Simple is Hardest of All

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. Our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect us and our music. Recent insights: 

I just released my new book, First 50, a collection of "simple" Irish tunes for flute and fiddle. (Yes, Download and Hard Copies available here!)

Turns out, "simple" is a tough nut to contemplate. For two years I went deep into high-quality traditional tunes that are also accessible to newer players...

...And after stripping each tune to its essential, non-ornamented elements and notating flute and fiddle versions with detailed style markings...

...And after recording the music with trusted colleagues and revising everything based on our work together...

...And after historical research (with the help of more trusted colleagues)...

...And after writing just a few trad-style tunes I couldn't find in the existing repertoire (when I needed, say, a pretty A waltz that doesn't go above a C#)

...And after testing, reworking, and, yes, scrapping a lot of my first, second, third and fourth drafts of the collection... I "finished" the book and put it out into the world, even though I could continue revising, revisiting, road testing for two more years.

So, this is what a first edition is. You just let go at some point. Of course, a music book can and perhaps should be revisited after some years in the field, as the hearts and minds of its early adopters weigh in and as the author continues to revisit the contents in workshops, lessons and online forums.

But still, the central thrust of any book becomes relatively fixed upon public launch. The main concept of my book here is that Irish traditional music is best approached with minimal and thoughtful attention to basic style before complicated repertoire or ornamentation come into play. This turned out to be a challenging mission to demonstrate! To teach simplicity, and to teach it simply, every single detail has import.

Like the Tiny House movement in which the ruthlessly edited contents and design of the space is what it is ALL about, a good, simple tune (or 50 of them) shines when the best notes and the most  pleasing bowings/breath marks are considered. Simple isn't easy. But it can spark joy, ease and deep inspiration.

Here's to sophisticated simplicity in 2016.

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