“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are who have gone over it.” Hunter S. Thompson
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” — Aldous Huxley (Music at Night and Other Essays)
Wow, It’s been about 4 months since the last newsletter went sailing off the presses. I hope all the folks who read this are well and making music, even if it’s just clothespins and playing cards in the spokes of your bicycle.
Since last we spoke, I visited with old friends and made a few new, interesting friends in Quartzsite AZ during their annual tumbleweed, dirt, rock and mineral fest; figured out a way to reasonably make flutes fine-tunable; waged a territorial battle with some skunks here at Rancho Relaxo, and spent some time on Ambergris Caye, off the coast of Belize with Jerry Jeff Walker and a bunch of his fans. Overall, it’s all been good, if you don’t count the part about the skunks.
Quartzsite and Mexico
Quartzsite yielded some interesting material for flute inlay, including Crazy Lace agate, 120 million-year-old Russian ammolite, turquoise from different mines here in the Southwest, California gold in rose quartz matrix, boulder opals from Mexico and Australia …….and a two pound bag of 65 million-plus-year old Raptor egg shells from a huge nesting hole in China, and I have no idea why I bought that…..After three days of eating wind swept dirt in Quartzsite, my road dog Cragorio and I decided to drive from there to Mexico. Specifically the destination was Craig’s house in Rosarito Beach, below Tijuana. The area used to be called Mexico’s “Gold Coast” and now, thanks to the Sinaloa and Beltran-Leyva cartels, is better known as “Blood Alley.” Knowing my weakness for bar hopping in Mexican border towns, he suggested we drive down to Mexicali, then just turn right, toward the sun till we run into the Pacific Ocean, 174 km along the Mexican border. I pointed out two things to him. First, he needs to brush up on current events, and second, I don’t want my head cut off and put in a cardboard box. We did it my way, turning a 3 hour drive into 9 hours, and getting lost in the Anza Borrego desert…. A story for another time.
Fine-tunable Wooden Flutes
Taking note of the fine tunability of some silver flutes as well as some bass English whistles, I noticed that basically they were built with a sleeve at the head joint, allowing the player to make the entire flute slightly longer, or shorter, by a few centimeters. I thought about such an adjustment for a wooden flute, because wood is a very dynamic material, reacting to humidity, altitude and ambient temperature. This can translate into a ten cent (think percent) variability from the original spot-on tuning. Although five cents sharp or flat is imperceptible, unless you’re a bat, some folks want to be able to adjust the tuning to accommodate different playing environments. So, I’m building a few. Specifically, rather than tackle the engineering nightmare of a sleeve at the back end of the sound chamber, I cut and shape a piece to slide onto the end of the flute, like a ring on a finger. The flute is tuned using analog, digital, and strobe tuners, while the piece is half its depth on the end of the flute. Pushing the piece back, flush with the flute bbl. shortens the flute by almost half an inch, sharpening it up about five cents. Adjusting the piece outward from its original position likewise flattens the note by about five cents. There are a couple of photos here someplace that you can click on to enlarge. Some folks will probably think…….This man needs a vacation …………………………………. So I took one.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
If you’re from Texas or Oklahoma, you know Jerry Jeff Walker…probably personally. Being raised in Burbank, California, I of course…..never heard of him. He’s some kind of middle American icon, and since my bride grew up in a VERY small town in Oklahoma, his was the background music of her young life. He goes down to his beach house on this little spit of land, twice a year, and (now this is brilliant)…..performs in these little palapa bar concerts for the folks who come down and hang out with him. What a concept for a working vacation. He does a couple of concerts, throws in a meet and greet, and will autograph ANYTHING you throw in front of him. In our case, it was my bride’s new Voyage-Air folding guitar…. Overall, the place is truly paradise. Gentle trade winds, coconut palms, a blending of Mayan, Guatemalan, and Caribbean influences, Belikin beer and two dollar rum and coke you can carry with you around town. Their local rum tastes like crème soda, even without the coke…..but I digress. The third leg of the journey to this sand bar was really interesting. We took a plane so small that I could have reached forward and played with knobs and levers in the cockpit. The whole leg took only 15 minutes, and I don’t think we got more than 300 ft. off the ground. There were ten passengers and the plane was full. It was great. The hammock photo is in front of Victoria House. We didn’t stay there. At 2 to 6 thousand dollars a week, I can afford to stay at Victoria House for about eight minutes.
Having been to this event before, pre me, my bride knew a bunch of folks, most of whom were very talented musicians. Somebody was always hosting a guitar pickin on their porch or balcony, so I eagerly packed a couple of flutes, seven Lee Oskar blues harps, as well as my Walkabout sound system for the trip. Dean Cavill dragged his pedal steel guitar down to Belize, but wanted to noodle around on the Voyage-air folding guitar. He asked that I join in with one of my flutes and the Walkabout, and this was a snippet of the result. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI7Ge4tovG4
Speaking of the Walkabout, ……here’s a video of Scott August noodling around in my dining room on one of my single bbl. Drones, hooked up to the sound system. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgK6ALG5H88
OK then, I’m learning so much about this blog thing, I may start posting old Roadrunner cartoons. In the meantime, looks like Spring’s around the corner, so if you’re looking for something to do, waiting for the snow to melt so you can find your car, ….I just added seven long- overdue flutes to my website. As always, play nice.