Sunday, November 29, 2009

Darhyl Lyons Benefit

A very enjoyable event with much love expressed for Darhyl and by him. I am privledged to have been included.

I opened this diverse evening with a 30 minute solo set. Felt good playing, part of the crowd was listening, part merrymaking. Expected at a gathering such as this. Saw some old friends and met some new ones.

The set:

Dandelion Wish
August Born
Matka Boska
Scattered Hearts
Livin' the Dream
Gathered Hearts
Dancin' Free

Today was a day of spending time with family and a couple short naps. I picked up my guitar this evening with the notion to explore Frame # 4. I altered my tuning using my new spider capo and began playing notes slowly. A slow introspective motion seems to be present in these experiments & examinations I am calling Frames. I taped this one 3 times to listen and then continue the piece a bit further. Currently weighing in at 2 minutes.

Nice to have a refreshing pause such as this. Just play with my guitar, explore what the muse might have me find, let go of polishing pieces. Learn, love, & let go ...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Frames #3

Thanksgiving Day - a day to pause, reflect, and nourish our seeds of gratitude. Certainly I am blessed with abundance. Family, love, music, and good friends provide me with a life that is so worth living. I spent most of the day with family and loved ones. There was much laughter and harmony.

I found 45 minutes in the afternoon in which I was intending to practice the set for Saturday night. However I began warming up with an improvisation and heard what I needed to hear. The time was spent playing with an idea that appears to fit into what I am calling Frames. This is the third one of which generally will be very short solo guitar pieces that provide a Frame, a window looking in or out. A catalyst for introspection perhaps.

After dinner preparation and a short trip to join family I returned home happy and tired. I did not feel like practicing, but I invoked my two times to practice rule and carried on. My work was not the most spirited but I did what was needed to keep the set list alive in my hands, heart, and head. A small effort, one in a long series of efforts, for which I am grateful to have the time and ability. May the muse whisper to us all today and always.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Small Part

In Guitar Craft I have learned how changing one small part changes everything. This is subtle, something I have experienced in my guitar practice many times before, and I continue to be amazed when I experience this again. Tonight I decided to focus on one section of Dandelion Wish that I play poorly. Has to do with moving from playing lots of arpeggios into playing an artificial harmonic, getting my right hand back to more arpeggios and then playing two artificial harmonics in the 15th position, and then right back to arpeggios.

Since I am opening with this piece at the benefit for Darhyl Lyons on Saturday I need this piece to take off. To do so I need these harmonics to be crisp and in time. I slowed the metronome down to 60 bpm to facilitate seeing what I am and am not doing. After about 12 minutes I could play this reliably. I took a quick look at August Born and then returned to this part again. After a couple minutes I increased to 62 bpm. Played at this tempo for 5 minutes then played through Scattered Hearts. Back to the part at 62, nailed it and incresed to 64.  After getting it reliable at 68 I took a break.

Returning from the break I played it at performance tempo and was able to nail it. Happy I returned to 68 and slowly increased to 76bpm. Once I was satisfied at this tempo I played through the piece with the metronome. I played the artificial harmonics with confidence botht times this section appears. I then moved on to run the set. This was when I saw how this quality of care and attention had spread. The set was well played for 6 pieces. I stumbled a bit in the final piece, part of this was fatigue in my hands, part getting tired overall. A good nights work. What small part shall I focus on tomorrow?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Designing a Set List

I am playing at a benefit this coming Saturday in Takoma Park, MD for Darhyl Lyons a musician who has been active for the community in a variety of ways. Stream Ohrstrom & the Blue Dragon will also be performing music. There will also be a dance performance, martial arts display, a fashion show, food,  and other events. If your in the area this is sure to be an inspiring event.

I wrote a set list this past Sunday consisting of seven pieces, two new pieces and one that I needed to relearn. Playing through this last night I was unhappy with the flow of the set. Tonight I played the first four pieces where the energy seemed to get stuck and listened to her feedback. I now have a modified seven piece set list that is stronger. Need to brush up on two older pieces now, August Born & Scattered Hearts. I dropped one of the new pieces Kinnara, but will retain Dancin' Free.

I am not sure why I was hesitant to include Scattered Hearts in this set. I have always enjoyed performing this piece and has an energy that is different from most of my pieces. I have not always utilized it wisely in my placement in a set and am my own emotional response can be strong with this piece. But for now she sits in the middle of the set. Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Listening II

Today I need to practice listening. Every day actually but some days this is more apparent to me than others.

I need to listen skillfully. Listen without assigning guilt, without judgement. I need to listen while allowing my emotional response(s) to play at pianissimio. To listen to myself listening . To listen with my heart in this improvisation of life while knowing that my melodic and harmonic choices will affect others playing, others responses, and the future of the ensemble.

For now I will sit quietly and prepare myself to listen.

Monday, November 16, 2009


In the early part of my guitar practice tonight I was working with  the Allegro in A minor Etude by Matteo Carcassi as transcribed for New Standard Tuning by Bert Lams. Decided to use this to broaden my fingerstyle technique. A bit distracted at first then I began settling into playing. I thought this is the best part of my day when I sit down with my guitar. But then I said wait I minute I love seeing Joann when I come home from work.

