I’ve been having such amazing visits with a baby grand in North Chattanooga lately… Such a different experience from playing a 100-year-old upright, and it brings out totally different music from me. Most people around here don’t even associate me with a piano–Heck! I certainly don’t talk about myself as a pianist. Never totally developed that identity, I suppose. But still, it’s one of my happiest places, to be sitting at a piano with unlimited time to explore all the sounds and patterns of chords and notes. Although the dulcimer is my true love, the piano is the thread of continuity that ties me back to my 4-year-old self. How mysterious the keyboard must’ve seemed to me at that time, and how wonderful that I still find mystery in it today. But most of all, as always, I find joy.
Here’s a video of the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, who make me feel like there could (or should!) someday be a jazz trio in my future. File this one under “inspiration.”
Here’s a little gospely number I wrote in the shower the other day. Seems like something that could’ve come out of the Unitarian hymn book, and no surprise there. This song has some of my favorite things in it– playing the piano, lots of fifth intervals, and invented words (“feelya”, “walkya”, “growya”, and “giveya”). I’m not that crazy about the quality of the recording… Still on a search for a good digital recorder, I suppose. This one makes the piano sound muffled, my voice sound unreasonably clear, and is overall too quiet or something. It could just be that I need a good microphone.
Anyway, all technological critiques aside, I’m pretty happy with the song… It sounds to me like a conversation between a person (ok, me) and the universe. Just some happy thoughts passed back and forth, you know, a little small talk, me and the universe.
“Working Hands” recorded at 524 East 18th St., Chattanooga, June 8, 2009:
Working Hands, by Christie Burns
My dulcimer student, Ranae, is on a great path with her music (even if she doesn’t realize it). She has taken lessons from Dan, lessons from me, she’s been collecting a variety of tunes to play on the hammered dulcimer, and now she has finally discovered that she can play the music she actually knows. I had her bring her hymnal from church and show me her favorite hymn. It was “Redeemed”– the new version, not the old version. And of course it was written in the dulcimer-un-friendly key of Eflat major. So I transposed it to D, and we worked out a nice little arrangement of it for dulcimer. Meanwhile, I had a photocopy of the page from the hymnal, with “Redeemed” written in its original key. This page has been sitting in the center of my piano ledge, and I’ve played it several times a week since she first brought it into the house. I’m so turned on by the chord voicings and the harmonies in this! Are all hymns this cool? Can’t possibly be. But I love the thought that the South is full of church-going people because the music in the churches around here just sounds so good, and Southern people have a keen appreciation for harmony. I know that theory won’t stand very well, but still, it’s a nice thought. Butch picked up on the grooviness of this tune too; he said it sounded like Tom Waits.
This is a piece I wrote and recorded on Christmas Eve. I like it because it reminds me of an artist in Pasadena, Terry Payne, whose work is shown above. Mostly, it reminds me of the music on his website, but then I can easily remember meeting him and his big fluffy dog on the streets of Pasadena while I played my dulcimer there. He was quite a lot older than me, and I’m pretty sure we had little, if anything, in common… But it’s probably the mystery that I liked about him the most. I remember a certain gentle intensity about him. Before I had a chance to get to know him at all, I left for Ireland. While I was in Ireland, Terry sent me a very cool postcard– an illustration of his in the style Polish circus poster that originally had the word “Cyrk” on it, that Terry had cleverly changed to “Cork”. All these years I’ve kept him in mind as the artist I’d like to have design my cd cover. You out there, Terry? You with me on this? Remember your dulcimer girl?