vinceconaway: (Default)
I know it's been a hard year for a lot of people, but personally it's treated me fairly well even as I mourn for various people and events. I'd like to thank everyone who made this year so good for my music and travels; it's been a very full year for me, and I can't believe so much has happened in a mere twelve months.

I began the year in southern Ontario, Canada, recording Dulce Melos. I'm incredibly proud of how it came out, and of how ambitious I was with the complexity of its music. I continued my Baroque explorations, delved even further into sixteenth century music, and discovered some fourteenth- and fifteenth-century gems in addition to the Celtic and early medieval music which has long been my foundation.

From Canada I went to Texas, although it minimized my culture shock that I was living in Austin (unofficial motto: "Keep Austin Weird"). I had a truly splendid experience at the Sherwood Forest Medieval Faire, feeling myself absolutely at home among close friends old and new. It's a delightful show with a lot of heart and skill behind it and I relished the experience of playing there. Austin audiences were incredibly welcoming and generous, and between my colleagues and our patrons I had a magical time.

From the newness of Sherwood I returned to my stomping grounds of Gulf Wars, a large SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event in southern Mississippi. I had a great time, as my Canadian friends mingled with those I have in New Orleans. We did have a bit of an incident, however, with a massive storm system that swept through. I had just begun a set in the tavern when the intense winds and driving rains began, and I moved my setup to the minstrels' gallery (it's an amazing place). I spent the next few hours at my dulcimer, doing my best to add a bit of calm to the atmosphere. They're calling that night "Gulfnado", and it's a story that will always be shared by those who were there.

I then headed to Italy as I do most years, where I made some discoveries pro and con. Cities that have been good to me in the past, Padua and Bologna, had recently passed anti-busking regulations, and even the nominally friendly city of Perugia gave me some problems. In response, I broadened my busking to cities where I had spent very little time in the past, and was very pleased at my welcome in Prato, Terni, Foligno, and Pistoia. Taranto, Genoa, and Pisa were delightful and reliable as they've been so often in the past, and I'm pleased to have added Foggia to the list of cities where I reliably return.

From Italy I resumed my renaissance festival circuit, picking up in St Louis. I always feel very at home there, with this being my fifteenth year there as a musician, but it was a bit of an oddity; the festival is in the process of moving from the spring to the fall, and these two weekends were "preview" weekends offering a limited version of the show free to the public. Even so, I had a really positive experience, and the weekends were a rousing success.

I then spent a month performing at SCA camping events. It's typical for me to include a few of these throughout my year, as with Gulf Wars, but we were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Society's founding. This meant that I went from St Louis to a ten-day camping event outside Kansas City, and on to a week outside Indianapolis, with a few days visiting my parents before a long weekend at the War of the Trillium surrounded by my family of friends in Greater Toronto.

I then continued my Canadian adventures by spending July as a street performer at Byward Market in Ottawa, the nation's capital. I love Ottawa and, as is a theme in my travels, have a number of friends there. It's my favourite busking pitch in North America, as a historic neighbourhood meets a farmers market under the umbrella of a very helpful and organized management team.

I returned to the States, and to the SCA, for my annual trek to Pennsic, north of Pittsburg. My fifteenth year there, I'm starting to play for the children of people who started listening to me as children, themselves. I taught a class on neat medieval sites to visit in Italy, and I was honoured to co-teach a lesson on street performing with my old friejnd and dear colleague Jack Strauss, who calls himself Dr Henry Best in the Society. We have sharply different styles, and it was a lot of fun to see where our perspectives differed and lined up. I'm especially proud to be a part of this class because it has a history of encouraging artists to become professionals, with several alumni who have gone on to make some brilliant art.

I'm running out of creative ways to say "and then I went someplace else".

So off to the New York Renaissance Faire rode I! It's a truly beautiful show set in a former botanical garden, where I'm surrounded by (you guessed it) good friends, delightedly playing for New Yorkers who live in the live entertainment capital of the world and know how to be a phenomenal audience.

Sadly, the New York Faire overlaps with the new autumn dates of the St Louis Renaissance Festival, but I was able to return for the last two weekends of its season. As I mentioned, the preview weekends had gone off very well, and the full show was an even bigger deal.

After two weekends off, which I spent being a social butterfly in southern Ontario again, I headed south to Louisiana. This was my fourteenth year at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival, after a very difficult year for them. The site flooded in March, under 8 feet of water, and after they had cleaned it up did so again in September. I was deeply impressed at how many people pitched in their labour to make things work, and how well management pulled off the event after two such disasters. Thankfully the weather had gotten the water out of its system, because we only had one wet festival day the entire season for a remarkably good run.

