Sunday, April 15, 2018

Point of View

Here is something that is simultaneously nice to look at, and nice to listen to:

The YouTube channel fiddlecam.

It's full of videos like the one below, taken from a fiddler's perspective, and in some really lovely locations. This was my favourite, or at least very close in the running, so far; it was kind of a bonus to hear a really good new tune that I'd never heard before (it was composed by the lady behind the fiddle and the camera) in the glory of such a boundless setting.

There is plenty more where that came from. Go have a look and a listen.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fit for Sunday

I had never heard this bit from St. Augustine before--which, if you knew how much of St. Augustine I can claim to have read, would not surprise you at all, I am afraid. But having been introduced to the reflection in paragraph 4 below (starting with the sentence "Because of this. . .") I thought its profound beauty might strike some other readers, as it did me. Two of my favourite things to think about are the notion, the necessity of a thing growing to be exactly what it was made to be (a tall, tall order in the case of humankind, myself especially, if I can say that without sounding all Uriah Heepish), and the impression that, in such quidditas, "there lives the dearest freshness deep down things." A beauty surely worthy of loving.

"We are prohibited from loving the fault in it and are commanded to love its nature." Whew.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hearing Double, 3*

Well, I kind of shot myself in the foot with the whole "it will all be duets" proclamation. As always, I probably want to say more about each selection than really needs to be said. . .and there hasn't been overmuch time to say it. So doubtless there will still be duets and more duets upcoming, mixed in with whatever else makes it onto the blog in the meantime, but I'm not going to insist on a series right now.

This video, though, left me no choice but to up and post it with scarcely any further ado. I really like Daimh, but like a lot of bands (and other things) that I like, I don't know a lot about them. The impressions I've had so far of them incline me to be a bit superlative. With any band that I like enough to post on here, I try to only mention the aspects that I enjoy, and ignore the ones that I don't since taste is a very subjective thing. With Daimh, though, if you catch me only saying good things about them, it is honestly because all I can think of to say about them are very good things.

Their fiddler, Gabe McVarish, for instance, has what I would consider the best Scottish fiddle sound there is. Yes, he does play like he listens to a lot of pipes! It occurred to me yesterday, when I was poking around looking for visuals to help students with bowing techniques that with a sound like that, he ought to make an above-average example of how to bow. So I searched for a video of Daimh playing live, and found this, which somebody had thoughtfully filmed from an angle congenial to bow-observers. . .he does indeed have as exemplary an approach to bowing as one could wish for. But after all of a measure, I was busier enjoying the music than trying to get much practical application out of it!

Nova Scotian Angus MacKenzie, the first piper in the video, recorded what remains one of my all-time favourite albums, Píob is Fidheall  with his brother Kenneth on the fiddle some years back. This performance naturally put me in mind of that, not only for the combination of instruments, but for the vibrancy of the playing. While I might be much more tolerant of blatant innovation in folk music than I was when I was younger, I still prefer the heartily traditional ninety-nine times out of a hundred, and this is both about as hearty as one could wish for, and brought to life with quite enviable skill!

*It starts with a duet. . .

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hearing Double - 2

Here is a classic sea chantey that I've been meaning to post for ages. The phrase "cold Kamchatka sea" gives me chills no matter the arrangement, but Spiers & Boden's take on it seems to bring the bleakness to the forefront--pleasantly so, when you're sitting safe at home and dreaming of cooler weather.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hearing Double - 1

This blog does tend to be a bit heavy on music these days, now that you mention it! Perhaps I will manage a bit more variety before too much more time has passed, but in the meantime, I wanted to catch up on a project that's been on my mind for quite some time. Some of the performances that have most delighted me over the last few years have been the work of duos. For the most part, I'm partial to small ensembles over large ones, preferring discrete threads of melody and countermelody to lush soundscapes; certainly two is the smallest of small ensembles! The next few posts, then, will feature recordings and videos of just two musicians at a time.

 Today's offering is a favorite of mine. "Fead an Iolair," or "The Eagle's Whistle," quickly became my go-to tune on both pipes and fiddle after I heard it in the video below. If somebody springs up with a demand, "Play us something," the first thing that pops into my head is usually this little march. There is something in me that revels in the repetition of the structure and of the notes--a complicated tune it is not, but I find it most delightful.

 All the more delightful, of course, as presented here by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh  and Dan Trueman. The video is a great addition since you can then see some details of the instruments they are playing. The "fiddles" are crosses between Scandinavian hardanger instruments, and the Baroque viola d' amore. So many sympathetic strings, that perhaps, on reflection, I should have counted this as a quartet, rather than a duo.

The voice of the hardanger d'amore has, to me, an exquisite icy quality, something akin to the first glimmer of dawn on a winter morning. Trueman and Ó Raghallaigh use it to excellent advantage on their album Laghdú, which might be an exercise in the claim, attributed to Mozart: "The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between." You can listen to the entire thing on Bandcamp, and, if you like, buy mp3's there. While the style is, in general much more experimental than what I'm used to, it stands as a spectacular reminder that non-traditional is not always equivalent to uncongenial in music. Or, to get straight to the point: I like this album.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Can Sympathize

"Life of the party" was probably not an accusation that was often directed toward J.M. Barrie or A.E. Houseman.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mnemonic, in Ballad Form

Yesterday I had the treat of a customer who preferred to speak Spanish. This only happens just often enough so that my own small share of Spanish is thoroughly rusted over again since its last use--but oh! it makes my day every time I'm allowed to try it! In this case, I was trying to explain how to put a string on a guitar which, fortunately for the customer, was a mostly visual explanation. But there were bits where I needed to scrape up a word, as, I thought, when explaining the necessity of leaving some slack in the string to be wound up around the capstan. I was lost entirely trying to come up with a Spanish equivalent of "slack," but at the notion of winding round, something began to crawl up from the depths of my memory.

And there it was--a mental picture of a steer fleeing into the distance. Around its horns was a rope, and from the rope, tied fast, a saddle was dragging across the teeth of the rocky ground. And as if captioning the picture the timeless advice: "Always take dally weltas, boys, that's California law. . ."

"Vuelta," came with great confidence.

Yes, if my conversation was any clearer, it was thanks to a snippet of a song I first read when I was probably about 12. I don't know that I ever thought it a particularly notable song but for the detail that Texas cowboys tended to tie their ropes fast to the saddle horn when roping, whereas the vaquero-influenced Californians would dar la vuelta, wind the loose end around the horn only after having settled the working end on a steer. In English, the phrase eventually wore down into dally welta, or more simply, dally. At least that is what I recall from whichever book printed this cautionary tale in verse. Younger me was, I am sure, much more interested in the pros and cons of whether one is wise to tie fast to a saddle or not.

I don't think I ever heard the song sung until the Internet Radio age. Looking for an example to show here, I found a lot of singers just gave the moral: "Always take your dallies." Excellent advice, of course, but it adds an extra step in the standing-staring-off-into-space-stage if you insist on using a song to remember the word vuelta. So here, for the sake of linguistic integrity, (and because he is Don Edwards) is Don Edwards:

But I can't help including this one. It's spiked with steel guitar.