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Aug. 20th, 2014

Klezmer Fiddle Resources

Krekhts Tutorial

Alicia Svigals Masterclass






Jul. 6th, 2014

Tenor Violin: Shipped

The Tenor Violin will be shipped tomorrow and should arrive by the 14th. Robert Spear has included a prototype kevlar-core E string and upgraded the standard friction-fit traditional tuning pegs to geared PEGHEDS. Really pleased with these two unexpected upgrades.

Jul. 5th, 2014

Strings for Tenor Violin

The Tenor Violin is tuned E A D G. The A D G are the A D G of the cello, and the E is the E from a five-string cello. However, the tenor violin scale length is smaller than that of a cello.

This means that for the large tenor violin, one has to buy strings for a 1/2-size cello and for the small tenor violin, one has to buy strings for a 1/4-size cello. According to Robert Spear, one can obtain fractional cello strings in the following string sets:

  • Pirastro Chromcor

  • Thomastik Dominant, Superflexible, and Precision

  • D'Addario Pro Arte and Prelude

  • Strad Economy

  • Super-Sensitive Red label, Sensicore, and the dedicated New Family set

At the time of this writing, the E string is problematic. Cello E strings can tend to sound very shrill. Robert Spear is working with SuperSensitive to develop a kevlar-core high E string that should resolve these problems.

Jun. 30th, 2014

Tenor Violin

The cello has a place in folk music. And by folk music, I mean the wide variety of European-derived folk music traditions that rely on the Violin to carry the melody. The cello has a nice baritone register that can provide a bass function in folk music in smaller ensembles. However, the cello is not well-suited for playing the melody lines that the violin plays because it lacks a high E string.

It is for this reason that I took up the mandolin. Being in the same tuning as a fiddle, the violin makes folk melodies very accessible. However, where a string player can easily play multiple notes with a single bow stroke, the mandolin player must pluck a string multiple times. I've long felt that the mandolin is just more physically taxing than a bowed instrument. After a long session, even if I take many breaks, my arms are just worn out and in pain. And, unless I'm amplified, I just can't project very loudly at all.

Some years ago I first learned about the Violin Octet. The Violin Octet is the open-minded string player's wet dream. Eight instruments in slightly overlapping ranges all the way up from an octave above the tuning of the classical violin all the way down to two whole steps or even a full fourth below the contrabass. Eight instruments designed according to modern acoustic principles. Eight instruments, that, together, speak as one unified choir of pure violin sound. I've listened to recordings of an octet where I can swear that I'm actually hearing a pipe organ because of how full and unified the sound of these instruments is. Also, the bass registers on the baritone, small bass, and bass violins are huge and full and blend really nicely.

Watch Barber's Adagio for Strings performed on the Violin Octet. For a description of each of the instruments, watch these three videos: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. These videos are narrated by Robert Spear, a luthier that is producing Violin Octet instruments (!).

One of the members of the Violin Octet is the Tenor Violin. This instrument is pitched just like a violin, except that it is tuned an octave down and, more importantly, is equipped with an endpin and is held in a manner similar to the cello. Finally, a bowed stringed instrument that will make folk melodies accessible to me! I don't expect it to have the nice warm low-end of my cello, but this is not a problem if I am backed up by a guitarist or two.

I've been communicating with Robert Spear about obtaining a Tenor Violin from him. I will be evaluating a Tenor Violin with parts machined in China and finished in his workshop. He makes two such instruments available and I will be evaluating both. These are the large tenor and a small tenor. They are tuned identically but the large tenor has a body length of 24.5" and the small tenor one of 23.25". According to Robert, the small tenor projects really well and I expect that this is the instrument I will eventually settle on since small size and maximum projection are qualities I am interested in. Small size for smaller hand movements and projection because if you can't be as loud as possible when you play music then what is the point? :]

I expect to receive my large tenor soon and will begin learning Irish repertoire on it right away. I also hope to learn Klezmer repertoire on it.

As far as bows go, Robert recommends 7/8 and 3/4 viola bows for this instrument. I find it interesting that even though the instrument is physically larger than the viola and tuned lower, it requires a lighter bow. I wonder why? I will find out soon :] By the way, Robert has been extremely responsive, helpful, and thorough in all of my email correspondence with him. It has been a pleasure working with him.

I'm getting ready to buy a used copy of the Fiddler's Fakebook and a good Klezmer book. I'm considering the Compleat Klezmer Book with CD.

So excited!

Jun. 26th, 2014



Doubt God.
But don't deny God.
Don't know.

Exhausted. Cranky. Snarky.
Admire my brother's patience and persistence.

God is immaterial.
Doubt and crisis of faith is permitted.
State of doubt-uncertainty. Is the crucible of life. Of love. Of creation.
Recall my time of loneliness. And crisis. Winter and mold and hard sleeping mats.

Israel. "To struggle with God."

What is it right now? Sleep. Impatience. Caffeine.

Shifting edifice of uncertainty-doubt. To struggle means engagement. Not-safe. Not-death. Life.


Direction? String players in Asheville.
Peter? Less accessible. Kali couldn't sleep. Belly.
Dru is moving: Her card broke down, she is out of the band, she has had a hard time feeling connection in Gainesville.

River, the drummer.
Big carpenter ants roaming.
Cello in the dark. By the wall.

G pentatonic melody: D - F - G
F (F / C) C - D melody
Bb / D, C - G, Eb, C - G, F

Sebastian heard it clearly.

