Friday, August 31, 2012

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”

A happy Banjo Friday, friends!

In keeping with the other banjo posts this month, we’re going “classical” again today—but with a twist. Pete Seeger requires no introduction, of course—a great man, & a great banjo player & ambassador for the banjo.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of looking into his fine publication How to Play the 5-string Banjo, you know that he sees the banjo as being able to play a diverse range of music—& you’ve also seen his banjo arrangement of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” the 10th movement from the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 (“Heart & Mind & Deed & Life”). If you’ve ever heard Seeger’s 1954 recording Goofing Off Suite, you’ve heard him play this as part of a singular line-up of songs—from old-time standards like “Cindy” & “Sourwood Mountain” to Grieg’s “Anitra’s Dance”!

This wonderful performance is from a 1963 concert in Australia, at a time when Seeger was blacklisted in the U.S. One thing I will say: if a song has words, you know Pete Seeger is going to raise his voice to sing it!

Image of Pete Seeger is from Wikipedia; Library of Congress photo, public domain

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Marquam Bridge from a Distance

The Marquam Bridge in a zoom shot from the OHSU observation deck
It’s Wednesday, so it must be Rose City time! I’m here today with the penultimate installment in the Bridgetown series.

The bridge under consideration today is the Marquam, & it’s the bridge Portlanders love to hate.  Since we’re on foot (either literally or imaginatively) we can’t cross over the bridge: the Marquam carries Interstate 5, & so is closed to pedestrians.

But that’s not why Portlanders generally dislike the bridge; after all, the Fremont Bridge also carries an interstate highway & so also can’t accommodate pedestrians; & the Fremont Bridge is one of the city’s most beloved & iconic structures. The Fremont Bridge, however, is a striking & beautiful piece of architecture—while the Marquam is mostly a generic bridge that you might find along any interstate highway. In fact, dislike of the Marquam, which opened in 1966, had a direct effect on the design of the Fremont Bridge; the Fremont’s glorious, classic architecture was a direct & explicit response to the Marquam.

The Marquam as seen from the Willamette Greenway

Facts & figures (thanks, Wikipedia): the Marquam is Oregon’s busiest bridge. In design it’s a double-decker steel-truss cantilever bridge; northbound traffic (headed almost due east across the river, then veering north after the crossing) travels on the upper level, while southbound traffic travels on the lower deck.  Again according to Wikipedia, the Marquam bridge carried 139,000 cars daily as of 2008.

There is some talk of doing away with the Marquam Bridge, tho given its importance as a transportation corridor, any replacement would need to be done very judiciously. Oregon House Bill 2032 from 2011 proposed that the Oregon Department of Transportation study how to replace the Marquam Bridge. One idea would be to construct a tunnel beneath the Willamette River, & route I-5 thru that.  This particular proposal is backed by Oregon State Representative Jules Bailey (D-Portland), tho apparently the idea has been kicked around for some time.

The Marquam Bridge from OMSI

The poor Marquam Bridge! It really gets no respect. Mayor Vera Katz in her 2001 State of the City address said, "It’s like having the Berlin Wall dividing east and west, with all the subtle charm of the Daytona 500 smack dab in the middle of our city."

Hope you enjoy the views of the bridge—the shots from the Willamette Greenway were taken during a very pleasant walk along the river this Tuesday—so I can’t say the Marquam has been all bad for me! I also learned from a display at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, that the Marquam affords a nesting place for peregrine falcons, which is cool—tho it turns out that the peregrines much prefer the Fremont Bridge & nest there in much greater numbers.


Panoramic view of the Marquam & I-5 from OHSU

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“My Hero”

[If you’ve followed Barbie Angell’s poetry here or elsewhere, you know that Shel Silverstein is indeed her poetic hero. I love this tribute Barbie wrote to him, & while she never illustrated it, we do have a photo of the man himself. If you’d like to read Barbie’s own thoughts about Shel, please visit her site & check out this post!]

