Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

A tuning and a Safe House

These past few months I’ve been busy working on several albums of songs which I hope to release in the near future. This has represented some musical challenges as I have had to quickly transcribe some of my own guitar parts, including spotting various capo / open / detuned acoustic variations. It has felt great to be making music in a physical way after a period of some 8 years where most of my musical effort went into computer-based scores and orchestral modelling. That too is great and satisfying but there are times when there’s no subtitute for the feel of metal strings under one’s fingers.

I have been amused to find that ‘the vaults’ (as they are always referred to in music magazines) have yielded a few unfinished songs or songs I’d completely forgotten about – and so I’ve set about finishing them. This has been entertaining. For one light-hearted Eddie Cochran type song called ‘Electric Guitars Are From Mars’ I found myself completing a lyric by carefully considering Fender’s chart of vintage guitar colours.

I’ve also written a new finger-picked guitar instrumental in the style of those I released on my 2013 album Atlantic Canticles (which you can download from amazon). For a year now one of my acoustic guitars has been in the tuning DADEBE – which I found referred to in a book on Nick Drake. I’ve found this tuning – which is a bit of a hybrid since it does not make a straightforward open chord – yields some inspiring sounds. I wrote a song in it first. Playing around with it recently I came up with an idea which reminded me of a musical idea in the slow movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. So I used that as a focus for the general atmosphere and hence the title: ‘A Safe House for Dimitri’. So much of Shostakovich’s life was lived in a state of fear, not knowing if the Party was about to send him to the Gulags … or worse. (Read Ian MacDonald’s rivetting The New Shostakovich to find out more). I hope to make this piece available on audio and tablature. I liked the idea of imagining him in a place of safety.

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