In short, it's been a very good festival season for me. Outside of my live performances, however, I also got a lot more into Internet video this year. I launched a Patreon campaign and I'm very pleased both at its generous reception and with how much fun I'm having. I've been intending to take more video, and this has been a brilliant motivation to keep coming up with new variations. Many thanks to all of my patrons! And many thanks to everyone who has offered me encouragement, feedback, applause, and their business. Without you there could never be me, and I'm deeply thankful.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It's official: my newest album, Dulce Melos, will be released 20 May! I named it for the Medieval Latin phrase for "sweet sound" that was later anglicized to "dulcimer"

The basic concept of the album was that it would be majority historical, focusing on but not limited to 15-17 century music. The other parts would be original and Irish music, with one track by Turlough O'Carolan straddling the divide. More specifically, I wanted to make the album roughly equal parts renaissance, baroque, original, and Irish, and I came pretty close. The final track list is:

Douce Dame Jolie (G. de Machaut, 1300 - 1377)
The Faerie Round (A. Holborne, 1545 - 1602)
The Rights of Man (traditional)
Augury (V. Conaway)
Fantasie 34 & 35 (F. Canova da Milano, 1497 - 1543)
Planxty Burke (T. O'Carolan, 1670 - 1738)
Le Souvenir (R. Morton, 1430 - c. 1479)
Corrente Terza (A. Piccinini, 1566 - 1638)
Cooley's Reel (traditional)
Volte VII & VIII (M. Galilei, 1575 - 1631)
Kyrie (anonymous, Faenza Codex)
Danza All'Improvviso (V. Conaway)
Toccata per spinettina sola (G. Frescobaldi, 1583 - 1643)
Falla con Misuras a.k.a. La Spagna (G. Ebreo da Pesaro, c. 1420 - c. 1484)
Replica Variata Della Corrente Terza (A. Piccinini, 1566 - 1638)
Foxhunter's Jig (traditional)
Allemonde in Em (J.S. Bach, 1685 - 1750)
Epiphany (V. Conaway)

I've listened to it a lot over the past two days; I'm pleased at how it's turned out and excited to share it with the world!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I wrapped up recording three weeks ago, and I've been spending a lot of time thinking and researching on what I might like to do for the next one. I've spent a couple afternoons in university music libraries and reviewed what worked best and came naturally on the last album, and I've already got a pretty good idea of what will be on the next.

It's still very much a tentative track listing, but the outlines are clearly visible and the specifics are coming into focus. I've even got two potential titles, medieval phrases that turned up in my research today. I had not expected this to happen so quickly, especially when I'm still rehearsing some of the recently-recorded pieces for live performance, but I'm excited to have a plan going forward.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I can hardly believe it's been 10 years.

2006 was a big year for me. I went to Europe for the first time, on vacation, in January. That summer I went back, performing with the Aerial Angels, during which time I did a few solo street sets and set up my future as a busker.

The year before I had released Distractions from the Muse, the earliest album to exhibit my mature style. My previous efforts were my attempts to find my voice but, while I've continued to improve, DftM was the first to really sound uniquely like me. There's a reason it's my earliest work available on iTunes: I will always be grateful that my first, tentative, efforts never hit the Internet.

I became a professional musician in 1998 and went full-time in 2002, but 2005-2007 is the stretch that made me the performer I am today and 2006 is when the pieces really fell into place.

I can hardly believe it's been 10 years.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Alternately, using the same term, this is the part of my job that most feels like work.

I set up the dulcimer three days ago, rehearsing in the space that I will use to record. It also gave me the ability to judge how well the dulcimer would stay in tune in that spot, which is very important when each take has to match the tuning of the last, for editing, and of the next, for overdubbing. I've been rehearsing to the metronome, in preparation for studio work, and it's been about two years acquiring, learning, rehearsing, and performing the material.

Those are the fun parts.

Recording is distinctly less fun, at least for me. I know musicians who find it a delightful experience, much more so than performance or touring, and I think they are crazy.

This morning began very well, and I whipped off two tracks within 40 minutes. Of course, I started with the easiest music in order to work out the bugs, which is convenient because it turns out the microphone inputs were not recording to tape for those tracks.

That was frustrating.

Also, after several days of consistent tuning on the part of the dulcimer, today it didn't like that part of the room and was consistently going flat. In hindsight, perhaps it's better that those first half dozen takes (between the two songs) didn't make it.

I took a break, ate some eggs, and came back to the task. It was night and day, with things going very smoothly and, I'm pretty sure, doing one of my original songs in a single take (although I recorded a second one just to be sure). I also improvised a solution to a long-standing problem involving sensitive microphones and a loud metronome-click track that may solve an issue I've been fudging for over a decade.

There were still speed bumps, and I discovered that I need to rehearse a 15th century tune with the recording setup rather than a straight metronome before coming back to it, but I'm satisfied with the day's progress. Having spent three hours in the studio, I drove down the hill to my gym, spent 45 minutes on the treadmill to clear my head, came home and showered, and now I'm going to have a little lunch before listening to the day's efforts and making notes for editing.

