Studio Journal 1-1-2010

xmass tree 2009Associated Videos
xmass tree 2000"Raising the Tree 2000"
Special Video, 10 min 25 sec, 197.6 MB, Flash Video
sailors daughter live at Florida Folk Fest"A Sailors Daughter"
Live at the Florida State Folk Festival, White Springs, Florida
4-23-2009, 3 min 58 sec, 57.5 MB Flash video

The last two weeks have been busy. Seems I am always extremely busy, but this was pushing a bit. I started shooting video every night, preparing to take down the lights and curtain so I could set up the tree in their place. I was also completing finding, re-rendering, and replacing all the videos that had been misrendered without audio. I was processing footage from tape to computer to DVDs, and clearing video from the harddrives to make room for the promo video project. But a major snow storm was approaching, so I changed my plans, and dropped everything to go get the tree a few days early.

It was a good thing I did. It turned out to be a record-breaking snowstorm that shut DC down for a couple days. snow at 1213I went on my own and got a slightly smaller tree, actually one trunk from a multi-trunked tree, so it had no branches on one side and was a little spare, so easily half as heavy, something I could handle alone and with this seperated shoulder. I was driving north in the dark friday night with the tree on the roof as the snow started to fall. I was lucky to be heading away from it, and know my way around well enough to leave the stopped up interstate and take a secondary road all 60 miles back to Alexandria, staying just ahead of the snow. Literally, as I would slow down to go through a town, while waiting for the stoplights it would start to snow. Then I’d be through and racing north as speed, and leave t behind again. This happened three or four times on the way up. I got the tree off the roof of the car and tied to the side of the van. As the snow started to fall, I set the tree in a bucket of water, tarped it so it wouldn’t be encrusted with snow when I brought it in, and went in to shoot more video into the night as the snow kept falling.

The next day saw 20 inches a snow, a record for a single day and for the month of December.
dulci dvI didn’t try to bring the tree in, but kept at work on the video, shooting for one more night. Though I spent the day cleaning the house and getting xmass stuff from the attic, generally gettng ready for the tree. But the next day, the Solstice, I shovelled the walk and dragged the tree inside and set it up, releasing the ropes so it could relax for a day and let the branches return to their normal places. Our loose tradition is to raise the tree on Solstice and keep it up a couple weeks into the New Year. I kept house-cleaning and transfered the promovideo footage to the hard drives, ready to start mixing down. These videos are intended as basic video introductions to the electric hammered dulcimer, my music, and myself. I extemporized a narration and repeated it from several camera angles and lighting sets, so I can mix them all into a more dynamic presentation. I also shot just repeating the narration silently, to give me the option of adding the narration as a seperate voice-over later.

With xmass just four days away, I bagan the normal ritual of dropping everything to work on slowly decorating the tree. It was beautiful, all the snow outside, the woodstove going strong, touching and remebering all the ornaments, most of which have special meanings and significance, representing past events, people, and places. Some ornaments are set aside, reserved to be hung by specific people as they arrive. It has always been this way. Though usually I would come here in mid December, on tour, driving in from the west, or flying in, with nothing to do but clean the house and get the tree, take those chores off my ma and relatives. So it forms a real continuity in my life, and I have seldom missed it.
xmas tree 2009On xmass eve, we go over to the neighborhood party, held at Ms Mclellands as long as I can remember, which means at least 40 years. There is a strong community here, and this is the major event of the year. I’ll see poeple I grew up with, now with kids of their own, many nearly grown. I held off for a couple days posted the video, "Raising the Tree, 2000", to the webjournal, not sure anyone would really be interested. It was made as a DVD for friends and family, my gift this year, to show them my latest song, and for something to put on the TV during the holiday as a break frm the usual fare. Though of course, for close family it is about us. But I looked at it a couple times and thought that perhaps it did stand upon its own as, a simple, sweet story of chldhood and the tree, the went well with the songs. So I uploaded it and started to emailed the link to people as a gift.

I have made an effort to get out some, though usually with the underlying purpose and justification of getting more video footage. Though open mikes are relatively unsocial events.. not much chance to talk, since I am respectful and listen quietly. And outside this small neighborhood, I am still a stranger. I sent the xmass tree video link to the mailing lists of the major meetup groups I belong to, though I was limited to three every 24 hours by the rules. I also invited everyone to an open house here, inviting everyone to come over and visit, jam, talk shop, or just visit over the holidays. Only a couple people have visited, though the visits were really good, interesting conversation. I am reaching out beyond the music-related meetups to international groups, stemming from my plans to travel internationally, and hoping to network and collaborate with foriegn language speakers. Thgis is the reason for shooting the videos without narration, so I can collaborate with people to add narration in other languages. One of the first steps for the website once it is complete, is to make the core parts internationally friendly, both because I see the internet, and the world, as my main audience in the future, and to reach international promoters and venues to help me tour internationally.