And I love embracing the day upon awakening, and Qi Gong in the morning, and my sitting. Generally I really enjoy seeing most of my collegues at work. And my family. And ... suddenly I realized most of my day and days are truly blessed. I have love, family music, health, and a way of life that sustains me.

So while I was working with the Etude to broaden my guitar technique it rapidly broadened my perspective. Life is very good.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sounds of Life

6:30 pm

Sitting quietly in my living room when suddenly the wind invites a crashing chord on the wind chime. The wind, the chimes, and myself return to silence.

Then the bass sound of a car door closing as the furnace crescendoes into a pulsing drone, the clatter of little feet playing an accelerando on the pavement. Key change as my grandaughter bursts through the door reciting text from a book on tape she had been listening to. Laughter, shrieks, and racket ensues in a post modern Ode to Joy.

8:30 pm
Happy to pick up my guitar as she lays down to rest. Life is very good. Began with ear training and work on Dandelion Wish. Break over. Time to play through and examine Why?

Photo by Ted Andes all rights reserved

Thursday, November 12, 2009


8:30pm EST

After my usual Qi Gong and sitting this morning I left for work. I choose to drive in quiet and take in the leaves and rain for the beginning of my commute today. Then I played some ear training exercises for the final 10 minutes. When I got out of my car I noticed that the rain sounded in a way I have never heard. I wondered was it all the leaves on the parking lot or my concentrated listening with the exercises. I posted this to Facebook and one musician said both. The good news I was present to notice and happy for this intriguing sound.

Various quotes arose to frame my day today.

Photo by Baron von Willig. All rights reserved.

"It is not we who create performance but performance which creates us" (Daevid Allen)

Certainly true for me, but I leave you to ponder this.

From an AT person: Alexander Technique -because we create habits. Are you creating what you hope for in your habits?

And later I found- "A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence." ~Leopold Stokowski

Finally from our book discussion group tonight, the book we are using "you are here" by Thich Nhat Hahn. "Has the most wonderful moment of your life already happened?"

A rich and thoughtful day. Smiling as I remember now that the Tuning the Air team is setting up for tonight's show in Seattle. Now I am off to practice.

10:10 pm EST

Just completed a practice that had joy throughout. I want to say this is rare but these days that my be more my norm. Need to look at this. Anyhow I began with improvising. One phrase really resounded with me and I followed where it led. Called this Frames as this was in my brain from the earlier posting. So far it is short and that is wonderful. Perhaps a series of minature pieces called Frames is in order. Perhaps not. Worked on Stepping Stones,  a new piece that came to me & I am now learning how to play. Delighted in playing through Livin' the Dream and then Gathered Hearts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


We killed a man tonight. We called him the sniper. Easier that way, put a label on him, let go of the name his mother gave him, let go of his pain, his life.

He did horrible things, so many suffered, many enduring pain and loss that is unimaginable. More of us suffered smaller discomforts – fear of gassing our cars, of going shopping, of … living our lives.

So we killed him. Our society, our culture, our fear, all that shaped him, that taught him how to kill.

I do not know the man. Guess I need to rephrase that I did not know this man, John Allen Muhammed. I know he had parents, family, people like us. He was sick and he killed.

I thought of him tonight. Could not watch the hype on TV, just took out my guitar at 7pm, like I hope they (us) would let me on my last day if our fear had caught up with me. After my final meal, after family, if there was any, had to leave. I wrote a piece, perhaps his piece,a piece he will not hear. I was able to get lost in the sound of my strings, listening, following where the notes wanted to go. Grateful I could forget what we were about to do. I wanted to hold what he might be feeling, what I might be feeling if it was me watching my final moments tick away. But then it was time to join my wife. As I put away my guitar I wondered what it would be like to know that I was wiping down my guitar strings for the final time. Closing my case, now a casket of memories.

At 8:45 EST my wife and I quietly sat. Images of ‘the snipers’ acts flowed into my mind. I wondered how he was feeling? What it would be like to count my final breaths … Then I found my breath, my mind slowed; I sent him good wishes. I sent the families and friends of his acts love and understanding. I saw him walking his final steps with our officers of the law holding him, guiding him on his walk with justice.

Again I found my breath. At 9:06 EST I sensed that his life was over as I looked at the clock. I do not know how long we take to kill someone, but I knew that his bowels had evacuated, his blood stilled, his breath no more. His curtain had been drawn, yet we are still on the stage.

9:40 pm EST November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009


Musicians need to listen. Actually everyone needs to listen. The world is getting louder all the time. So tune in and listen:

- to yourself while playing.
- to others you are playing with
- to your muse. For this I need silence.
- to your body (if I did this faithfully I never would have had tendonitis nor would I be so tired right now.
- to yourself while playing via a recorder and then listen to this. Now what do you hear? Do this in a positive constructive manner.
- to your loved ones, the world will be a better place.
- to those you dislike, they have a lesson for you also.
- to learn period!
- to the messages you tell yourself.
- to the birds and the insects, the oceans and streams, the stars and children.

And listen to what you say to others, please listen.