Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Welcome To Our World #1

Recently Kat at Poetikat’s Invisible Keepsakes posted some photos from her work spaces; Premium T. also did this not too long ago; I know other bloggers have done this as well, but sadly, my memory fails me as to other sites where I've seen this—a fault of my recollection, because I'm always interested in seeing this. In that spirit, I decided to take some pictures of our music room & post those here—as you’ll see, Eberle took some, too; & because we got a little carried away, I’ll post these both today & tomorrow. In addition, I’ll be posting some music (with slide show) with each of the two posts. Today’s song is one I wrote last summer as part of our soundtrack for Moominpappa At Sea. I'm very far from a proficient mandocellist (more about this term directly), & the performance has its faults, but I’ve always been fond of the song.

Although I’m usually not at a loss for titles of songs or poems, I’ve always just called this one “The Mandocello Song.” For those who don’t know, the mandocello is an instrument in the mandolin family. It’s tuned to the same pitches as a cello (just as the mandolin is tuned to the same pitches as a violin), but like the mandolin (& the in-between sibling, the mandola—tuned like a viola), it has double courses of strings—in other words, the instrument has 8 strings, but these strings are tuned to 4 notes. Mandocellos aren’t especially common in the U.S.; from what I understand, they are more common in the British Isles. They were more common in the States roughly a hundred years ago when a phenomenon known as the mandolin orchestra was all the rage. I’ve written about that in the past—those who are interested can find more about the mandolin orchestras here.

Hope you enjoy this tou
r & the song. Tomorrow’s post will feature a fantastic solo piano piece by Eberle, so be sure to stay tuned.

Tip Chick is our busking companion; we found her in the bargain bin at Rite-Aid after Easter some years back.

The music room ceiling was designed by our contractor, Bob George, who is himself a talented musician (clarinet, guitar & mandolin). Bob's theory was that breaking the plane of the ceiling surface would cut down on sound reflection (especially since we have concrete floors for our lovely radiant heating). This helps the overall sound of the room for recording. Plus, it looks fantastic.

On a similar principle, Bob "cut the corners" of the room with closets. 45 degree angle corners also can be very sound-reflective; & the closets give us lots of cool storage space: everything from guitar cables to a toy piano!

This painting of us was done by our dear friend, Margot. She painted it directly on the wall as a housewarming gift. The picture is adapted from a publicity shot of Eberle & I as the Bijou Orchestre
tte, tho that photo didn't have Eberle in a medieval gown or a llama in the background. We love the painting, which is flanked by two Fluke brand ukuleles: a concert scale uke on the left, & a tenor scale uke on the right

Our "boss" Boss workstation (i.e., recording device) with various accessories ranging from Eberle's trumpet kazoo to to a pencil sharpener. The duct tape is for taping mic cables to the floor during recording

Now we're getting down to cases: from left: a 1980s Washburn (my first guitar!); my current mainstay, a Regal resonator guitar; & my well-loved '58 Harmony Master

Two lovely ukes: the smaller is a Beltona tenor resonator uke (all the way from New Zealand, it was Eberle's gift to me on my 50th birthday; what a present! & a very nice Lanikai koa baritone

Yours truly holding forth on the old Harmony. Eberle took this pic & the one up top, which is me playing our old Windsor open-back banjo.


  1. That picture painted directly on the wall is so interesting. I love that. Thank you for your comment on my blog about spirituality. I enjoyed reading your thoughts - and so did my mom - who stalks my blog! Ha!

  2. So cool!(I can't stay away - should be out and about, but I'm here again.)
    The music has a madrigal quality about it with those plucky strings.
    I LOVE that painting on your wall - it's adorable, especially the llama.
    So interesting to see your world - indoors and out.
    Tip Chick is great!


  3. Thanks Jen & Kat: we love that painting & we do get a lot of nice comments about it from students & guests. Kat: we adore Tip Chick, & she's brought a nice amount of "mad money" our way over the years.

  4. Wow, you've got some interesting and beautiful stuff here. I'll be back when I can browse longer.

  5. This was fun! Margot's painting is especially nice. I feel I know you a bit better now. :^)

  6. Angie: Glad you stopped by & hope you make your way here again-- I took a look at Gumbo Writer & also will check it out more fully when I have a bit more time.

    Willow: Thanks for your gracious comments!

  7. These pix are great, as is the video.

    There's an ex-pat singer/songwriter named Dan Reeder who makes all of his instruments and electronics. Unfortunately, there are no pix on his website, although there are in the CD booklet.

    Also, there is a very talented singer-songwriter out of Boston named Melvern Taylor who uses the uke as the basis for his arrangements. Fabuloso is an excellent CD. He has a new one that I haven't heard. He's a wry. folkier version of Marshall Crenshaw.

  8. K:

    Both of those guys sound good (in Taylor's case, the whole band sound). Reeder's homemade gee-tar looks & sounds sweet.


  9. The first time I listened to your song, I wasn't sure what it evoked. I just knew that I liked it. The second time, I got it - Fado. The lovely melancholy of your song is reminiscent of Fado.

    I am (or was) a singer, and I regret that I never learned to play an instrument that wasn't me. Thank you for sharing your music, John.

  10. Thanks Sandra: Glad you liked the music. It is a rather melancholy piece; not familiar with Fado, but looked it up on W'pedia & it sounds quite fascinating.

  11. Thanks for the mention, and I should note that the workspace that appeared on my blog is the space where I work for pay (ie, job), as opposed to my real workspace, which is primarily at my kitchen table.(Which also usually involves a cat or two.)

  12. Oh!! You have a steel drum! Very cool.

  13. Hi T.: Thanks for stopping by, & for clarifying.

    Hi Reya: Yes, the steel drum was made in part by our dear friend Dani Leone-- I can't recall the name of the fellow she assisted; she has made others on her own since.


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