June 14th, 2008

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lilting guitars

Last night my little brother and I went to a restored small historic home in McKinney's Chestnut Square to hear an evening of finger-picking style guitar. The two guitarists were local guitar instructor John Wynn and former national finger-picking champion Doug Smith, who is one of the contributors to the Grammy-winning Mancini guitar compilation a few years back.

The audience was a bit over 30 folks, sitting in comfortable chairs in a simple concert space that had once been a living room on a home. The two guitarists played instrumentals in the enjoyable finger-picking styles. This genre frequently uses covers as well as originals, but the point is not the "cover" itself, but the way in which the unique tunings and arrangements apply to the familiar melody. One of Doug Smith's solo tunes merged Schubert's "Ave Maria" with Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love", which Doug felt was an very odd but enjoyable juxtaposition, but I made a mental research note, because both songs of the medley sound to me as if they have a root in "Plaisir d'Amour", although I am not as familiar with the Schubert piece. John Wynn impressed me in that while he was in some senses the "second banana", he proved to be more banana, and not just local peel.

The crowd-pleaser was a version of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" for solo guitar. The Beatles and Elton John arrangements were also well-received. Though all the songs were good, I preferred the originals, because each artist seemed more experimental and unrestrained in tunes written to show off the melodious acrobatics that finger-style guitar-playing can involve. Here's a sample of Doug's work, to give an idea of the style:



The concert lasted a solid two hours, including a small encore. After the first set, home-made desserts and fresh fruit was served.

When the concert was over, my young friend, who is very musical and has an interest in the guitar, asked Mr. Smith if Mr. Smith had any tips for him about music. Doug smiled and said "Practice". "Practice". We enjoyed our trip to McKinney's guitar equivalent of Carnegie Hall last night.
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Cagey House: Soft Cover

I love the music of Cagey House. He's this fellow who works alone with this odd device called a computer in which he has hidden this mechanical orchestra who are organized into a curious soviet called a "software synthesizer". These tiny creatures, in their collectivist way, make an uncanny infectious form of music which zings along with a simple cheerfulness for 2 or 3 minutes at a glance, burbling happily without words with a simple joyousness that life all too often lacks these days. Cagey House songs are always filled with mixtures of melody, robotic joy, thinks, tinks and thuds and bolts and sockets, faux guitars playing over faux backing to a very real audience.

Today I began working with my new Ulead Video Editor program, which I purchased after Windows Movie Maker kept telling me it had to close, with less grace than a third-grader who forgot to ask permission to run down the hall in a matter of urgent personal exigency. I found myself playing with the freeware Pivot Stickfigure Animator, making little simple figures and animating them far too slowly. This became my video to "Soft Cover".
If you're in need of 2 minutes of simple good mood, then let's get all Cagey about it:

Music Video by Gurdonark: Cagey House: "Soft Cover" (2 minutes)

"Soft Cover is available for free download at Dog-Eared Records