K's voice in the dark. Thin shred of static-flavored K. Caught on the "irony" comment.
Little-people voice during goodbyes. Goodnights.

Dru conversation: Loves the calabash. And the frame drum.

"Not knowing would be the most difficult. The pure potential of it, the most inspiring."

Get serious? How? Teach cello. Loop cello? And sing? Blackfire professional gigs. Practice commitments.

Who am I? Right now? Hungry. Anxious. Arm pain.


Sebastian is generally happy-go-lucky.
Not depressed or burned out by nursing like I had worried about.
Laid-back and puts up with my mothering.
Open-minded, likeable, and not very judgmental.

Sunset. Meditation in the cold. Birds chirping.
Forgot poncho - walked back.
Sebastian wipes his nose.
The box lid flips open.
10 minutes pass.
Heads of flowers bobbing in the breeze.
So nice.

Able to hear feedback without defensiveness.

Sebastian snores.


Suzuki Roshi: Zen is the path of no turning back.

Pema Chodron: Opting for coziness, having that as your prime reason for existing, becomes a continual obstacle to taking a leap and doing something new, something unusual, like going as a stranger into a strange land.

Shozan: Unconvinced by boot-camp spirituality: " resistance was in itself a pose, a stance, a result of my conditioning as a free-spirited individualistic American prone to respecting all paths and choosing none. I'd never been stripped of myself, and so I mistook a cleverly embroidered outfit of attitudes for my deepest self, which I had to be true to."

K, did you have those huge-bodied orange daddy long leg spiders in Virginia?

My prayer: What do I do with my life now?

Zen: Not for me. It's not about me. Not about what I will get out of it. It's about what is I. So it's OK to do it regardless of my preferences or desired outcomes.

Reached shining rock. Twice. Long day of hiking with hellacious descent. And hellacious ascent. Impatience and busy/controlling nature with Sebastian. So many bees!

K, I'm curious to see how your new 'do looks.

Tenor violin: Rags, Klez, Fisher's Hornpipe, Growling Old Man / Kitchen Girl, Irish Repertoire.

I can tend to helicopter-parent my brother. And he seems to patiently accept it, for the most part.

Jun. 9th, 2014


...on the edge of the blade.

Jun. 5th, 2014


Have been able to catch myself profoundly enjoying a moment while also noticing a quality of pre-nostalgia that pulls me out of the moment slightly. This, right now, is heaven! But there is no way I can hang on to this feeling.

This cuddle on a slightly moist papasan chair. This bowed open G string on a porch overlooking lake wauburg. This first taste of enchilada sauce. This violin bow I caught between my toes. This fierce musical friend plotting a dance weekend two years into the future. This sweet gentle musical couple sharing once cell phone. This other sweet friend singing over his old Gibson a week or two before leaving town for a long while. This complex and strange and sweet and interesting and brave and independent and cute and confusing and fuzzy and irresistible and wise and talented and frustrating and beautiful person I've had the amazing fortune of coming across.


I'm exchanging emails with the really friendly and responsive staff of Crisol de Cuerda. I'm going to stay after, I think, and visit Bilbao. And maybe hike for a few days along the coast.

Next week I stop working for a while. And head to Asheville with my brother with whom I share so much physical and spiritual DNA. And with improvising musical kinfolk. And I don't know exactly how it will all unfold or if I'll be comfortable or if we will be safe on our hikes. But it will be great.

Jun. 3rd, 2014


A couple-few little sips of heart-warming flavour:

  1. Attention is the most basic form of love.

  2. My friend, after having dated his fiancée for a while and feeling doubt and confusion and experiencing a big question, asks a Zen master: "What is love?" In response, the Zen master silently stands and offers my friend a hug.

Jun. 2nd, 2014

Summer Sabbatical Plans

Work through a Natalie Haas cello technique DVD and then take classes with her at Crisol de Cuerda in August. String camp in rural Spain!

Volunteer for the Gainesville Catholic Worker House.

Finish my solo album already, sheesh. A Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 is on its way to help me record my instrumental parts. I may invest in a condenser mic to record my own vocals. And also some kind of mac laptop. Or a mac mini.

Finally learn the Kwan Um Zen chants.

Tour with Wax Wings.

Festival performances with Peter Levitov.

Hike with number one fraternal sibling.

Speaking of Kwan Um Zen, working to keep don't know mind in the midst of my very sweet and a little scary new romantic relationship. Staying present and letting what develops develop naturally. Oof. I've had some very sweet and very bittersweet experiences so far. So much living. And so much very welcome challenge and growth.

More yoga, more biking, and less sitting at desks, ugh.

Increasing the number of minutes I meditate every day. I'm back to 30 minutes right now. It would be nice to reach two sessions per day by the end of the summer. Maybe one longer one and one shorter one, the shorter one happening during the time of the day when I'm most sleepy.

Sit a longer retreat somewhere?

June, July, August. The summer will go by very quickly. Will be interesting to see how it unfolds.


Sleeping on the porch amidst heavy drops of rain. Gusts of wind. Intertwined bodies finding warmth in the chill. Brushing away the occasional mosquito. Slow, slow, slow bike rides at 2 in the morning of a quiet Gainesville summer. Vaults of darkness opening into orange-lit cathedrals of oak tree limbs. Tears, now and then.

May. 29th, 2014

Summer Sabbatical Begins June 11th

A friend suggested the following activity:

i hope you do some laying down while eating foods and letting it slide off your cheek to the ground
do not wear shoes while doing this!
maybe fall asleep right after eating, and don't clean anything up til the next day

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