My Hero

The sidewalk’s slowly cracking now.
The attic light has dimmed.
The giving tree gave
all the poems she saved.
The bearded man’s moaning a hymn.

The sun is going down again,
and the rain is coming in.
And we search the ground
for the perfect sound
and we wonder where we’ve been.

What common thought has captured us?
Who pulls the fraying thread?
And what can we say
of ourselves today,
when our bodies are finally dead?

And all of our eyelids are leaking.
And our ears softly beg for a rhyme.
‘Cause all that we need
is a moment to grieve,
in an endless allotment of time.

Where is our singing savior now?
Who took him away from our world?
His poems now rest
in his last precious breath,
in tears of the boys and the girls.

I’ve lived inside his shadow now,
for this lifetime that I’ve had.
And his words and art,
from my very start,
have distinguished the good from the bad.

I pray for a new man to follow,
to lead me the way of my dreams.
A genius of meter.
A brilliant new leader.
As my hopes start to break at the seams.

‘Cause Shel paved the sidewalk for writers,
and the gifts that he gave are unchanged.
And I can’t let it go,
since nobody knows,
how to mop up the tears in my brain.

Barbie Angell
© 2009-the present


Photo of Shelf Silverstein links to its source at

Monday, August 27, 2012

Any Womans Blues #23 – Gaye Adegbalola

Happy Monday, friends! It’s time for another installment in the Any Woman’s Blues series, & we sure have some fun music today.

The blues can be many things: mournful, certainly, as the name implies, but that’s far from the whole story. The blues can also be funny, sexy & even topical—this has been true from the days of the classic blues right thru until today, & one performer who exemplifies these aspects is Gaye Adegbalola.

Gaye Adegbalola first made a name for herself on the music scene in the early 1980s as a member of the group Saffire—the Uppity Blues Women.  Saffire was a real phenomenon, as the group used the blues to tackle a number of feminist issues in their original numbers, many of which were penned by Adegbalola, & in doing so, was able to establish an audience beyond the parameters of the typical blues group. They were the first acoustic act signed by the electric blues Alligator label, & they released 10 albums before disbanding amicably in 2009.

Gaye Adegbalola began to perform & record as a soloist in the late 1990s—her first solo album. Bitter Sweet Blues, was released in 1999 on Alligator, & she has since released four additional albums on the Hot Toddy Music label, including this year’s Blues in All Flavors.

According to Adegbalola’s website, “she is a mother, a Blues Music Award winner and a former Virginia State Teacher of the Year. She now sees herself as a contemporary griot—keeping the history alive, delivering messages of empowerment, ministering to the heartbroken, and finding joy in the mundane.”

Gaye Adegbalola continues to deliver her message of empowerment via the blues—she is an activist for African American, Feminist & Gay issues, & a seeker of justice, who also happens to be a great songwriter, a wonderful singer & an accomplished guitarist, both in the fingerstyle & slide modes.



Image links to the original on the Alligator Records site.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"north country"

north country

and i am something of a north country girl
tannin stained from southern sun
bled and bound by others than you
heading north again on this skyline
with someone other than you
who smells of musk and flowers

my divided heart is keening already
for the over saturating southern sun
warm beer on warm nights
the relentless lap of cursed waves
confederate jasmine and palmetto bugs

mourning the places i left i lose my tears to the virginia wind,
and grieving for the arms that held me
to the soft patchouli fabric of another lover's shirt

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012

Image: Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab. By William Blake, 1795 (from Wiki Commons)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to Find the Ross Island Bridge

The Ross Island Bridge seen from the Springwater Corridor - from an earlier outing!

OK, I get it—it’s not difficult at all to find the Ross Island Bridge; after all, it carries US 26, one of the main arteries thru Portland. It’s not difficult at all—assuming you’re in a motor vehicle.

