Nightfall - a new composition by Steven Watson

I hope you can give this a listen all the way through, as it's a beautiful and interesting new composition for the banjo.

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Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 16, 2023 at 15:10
Thanks, Karen. Appreciated.
Comment by Joel Hooks on April 17, 2023 at 14:07

Grimshaw, Ossman, Weidt, Armstrong, Lansing, ect. (not Van Eps) all took up pick playing when they had to to pay the bills.  From Armstrong's writings on the subject, he was fond of the direction and supported it.  Same for George Lansing. 

That said, should one post a video of a steel strung guitar played with a pick on a classical guitar forum?

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 17, 2023 at 14:39

In response to Joel's question, I think the answer is that if the music the guitarist plays is related to the music that has been played on classic guitar with fingers on nylon strings, such a post should be welcomed there.

I perceive a connection between the musical style of "Nightfall" and the composing style of Cammeyer and others of his time. It could be played with fingers I think. I think it is appropriate here. It's not the kind of banjo music I play now. But in my late teens I played similar things I spontaneously composed. 

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 15:17

Ah, I like a good discussion.

Joel might be surprised that the ultra-conservative Delcamp Classical-Guitar Forum not only accepted this very same video, but there have so far been a good number of positive comments:

https://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/viewtopic.php?t=152168

Jody - you seem supportive, which I thank you for, but I have to wonder if what you spontaneously improvised in your late teens was ever based on Takemitsu's SEA motif, as here? I have done a fair bit of free improv over the years on a variety of instruments, but I wouldn't suggest I managed anything as tightly composed as this piece. But I hold your musicianship in high regard, as you hopefully know, so defer to you.  

The composer, Steven Watson, was inspired to write the piece when he heard me playing Grimshaw's arrangement of a Chopin Nocturne, which I had recorded on a Deering Eagle II banjo using a plectrum. I prefer to use a plectrum when playing with steel strings. Steven also expressed admiration for the works of Cammeyer on that same recording, and Jody quite rightly sees a connection between the two composers. And, yes, I would love to hear someone play it fingerstyle on a gut/nylon-strung banjo.The score is available from Steven's website.

Mike, thank you for your helpful contextual comment. 

But I don't wish to offend anyone here, so if the Big Chief, ianthereallyniceman, chooses to remove it, he will hear no objection from me, and I will leave you in peace. 

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 15:23

PS I've just notice with pleasure that this video has already garnered more than twice the number of views than my recent positing of Paul Eno's A Ragtime Episode. 

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 17, 2023 at 16:03

Rob, I never heard of Takemitsu or his SEA compositions until this minute. Quick research says these were published in the 1980s so I would have had no opportunity to hear them and no means of time travel as my teenage years were 1956 through 1965.  But maybe your question wasn't meant to be taken literally. The things I played in my teens that remind me of "Nightfall" are linked to it by apparent disjointedness that actually has underlying structural integrity, a rhythm not designed for (most kinds of) dancing, a melody not based on common chord progressions and a variety of timbres and textures.  

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 16:40

Understood, Jody. You are an extremely-experienced musician. Somebody told me he had heard ‘similar things’ from Béla Fleck. Any idea what that might be?

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 17, 2023 at 17:09

I'm not fully understanding the question. Someone heard Béla Flack play music similar to what I described or similar to Nightfall, or heard him say something  similar to what I said, or what?  

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 17, 2023 at 17:13
Sorry, similar to Nightfall specifically, though the person is not, by his own admission, not used to such music, so he might just generally mean ‘weird stuff!
Comment by Joel Hooks on April 17, 2023 at 17:39

To be clear, I have no problem with the music (though I lack the intellect to understand it).

It was my understanding that this is a special interest group.

On a different, but perhaps similar, subject, the American Banjo Fraternity is a special interest group.  And as such, needed to narrowly define what is called "classic banjo"-- particularly for participation in the formal programs of our rallies.  This has caused problems in the past and hurt feelings. 

Why did we produce this narrow definition of "classic banjo"?  It was the entire reason we exist, founded by many who played during the era.  By post WW2, what was once very common was on the way to extinction.  By default it became a "special interest group" with the goal of preserving the music and technique (and later maintaining a library).  The collective aural tradition of the ABF traces a direct link back to Frank Converse.  The ABF was founded to keep this flame and maintain the body of work at a time when there was no digital data banks or scanning.  It is highly possible that our library would have ended up in the landfill. 

While our events focus on "classic banjo", many of our members (including me) play other types of music and instruments.  We have more than a few who got their start at Shakey's Pizza playing plectrum and tenor.  We have professional bluegrass banjoists, blues musicians, fiddlers, orchestral violinists, electric guitarists, mandolinists etc..  Our individual interests vary widely. 

But for only two times a year we have weekends focused specifically on "classic banjo".

Even fairly recently we have had situations where these guidelines have caused conflict.  I don't know why.  This has also created an undeserved reputation.  The events are what they are.  There are plenty of other music events for other styles of banjo playing.   Which is why I don't understand why (in the handful of times) someone has showed up to play bluegrass/ plectrum/ old time/ Spanish guitar/ whatever and go away upset because it did not fit the theme. 

To bring it back around (if anyone is still reading)... Why post a plectrum banjo solo on this forum?  Was it to test us to see if it would be rejected?   

Rob, would you get upset if the video was pulled?  I am curious as I am hoping to better understand the thought process which could help me if a similar situation arises in the future with the ABF. 

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