Monday, November 21, 2005

a weekend spent mandolizing

I apologize to you non-pickers about the mandocentric posts here lately. I just happen to be having a renewed love affair with the 8-string, and I'm liking it!!! And, before I say anything else, I have to say this: Mike Compton played my mandolin, and he liked it!!! I may never change strings again! :)

The kids got to spend the whole time in their idea of perfect bliss, that is, video games and hot baths and McDonalds and new clothes from Target, all from their half-brother (I hate that term, he's way more than half I say!) and maybe someday to be sister-in-law at their college town residence. They did not want to leave and come back to their boring parents. I can't say as I blame them, after all, indoor plumbing is SO endearing!

So The Hermit and I, after dropping offspring off, went to a wonderful concert at the Audubon Center near Sandstone, MN, featuring the Whistlepigs (Fred's band) and Mike Compton and David Long. If you don't know who they are, check out the links to the right under Music. The 'pigs are a band to be reckoned with; great instrumentals, tight harmony vocals, and some real songwriting talent in the band. If you saw the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou" or heard the soundtrack, you have heard the mandolin playing of Mike Compton. I hadn't heard of David Long before, but together they did some sweet duets and made me realize the power that just a couple of instruments can have.

The venue for the concert was big enough but still intimate, and the local "greens" came out, meaning that I knew at least ten people in the audience, including my neighbors down the road! I also met up with a woman I had worked with briefly a couple of years ago, and the first thing she said was, "Deb, I love your blog!" She had gotten the address from a mutual friend. Amazing how the blogosphere interacts with the "real world". :)

After the concert we were invited to a party at Fred's house, where Mike and David were staying. The Hermit and I are not ones to stay up past, say, 9:30, but we could not pass up the invitation. There was good food and beer and we got to meet Mike and David as well as the rest of the Whistlepigs. We left some time after midnight, but I'm glad we left before the music began; I hear tell it went on into the wee hours, and it would have been hard to drag myself away once it started!

Sunday was the mandolin workshop. I have never been to anything like this before, so I didn't know what to expect. I ended up learning more than I thought I would. I was a bit intimidated; after all, I've been playing for about twelve years but I don't sound like it. It didn't help to learn that David Long has been playing for a shorter time than I have, and done more with it; but then he doesn't have three kids and a cabin in the woods!

Mike Compton is a great teacher; I felt like I was sitting in on one of the better college classes I have taken. The workshop was not about learning a few chords and licks and how to use them; it was about understanding where Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, was coming from, and what that means as far as musical interpretation. Compton compared Monroe to Vincent Van Gogh; in music, and in painting, they both had an approach that implied the subject, not necessarily spelled it out in notes or brush strokes. And I had a revelation: That is why I've always had a hard time listening to the recordings of Bill Monroe. I've always approached it from a viewpoint of study, trying to analyze the music note by note. But that's like trying to analyze a Seurat painting dot by dot. The dots, or the notes, come together and make this whole big picture; there's no breaking it down. So now I will try to hear the whole sound, and emulate it, not just the individual notes.

There's a lot more I could say. I know a two hour workshop is not enough to turn me into a great player, but it certainly was worth it. Now I just need to practice. Thanks, Fred, for pulling this whole thing together, and to Missy for the hospitality and catering! :)

12 comments:

Rexroth's Daughter said...

That sounds like a fantastic night, followed by an excellent class. What a great way to learn how to listen to music, and comparing it to painting is so conceptually smart and creative.

BTW-- I'm never tired of reading about your mandolin!

Eleutheros said...

Proposed lyrics for Deb's (#1 hit) mandolin song:

"If I'm in the country
Or if I'm in the town
This mandolin is with me
If I'm up or down

I guess some say I'll marry
If I can find a man
But I'll always love this mandolin
As much as I love him."

OK. So I lifted them.

By the bye, I once stepped on Bill Monroe's foot.

Eleutheros said...

And, oh, I meant to add:

I followed that recipe listed under "In the Pantry". Geeze, what a mess! Where'd I go wrong? What's it supposed to look like when I get finished? It's sitting here in two 55 gallon drums now and it's getting pretty ripe!

I think it's some kind of recipe for 'shine.

Deb said...

RD- yes, it did open up a new way of listening for me! I'm hoping to makes some time to practice tonight.

Eleutheros- So that's why he was limping a bit when I saw him! :)

Just let those drums sit and mellow until winter solstice, then enjoy, but beware, it's powerful stuff! As they say here, "Uff-da!" ;)

Floridacracker said...

I guess you are familiar with Buffet's ode to the mandolin,
"Something So Feminine About A Mandolin"?

One of his older songs, but a goody.

pablo said...

I may not have the chance to post a comment tomorrow since I'll be traveling, so let me wish you and your foxy family a wonderful holiday now!

the dharma bum said...

deb... no worries about the mandolin-centric posting. i love it. i don't have a musical bone in my body, but i still really enjoyed this post. i especially found the bit about monroe/van gogh fascinating, as i think the same could be said about the writers i like best. it might seem silly to think of writing as not perfectly descriptive, but i don't think it's possible nor desirable. hemingway (and i'm just using him as an example, there's plenty of writers that i've seen accomplish this) is known for his sparse prose and all that, but where i find his genius is how he perfectly describes much about a scene, person, event, whatever, but he doesn't try to describe the indescribable and leaves that to the imagination, which he knows all humans share, and the feeling of filling in those blanks, or crystallizing what he suggested, is what brings me the greatest joy in reading his work.

happy thanksgiving! i'm thankful for your blog, that's for sure!

madcapmum said...

I like hearing about your musification, Deb! Go on, go on!

peacebug said...

hey deb, have you listened to alison brown? she plays banjo and her CDs are terrific collaborations with friends like bela fleck and tony rice, whose music I see you enjoy. I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of her myself until recently.
...

Deb said...

FC-I hate to admit, I don't know much Buffet beyond Margaritaville. I'll have to check it out!

pablo-Thank you. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

dharma bum- It is interesting, this common thread that runs through music, art, and literature. I like Hemingway's style, although I haven't read much of his work. Were you an English major by chance?
Happy Thanksgiving to you too, and I am thankful for your blog as well. :)

madcapmum-Wow, three new words have been added to the English language as a result of this post: "mandolizing", "mandocentric", and "musification"! And they all begin with "m" as in "madcap"! :)

peacebug- I have not listened to enough Alison Brown! I once heard her do a great cover of Elvis Costello's "Every Day I Write The Book" with Sam Bush. I'll have to try to get more of her stuff.

the dharma bum said...

"Were you an English major by chance?"

egads, I've been found out. :) yes I was and always will be. sometimes I wish I had spent more time studying the world and less time studying how to write about it. oh well.

Dan Trabue said...

Great posts, as always. My family and I went to a banjo/guitar/fiddle/mando music retreat this weekend and a fine time was had by all (although we weren't taught by anyone with the renown of your teachers, it was just old Appalachian players and fantastic).

You know, when I visited Bill Monroe's birthplace this summer and hiked out into the mountainside surrounding it, listening to the wind through the leaves, I could almost get a sense of that you could just let loose and not pay attention to the individual notes but just let the mountain breezes play through you....

But of course, then I sat down and just plunked and sounded none the better. Ah well...