But I wasn’t on Saturday—of course, these days I rarely am in a motor vehicle, not owning one—& my destination was indeed the Ross Island Bridge as part of the ongoing Bridgetown series. I’d decided to make a real adventure of it—after several days of intense heat, the weather was lovely on Saturday, & I made my way across the Willamette by a combination of riding the MAX light rail & walking, including a stroll across the Broadway Bridge.

That way!
No barrier between the walkway & the westbound lane

But once on W. Broadway, I discovered that the next #9 bus at the first stop wasn’t due for 30 minutes, so I walked on, eventually catching a Portland Streetcar to Portland State University, where I could catch the #9 at a more frequented stop. I’d ridden the #9 frequently last year when I was living in the Southeast & I knew that not only did it cross the Ross Island Bridge, but that one of its eastbound stops was named “Ross Island Bridge.” Obviously, this was my destination.

I digress: the Hooker Street overpass

Except, as I found out to my chagrin when I reached that stop, it wasn’t. One of those Old Vermonter joke punch lines: “You can’t get there from here.” As I was aware, the pedestrian walkway is only on the north side of the bridge, & the eastbound Ross Island Bridge bus stop is on the south side. What I didn’t know: there’s no way to cross Powell Boulevard thru four lanes of very busy traffic. No problem, I said: there has to be a way to backtrack around to the north side.

The Ross Island Cement Company, with Springwater Corridor to the right
Panoramic view north from the bridge: construction on the Carruthers light rail bridge, scheduled to open in 2015

& I’m sure there is—but after a long hike straight uphill in the shadow of the Portland Aerial Tram, I decided that my best bet was to head back to SW Hooker & Powell, where I could once again catch the #9 & head back across the Willamette so I could get onto the bridge on the correct side. This involved crossing the strangely forbidding Hooker Street overpass across Naito parkway, but I survived & eventually found myself on the east side, walking up the long slope that Powell follows to the bridge.

The Ross Island Bridge is not one of Portland’s scenic bridges. It’s functional: a commuter bridge, & also a bridge to carry folks west of the city. & while the walkway is ample, I can’t say it’s a fun or relaxing bridge to cross on foot—as Wikipedia notes: “There is a pedestrian walkway on the north side of the bridge, with no barrier between the sidewalk and the westbound right lane.” 

Portland Aerial Tram Cars passing
Portland Streetcar on SW Moody

No barrier indeed, & lots of traffic. Of course, there was no other pedestrian traffic crowding the walkway & I only passed one bicyclist. There are reasons for this, & it doesn’t simply have to do with finding a way on the bridge!

In terms of facts & figures: the Ross Island Bridge is named after the island that’s directly south of the bridge. It’s a cantilever truss bridge, & as such, the only bridge of its kind in the state of Oregon. The Ross Island Bridge originally opened in 1926.

Ross Island Bridge viewed from the west

The Bridgetown series is winding down. There are only two other public Willamette bridges, one of which is closed to pedestrian traffic (tho I will post about it as I did about the Fremont.) But I think you’ll be happy to know that I went on a scouting expedition yesterday & I believe I have the next series already in mind!

Have a nice Wednesday! May you find all your bridges on the first try!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Love Song Upon Leaving Art Class"

[I love send-ups of T.S. Eliot, & I love love poems! & I love this poem by Carmen Leone!]

Love Song Upon Leaving Art Class
(With Apologies to T. S. Eliot)

While all the other students come and go
talking of tests and Michelangelo,
what if I were to say, the moment being right,
“Maybe we should catch a movie, have a bite.
Just you and me.”
I feel that it might come up casually,
and she might nod (a small nod would suffice)
and I would say, “Tonight?” And she, “That would be nice.”

But what if—while the others come and go
talking of tests and Michelangelo—
what if I’ve confused her joy with mine
and she should redden and decline,
and shrink away and leave me standing there,
humiliated? Should I risk it? Do I dare?

