Saturday, December 31, 2011

The March of Time! 2011 in Review

2011 is now history. But what a lot of things happened this year!

JANUARY led off with my annual insult from ASCAP, the royalty collection agency. Each year I fill out an application for their ASCAPlus award, and have gotten it for the past 15 years. It’s their unspoken way of saying, “We didn’t track any of your airplay because you’re just not important enough, so we’ll throw you this bone.” I love these guys. Also, in January, I played a concert at Danby Federated Church, near Ithaca, and got reacquainted with my old friend Ed Enstine. And on the 9th of January, I turned 60.

FEBRUARY brought a lot snow and lesson cancellations. But I was making good progress on my choral song cycle “The Best of Times” based on writings of Charles Dickens.

In MARCH, the church choir was preparing for our Easter music. And it was in March that I made the first of 5 church visits as part of our music ministry outreach at UCC, First Congregational, Norwich. On top of that I played guitar in the pit band for “The Robber Bridegroom” at Morrisville College. What a blast to play that much bluegrass/old-timey music!

APRIL was the month that I finally heard my string quartet played, thanks to Deb Mineo-Devine and students. And I was working hard on completing my “Back in the Window” project. You can read details about that in the previous blog post. In MAY that album was released on CDBbay.com. Also in May I presented my 2-day blues seminar at Norwich High School for the Music in our Lives class.

In JUNE, I was contacted by the Greg Kunde Chorale asking permission to perform the world premiere of “The Best of Times in an October concert; more on that momentarily. Also in June, I submitted a new Christmas carol, co-written with Pastor Joe Connolly, to a contest. I generally avoid contests, but I took this as a challenge just to see if I could write such a piece. This June, my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.

In JULY, I treated myself to a new sound system. I went from 80 watts to 300 with my Yamaha Stagepass system. An amazing machine! Also in July, the CD “Journeys” was released. This is a collection of lovely songs that I wrote with my good friend, Douglas Rose.

AUGUST was really busy with performances. The UCC music department hosted Water from the Well II, with guest composer Joseph Martin. The Chenango River Theater presented 15 performances of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (music of Neil Sedaka), with me on guitar. The Earlville Opera House presented a fund raiser concert “A Summer Guitar Summit” in which I played the role of project director. And to top it all off, I played a noontime concert in the downtown park in Norwich for the BID.

SEPTEMBER was almost relaxing; although there was a goodly amount of guitar lessons as well as the church choir reforming after its summer break. Also, Scott Adams invited me to work on yet another Christmas album for the Logos Bookstore chain with him. We took my solo guitar project “Holy Night” and added some beautiful orchestration, with the help of superb cellist Chris White.

In OCTOBER, I played an art opening at the Chenango County of the Arts gallery. And the Greg Kunde Chorale did sing “The Best of Times” on October 30th at the St. Louis Church in Pittsford, NY. I was invited to give a pre-concert talk on the piece, and it was well-received.

NOVEMBER tends to be a quiet month, and outside of teaching and church music, I treated myself to two new Shure microphones: an SM57 and an SM58. Lovely.

Then DECEMBER brought yet another opportunity to play for the Chamber of Commerce Business-after-Hours at the local bank. That’s always fun. And then of course, the Christmas Eve music, which included the premiere performance of that Christmas carol I referred to earlier, “One Angel Sings.” It didn’t win the contest, but it worked perfectly in our service.

In all I wrote about 65 pieces of music this year, about half of which were recorded, and the other half were for choirs. The search for a workable online distribution for these pieces will be a definite focus for 2012, along with a new vocal CD to be released in late April.

Best wishes for everyone in 2012!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING NEWER


Another new CD?? Yes!!

A friend of mine encouraged me to create a listing of every piece of music I’ve ever written. It starts with my 1959 opus “The Robin’s Song” which I wrote in the back seat of the family car, on a piece of notebook paper. That list is now over 355 compositions, ranging from 1 minute in length to a whole symphony!

My real writing career started just as I was going into college for music, 1969. At that time, I remember watching and listening to my Dad working through the writing process of his choral song “The Lamb” which is a setting of the William Blake poem. This piece took him over 2 years to complete. What any good composer or writer will tell you is that a piece of music, or a book or a poem, isn’t so much written as it is re-written.