electric hammered dulcimerI was editing the first promo video while listening to a documentary on piano building on PBS in the background. It made me think about building dulcimers, of course. So many thoughts, from the frustration that I haven’t made any progress on dulcimer building so far, really. Questions of how to achieve a greater level of craftsmanship and refinement in the design and building. Wondering how, not to mention where, I could put a real dedicated dulcimer building shop together, or if it is even possible for me. I have so much to do, that the real option may be to find someplace else, someone else, who can build the dulcimers.. from some leading maker like Dusty Strings to just someone who has a woodshop and wants to build electric hammered dulcimers. There is some point where I just can’t do it all by myself. In fact, I am well past that point, so that I struggle to achieve really just a few simple thing, but there is just way more than I can do alone.. just performing is really a full time job.. then add things like maintaining this web presence, or recording, or learning and writing new material, composing, arranging, writing lyrics.. and so much of it is an art, something that can’t be forced, can’t be turned on and off like a switch. Though I can almost always get there, be there, still, the results are never predictable. Sometimes I am just good, good enough, other times I can be great, amazing to even myself, and there are times I can’t even get there. That is art, that is being an artist, knowing that all the practice and professionalism and craftsmanship still depends on some indefinable and uncontrollable part of myself.

Though my shoulder still troubles me a lot, I have been makng slow progress, I hope. Late at night I wake up, partly from the pain, but also specifically to work on it when my skeletal muscles are relaxed. I have been slowly managing to get all the bones back into the right places, it seems, twisting and pulling them into place, one at a time. Carefully trying to keep them in place while stuff heals and seals. I regain range of movement and have less traumatic pains, though I am not free by far. Sometimes I wake up of do something wrong and it hurts me, or I lose all the mvement I’ve gained lately. And all the manipulation of course makes things pretty sore, both in and of itself, and as everything trys to settle into new positions. A couple nights ago I moved the collar bones back in, a big improvement. Though yesterday I was chainsawing firewood, as we were running out and I had it to do. Though it seemed in some ways to help, after realigning bones, the work somehow realigns the muscles better, helping close the opennings the bones made to get out . But it is prety sore this morning. In fact, I need to stop writing and go back to editing, which I can do left-handed.

electric hammered dulcimerThe video came out well. The dulcimer and my hands float in the darkness. While I have got the first promo video basically done, it is still at 10 minutes, 21 seconds. Just slightly too long for youtube, though I can trim off a music clip at the end and come out well within the limit, so it will work, though the clip gives it a more dynamic ending. I can also squeeze out seconds here and there, and then all I can do is find a few clips that are unnescessary and cut them. But that is harder. It is times like these I wish I had a partner to give me a different perspective, as now I’ll have alternative cuts to choose from. Especially because the video is meant for others, not for me, and I can’t tell what information is more important to someone being introduced to the electric dulci for the first time. Should I cut music clip? Should I cut out some of the history, or even all of the history, put that in a seperate video? Well, maybe I’ll be lucky and I can trim out just enough to get under the wire by trimming extra seconds here and there, and a few extra words, a line or two, but really change nothing over all. We’ll see.

It is New Years eve. For me, since I am usually alone, it is a time of reflection, trying to pull back and look at the big picture. I am working so hard trying to make progress that I am constantly having to look at what things, big and small are slipping, where putting it off another day, and another, ends up putting it off another mnth, and then anothewr, and now I have to accept that they have been put off another year. Though I have got a lot done, the CD isn’t done, I haven’t built more dulcimers, and though I have made great progress on the website, it isn’t done either. In fact, I was trying to write everyone on my not that long emai list individually to tell themabotu this blog and the website update, and haven’t gotten halfway through in 6 months. Though all I do is work. I have lists and lists, and keep at it, checkig off one thing after another. I seldom go out, and have almost no social life, and still, I struggle to keep the lists from getting longer rather than shorter, like bailing out a leaking boat.

And now it is New Year’s Day. I take adantage of a day wet and above freezing to transplant a bunch of shrubs, though my arm really hurts today, something in the night, pinching the nerve. Who knows, it goes back and forth so much. A lot of pain this last month, makes me stressed out a bit, day after day. And today one of my teeth started to hurt. I’ve had a trip to the dentist on the priority list for the last year, but was hoping to put it off till I started working again. But I can only put it off so long, unfortunately. Then, to add insult to injury, Premiere started crashing again. It was acting up a few months ago, something to do with the mouse I think, and I had to re-install it. Maybe I’ll try another mouse this time. My neighbors in Alaska called, which was nice, though it was to tell me a certified letter cam from the IRS. Have to worry what that is about. I am quite honestly poor, but they can still take up time and energy anyway, make life more difficult. Perhaps it is because I started trying to write congress and the prez regularly as a civic duty, last year’s resolution. Which I let slip the last couple weeks! All told today was a bit harsh, though it was good to just be outside, digging in the dirt, dealing with plants, not thinking about anything, thinking about everything. All I need to do, and what to do first, what to do next, and well, what I have to let slip. I’ll be getting ready to go to Florida soon, switch to packing, and many things will be on hold then. But maybe I can get some things done as well, down there. At least, I’ll get back to playing, find a street scene somewhere, visit the folk clubs, open mikes, maybe I can even scare up a gig. It is a new year. There will be better days, somewhere ahead. Hopefully I’ll get things over the hump this year. And get out of the studio, back to the wild, back to a more interesting life, and back to the music especially, and the people, and the dulcimer.

electric hammered dulcimer

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