Pulling Back The Curtain?

Am I now in a position to reveal to you the shapes and sounds of Nate’s, Hilary’s, Andy’s and Tyler’s compositions? Sorry to be a tease, but nope – We have to wait and see what emerges at the critique tomorrow and then how everyone fine tunes their course from there till the exhibition Friday. I can tell you that each is working on a suite of at least three pieces, and that the overall palette of musical colors is a symphony of whistle, guitar, mandolin, sax, and environmental sounds of the Burren. Some pieces are quite close idiomatically to traditional Irish music, others are not. It’s Monday, beginning of the third and final week of the class. We’re coming off a weekend during which everyone was working pretty much full time on art and music, through the cold rain of Saturday and the brilliant warm sun of yesterday. Hilary, Andy and Tyler have all been using Garage Band on their Macs to build arrangements and document their compositions while our computer programmer Nate struggles with some inferior product on his PC (Mac lovers never miss an opportunity). In case you don’t know Garage Band, it is the free recording software that comes on Macs; its user interface looks just like the tape recorders I used to use – set levels, push record, push stop. Simple. No algorhythms to memorize thank heavens. What a gift to musicians. Garage Band also allows you to easily build arrangements by recording several tracks sequentially – you lay down the penny whistle part, rewind back to the beginning to lay down the guitar part, etc.

I brought along a midi keyboard, microphone, and a firewire interface unit that allows instruments to be recorded with high quality audio, and it’s great to see this equipment being heavily used during the trip. Each composer has gravitated towards his/her own preferred work space – Nate keeps the turf fire going in the top floor of Newtown Castle, Tyler’s sax and low penny whistle emanate from the floor below that, Andy has been working in various locations including a periodically vacant artist studio, and after spending a lot of time in the pretty cold ground floor of the castle last week, this weekend Hilary settled into Andy Howard’s and my apartment for the day while we were out working with other students. There she can produce sound to her heart’s content without worrying about intruding on others’ airspace or freezing.

Tonight we music folk are going to the small town of Doolin down the coast, renowned for the music sessions in its three pubs. We’ve heard that a fine uilleann piper leads the session at MacDermott’s on Mondays. We have to hear for ourselves. – M.A.

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