As I developed as a guitarist, I began writing instrumental “songs”. The pure definition of a song is a piece of music with lyrics, because a Song implies a Singer. That was easy to accommodate since the guitar had become my musical Voice.

In 1988, my partnership with Scott B. Adams began, and so did my real maturation process as a player and a writer. In 1993, we released an album on cassette called “In the Window” that featured 7 new songs by me, 2 new songs by Scott, 2 songs co-written by me and (bass player) Dan Lovett, and one traditional hymn. This album was never released in CD format, although a few of the tunes were used on compilation CDs later on.

This year, I conceived the idea of re-creating (re-writing) that project. I decided to record my 7 songs in fresh new arrangements, and added one older tune, plus 5 more new ones, and re-named the album “Back in the Window” as a nod to our past efforts. 13 songs that you can make up your own words to, if you like.

The front cover features a photo of a window that stands on a small hill in our back yard: a sort of “Gateway to another world.” You can’t see them, but there really are green fence posts that support the sides of the window; in this photo I managed (accidentally) to lose them in the background; so it looks photo-shopped, but it isn’t.

This CD was recently posted at CDBaby. There you can sample individual cuts, or download the entire album.

It will soon be available through Apple iTunes, Amazon, Napster, Rhapsody and a lot of other internet outlets. Enjoy the music!

Friday, September 30, 2011

NEW CD, OLD CD, NEW CD

In 2001, I recorded my very first solo guitar CD. It was a Christmas collection entitled “Holy Night”, and was completely recorded “live” in the studio; meaning that each song was played through with no overdubs, no editing, and no extra instrumentation.

Earlier this year my friend, and musical partner, Scott Adams, asked me if we could remake this album with a string orchestra dubbed over it. The challenge was intriguing. So we got together and created a string orchestra using mostly keyboard strings; however, to add depth and realism to it, we called on our friend, and master cellist, Chris White.

Chris had played on our “Acoustic Traditions” CD and also the “Moonlight Concert” CD. He had previously joined Scott on two other recordings. Chris is a natural musician, being able to read music and also being a very creative improviser. We needed both those talents.

With charts sometimes scribbled out on a torn off piece of legal yellow pad, and mostly made up on the spot, Chris gave us melody duplications, harmony lines and fleshed out a lot of the chord structures in the keyboard string parts.

15 cuts were recorded in less than 11 hours. By every bit of conventional studio wisdom, that is impossible; but we did it.

The resulting album will more than likely be re-titled, and will be released as a private issue for the Logos Bookstore Association- a non-profit trade association comprised of 20 independent Christian bookstore members- in December. You can find out more about a Logos near you at http://www.logosbookstores.com/
Then click on “find a store” at the top of the page.

Other new CDs in the works include an instrumental collection called “Back in the Window” (due out later this year), and a vocal collection called “New Love Songs” (due out in spring, 2012). Also, the original “Holy Night” solo guitar CD has just been added to cdbaby

In the meantime, I hope you visit http://www.rasely.com/ and also invite other people to “like” my Musician in the Middle of Nowhere page on Facebook.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What the Musician in the Middle of Nowhere Does in His Spare Time

This summer, my music partner Scott B. Adams and I released our latest CD “Country Roads…Beaten Paths”. You can find more information on that at http://www.orchardbeat.com/

Also, this summer, my wife and I built a goat shed, and fenced in the grazing yard for them. This took about 3 weeks to complete. We also re-covered our hoop house. This is what it looks like:

 
It was suggested to me, a long time ago, that I should develop interests in something other than music, just so I didn’t dissolve into a one-dimensional person. Through the years, I found an interest in the Civil War, and consequently discovered that I had two relatives who were wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. I began following baseball again; I had played as a kid and have always loved the game, and now I try to attend a major league game every other year as a vacation.

Another hobby of mine is collecting sci-fi space from the 50s and 60s. The black and white are the more desirable, but the whole pre-Star Wars genre is extremely entertaining. I have over 125 titles now. I found that watching the Flash Gordon serials from around 1940 was very enlightening when I heard that it was the model that George Lucas used. Watching Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope” in black and white gave it an entirely fresh look. You should try it sometime.

