amourettes et je les divertis avec mes chansonnettes’ “
My light-and-gourd-adorned C whistle and I joined forces with other galactic instruments in an Earthen tribute to Figrin D’an and the gang. On Halloween night we roamed the Mission and burst into restaurants and bars playing Modal Nodes classics. And as if Bith masks and light up instruments weren’t fun enough on their own, we were accompanied by the groupie presence of many Lucas-like creatures and other unexpected assorted characters such as Giant Cockroach and Kenny G.
i wrote these two pieces for a party i’m going to tomorrow. they are loop based and computer generated – no acoustic instruments or MIDI input. i think i am falling in love with garageband again, especially the World Music Jam Pack.
nordic backroads kalimba: