The Colorado bluegrass community will enjoy a rare treat when Lyons local Sally Van Meter takes the stage to headline the February 24 "Bluegrass at the Audi" concert. Sally is widely known for her slide talent on the steel and resonator guitars, and for her expertise in the recording studio. She earned a GRAMMY for her work on The Great Dobro Sessions and can boast quite an impressive resume as a performer, studio musician and producer. She’s also known as quite a private, humble person, and one who generally doesn’t seek the limelight for herself. We certainly feel privileged to host her at the Audi.Read More
The rhythm of art
By Jan Peterson
In this electronic age everything, it seems, is digital. Bluegrass instruments are a wonderful exception to that particular rule, allowing the nuanced resonances of “wooden box” amplification (pioneered centuries ago) to produce the sweet sounds we have been conditioned to expect from our wood and metal instruments.
We have given a nod to electrification by adding microphones, in order to pick up the subtleties of natural over-tones produced by vibrating strings and less-strenuously project that music to a listening audience. And what a godsend it is to be able to vocally project throughout an auditorium, or an outdoor field full of people, without having to over-strain our vocal chords: ain’t mics wonderful?
With digitalization comes precision: for example, in the Olympic Games, contests between athletes can be decided by one-hundredths of a second! But in a musical presentation, on the other hand, absolute timing accuracy is not necessarily a good thing: it can, in fact, make a musical composition come off as overly machine-like and un-human. But not keeping a reasonably regular rhythm is at least equally disturbing. This question of how to balance repetitive precision with artistic freedom, pitting accuracy against interpretation, has been around for as long as there has been music.
Early on (well before the electronic age) there were no “regular” beats available as a reference, so people got creative: they used their own pulse (heart beat rhythm) to judge “regular” timing. This idea of regular timing is especially critical for large groups of musicians attempting to play together. I think that’s why conductors were invented: to force orchestral musicians to share the same beat, as directed by the conductor’s waving wand. But orchestral musicians had to pay close attention to the conductor, because there was no such thing as a “regular” beat—except for short-duration episodes within an overall composition; there were “movements” which varied in all kinds of ways, including rhythmically.
By the eighteenth century, composers were using terms like “Andante” (which is Italian for “walking”) to invoke a somewhat shared experience of repetitiveness in order to establish a “proper” timing. Terms like “Tempo di Minuetto” made reference to an established organized dance, where the dance movements, themselves, dictated a rhythm to be shared. If they had comedy back then, I’m sure it would have included the idea of an off-tempo (up-tempo) interpretation of organized dance timing that would have left the poor dancers frazzled (think of Groucho, Larry & Moe sharing conducting responsibilities). So, some progress was being made on the “regular” timing front, but it was all still very subjective.
In the age of enlightenment, attempts were made to link rhythm to the movements of a clock. When someone discovered that the length of a pendulum affects the speed of its motion, instrument makers seized upon that new understanding to create the classical clock-like metronome, with a sliding weight on a thin metal bar, so that it will swing back and forth in a regular rhythm dictated by the exact placement of the weight along the length of the bar. Thus, a truly steady beat of “X” beats per minute could be established with accuracy. And now, of course, we have digital metronomes that can churn out a steady rhythm with extreme precision.
Which just gets us back to our original dilemma: rhythmic accuracy? Or artistic license? Well, we know that going to either extreme ALL the time is problematic. I do know someone who wants to “get out ahead” of the beat. The problem is that doing that all the time means speeding up! But thinking through that issue made me realize, like many problems, what this problem needs is a solution that doesn’t buy into the “either/or” approach espoused above.
The answer is to do both, instead of trying to choose only one, turn an “either/or” into a “both/and” solution. It’s just that “coordination” needs to be added into the equation; you keep a steady beat for some period of time before you vary the rhythm, or jump around, in front of, or behind, the rhythm. And then repeat, or vary your repetition so that it doesn’t seem like repetition. Or... you come up with some idiosyncratic interpretation of how to combine these elements.
I think “mixing it up” is a good way to introduce variety—as opposed to just monotonous repetition, or just a-rhythmic/non-rhythmic exuberance—and get to experience them all, within an over-all unifying framework. No, not ALL the time, of course, it’s best to stay away from the extremes. Selections of different combinations of the musical options available to you (or invented by you), all deliberately chosen to coordinate with the emotions being evoked vocally, that’s the trick!
And HOW you do all that is what makes “art.”
And, yes, there are always exceptions to [any] rule.
The Gary We Knew
By Lisa Astrella
Gary Barker was my partner in bliss and folly, as we pursued a mutual adoration for bluegrass music with our band Loose Cannon Bluegrass. What started around a kitchen table, ended up taking us all over this gorgeous state, and on to Kentucky, where we played at ROMP in honor of Bill Monroe’s 100th birthday. With Gary behind the scenes tirelessly booking, organizing and maintaining a web site, we grew the band over more than 8 years, and had the privilege of working with many talented and generous musicians.
Gary first arrived on the Colorado bluegrass scene in 2004. We all met him at the White Fence Farm Thursday night jam, back in the day. He had retired from teaching and had relocated here from Saginaw, Michigan, with his wife, Jean. They followed their daughter Molly, who was just starting her family. We soon discovered that he was a great Dobro player, and a quick study. We would later learn the full and formidable depth of this remarkable human being.
There was not a corner of Gary’s brain that he didn’t fill with knowledge, and then share it with anyone who had the good sense to listen. He wasted not a moment on this Earth, as an educator, scientist, athlete, musician, devoted husband and father. A former Teacher of the Year, he built his own seismometer and regularly kept up with tectonic activity around the globe. Gary could and would give us updates on earth movements that hadn’t yet hit the news.
We spent a lot of road time, travelling from gig to gig, and there is a stretch of highway, between Colorado Springs and Cañon City, that will forever remind me of him. He explained the rock formations on either side of the road, and why one was older than the other, by so many million years. Yet another thing he knew off the top of his head. Colorado was a geologic playground for him, with boundless opportunities to learn and explore.
I remember one conversation in which he explained the statistical improbability of ever being born, and how so many things had to go right over a multitude of generations. It was part of a commencement address he used to give to the thousands of students he’d influenced along the way. He said, “Against the odds, you were born. You’ve already hit the jackpot.” The unspoken extrapolation was, “Now, what are you going to do with it?”
Self-effacing, humble, quietly doing the work, while encouraging those around him to shine, that was Gary. He dedicated his life to the betterment of others. He had a great sense of humor, a laugh that seemed to start in his bones, and quirky little habits that would spring out of him when he was particularly happy or excited, like rapidly rubbing his hands together, or raking his picks across the Dobro strings.
Family was the world to Gary. Growing up in Middletown, Ohio, he was the baby, behind older siblings Marvin and Mary. He and Marvin had a bond that is only cultivated after a lifetime of fun-loving chicanery. They perfected the art of the “non-joke” which is something that the dismayed listener would have to experience, in order to fully understand. For them, it was a knee-slapping, howling good time.
With Gary, we got the gift of the whole Barker clan: Jean, and their daughters Molly and Corrie, granddaughters Audrey, Annika and Layla Jean, as well as sons-in-law Eric and Adjmal. They are the silent heroes in this story. They supported us at our gigs, and were his life, his backbone, his strength, during the grueling months, his inner circle that propped him up when it all seemed too much. They will need time and healing of their own.
Gary, this is how your band mates describe you:
- Marte Meyer: Steadfast, kind and smart
- Eric Grace: Dependable, Professional, Gifted songwriter
- Ernie Martinez: Warm, Humorous, Genuine
- Jim Fischer: Engaging, Enlightening, Encouraging
Gary, my dear friend, we hit the double-jackpot; first for having been born, and again for having known you. Yes, you. See you in the starscape.
With much love,
Lisa Lombard Astrella
The Stanley Hotel is pleased to announce its first concert weekend dedicated to bluegrass, friends and family. Stan Jam is a two-day festival event February 23 and 24, featuring a collection of many of the best Colorado musicians set alongside some of the biggest legends, including headliners the Del McCoury Band and the Jeff Austin Band.
Individual tickets and discounted room packages are available at Stanleylive.com.Read More
Don’t miss ‘Bluegrass at the Audi’
By Kevin Slick, CBMS President
While the weather’s cold and we’re working on all those new tunes to pick at the festivals, remember there’s some great bluegrass happening during these cold winter months.
The next one is on February 24th with Sally Van Meter and the True Bluegrass Band. Opening the evening will be Follow The Fox. Tickets are on sale now.
If you've somehow missed shows at the Audi, make plans to get to one or all of the upcoming shows. You won't find a better venue to enjoy bluegrass music on the Front Range.
Hope to see you all soon.
Western Slope shows and jams
By Veta Gumber, aka Vetabluegrass
SAVE THE DATE
- January 27, Pea Green Saturday Night, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- January 27, Leftover Salmon, Mesa Theatre and Club
- February 2, Head for the Hills, Created Butte Center for the Arts
- February 4, Tony Furtado, KAFM Radio Room, 970-241-8801
- February 23, Clyde and the Milltailers, Palisade Brewing Co
- February 24, Clyde and the Milltailers, Cruisers Bar, GJ
- February 24, Pea Green Saturday Night, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- February 28, Front Country, KAFM Radio Room, 970-241-8801
- March 21 & 22, Elephant Revival, Crested Butte Center for the Arts
- March 23 & 24, Elephant Revival, Belly Up, Aspen
- March 24, Pea Green Saturday Night, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- April 13, Stray Grass, Sherbino Theatre, Ridgway
- April 28, Pea Green Saturday Night, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- April 20-22, Durango Meltdown
JAMS AND MORE
- January 19 & 26, Del Taco GJ, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- January 25, Copper Club Fruita, 7:00-10:00 p.m.
- January 26, WCCC Bldg B, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- February 1, 8 & 22, Copper Club Fruita, 7:00-10:00 p.m.
- February 2 & 16, Del Taco GJ, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- February 9 & 23, Taco John’s GJ, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
- February 9 & 23, WCCC Bldg B, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
As jams sometimes happen without much notice, I recommend you check GVBluegrass.com for the latest schedule and to schedule your event.
NEW MUSIC AT KAFM
Welcome to the new CBMS Web site.
Watch for news beginning next week.