When I need a break from all that, I revert to my collection of Marx Brothers movies. I can watch them over and over again and they still make me laugh out loud. Or I lose myself in one of the novels of Charles Dickens, one of my all-time favorite authors.

Between my guitar teaching, my church position as Music Ministry Associate and my occasional performing and recording, I get to do a lot of music. But sometimes, just hanging out with the chickens and the goats is very relaxing. Here’s a video of our youngest goat Ruby “helping” me work on the goat barn.
video

Monday, June 13, 2011

FIRST DANCE


Way back…and I mean Waaaaay back in 1965, when I’d only been playing a year or so, I wrote my first instrumental song. It was called “First Dance”.

The fact is that it didn’t have a name for a long time, but I eventually came up with “First Dance” simply because it was my first tune, and because it was in ¾ time, a waltz.

Throughout the years of recording instrumental music (beginning in 1988), I never had a chance to record this particular song. As I prepare material for a release later this year of instrumental music, I decided that “First Dance” should have its first recording.

The CD will be called “Back in the Window” and will be a reconstruction of all my instrumental songs from the Eutycus Records release “In the Window” which was produced in 1991 as a cassette only. Songs like “Forever in your Heart”, Higher up, Higher In”, and “Was a Man” will be included, along with 2 or 3 new songs.

I consider myself very lucky/blessed to be able to do the work I do. And I hope that “First Dance” will be a song that will possibly get your feet moving. In the meantime, I invite you all to visit my listings on cdbaby which will lead you to all my other CDs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

SOMETIMES "HALFWAY" IS ENOUGH


Over the years, I have written songs that never had a place on an album.

Now they do.

The album is a CD called “Halfway” and is now available on CDBaby as a digital download.

These songs run a rather eclectic range of styles, from pop to folk to country. There’s a romantic ballad or two, and a few humorous songs. All of them are catchy and easy to sing along with. Some are quite emotional and others are autobiographical.

There are musical threads that hold them all together, but the lyrics also have a certain consistency to them, since they all come from the same source, and express my own particular world view. For instance: in the song “Halfway” I try to demonstrate that it’s all right for a guy to say he’s sorry; both “I Love This Town” and “Little Place in the Country” explain why I choose to be “In the Middle of Nowhere”. “Baseball: It’s America’s Game” was my response when Major League Baseball started playing again after 9/11/01, and “On This Silent Night” is a prayer for world peace.

Someone once asked me how I knew if any of my songs were good; I answered that I knew they were good because I had finished them. After more than 50 years of creating music I like to think that I know when a tune is worth completing or not. You can decide for yourself; give a listen HALFWAY

Thursday, March 31, 2011

PLAYING THE GUITAR: A CHICK MAGNET?

I don’t think this is what Dire Straits had in mind in 1985 when they wrote:

Get your money for nothing
Get your chicks for free.

Although…

You do hear it said that playing the guitar is supposed to be a chick magnet. Come to think of it, back in 1966, when I first started to teach the guitar, I had a young lady who I thought was really (REALLY) cute. It turned out that she also had a crush on me. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. Anyway, in 1971, I married that girl, and she’s the one who took this photo. We’re coming up on our 40th wedding anniversary this year!! So…well, I guess it DOES work.

The chicks are all part of Woodchuck Acres self-sufficiency program. Some of these chicks will stay and some will be sold. Dare I say it, some might become dinner; but not today.

In the words of one chick I know: peep, peep, peep.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

PREPARING TO PLAY A SHOW

On April 2, 3 , 4, 7, 8, and 9 I will be playing guitar in Morrisville College’s production of “The Robber Bridegroom”. This is a Tony-Award winning musical from 1974 that starred Patti Lupone. It is based on a story by Eudora Welty, and is completely in old-time country and bluegrass musical styles. This should be a lot of fun.

The music director, Doug Keith, sent me the score and I have started to work on it, thanks to a handy CD that came with it. As always in Broadway scores, there are some strange rhythms, some oddball time signatures, and an occasional weird key signature- what guitar player in his right mind plays in Ab minor???? That’s 7 flats…that’s the most you can have.