Welcome to my process.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Today I'm going to do my first street performing since the weekend. Normally I do a lot more of it in Minneapolis, but right now my time is better spent researching and rehearsing new music since I go into the studio in December. Happily, I've made wonderful progress, with a finalized track listing and only five or six pieces left to learn. It also helps that I left the easiest music for last.

So that's what I'm up to: visiting friends, playing a bit to keep some cash flowing, and getting all my ducks in a row to complete the two-year process that recording entails.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I'm recording my next CD in December and I've been spending about two hours a day in rehearsal to prepare. I've noticed in the past that longer stretches only make me frustrated, so I set goals that can be met inside my time limit.

Monday was a day off, a welcome break after a weekend of performing. Tuesday saw me practicing the nine hardest tunes, which are the ones I know best from previous rehearsal and from live performance over the past few months. Yesterday I focused on five tunes I know somewhat, but which could use some work, and today I'm learning the last two. They're simple, but I've done very little with them and I'm still sight-reading.

Each day I also incorporate work from the previous days, but fundamentally this is what my polishing process looks like. The spring and summer learning process is much more arduous, spending three or four days on a single piece while rehearsing the other music I'd already treated thus. Right now I'm just applying a higher standard to my performances and working with a metronome to better prepare for studio sessions.

The entire thing is a yearlong process that began while my previous album, Wanderlust, was still in post-production. Accordingly, I already have music lined up to start learning in January. Any project I undertake needs my full and passionate support or else it would never get off the ground.

vinceconaway: (Default)
I just took custody of 1079 copies of L'Inverno Italiano!  It's too late in the day to do it now, but tomorrow morning I'll be sending a bunch off to my distributor, where they'll be available for all and sundry to enjoy!  It will, unfortunately, take a few weeks from then until mp3s are available for sale at iTunes and other e-tailers but soon everything will be available online.  Which is a good thing because, until early May, they won't otherwise be available in the US!

I'll let you know when CDBaby makes them available for sale, and keep you in touch on other progress as it's made.  I'm thrilled to have them in my hands, and very proud of how it's turned out!
vinceconaway: (Chuckle)
I don't usually answer the phone when it's a number I don't know; it's often easier to just get the voice mail. I know, I know, it's terribly unprofessional and probably deeply discourteous. But today I decided to answer, mainly because I wasn't doing anything in particular, and it was my CD manufacturer, Oasis. With a little bit of dread I asked what was up, wondering if my project was going to be delayed past my hoped-for CD release party or even past my departure date for Italy. Instead, I was told that it was finished a full week ahead of schedule and should be in my hands by Monday. This is yet another reason I love working with these people!

I'm really excited about the CD release, mainly because I've never done anything after having a CD come out other than start selling it at my next performance. This time, however, my next show is going to be a bit different. Since it's an SCA event, and one run by a friend, it should be a nicely intimate gathering. I've had friends in the area for years, dating back to my days with the Ontario Renaissance Festival, and a lot of them have been following my music for quite some time. It just seems like too good an opportunity to pass up and so, while I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to make the release special, I'm pretty sure it will be.

In the meantime I'm making some other changes here and there. I've been working on revamping my website for the past two days, its biggest redesign since I started it in 1998, and so I'm hoping that will be finished sometime next week. If anyone would like to help me out with beta testing drop me a line and I'll send you the temporary URL of the new site. More pertinent, I'm starting to move my blog to LiveJournal. MySpace has been really good to me, and I know a number of you subscribe, but while I'm in Italy it will be much easier for me to post and keep things up to date through LJ. Until I leave for Italy I'll be double-posting everything to both blogs, but once I'm gone it'll be exclusively LiveJournal.

Things are starting to feel intense between the album's release and my upcoming departure. Not intense enough for me to start working any harder to get things done, just enough to make it less comfortable to ignore little things like taxes. So I decide to do things like rewrite my website instead...isn't human nature fun? I think procrastinating can wait until tomorrow...



Jan. 17th, 2007 01:33 pm
vinceconaway: (Default)
Today was wet and miserable, and I was in a dreary mood until setting foot
in a bookstore this evening. They were playing Queen, which is always a
good start, and I did surprisingly well at deciphering the pithy literary
quotes on the walls. Besides, bookstores are naturally soothing places
for me. It was interesting to see Italian translations of books I've read
- I think I might pick up Harry Potter for giggles.

Language has been a theme today. I had a very interesting trilingual
conversation with a girl from Spain. We have similar levels of Italian,
and she spoke just a little less English than I speak Spanish. It was
interesting to see how the conversation went, and I was really proud to be
able to tell her Italian words for Spanish equivolents!

One last note: when asking outfit advice from two ladies at the hostel who
were of conflicting opinions, one said "come on, trust the Italian girl
over the French one". As it happens, the Italian girl's opinion meshed
with mine (the colors clashed).


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