August 29, 2010


Yesterday Dan and I hung out for a couple hours at The New York State Fair. We saw lots of cool stuff. Here's me with the annual butter sculptureThis year's Beatles-themed sand sculptureDan in front of some kind of weird inflatable iguana/dinosaur thingAnd we saw tigers...And a giraffe...And at the circus and got to see two camels, two lamas and a horse do a dance routine!It was a beautiful day and the crowds were intense. Here we are enjoying a hard-earned chocolate milk after waiting in line for at least 20 minutes

August 25, 2010

Fiddle Camp pics

Hey all. So quick birding update. A couple days ago Jay McGowan and I did some shorebirding at Montezuma NWR. We had a nice variety at the Knox-Marcellus Marsh (viewed from Towpath Road). Highlights included two HUDSONIAN GODWITS, two RED-NECKED PHALAROPES, over ten(!) BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS and a good assortment of more expected species. Also had three young Peregrine Falcons chasing each other around and five Sandhill Cranes. The godwits just dropped in for a couple minutes before flying off again; I think it was my first time seeing Hudsonian Godwits in flight. It's been a few months since I've done any real birding so it's nice getting back into it. I'm out of practice though; made a couple pretty stupid calls.

Anyway, last week Noah and I were on staff at the Kanack School of Music in Rochester for Fiddle Week. We had a great time! Here are some pics...

Noah, me, Jenna, Donal and MollyMolly rocking out at the staff partyThe terrible trio (be afraid!)
((no seriously... be very afraid!!!))Noah (aka "Captain Awesome") with his group TEAM AWESOME performing their modern masterpiece "The Epicly Awesome Awesome-Song"My group: Daphne, Hassler, Erica and RachelGood times at Ben & Jerry's after camp
"Chocolate, Banana, with Sprinkles.... yeah"
~Jenna Moynihan

August 12, 2010

Musical Musings

Been a busy busy week! And very hot. But things are good here. I'll try and fill you in on some stuff. So, lets see... I guess we'll start back a couple weeks. The A&N Band played a fun show on the Arts Quad at Cornell University. Here's a video of one of Noah's new tunes called Griffin Road

I came home for a couple days then headed back to Ithaca for some recording. Laurie Hart asked if I would add some guitar and bouzouki to the next installment of her trad Scandinavian music series (Volume 2 I believe). I had a great time playing with her and hanging out at WilburlandThen our friend Chris Miller came up from NYC to visit for a few days. Chris is a wonderful sax player and we had a terrific time swapping tunes. Look for him to make some appearances with the A&N Band later this fall and winter!I've recently been listening to the new Punch Brothers album Antifogmatic and it's been a really good experience for me. I'll give you some background. Punch Brothers is the latest project of mandolin genius, Nickel Creek front man and former child-prodigy Chris Thile. For many years Thile's work has been a more-than-major influence on my own music. He's amazingly talented, creative, prolific, astoundingly accomplished on his instrument, looks a ton like a certain Pacific northwest vampire you may have heard of. Nickel Creek's Why Should The Fire Die? is still one of my favorite albums of all time. And for a long time I measured my own musical relevance and success in relation to Thile and perhaps even let him dictate my tastes to a certain extent. Not entirely healthy to say the least. But recently things have been changing. A couple years ago I started to try and expand the music that I was listening to beyond Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and company. I was just feeling that the pool of music I was drawing from was much to shallow and I really needed to digest some new sounds and ideas. So I started trying to get my hands on some more vintage swing and country. Both of these genres have really gotten under my skin and I find myself reevaluating much of what I thought I knew about "good" music. Different kinds of music have different reasons for sounding the way they do. They have different purposes and appeal to different people at different times for different reasons. So I get all that. But still I find that, if only for the organization my own personal internal music library, I need to define what makes music "good" verses bad, mediocre, forgettable, etc. I find myself caring less and less about technical ability and accuracy. While I can still totally appreciate difficult and intricate music I get bored very quickly with musical gymnastics just for the sake of showing off. And similarly I'm beginning to very much dislike solos in general. To me playing a solo and playing lead are very different things. A solo can be scripted or improvised; same with playing lead. But a solo detracts from the rest of the music to focus on one person while a good lead player doesn't need to walk all over everyone else in the band just to be heard. Even when you're in the spotlight you should still be thinking about how to make the rest of the band sound as good as possible. I mean, music is made to be listened to right? Not to be admired for it's technicalities. Otherwise the audience might as well just sit and read some hard or complicated piece of sheet music and not be troubled by whether it sounded good or had any kind of emotional connection. That's another thing I've found; I really like music that sounds like it was made by and for real live human beings. Stuff that on some level describes what it's like to be alive in the universe. Not to say I only like acoustic or unaffected music. Some of my absolute favorite records are highly produced alternative rock and electronica. But something about them speaks to me, makes me feel a certain way, makes me want to move or react. Could be the lyrics or the beat; a beautiful melody or a particularly creative use of sampling, etc. No, I think it's more an issue of intention. Musicians have to ask themselves "Why are we playing this?" and not "What are people going to think of it?" Because if the answer to "why" is anything like "so people will like me and buy my record" then it's almost certainly going to sound like forced, pandering, soulless crap, no matter what the genre. And nobody's truly concerned about what people will think of their music, they're worried about what people will think of them for playing their music, which to me is another one of the poisonous seeds that kills artistic creativity. I'm beginning to rant a bit. So let me get back to the Punch Brothers album Antifogmatic. It is of course an amazing record with flawless playing, astounding arrangements, boldly pushing the boundaries of the "genre" (is it really a genre now... acoustic alternative bluegrass chamber music?), impressive in every sense. But only being impressed gets old after a few songs. To be fair there are some good songs on the album too. Thile and friends are all jaw-dropping players but I knew that before I even got the plastic wrap off and while I wasn't disappointed by what I heard, I also wasn't really challenged, surprised or even engaged. And the funny thing is, that makes me feel so good! To finally be able to say "I totally appreciate this music but I don't particularly ever want to sound anything like it" is like shedding a huge weight for me. I have other values now; I realize they might change again over time but for right now I like them very much. This is fun stuff to discuss so send me a line if you have anything to add. And I do recommend you check out Antifogmatic and hear it for yourself...