As the creator, administrator, and editor of the internets leading (neigh only) dedicated Weissenborn artist website it presents me personally with a paradox. Not only am i a passionate enthusiast of the instrument but i am also a struggling weissenborn artist myself. So as you can imagine when i wrote, recorded and released an all original Weissenborn instrumental cd i could hardly review it myself. The upside of running the website has to be giving exposure to all the great Weissenborn recording artists out there around the world but the downside has to be my exemption from being included, reviewed, interviewed or promoted by what amounts to myself.
I have debated my decision to include myself on the website as an independent recording artist and always come to the same conclusion, “If i don’t do it who else will”? I have worked very hard to release my new instrumental album “Soundscapes & Sonatas”. I have invested 18 months of my of my life into this album and am extremely proud of what i have achieved, so i do feel entitled to be gaining some very welcomed exposure for my concerted efforts and feel comfortable that all you readers can sympathise with my dilemma. I am a proud artist who specialises in weissenborn instrumental music, i immerse myself into every facet of the process and feel very much justified to have my music prompted alongside these other kindred spirits, i am not saying i deserve or warrant being compared to these hugely talented artists, merely my music will be of interest to all Weissenborn fans visiting this website. I write, record and perform Weissenborn music when ever i can and although I don't make my living from music i very much dream of doing so one day in some capacity. It’s not for me to judge and critique my own creativity as that would be clearly wrong of me to do so. So i have decided to simply write a factual account of the albums birth, some background on me and some sound clips for you to listen to. Thanks for indulging me….
Here is a promo You Tube video for the CD release of “Soundscapes & Sonatas” released May 14th 2016.
Discovering the Weissenborn through a chance hearing of Ed Gerhard’s “Homage” and a love of Ry Cooder’s classic “Paris Texas” soundtrack it’s not hard to understand my love of both soundscape instrumentals and more classical compositions in the more traditional classical style of playing Weissenborn.
This cd isn’t my first release. My first release back in 2013 was an improvisational 4 track EP of relaxing mediative Weissenborn music called “Elemental Weissenborn”. I quickly followed this up with a cd release back in 2014 entitled “My Weissenborn Journey - The Singles”. This album was basically a collection of home recorded demos and was if i am being honest not sonically great. But what it did show from the feedback i gained from it is that i had an embryonic ability to create pleasing Weissenborn music on some level. At the beginning of 2015 i set myself the challenge of writing 12 original Weissenborn instrumentals during the course of the year with the plan to release a new album early/mid 2016. This album was going to be a step-up in quality and would encompass improved writing, recording, mixing and mastering skills. 18 months later i had written, recorded and mixed “Soundscapes & Sonatas” and had along the way taken the kind offer of a professional mastering engineer friend to polish things up (Roberto Diana). The result? well it’s a giant leap forward from the last cd that’s for sure. I managed to produce only 11 finished tracks but that was more than enough to fulfil my ambitions and goals for this project. Recorded entirely on my Herrmann Guitars Weissenborn made by Ermanno PAsqualato over 12 months each track has it’s own uniqueness and flavour.
The title “Soundscapes & Sonatas” refers to the two differing styles of instrumentals on the album. Firstly we have the ‘Soundscapes’ which i define as vivid musical landscapes with multi layered loops, drones and backing tracks (all played on a Weissenborn, no synths or other instruments). The themes are normally random in execution with some repeating phrases linking the whole piece together. Tracks like “Harpers Creek” and “Another Place” are perfect examples of the approach and create an ambient, almost relaxing atmosphere that capture the Weissenborns ethereal, dreamy qualities and its ability to evoke pleasant moods and calm feelings.
The other style of compositions on this cd are ‘Sonatas’. A sonata by definition is; …”a piece of music written for one or two instruments that has usually three or four large sections that are different from each other in rhythm and mood”. These tracks have more structure and were very much written, refined and polished into a finished ‘sonata’. They have intros, main melodies, bridges and outro’s etc. Tracks such as “Autumn Smile”, “Sono Felice” and “Winter Soul” are typical of this approach and come across as contemporary/traditional recital style instrumentals.
I have been blessed with many musician friends who have helped me along the way with advice and support and i would like to take the opportunity to say a big thanks to… Steve Potts (aka ‘SlowHound’), Jesse Wolfe, John Wilde, Knut Hem, Roberto Diana, Adam Bay, John Merrill & TJ.Owusu.
Here is a track by track biography….
