Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the studio and the prairie...

I went back to work on the CD of my gourd banjo music last week, and this time got a good recording of my arrangement of Isaac Albéniz's (1860-1909) famous piano piece, "Asturias (Leyenda)," played in stroke/clawhammer style.  You can listen to it on the "Music" page of my website.  Of course, it is more famous as a guitar piece; I think the most famous classical guitar transcription is by Andrés Segovia, and it is one of the standards of classical guitar repertoire.  I had worked it out c. 1985, but when I stopped playing the banjo in the late 80s, I let it slide with the rest of that repertoire.  I never recorded it.

I don't think the banjo needs to play classical European music; really it is built for an entirely different expression, and a lot of the pieces I worked out in the old days were easy to let go, but a few of them stuck with me, haunting me a little bit--I loved playing some of that music.  When I started playing this new gourd banjo, everything sounded different, and when I played through the bits of "Leyenda" and "Les Barricades Mystérieuses" I remembered, they sounded so gorgeous that I wanted to resurrect them, so I did.  I love playing them, and that's good enough for me.  I have also recorded the Vivaldi Lute Concerto in D that's on my first LP, but I'm playing a different part now.  I worked out the orchestral/continuo part on the gourd banjo, and Richard Kriehn plays the solo part on mandolin.  Again, it sounds so cool--how I could I not record this?!  So, in addition to the Gottschalk pieces (yeah, I've recorded two of them), I will be putting Vivaldi, Couperin, and Albéniz on this upcoming CD.  But I really am not a classical banjo player, whatever that would mean.  I just love playing those pieces.

In other news, it is planting season in the prairie.  After a demoralizing couple of hours yesterday, I have had to revise the plan somewhat.  I am not able to rake the entire 1.5 acres I had planned on raking.  There are areas where evil grass and storksbill, etc, are dying and dead, but the fibers of the plants are still in the soil and raking them out will kill me.  I have resolved to continue watching those areas and let the old grass and weeds decompose this winter and next year, and I will have a much easier time in those areas next fall.

There are, however, several areas--about six or seven--that were like that last year, and now this year it really is possible to rake out that dead stuff (it's still hard work, but...) and reveal lovely soil, clear of weeds.  I've decided to take them on, one at a time, rake them out (Dona helped me today--thanks, darlin'), plant them (native plant seeds generally just get sprinkled on the soil), and rake the dead stuff back over as a mulch.  This is different than the divot method I have used in the past, but divots seem to work only with a few species, and I want to try this method of raking out whole areas.  It was what the Palouse Conservation District people and Jacie Jensen of Thorn Creek Native Seeds recommend, so that's what I'm doing this year.  Here is the first area after Dona and I had raked it out today.

Then I planted...Blue-eyed Mary, Clarkia, Sticky geranium, Lomatium ambiguum, Silky lupine, Indian paintbrush with Idaho fescue seeds, Upland larkspur, and Fritillaria pudica.  A few handfuls of my BFI custom native grass seed mix lightly scattered around too--I don't want too much grass added to this area.  I just sprinkled them on the dirt, and then raked back the dead grass, making sure I put a light cover on everything.  We shall see...