February 23, 2008
Since starting this blog I have been observing the statistics to see if a single-topic blog would attract more readers than a scattered journal-like blog. What has struck me is that, not only has this blog grown much faster than my Mindsigh one on Lostbiro, but that the stats also provide immediate (okay within a day or so) feedback on whether or not a particular kind of post works better than others.
So what has this to do with music? Well, just like McDonalds is more about real-estate than fast food, so too, blogging is more a form of busking than journalism. How would I know? About thirty years ago when I was learning to play fiddle I campaigned in Adelaide to get busking legalised – and when it was I received busking licence number ten.
The thing about busking is that it is one of the best (and most brutal) ways to learn about performance. I learned about making eye contact with an audience, and about the use of movement and gesture, and about how to structure a performance. All of this stood me in good stead when I subsequently became a full-time musician and my journey into the album charts. Even today the way I work an audience is a direct consequence of what I learned as a busker all those years ago.
Busking gives you direct feedback – people either stop to listen or they don’t. And people either give you money or they don’t and it depends directly on whether or not they like what they see and hear. It is a brutal school in which to learn, but it is also brutally honest. The feedback is continuous, immediate and above all, honest. The audience has no stake in my performance other than what attracts them at that moment.
And I met some amazing people. One violinist gave me an impromptu lesson that improved my tone forever; one evening Itzhak Perlman played my fiddle for an amazing 20 minutes when the Israeli Philharmonic came to town. So the rewards were not always the financial ones.
Back to blogging – the stats show day by day how many people came by, what search terms or tags brought them there, and which posts they open. If I fail to post the stats go down. If I write a boring post the stats go down. But if I post on a popular topic (or a curiosity, like pochettes) the readers come by and have a read. And sometimes they leave a comment – like dropping a coin into the fiddle-case. Piece by piece, post by post I’m learning to write a blog, finding my audience and understanding more about the process of writing as a kind of performance.
February 11, 2008
Franciscan priest first brought violin to New Mexico, establishing what became a tradition of violin making and playing. But the Hispanic folk music of New Mexico had begun to die away as times moved on.
Enter Peter White, violinist, and professor of American Studies at the university of New Mexico. According to a story in the Daily Lobo From next Autumn (Fall) UNM will offer a four semester course on violin making and playing – reviving the hispanic folk music of the region. The students, under prof White’s guidance will make their instruments, and learn to play them in the style of their forebears.
White hopes to take his students to Cremona in Italy, to the the International Violin Makers Exhibition and Competition, where they will be representatives of the first people to make violins in what became the United States.
What a wonderful story
February 7, 2008
The next step in making my pochette, or travel violin is to bend the ribs. Last time I had cut them to length and width. I then soaked them in a tub of water for four days – yes it’s a brutal thing to do to timber, but that’s nothing to what was coming next.
The big question was how to bend the ribs around a fairly tight right-angle turn without breaking them. After a bit of reading around I decided I needed a bending iron and strap. You could spend a bit of money and buy them.
Here’s how I did it. I took a piece of galvanised water pipe and held it in the vise. I then cut the ends off a soup tin and then cut it up the middle so I could open it out flat with a pair of tin snips. Then I used a portable propane gas torch to heat the pipe – after making sure there was nothing flammable in the vicinity.
I then took up one of the ribs, made a pencil mark where I wanted the bends and positioned it between the tin and the hot pipe, keeping my hands clear, and then pressed it against the pipe moving it along about a millimetre at a time. You will hear a hissing noise and that’s a good sign – the water in the wood is turning to steam and steaming the fibres, allowing them to crush on the inside radius, while the water soaked outer ones remain flexible enough not to break – provided they are backed with the tin.
The result is a straight rib with two right-angle bends
And I then clamped the two ribs against the mold where it will gradually dry in shape over the next couple of days. The reinforcing strips will be bent the same way.
When dry I will glue them up ready for the top and bottom plate that still need to be shaped. More on that next time!
You can see earlier posts on this topic:
Pochette – second step
Pochette – first steps