Bach & Parachute – Sound & Image for You

Classical guitar

Here’s a video just for you. Cinematographer Andy Bowley was seriously captivated by this billowing parachute at Arcosanti.  I love listening to, learning and playing Bach. Two great tastes that taste great together. I hope you like it.

Prelude for Cello Suite No. 1 for Guitar.  Recorded super lo-fi in my living room.

A Present for You

VCCA Corn Crib interior
VCCA Corn Crib interior

Here’s a present from me to you — me playing Heitor Villa-Lobos‘ Prelude No. 2 for Guitar,  recorded in the corn crib at VCCA on a very rainy day.

Please excuse the misplayed notes, the notes that didn’t get played, and squeaky notes escaping my cranky guitar which was not digging the variable weather.

A personal note about this tune: I always feel challenged by it and midway through the final section it always feels like I hit the 20th mile of a marathon. Not that I’ve ever run a marathon…

I hope you like it.

More Villa-Lobos here.

For more guitar music recorded at VCCA, here’s a Bach prelude (recorded in the silo) and a Purcell minuet (recorded in the field).

Here’s a playlist of me playing classical guitar music.

 

A Gospel Christmas Song Playlist – Listen and enjoy!

It’s that time of year, Dear Reader, and to help you get in the holiday spirit I offer you this playlist of old school gospel Christmas songs. Yes, they are definitely, unapologetically Christmas songs, and not holidays songs. But they are more than that, too. They are lovely songs beautifully interpreted. Enjoy them on whatever level you like.

Many of the songs in this playlist were cited in Robert Darden’s Top 10 Gospel Christmas Songs and Bob Marovich’s The Twelve Classic Gospel Songs of Christmas (not all of their choices were online), with a few others thrown in for good measure.
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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]

Space and Pace

I’ve been thinking a lot about space. Not as in “outer space” but as in breadth. I’ve also been thinking a lot about breath, about the unconscious breath that occurs between sentences, and about catching one’s breath after a dramatic moment. And of course thinking about the cinematic equivalent of these things.

Part of this is jazz guitarist Bill Frisell’s fault because I’ve been kind of obsessed with his music lately, and Frisell is a master of space.

So many of us get caught up in the pyrotechnics musicians employ. We swoon when we hear/see them play dazzlingly fast passages, playing more notes in five seconds than we can count. Frisell is the opposite. He controls the space between the notes like few other musicians. Not playing notes may seem like an easy thing to do, but trust me, it is VERY difficult to do well musically. Here he is playing the Beach Boys Surfer Girl.  You’ll notice his speech is very deliberate as well. Oh, and you may also notice that his tone is mighty tasty. For my money, he has the sweetest tone around.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnDZ7yb5g-c[/youtube]

The director watching the brilliantly and deliberately paced masterpiece, "Early Summer" by Yasujiro Ozu.
The director watching the brilliantly and deliberately paced masterpiece, “Early Summer” by Yasujiro Ozu.

This thinking of space, of breadth, and of breath comes at a time when I’m looking at the previous cut and seeing that I have perhaps allowed too much space in it. I always wanted the film to be deliberately paced, to have a meditative quality, to allow the audience to reflect on the moving image before them as they would a painting, to consider what the subject just said as if the subject had just finished reading the last line of a poem. But I don’t want to put people to sleep. I realize we all have different ideas of what “well-paced” is, but at the moment, I’m dealing with my own notions of well-paced, moderately-paced, slow-paced, and too slow-paced. I’m finding that I’m tightening. My concern is I’ll swing too far to the other side of the pendulum. I could perhaps blame my day job for this; it’s there that I put together tight (that’s the goal, anyway), three- to five-minute videos. But perhaps once I get through this cut, I will swing back and feel the need to add more space. Hopefully, eventually, I will find the right amount of space, breadth, and breath, for me, at least.

Any thoughts on finding equilibrium when it comes to pacing? Care to share the titles of films or plays you’ve seen that were perfectly, deliberately paced?

And just because, here’s Frisell playing a bunch of Beatles (Lennon penned) tunes. It’s gorgeous. About 10 1/2 minutes in he talks about seeing the Beatles on TV at age 12 and relearning these songs now, despite the tunes being in his blood. And then he launches into Strawberry Fields. Stick around for the trippy part, where he employs a host of effect pedals.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO-1Euq2RBk[/youtube]

A Music Playlist!

Finally, it’s here! WordPress has made playlists possible. So here then, in one place, is all the classical guitar music I’ve recorded and placed on the blog. I like to think of them as humble presents for you, my valued readers.

In case you’re new here, don’t expect Andre Segovia. This is something I do for my soul, not professionally or semi-professionally (whatever that is).

I hope you enjoy the music.

And here’s the video, too.

Photo by Sandra Dal Poggetto
Photo by Sandra Dal Poggetto

A Present for You – Music and Video – Brouwer’s Etude No. 1

For all of you who have donated to A Life’s Work, read the blog, liked the Facebook page, left a comment somewhere, or supported me and my work in some way, here’s a wee present for you — Leo Brouwer’s Etude No. 1. Hope you like it.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/90887869[/vimeo]

Video shot by photographer and friend Peter LaMastro.

Special thanks to the awesome Kate Schutt, who re-introduced me to this piece.

If you’re new here, you should know this blog is about a documentary film, A Life’s Work, currently in post production. The director, David Licata, who also plays classical guitar, invites you to support the film. In addition to monetary help (the portal accepts $5 to $50,000), there are many ways you can support A Life’s Work. Why not consider being a part of  the film’s growing community?

Want more classical guitar music?

Karen Dalton and A Life’s Work

Someone recently asked me how I choose the pop songs I play and sing.

guitar grab
Still taken from footage shot by Peter LaMastro.