I do not dare, I do not dare.
I’ll measure out my days alone somewhere.
I will grow old, I will grow old,
and cease to wear my Levis pegged and rolled.

Carmen Leone
© 2009-the present

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

Buckley Recital

Welcome to this week’s Banjo Friday! Today we have some more music that fits (more or less) in the classical banjo vein, & I think you’ll enjoy it.

When we think of banjo music in the 1860s, we probably think first of the “comic” & sentimental tunes we’d associate with blackface minstrelsy: “Camptown Races,” “Polly Wolly Doodle,” “The Old Folks at Home,” & so forth. Certainly the Foster tunes & other like them were a significant part of the banjo repertoire. But the banjo was already adapted to other uses within the Euro-American culture: although the banjo as parlor instrument—played by both sexes—is often thought of as a somewhat later development from the 1880s & 90s, in fact, parlor music & light classical type pieces were composed earlier than this. We know this by the existence of books like Buckley’s Banjo Guide from 1868, which contains a truly diverse collection of playing styles.

In today’s video, Scottish multi-instrumentalist Rob MacKillop gives a recital of  four dance pieces from Buckley’s guide (a polka, schottische, mazurka, & jig) on a fretless banjo strung with gut strings. It’s a wonderful sound & a great performance by a musician who is not only a banjo virtuoso (both 5 & 4 string varieties), but is also a master classical guitar player & lutenist, & who branches out into the ukulele, the vihuela & the medieval guitar!

Of course by 1868, the banjo was not exclusively a fretless instrument as it had been in origin—in fact, the illustration on the cover of Buckley’s Banjo Guide shows a fretted instrument. But the fretless certainly remained in common use until the true mass production of banjos started in the 1880s & beyond.

Mr MacKillop has published a book entitled Early American Classics for Banjo, which contains arrangements of pieces similar to these. You can find out more about this & more of his ventures into classical music on the banjo at his website dedicated to this subject.

In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful music!

Image links to its source at MacKillop's Classical Banjo site

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


[There’s a bit of Wonderland & a bit of nightmare in Barbie Angell’s poem “Kenny’s”—& the most unusual items appear on the poetic menu!]


Serve up Laughter on the plate.
Force it all to mind the Fates.
Scramble Brains and fry your Mind.
Frozen seconds chill the Time.
Steaming cups of sacred Truths
fill the hands of misspent youths.
Grab a slice of Humble pie
topped with chocolate Alibis.
Eat your Thoughts and swallow Cries.
Attempt caloric suicide.
Dive into your own Regrets.
Live in all you can’t forget….

“I’d like a life that’s medium rare
with a sprinkle of Hope and a side of Fear.”
“Does the Whine list cover all complaints?”
“Are your spirits sinners or are they saints?”
“Does True Love come with every meal?
Or is it just a special deal?”
“Is Karma included with a tip?”
“Is there any way I could get a grip?”

This is your Life with a side of fries.
The special today is sauteed Lies.
We offer a bottomless cup of Smiles,
so come and hang out for a while.
We’re on the corner of Beginning and End,
so come on out and bring a friend.
When Dreams and Chaos coincide,
this is where to come and hide.

Barbie Angell
© 2009-the present

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Texas Blues #4 – Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson

Happy Monday, friends. We’re here with a new edition of the Monday Morning Blues, & as we’ve been doing lately, we’re taking a trip to the Lone Star state for some Texas Blues.

