MP3 Jon Kay - October Dreams
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10 MP3 Songs
FOLK: Gentle, FOLK: Modern Folk
October Dreams is an instrumental album that truly explores the dynamic range of the mountain dulcimer. Considered by many to be the most progressive dulcimer players in a generation, Jon Kay's solo dulcimer sounds like the work of a post-modern Aaron Copland. This album showcases his finger-style approach, which incorporates "rolls" similar to that of bluegrass banjo, but with the attack and tonal qualities of a guitar creating a sound that has been compared to the music Pierre Bensusan and Michael Hedges.
Notes from Jon about the Recording and the Songs:
I recorded October Dreams while working at Mountain Made Music, a dulcimer shop in my hometown of Nashville, Indiana. While employed there, I spent several hours each day practicing the dulcimer, composing melodies, and developing my style of dulcimer playing. The album showcases a finger-style approach that evolved from playing my Berg five-string dulcimer. The instrument has an octave string next to the bass, which allows finger-style rolls similar to that of banjo, but with the attack and tonal qualities of a guitar.
October Dreams derives its name from what old-timers in Indiana called a "fall-spring" or a "false spring," which is when spring is cool and trees bud out slowly, creating a colorful autumn affect. I recall sitting in my parents porch swing with my dulcimer looking out over the colorful new on the landscape, dreaming of October.
Si Beag Si Mhor is a harp tune by Turlough Ocarolin It is a musical story about the battle of the fairies that live in the big hill and the little hill. I first heard this tune played by Neal Hellman, the dulcimer player that had the greatest stylistic impact on my playing.
Fisher's Hornpipe is a traditional dulcimer tune that I learned from the recording Mountain Dulcimer Galax Style by the Russell Family. While I was inspired by their playing, my take on the melody, rhythm and style is far from the Galax method.
Earl of Grey is a homage to my morning ritual of picking up my earl grey iced tea at the Daily Grind Coffeehouse in Nashville, Indiana, before opening the Music Store.
Richard's Wake was inspired by Richard Farina's tune Twileries, which I often tried to play but could not remember the actual melody. So, this composition is based upon years of improvising on the Farina tune, until there are very few actual remnants of the original melody. The title Richard's Wake is intended to have a double meaning. A wake as in a celebration of life when someone passes. Farina died young; however his musical influenced shaped a generation of dulcimer players. And like the "wake" of a stone thrown into a lake his contribution to dulcimer playing continues to impact players today. While working on this project, I met Mimi Farina, the widow of Richard. I picked her up at the airport and chaufered her around Bloomington, Indiana for a weekend where she was performing. I think this experience encouraged me to originally call this recording Richard's Wake.
An American Theme was my first composition on the dulcimer. I was exploring the use of drones and harmonics to create a musical storyline. The music tells the story of migration and settlement. If you listen to the melodies you might hear can hear hints of barn-raisings and funeral dirges. I guess it is my attempt to be Aaron Copeland.
Ozymandias is a meta-classical composition that pokes fun at the pretense of art music, while still attempting to be artistic. Its name derives from a Shelly poem of a similar topic.
Minor Thoughts explores the modal nature of the dulcimer.
Waiting is about falling in love with someone, but giving them room to heal before beginning a new relationship. However, the melody was the only thing that ever came from my waiting. I tried to make this piece have a pensive and reserved feel.
Yellow Wood Road is a gravel road that runs through the Yellow Wood State Forest in Indiana. As a kid, I heard stories about ghosts and witches that lived in this forest. One evening when driving home from a Halloween party at a friend's house, I decided to take this narrow country road. I pulled on to it and stopped. I looked at the clock-It was nearly midnight. I glanced up at the moon which was almost full. After locking my doors, I began my drive. The deeper I went into the woods the faster I drove, until finally I made it through. This tune is a musical portrayal of that quick trip through the woods.
Jon Kay has created a distinctive sound and style of mountain dulcimer music that caused some listeners to label him the "Jimi Hendrix of the dulcimer." Kay began playing the dulcimer in 1987, while working for Bill and Laura Berg at Mountain Made Music, in his hometown of Nashville, Indiana. During his four year tenure at this dulcimer shop, Kay developed his style of playing the dulcimer based on the Berg's five string dulcimer. Kay recalls, "I would spend the winter days playing the dulcimer. Sometimes, I would play for six or seven hours straight, waiting for customers to come into the store."
His finger-style approach blends the rolling technique of a five-string banjo with the tonal qualities of classical guitar. Kay explains "When I first started playing, I would listen to these dulcimer recordings and couldn't believe the sounds they were getting out of the simple little instrument. I thought, I want to play like that. It wasn't until later that I realized that the recording had a guitar or another instrument playing along. So, I guess, you could say, I didn't know I was doing anything different, at first."
Kay was influenced by the new acoustic movement of the 1980s. While working at Mountain Made Music, he listened to various "new age" and contemporary folk artists, including, Michael Hedges, Patrick Ball and Metamora. In 1988, Kay met dulcimer legend Neal Hellman, who confirmed Kay's dedication to finger-style dulcimer music. Kay's approach moves beyond finger picking tunes; his compositions and arrangements are inextricably link technique and composition.
In 1991, Kay recorded his first album, Richard's Wake, a collection of original compositions and arrangements. The recording explored the sparse beauty of Kay's solo style that brought musical and textural depth making it sound like two or three instruments. Kay describes, "I was trying to create a Windham Hill style recording. I wanted it to show the beauty of the instrument with out over-editing, over-arranging or even over-dubbing. It is minimal music; it's me playing the dulcimer in front of two microphones. I wanted it to be about me and the instrument, not about a studio or a band." Kay has re-released this recording as October Dreams, the title of the first cut on the album.
In 1991, Kay left Mountain Made Music, to try his hand as a full-time dulcimer player. For three years he made his living playing dulcimer at festivals, coffeehouses, schools, bookstores, retreat centers, weddings and even funerals. While selling dulcimers at the Yellow Banks Dulcimer Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky, Kay met Dick "Richard" Albin, who invited Kay to play at the following Great American Dulcimer Convention in Pine Mountain, Kentucky. Albin not only encouraged Kay to play more but offered advise on being a performer. Kay took this input to heart and started developing holistic shows that blend his unique brand of music and storytelling this allowed Kay to take his music to a much wider audience.
Kay won the Midwest Dulcimer Championship in Avoca, Iowa in 1992. That same year, Kay opened for many acoustic masters including Norman and Nancy Blake, Peter Rowan, John Hartford, and Tony Rice. He found himself playing dulcimer for audiences unfamiliar with the instrument. "I was really lucky. And it helped being the new kid on the block. I guess, I was one of the first Gen-X dulcimer players. Now days there are many great young players that are doing amazing things on the instrument." Kay continues, "I never viewed myself totally as a dulcimer player. I was a composer and instrumentalist that played the dulcimer. So, I was able to think outside the box. I didn't have any do's and don'ts for the instrument; I was free."
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