It usually works like this. I hear a song that I haven’t heard in a while but that I’ve always loved.  This can be a song by Neil Young, the Cure, Galaxie 500,  Johnny Cash, the Beatles,  Springsteen, anything really.  The important thing is the song has to move me in some way, either it has to have a personal association or be gorgeous or be gorgeously bizarre. The internet has made figuring out chord changes easy, so that’s not an issue. The big question is can I somehow make it mine?

I’m very fond of doing fey folky covers of songs that might not lend themselves to fey folky renditions. Prince’s “When You Were Mine” is a prime example. Somehow it works, and I don’t want to brag, but I kind of made it mine.

However, recently I thought there was a song I wanted to play. “Something on Your Mind” by Karen Dalton.

Here it is.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsYHN7eCCtU[/youtube]

The first time I heard Dalton’s voice it was almost too strange to bear. But when I heard this song a second time I began to fall in love with that instrument. Now her voice moves me to tears, this song most of all. I love the lyrics and the melody. You might say this song strikes me to the core.

So I looked up the chords and it was easy enough to play. And I strummed through it, singing it, but it wasn’t right. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t trying to imitate her voice, just as I don’t try to imitate any of the singers whose songs I cover. I sing all the songs in my own weak, slightly off-key voice. But this song, it didn’t feel right.

I don’t  believe that certain pop songs are uncoverable because they have achieved some kind of perfection or because they have some kind of inherent sacredness. So those weren’t the reasons I couldn’t cover it. What then?

Simply put: I can’t make this song mine. There’s nothing I could do with it that would make me enjoy playing and performing it. I would forever be dissatisfied with my rendition, because this song lives and breathes because of Dalton’s voice, my voice would only kill the song. I’m okay with this knowledge. There are plenty of great songs out there for me to butcher. As Dirty Harry Callahan once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

As a filmmaker, I know my limitations. I can’t imagine making a giant blockbuster full of special effects. (Take note Mr. Big Shot Hollywood producer. ) So many things are involved in making a film like that, so many things that aren’t part of my vocabulary or language or voice that I wouldn’t even know how to begin. A Life’s Work, though, is well within my limitations. I may have questions and doubts from time to time, but I’ve always known this was a story I could tell, and that my voice could tell it in a way that satisfied me. (Well, mostly satisfied me.)

What do you think about knowing your limitations? Do you ignore them or acknowledge them?

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel Music or the Blues, Which Came First?

The other night I saw the amazing sacred steel gospel band, the Campbell Brothers. I had seen them before and this time, like the last time, I was standing and clapping and waving my arms over my head for most of the concert. The joy and positive energy their music transmits to a roomful of people is remarkable.

At one point, guitarist Phil Campbell engaged in a little between song banter. To paraphrase:campbell_brothers

We are often asked which came first, gospel music or the blues. The Campbell Brothers believe they arose at the same time, because blues players were playing gospel music and gospel musicians were playing blues. The same people who played the blues in a juke joint on Saturday night  played gospel music in a church on Sunday morning.

I am not a musicologist or music historian, but this makes sense to me. Early bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson made gospel recordings under a different name. And there is little doubt that the earliest blues and gospel musicians were hearing each other play, and likely “borrowing” from each other. [Related post: Blind Willie Johnson Meet Blind Lemon Jefferson.]

Juke Joint Chapel posterBut what appeals to me most about this is the notion that the same person produced secular and sacred music and both types of music moved the body and the spirit, both Saturday night and Sunday morning.

At one point during Phil Campbell’s music lesson he clasped his hands, like some do in prayer, and shook them, signifying the inextricable interweave of these musical genres. I liked that.

Here’s a Campbell Brothers song for your listening pleasure. It’s wonderful, but I don’t think any recorded medium can really capture what happens when you see them live. But then that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtDqv2h_DSA[/youtube]

[color-box color=”gray”]

What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]
 

We Should Listen to Nobel Prize Winners Because They’re Usually Smart

nobel_prize_sudhof
Nobel Prize winner Thomas Sudhof

Popping up all over my Facebook feed last week was a three-year old interview with Thomas Sudhof, who won (with Randy Schekman and James Rothman) this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology. The reason? This question and answer:

Who was your most influential teacher, and why?

Sudhof: My bassoon teacher, Herbert Tauscher, who taught me that the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours.

My voice doesn’t carry the same weight as Mr. Sudhof’s, but I have this here blog so I’m going to voice my opinion. Surprise! I  agree with him  about the value of art education. I studied classical guitar outside of school when I was a teenager. I’d practice one stanza at a time, over and over until I played it well, then on to the next stanza, and the next. At my most serious, I did this for hours everyday day. This was (and still is) how I learned the music. Memorized it, yes, but more than that, this was how I discovered how a certain phrase, passage and entire piece was to be played.

I didn’t just learn how to do this weird thing known as play an instrument (it is a weird thing to do, when you think about it), but I learned the value of working hard to get the details right, and you know what they say about details. Before taking those guitar lessons I was pretty unmotivated and passive. I really didn’t care about anything enough to spend more than an hour doing it. My school work was a chore and I always did the minimum amount to get by with a B. But when I started taking guitar lessons, I discovered that I did have passions and that I could be inspired, and that discovery was a powerful thing.

I learned that hearing and listening were two very different things. That was kind of a big door to open.

When writing and film caught my attention, I knew I had it in me to spend the time necessary to hone those crafts and get the work out there. Learning music gave me that kind of confidence.

So I’m with you Thomas Sudhof. Doug Brown, classical guitarist, was my most influential teacher.

Who was your most influential teacher, and why?

You can hear me playing some classical guitar music here.

[cross posted on ExtraCriticum.com]