“Autumn Smile” - (DADFAD). Every artist has that one track that they are always chasing the best version of, this is my song. This is the 3rd version i have recoded and released now and without doubt its the best yet. When i listen to it i am always reminded of the Norwegian player Knut Hem as he has been a huge influence in my playing and this song i feel echoes those influences strongest on this album. The melody was one of those ‘out of the blue’ moments when from literally no where this melody just came to me and i ran with it. A lot of my best songs come from random practice sessions and develop into full blown compositions which is why i advocate regular practice so much to improve your playing skills and to give creativity a chance to blossom. The title is a literal one, when i recorded this in the Autumn though bitterly cold outside the sun streamed through my window onto my guitar as i recorded this tune and the name chose its self :-)
“Harper’s Creek” - For this track i choose a new tuning to me of DGDGBD, it was a great ‘mood’ tuning and soon i had settled on the main licks and refrains after playing around with it for a few weeks and discovering its sweet spots. I sat down with my notes and jammed it to death probably for about 30 minutes straight. I then spliced together the most evocative sections into a one piece instrumental (i think i only used 3 sections in this from all my recordings). I then went back and recorded the backing tracking to underpin the song and give it an ambient, chilled out aura. The results were very pleasing and the track totally has a relaxed calm to it in my opinion. This laid back vibe reminded me of an old friend Slowhound (aka Steve Potts) who always played his CBG with a slow serene style. “Harper’s Creek” is actually a real creek right out in the middle of ’no where’ near to where Steve lives on the Solomon Islands, Maryland and so the title was a perfect fit as it remind me of a lazy babbling creek with a old rickety wooden bridge going over it. I have to say this is probably one of my personal favourite tracks to listen to.
“Sono Felice” - (DADF#AD).This is inspired by my Sardinian musician friend Roberto Diana (the man responsible for mastering this album). The translation means “I am happy” which was a direct answer to his song “If Your Are Happy” written in memorial to his late father. The instrumental had a vibrancy to it that was infectious and i wrote this song in the space of one single evening. The happy vibes i hope shine through this composition. It’s my opening track when i play I’ve and really is a great way to summarise my style and sound to people who haven’t heard my music before.
“Kings Landing” - This was inspired by a vacation to the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. We stayed within the city walls for a week and by the end we felt like we were living in a fantasy landing of kings from days long long ago. It also happened to be where they filmed season 4 of ‘Game Of Thrones’ and so one night we actually dinned in a restaurant located on the very place where they filmed the balcony scenes of Kings Landing. The song has a strong medieval theme running through it and it is played in open Dm (DADFAD). The tuning was inspired by an Australian artist called Mike De Velta and a song he wrote called “Doorstep To My Heart” written and played in Dm. I posted a copy of the track to Mike and he was thrilled his song had inspired someone to write their own composition, thanks Mike.
“Winter Soul” - (DADF#AD). Is a sonata style track inspired by Italian musician/composer Giovanni Bailo. One of his classical compositions called “Serenade” caught my ear. I loved the tune very much and especially intro which i adapted for my tune, the rest of the track was also inspired by Giovanni’s recital style playing, calm, serene with a slight classical twist. the track was composed and recorded while we were have some really cold whether and as i watched people go by outside all wrapped up i thought of the title “Winter Soul” I hope you like it Giovanni ;-)
“Familiar Blue” - (DADF#AD). Is a nod to the great Ry Cooder and particularly his soundtrack “Paris Texas” and the track “Dark Was The Night”. I tried to incorporate all my favourite Cooder licks but in my own style, with a stronger sense of happiness and less despair (although i do love the despair stuff very much lol). This was recorded in a local studio in one take from start to finish, the first and last time I’ve ever done that! The title is self expiatory and is homage to an artist i deeply respect and always gain a sense of awe listening to, i love the way his soundtrack work creates moods and atmosphere of forbidding and desolate places, his music has a real profound effect on my music i feel which i s why i wanted to record this track in his honour.
“Waters Meet” - (DADF#AD). Another location inspired instrumental this time closer to home in North Devon, England. After a two mile rocky hike into the hills over looking the town of Lynton we finally came to a remote spot known locally as Waters Meet. Two fast flowing rivers from further up the hills met at this point an became one larger river which flowed down to the sea. The clearing in the woods had a sweet little cottage cafe which we had a lovely cream tea at while watching the river flow by. It was magical and when i returned home i immediately wrote this Instrumental. This track i play Iive over the sound a flowing river and it never fails to transport me to that idilic beauty spot. Travel is such a great musical inspiration :-)
“Another Place” - (DADF#AD). Very literal this track, it takes me away to another place, a place where the stresses of life just slip away. A soundscape style track that has multilayered backing tracks and a relaxed ambient feel. I had to trim this track down as i think i played it for about 15 minutes when i was recording. To me this track is what playing the weissenborn means and feels to me, it relaxes me and is the greatest stress buster I’ve ever known :-) i play duelling D strings on this track with lots of single line melodies, but as my friend TJ Owusu once said to me “a single melody when played with emotion is one of the greatest things you can achieve”.
