…as if song and prayer were paths life would follow back to land – Linda Hogan

January 12, 2016

My most profound musical memories are of playing in large ensembles and I was lucky to have been able to sing Vivaldi’s Gloria in high school. Privileged to have played through a Beethoven’s third Symphony later that same year. Reflecting upon this, the fact that all of my previous recording projects have included various musical groupings is not surprising. They might be seen as attempts to recreate those profound musical experiences that happen in an ensemble setting.

Old Wood – New Seeds is my first project that presents only guitar solos. It started with re-imagining a renaissance piece, a joyous bouncy work that ended far too quickly, a work that one would play five times in a row at background music gigs. My challenge was to compose something in the same style that lasted four minutes rather than forty seconds. A couple of weeks later I carried my dog down to my studio after his second bout of canine vestibular syndrome. As always, he lay beside my practice chair and as I picked up my guitar I thought about how the vigour and devotion with which he lived had been tamed. I thought about his end being near and a sad pavin came out through my hands. Certain musical feelings are best expressed in the solo realm.

A few months later I was reminded of the exhilarating music of Kolinda, a Euro-folk group popular in France during the 70’s and 80’s. Finding a song they had arranged, I asked myself to recast it expressing the many hours of pleasure remembered. This was fun, but wound up taking over a year to find the way to capture those sentiments. The work grew to include another when I found a prayer from the same fakebook that was in a mode similar to double hijaz. I have toyed with that mode for a couple of decades and it is in several of my pieces. I found that these two works needed one to close out the suite and I set about composing a fast Bulgarian style dance piece like one I had commissioned for violin and guitar.

I have composed several pieces in altered tunings on my steel string guitar. That instrument allows for retuning whereas the classical will tend to be out of tune for a week when altered extensively. I found a capo that would fit over three strings only which allowed me to compose in the equivalent of DADGAD - one the most popular altered tunings. Fooling around with my new toy, I started thinking about Aaron Copeland’s Hoe-Down from the ballet Rodeo. This was a work that brought popular feelings into art music. It reflected a desire prevalent at the time to blend the two disparate worlds of high and low culture. Our current world needs much the same kind of creation in the arts and with this in mind Appalachian Blue was created. During the same week I received some bad news about a loved one, and my fingers stumbled through the first notes of Appalachian Green as if they were trying to hold and heal. I continued to compose two more works to complete that suite each one mirroring the feelings in Appalachian Blue and Green.
This project is about looking back and forward. The older aged wood of my guitar also contains a dream for a future.