Well, my plan is to walk into the first rehearsal at least 85% performance ready. This saves a lot of time for everyone. Since the music is fairly simple, this should be no problem although there are always surprises.

The performances will be in the theater in the student center on the main campus. I hope to see some of you there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

BEST OF TIMES


Charles Dickens was not a musician. You might have already been aware of that little piece of trivia. The fact is, though, that Dickens had a very musical ear. He also had an incredibly cinematic imagination, which is all the more amazing since the motion picture camera wasn’t invented until 25 years after his death!! [FYI: Louis Lumiere is often credited as inventing the first motion picture camera in 1895.]

So what’s all this got to do with the Musician in the Middle of Nowhere??

Over the years, I have read all the novels of Dickens (there’s around 30 of them), and am now reading through them all again, along with a lot of extra material, such as the travel books, short stories, magazine articles, etc. And as I was reading, I noticed several passages that would make terrific texts for music. So I started to extract them, adapt them, and versify them. The result is that I have composed a set of seven choral pieces (SATB) with piano accompaniment that I am putting under the general title of “The Best of Times”.

The seven passages are from The Old Curiosity Shop, American Notes (2), Pictures of Italy, Martin Chuzzelwit, A Christmas Carol and (of course) A Tale of Two Cities.

I didn’t plan on a rendezvous with any particular event, but the odd fact is that 2012 will be the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth. It’s a nice way to celebrate one of my favorite authors.

Here are a couple of pages from “A Small Tyranny” (taken from the first chapter of Martin Chuzzelwit)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO AGAWAM

July 16, 1982 was a ridiculously hot day.

 I got in my car to travel to a small independent church (I don’t have any record of the name). I had talked to the Pastor on the phone and worked out the date and all the particulars. When I got there I found that they weren’t expecting me…at all. They had no idea who I was. The Pastor had no recollection of our conversation. I was about 250 miles from home, and it was about 105 degrees.



Well, they let me play two songs during their evening service (instead of a full concert), and sent me on down the road with $25 in my pocket. I had also booked a coffeehouse called the Lighthouse (!!!!) in Windsor Locks, Connecticut for the next day. They were expecting me and sent me back home with an extra $50 in my pocket.

In 1982, the price of a gallon of gas was around $1.30, which still put a strain on that $75 I made.

Sometimes you take a ride on The Road, and sometimes the Road takes you for a ride.

I look back at things like this (oh, don’t think for a second that this was an isolated event), and I get this strange bittersweet feeling. I laugh because the alternative is too emotionally draining, even after all these years.

The bare bones fact is this: everything that I’ve experienced has helped to get me where I am, and make me who I am - today; and I like where I am, and who I am, today.

Sidebar: as soon as I get the arrangement worked up again, I will be posting a performance of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” on Youtube.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

On Turning 60

January 9, 1951: a day that will live in infamy…at least for me. That’s the day I was born, at around 7:00 pm. And that was (yes!) 60 years ago.

I have developed a few personal thoughts about age and aging:

1. When I state my age, I state it loudly and proudly and put the word “ONLY” in front of it. No matter what age I’m at, it is only a drop of water in the ocean in light of eternity.

2. There is not any real difference between turning 58-to-59 than there is from 59-to-60. It’s still only one more number.

3. Just because a birthday has a zero in it does not make it a “milestone” unless you let it. Milestones are heavy and I choose to go easy on my back.

4. I am only (there’s that word again) 24 hours older right now, than I was yesterday at exactly this time. I cannot age a whole year just because a birthday happened.

5. I do not mind growing older. If I am growing older, that means I am growing, and that is always a good thing. I do mind the idea of Being old; that probably means I am not growing.

6. My goal is to live to be 250 or die in the attempt. If I don’t make it, that won’t be terribly surprising. But if I do make it, someone had better call the Guinness Book of World Records.


Happy Birthday to me, and to guitarists Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Joan Baez, Bill Cooley, Paul King and Dave Matthews. Also, Bob Denver, Gypsy Rose Lee and former President Nixon.