“Beautiful Sorrow” - (DGDGA#D). Theres no two ways about this tuning its inherently sad sounding. This track started out life as a sad sounding track until i discovered a small but perfectly formed ray of sunshine in its depths which i used as contrast to the sad intro. The track grows into a joyous crescendo from the depths of sadness and despair. The tuning was once again spotted and borrowed from Giovanni Balio’s excellent book “Lap Steel Collection” and the track “Gnossiene No.1”. I just love the dark/light contrast of the finished track, i feel uplifted when i pull the feeling of sadness around into something more jubilant. Lots of people have said its one of my best tracks because of that yin/yang listening experience. The title is a perfect description of the track in my humble opinion, i hope you agree.
“The Release” - (DADF#AD). Written after a long period or working abroad had finally ended and i sat down and played in my bedroom studio of the first time in over a month. The feeing of elation that the period away from home had finally ended came through in this tune i wrote which started slowly and picked up pace as the stress peeled off. This was a song that wrote its self and i didn’t have to put much thought into it at all, most times they are the best songs :-)
“Orange Blossom” - (DADF#AD). This song was inspired by my friend and inspiration Knut Hem and his song “Early Morning Train”. He had captured this train ‘clackaty clack’ sound perfectly and i wanted to try a similar thing but based on a big American freight train. I already had the melody written for several months prior and as soon as i worked out how to capture a ‘fright train horn’ by strumming at the 10th fret and quickly sliding to the 12th and then wobbling back and forth from the 11th to the 12th all it needed then was the to give the impression of a train approaching level crossing sound (random 12th fret muted harmonics) and some pacey muted strumming 9th-7th-5th-Open and the mood was set perfect for this track (pardon the pun). The title “Orange Blossom” refers to an old commuter train that in its day (1930’s) was the only all electric New York-Florida passenger train. If you goggle it you will see a beautiful postcard illustration of it painted in gorgeous orange and green livery and that was exactly the image i had in my head when i wrote and recorded the track.
The album will NOT be available for digital download in the foreseeable future and is only available on limited run CD.
So why a CD only release? well that was a hard decision really but one I’m happy running with after due consideration and deliberation. I grew up just after the vinyl format was coming to an end. When i started work at 16 years of age CD’s had just hit the shelves and this new format was exciting and revolutionary. Vinyl slowly drifted in to obscurity as i fear CD’s are heading towards nowadays too. The tangible tactile feeling of holding an LP or CD in your hands with all its glorious custom artworks, gatefold or booklet notes was and still is to this day an amazing ‘feel good’ feeling that is sadly not present these days with instant digital downloads. Digital downloads are hugely convenient and easy to obtain, which actually makes them feel less exciting or rewarding than holding physical copies of your favourite artists hard work and creative outpourings.
This isn’t a social statement or political point I’m trying to make but a personal acknowledgement that the digital age of music is not necessarily for the better in all aspects. This release represents 18 months of my life and i have gone to great lengths to present the music in a visually gratifying package that represent me as an person and artist and if you appreciated Weissenborn music you won’t be offended in this decision I’ve made i’m sure. I have invested my hard earned money in manufacturing these cd’s and although i’m not interested in ‘making’ money i would like to recoup my investment so i can repeat this project in the very near future. I am offering these CD’s at reasonable rates which include P&P and as a fan of Weissenborn music I’m sure the inconvenience of not having you order instantaneously appear on you phone or computer will actually make you remember the days when music was worth waiting for and will make you appreciate the end result more in the process, but hey that’s just my personal opinion.
Here are the prices….
£8 (UK inc P&P)
£10 (Mainland Europe inc P&P)
£12 (USA, Japan, Australasia, WOW inc P&P).
If you wish to purchase a copy of this CD or have any questions please contact me at email@example.com or visit my website @ www.aronradford.com for more details and payment instructions.
Many thanks for you interest, support and feedback it’s hugely appreciated
Aron Radford - "Soundscapes & Sonatas"
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