 “The blues” covers such a diverse range of music; indeed, it’s used as a catch-all phrase for much of early 20th century African American music, ranging stylistically from the east coast ragtime-influenced stylings of Blind Blake to the deep south one-chord modal music of King Solomon Hill; from the banjo & jug driven sound of Cannon’s Jug Stompers to the heavy slide sound of Son House & others in the Mississippi Delta region. In addition, we tend to categorize African American sacred music from this time period in with the blues, so that for instance Reverend Gary Davis is found in the blues music racks, & Blind Willie McTell’s “I Got to Cross the River Jordan” is generally packaged right along side “Mama Tain’t Long fore Day” or “Brokedown Engine Blues.” Thus, one of the greatest of the early gospel singers & musicians, Blind Willie Johnson from either Brenham or Temple, Texas, is generally classified as a “blues” musician, tho his repertoire, at least based on the 30 sides he recorded between 1927 & circa 1930, consisted solely of spiritual or gospel songs.
 Johnson’s biography, insofar as it’s known to us, is a harsh tale of a hard life. Apparently blinded at age seven in an incident of appalling child abuse, he mostly made his way in the world as a street singer & preacher. He settled in Beaumont, Texas & sang & preached there (presumably there was no actual distinction between his singing & his preaching.) Johnson was married to Willie B. Harris, who sang on some of his records, & may later have been married to Angeline Johnson; but no marriage licenses have ever been discovered. Not too much should be made of this fact, since official record-keeping on the southern African-American population was not very painstaking in the first part of the 20th century.

ohnson’s home in Beaumont burned in 1945, & because he was a pauper, he continued to live in the burned-out house until he died from malarial fever later that year at age 48. Angeline Johnson tried to bring him to a hospital, but he was refused admission—reports vary as to whether this refusal was because he was black or because he was blind.Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” is a song about the Crucifixion. Johnson hums & moans, while playing some of the most beautiful slide guitar you will ever hear. The song is played in open D, & it’s reported that Johnson used a knife as the slide—not an uncommon practice in those times. In 1977, Johnson’s 1927 Columbia recording of the song was chosen as one of 27 pieces of music (along with various natural sounds) to be placed on a recording on the Voyager Golden Record to be sent on the Voyager spacecrafts into deep space.  Carl Sagan, who was among those who chose the selections, said “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was selected because "Johnson's song concerns a situation he faced many times: nightfall with no place to sleep. Since humans appeared on Earth, the shroud of night has yet to fall without touching a man or woman in the same plight."

The song also served as the basis for Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Wim Wender’s film, Paris, Texas. Cooder has called this "the most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music."

A special piece of music & a transcendent performance indeed.


All images link to their source
Image of Blind Willie Johnson is from According to Wikipedia, which uses a cropped version of this image, the photograph is in the public domain
Image of the 1927 Columbia "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" record is from Wikipedia. They claim fair use
Image of the Voyager Golden Record is from Wikipedia. This NASA image is in the public domain

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Photo of the Week 8/12/12

Statue at the Albina-Mississippi MAX Station
N Interstate Ave, Portland, Oregon
Saturday 8/11/12

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Rampi Rampi"

A happy Banjo Friday, friends! As the next in this recent series of short & sweet entries, I have another great banjo performance for you today.

If you’ve followed Robert Frost’s Banjo for a while, & especially the banjo-related posts, you know that I admire Cathy Moore’s playing a good deal. There have been several posts about her on this blog, & in addition to the link above, which leads to her fine Banjo Meets World blog, I’d also encourage you to visit her YouTube channel, where you’ll find not only other fine performances, but also some great instructional videos—including a video on how to play today’s tune!

Of course, “Rampi Rampi” (AKA “Rompi Rompi” & "Çadırımın Üstüne") is pretty far from your typical banjo repertoire—it’s a Turkish song for accompanying belly dance, & it’s in 9/8 time. 9/8 does come up some in western European music, specifically in Irish jigs like “The Rocky Road to Dublin,” but it’s not a meter you’d associate with the banjo & especially the banjo played clawhammer style—clawhammer is traditionally associated almost exclusively with 2/4 or 4/4 time. But one of Moore’s strengths as a musician is her ability to adapt the clawhammer technique to unusual time signatures, which she does with great effectiveness & musicality on several eastern European & Middle Eastern tunes she’s adapted to the banjo.

Very fun indeed! Hope you enjoy this wonderful tune, & have a happy Friday.

