Saturday, January 31, 2009

Transcribing Irish Fiddle Tunes

Last Friday, I went over to Andi and Davey's session. I'd been wanting to learn Andi's version of some of the tunes she plays, and she agreed to play some of them so I could record them. So I asked her to play The Coachman's Whip, The Foxhunter's (slipjig), and Sweeney's Buttermilk, which she did, and I recorded the tunes with our Zoom recorder (wonderful little recorder, sound-quality-wise, but terrible user-interface).

Finally, over the past couple of evenings and this morning, I got the tunes transcribed. Since I'm not terribly quick at transcribing from audio, I first looked up the tunes at to get ABC transcriptions of the tunes, then used Audacity (open source .wav editor) to listen to the tunes and slow down the parts in question. From there I was able to modify the ABC to match Andi's playing. Finally I used the Tune-o-Tron ABC converter at to make pdfs for the tunes, which I printed on old-fashioned paper. Pretty cool. Here's a low-resolution image of The Coachman's Whip.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not your usual day...

This has been a rather uncommon day. We knew the day was going to be special because of the Presidential inauguration, and because it is my mother's 88th birthday. What we didn't know was that it was going to SNOW and that the offices at work would be closed - read that, "I had a day off" - and the schools would be closed, too. Now, remember, we live in South Carolina, so snow, even a little, tends to be taken as a serious threat. The picture here shows the snow in our front yard after it had finished snowing and just before it started to melt.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My new hammered dulcimer debuts

We (that is, Cabin Fever! - Fred, Woody, me) played for the Columbia contra dance tonight. It was the first time that this hammer dulcimer was played publicly. A couple of weeks ago, Beth and I drove up to Black Mountain with it to have a microphone (actually two of them - treble and bass) installed. Although I had verified at home that I knew how the hammered dulcimer's internal mics should be hooked up to a sound system, we were unable to get it work at the dance and we had to use an external mic instead. We suspect a weak battery in the pre-amplifier.

An unexpected plus for the internal mics concerns tuning. This afternoon I connected the hammered dulcimer's mics to my Seiko tuner. That made tuning a lot quicker and better. The dulcimer is a 16-15 Masterworks, so that is 62 strings and 94 tunings! Quicker and better tuning is much appreciated!

Friday, January 9, 2009

In Greenville for the Joshua Bell Concert

You might not be able to tell from this picture, taken just before the concert, but Eric (on the right) was quite excited to be seeing Joshua Bell in concert. This was our Christmas present to Eric.

Of the pieces Joshua Bell played, my favorite was by far the Ysaye sonata for solo violin. The polyphony in that piece was beautiful and amazing. Joshua explained that Ysaye is, in his opinion, one of the world's three best violinists, alongside Paginini and Heifitz. Ysaye wrote six sonatas for solo violin - as did J. S. Bach. Eric gave me written music for the Bach sonatas (and partitas) for Christmas, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to play even one movement of one of them credibly.

One of the next things on my "list" is to find Eric a quality violin teacher, to complement his piano. Eric's piano playing is quite good -- maybe I can record him sometime soon and add a recording to a future post.

David is standing next to Eric in the picture. They weren't being particularly cooperative about having their picture taken, do you think? I think I really like Greenville -- I'll put it on my list of places to consider for retirement.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Russian, anybody?

The family has been talking about learning Russian, so I looked for some resources. So far, here's what I've found:
  • Course at our community college - this is offered for five or six weeks in the spring
  • The Rosetta Stone software - pretty expensive to buy (over $250 for Level 1)
  • "A Spoonful of Russian" podcast at - a series of lessons with .mp3 audio
  • Russian language guide at - gives pictures with written and spoken Russian (view with IE)
Why learn Russian? I'm pretty sure Jurate speaks Russian, so that's a good reason!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day, 2009

Today we celebrated New Year's day in a way that comes close to being a family tradition -- we've celebrated this way not every year but definitely many years. We're visiting Barbara, my college roommate, and her family. Last night - New Year's Eve - we watched (on TV) the ball drop in Times Square. Today we went for a walk in John Bryant park, then stopped by Young's Dairy to eat ice-cream and feed the goats. Back at the house, Barbara served up a slew of hor d'ouevres, and then served the traditional meal of pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and peas. Yum.

Barbara's Buffalo Chicken Dip

(quantities below are approximate)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
10 oz. chopped, cooked chicken breast
tortilla scoops or chips (or celery)

Soften cream cheese in microwave. Combine all ingredients (except tortilla scoops or chips) in 9x13 glass baking dish, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Serve with tortilla scoops or chips.

Barbara's Chili Cream Cheese Dip

8 oz. cream cheese
1 pkg. Sky Line frozen chili (just meat, no beans)
4-8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
tortilla scoops or chips

Spread cream cheese in 9-inch pie pan. Cook chili (microwave for ~6 minutes), then spread over cream cheese. Add shredded cheese and microwave to melt the cheese. Serve with tortilla scoops or chips.