If you follow Robert Frost’s Banjo at all, you’re familiar with Eberle’s writing as well as with her skills at musical composition. Eberle is a true multi-instrumentalist: she’s a proficient pianist, harpsichordist, marimba player, drummer, flautist, melodica player, bass player (both electric & upright), Appalachian dulcimer player, & has turned her hand (invariably with good results) to everything from banjo ukulele to cello. She has a love for quirky instruments as well, & plays a mean kazoo & slide whistle!
But Eberle has often said that she is much more happy as a composer than as a performer, & her compositional skills are formidable. She wrote much of the material in the Alice in Wonder Band’s repertoire, wrote the score for a dramatic production of Antigone, wrote much of the scores for two silent movies she & I composed & performed as the Bijou Orchestrette (the films were both by Nell Shipman: Back to God’s Country & The Grub Stake), & has written all or part of the scores for a number of dramatic productions, from Under Milkwood to The Second Shepherd’s Play. These days her musical skills are much caught up with her newfound Catholic faith, & she has written a number of works in this direction.
Today’s composition, which I adore, is from a soundtrack to a dramatic adaptation of Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories. Let’s see what Eberle has to say about her piece, “Rootabaga Hoedown”:
I enjoy inventing ancient music. When John and I were writing and recording music for a production of Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories, I wrote some ancient Americana – a hoedown for psaltery and bouzouki. John gave me the beautiful psaltery and I’d been wanting to write a song for this exotic creature for some time (John or the psaltery…? you decide!) The bouzouki came from a chapter of my own ancient history – when I was 14 my family came home with this instrument from a trip to Greece, and I hadn’t thought about it for decades until my mother gave it to me not long before the Rootabaga project. I don’t think it’s an instrument of great value, but it sounded very cool – John had been playing it and I loved the sound. At that time, we only had a Sony MiniDisc (no multi-tracking) but I had a very particular idea for the sound of the hoedown and I wanted to play both parts. So I recorded the bouzouki part and John put it on a CD – then I played the psaltery along with it and recorded the whole thing in John’s cave-like sitting room, a perfect ancient setting!
I know you’re going to love this one!