Image links to source on Wiki Commons. The image is titled "Almeh du Caire - 19th century Egyptian dancer" by Frederic Goupil Fesquet (1806-1893); image is public domain.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"two fingers and a promise"

[I’m extremely pleased to add a new poet to the wonderful list of contributors here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. Mairi Graham-Shaw is a writer with a deeply poetic sensibility & a fearless inventiveness. Please join me in welcoming her!]

two fingers and a promise

i cannot tell you
how we speak
without words
and as a poet
should deny the possibility

it came from her
like water from a rock

blessed are you, child
a maker of peace

she spoke without quotation marks

the metaphor she used was sexual
like peace could be some sticky secretion
staining my sheets
like i could coax it out
with two fingers and a promise

the light swooned around her
and clung to her
like she'd pulled down the sulky luminescence
of an almost rainy day
for her gown

blessed are you
whose blood spills out on the ground

the angels were so high above
as to be irrelevant
holding up the molding of the sky
grey winged as clouds

but their falling feathers burned
still hot to touch when they fell
ashy, on my shoulders

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bridges & Roses & Trains & an Aerial Tram

MAX Green Line train crossing the Steel Bridge

A reflective Rose City Wednesday—no adventures or outings to recount. Not that the past week was devoid of outings & even adventures in my modest understanding of the word, but rather that I’m taking this opportunity to commemorate a point in time. As of Sunday, I’ve lived in Portland for a year.

Fountain & Roses - Peninsula Park

As those of you who know me are aware, the move—tho a deep adventure in the strict sense of the word—wasn’t an adventure in the sense the word is often taken nowadays: something that’s fun. No, the move came from a certain necessity, as a long-term relationship sadly came to a close, & a future I’d never really anticipated suddenly became my reality.

Fence Art SE Francis St

Looking back on my first weekend here (August 5th was a Friday in 2011), everything that happened seemed a bit surreal—events in a dream, taking “dream” to be neither positive nor negative, but simply indicative of disorientation, presenting situations in which even the expected becomes novel & deracinating.

Shops on N Mississippi Ave
But I’ve adapted. While friends generously opened their home to me as a temporary living space, I was able to find a place of my own in just under four months—which was a pleasant surprise, since I’m on a fixed income & was seeking subsidized housing. The waiting lists are long, but I was fortunate to find a wonderful place in North Portland just a couple of blocks from the thriving Mississippi Avenue scene—& coincidentally, also a couple of blocks away from a major bus line, which is crucial to me as someone who relies solely on walking & public transit to get around. During the better weather, the Overlook Park MAX station is also a reasonable walking distance.  

Portland Aerial Tram seen from SW Moody

My somewhat complicated medical needs are being addressed here; each Friday I make my trek by train & streetcar & aerial tram to Multnomah Pavillion at Oregon Health & Science University. I’ve not had as much success finding guitar students as I hoped, but fortunately I’m eligible for some assistance programs that make that much less critical. & I have had the chance to play out four times in the course of a year, all at the wonderful Bare Bones Café as part of their First Friday art & music series. 

Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms in June

Portland is a beautiful & livable city: I love the public transit here, & I love the profusion of flowers & greenery; I love the many & diverse bridges & the walks by the Willamette. A friend who recently moved here noted that Portland reminds her of Charlottesville, Virginia, where we both went to graduate school. At first the remark surprised me, but yes, there is something of the college town in its funkiness & the quaintness & character of the various neighborhoods. But still, it has most of the big city amenities, & some of them in profusion: a major foodie scene, for instance, as well as a thriving music scene.

Downtown skyline from the Broadway Bridge

This is home now. It’s not what I expected, & there’s still much I need to do. The daily challenges are never put to rest—they are the very stuff of life. But this is the place where I’ll be meeting them. 

