It’s several years since I picked up my classic, but this weekend I finally got around to restringing it. When the strings had settled, I did some noodling that evolved into a pseudo-classical thing that I finally put down as an MP3. It has one or two rough spots, but I think I might edit it a little and use it as soundtrack for a video at some point.
I don’t have technical skills to generate sophisticated animations and such, and I’d rather not flood the world with too many live videos of variable quality. But some recordings seem to fit OK with a series of photographs. Well, to my ear and eye, anyway. ‘Painting the Desert’ is actually an improvised slide guitar piece accompanied by photographs from a drive through the Painted Desert in Arizona, from when we followed up a work trip to the Bay Area and San Diego with a version of the Grand Circle Road Trip including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, as well as Sedona, Oak Canyon and so on. I have a feeling that I’ll eventually find a use for some of the photos from those attractions, too. In the meantime…
A lengthy piece that combines my guitar solo ‘Swifts’ with my setting of a poem by W.B. Yeats – ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’. Unfortunately, the guitar is poorly recorded in places.
For this more recent version, the guitar sounds better but it’s not the best I’ve ever sung it. And there are some bits of the guitar part in the older version I like. I guess the answer is to have yet another shot at it, but in the meantime…
And here’s the poem.
The Wild Swans at Coole
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?
Music (c) David Harley, who played acoustic guitar, resonator guitar and electric guitars through the magic of overdubbing. Both electric guitar parts feature a Line 6 Variax. I can’t remember what guitar the first electric voice emulates, but the second was a Coral Sitar emulation. Photographs (c) Jude and David Harley: mostly from Stonehenge and York.
Not often I do a genuine(-ish) folk song… (It sounds composed, maybe in the 19th century?) Instrumental version of a song collected by Carl Sandburg in Missouri. Combines two close variants of the tune. He apparently called it The Sad Song, which indeed it is.The words are the subject of much discussion on Mudcat: maybe 19th century, maybe significantly older. The tune reminds me slightly of The Furze Field, but I think that’s a little too upbeat to go from one to the other.
Guitar and resonator guitars are all me. Isn’t technology wonderful?
While I’m often accused of trying to sound like Bert Jansch, it was actually Dav(e)y Graham I wanted to sound like before I realized I was a better songwriter than guitarist and concentrated on the songs instead of instrumental technique.
‘Blues for Davy’ is a short guitar piece I used to play a lot in the 80s, trying to get some of that jazz feel that informed so much of what he did, though it was actually quite a formal piece. This is an extended version with a lot more improvisational content. While I don’t think my rheumaticky hands will ever let me call myself a jazz guitarist with any degree of conviction, it worked much better than I expected, especially for a spur-of-the-moment one-take version. I might come back to it adding a second guitar at some point.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to play it live, though.
Copyright David Harley, 1976. All rights reserved.
‘Carpentry’ is an instrumental version of my setting of a poem from ‘A Shropshire Lad’, ‘The Carpenter’s Son’. The song was originally intended to be sung unaccompanied, but it somehow developed a guitar accompaniment with a slight Middle Eastern/North African/desert lute feel, and the first section is very much based on that.
The faster second section was meant to sound more medieval, and includes overdubbed dulcimer and bouzouki. Cittern would have been more appropriate, perhaps, but I didn’t have one to hand. 🙂 Strangely, it seems to have finished up sounding a bit like the Philip Glass Ensemble (but with much less time between pattern changes), but I like it.
Here’s the same instrumental preceded by an unaccompanied version of the song. The vocal was recorded in the 80s on domestic equipment, so a bit noisy and sibilant, and faster than I’d do it now, but the voice was in better shape then, so maybe worth a listen…
Here’s an early vocal and guitar version: it’s a bit tentative on the vocal because the guitar was quite demanding (it still is!) and I was still experimenting.
I still need to put a version together with a vocal I’m happy with.
And here are the words, since we may as well have the whole thing in the same place…
`Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.
`Oh, at home had I but stayed
‘Prenticed to my father’s trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.
`Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.
`Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So ’tis come from ill to worse.
`Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same’s the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.
`Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.
`Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.’
This guitar piece started as a sort of fake Irish air in DADGAD but somehow became a slide guitar piece in Csus2 tuning (if I remember rightly), by way of one or two other tunings I can’t remember right now. Or maybe the slide version came first. Anyway, I can’t quite decide which way I prefer it. But there’s no reason I can’t keep them both in the repertoire (though I’ll need to practice them a bit before I do them in front of a real audience again).
Here’s the slide version, which acquired the title ‘Fainter Fahey’. Not that I’m as well acquainted with John Fahey’s work as I ought to be, but when I played the first demo version back, it reminded me vaguely of ‘The Death Of The Clayton Peacock’, even though the tune and tempo are completely different.
Here’s the other version. It didn’t have a title originally, but it’s now called ‘Faintly Fahey’ because it’s pretty much the same tune as the other, but not very Fahey-like bereft of its slide context.
Having tried heavier bronze strings on my resonator, I found myself trying for something a little different in the way of a slide instrumental. This doesn’t have a title as yet and will change as I get to know it, but I really rather like it as it is.
Just played into a microphone: nothing subtle in the way of manipulation, and I haven’t yet tried connecting it via its pickup. It’s a Gretsch Bobtail, if anyone cares…