Iconic Portland Sign from the Burnside Bridge

By the way, poetry lovers: stay tuned tomorrow as we introduce a new Poet in Residence to Robert Frost’s Banjo. I’m happy to let you know that poet Mairi Graham-Shaw will be joining the regular contributors here! Her poems will be appearing every other Thursday, starting tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


[At their best, Carmen Leone's poems are understated, gently humorous, & transforming the everyday—here's a wonderful example]

Somewhere among the coffee cups,
among the coloring books,
beyond the dishtowels
and around the rocking chair
where the remote lay wedged in pillows,
between old magazines and newspapers,
you disappeared
and left behind a shell
that talked like you and looked like you.
But you were gone.
and when I looked for me
I was gone too.

Carmen Leone
© 2009-the present


By the way: I'm happy to let you know that we'll be welcoming a new poetic contributor to the blog this Thursday! Stay tuned for details!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bach on the Banjo: Cello Suite no. 1 – Prelude

Happy Banjo Friday, friends! Another short but sweet edition this week.

Today’s featured performance is not something I’d planned—indeed, I just stumbled across it on YouTube.  As we’ve seen (& heard) in the past, Bach on the banjo is not that unusual; after all, the banjo can sound a good deal like a harpsichord due to the crisp attack & lack of sustain (of course, the Fleck example involves violin music, but why let facts get in the way?)

This crispness, however, is characteristic of your standard garden variety 5-string banjo. If you’re talking instead about the cello banjo—which is a bit of the rage these days, thanks to the fine models being produced by Gold Tone—then you have a completely different sound. & what better to play on a cello banjo than a bit of Bach’s cello music?

The artist here, Robby Faverey, is a classical guitarist who also takes an interest in the banjo &, from what I can find out (not a lot of online info), specifically the cello banjo. It’s worth noting that Faverey, who is from Suriname, is not playing a Gold Tone, but what he describes as a “self-made cello banjo.” In any case, this banjo has a gorgeous tone; part of its distinctive tone is that Faverey is playing with gut strings, which is typical of the small but passionate group of classical banjoists. For more about the banjo as a “classical” instrument (& yes, Bach isn’t “classical,” I know!), you can check out the website, & even take a look at a number of early 20th century banjo method books—& tho I was a bit disappointed not to find more pdf or Tabledit arrangements from the classical repertoire, you can, for instance, find a banjo arrangement of Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette”!

& in the meantime, hope you enjoy this beautiful performance!

1898 advertisement for an S.S. Stewart 5-string cello banjo ($35!) is from Wiki Commons, & is in the public domain

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

crackedpots in Troutdale!

I’ve long had a fascination with found art & art made from everyday materials & scrap objects, so the crackedpots art show last week at the Edgefield McMenamins in Troutdale presented itself as a lovely way to spend a sunny July afternoon.

crackedpots is a Portland area organization devoted to creating art from recycyled materials.  According to their website:

crackedpots sprouted in 1998 in Portland, Oregon, from the fertile minds of garden designer Tess Beistel and artist Mary Lou Abeln.

We are deeply committed to reducing waste and shrinking landfills. We may be a bunch of crazy, mixed-up cracked pots, but we have a mission: crackedpots uses art to encourage our community to creatively look at trash. Reuse is at the heart of all we do. Think before you throw.

At our art shows, we showcase many Northwest artists who make provocative art from reused, recycled and reimagined materials.

Beautiful stuff in every sense of the word. & because pictures are worth a myriad of words, here is just a small sample of the wonderful & inspiring things I saw!
Sousaphone/pipe/wheel statue

I believe the bodies are the canisters from Coleman type camp stoves

Objects with mosaics

These instruments made from empty propane canisters had a lovely tone!


These rusty tool creatures (inc. next 2 photos) were among my favorites

Hand bags made from old record album covers!

Gear flowers!

Flyball-I was tempted to buy this!

Kitsch statues - amazing!

Temple bells made from CO2 canisters, with hockey pucks as clappers!