Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

I am a musician playing primarily hammered dulcimer and flute, and have produced 15 instrumental albums on Virginia, Nature, History, Celtic, Christmas, and other themes; self-styled and original in approach, with a strong respect for sources and meanings.


Worth: inherent or in a context?

Worth: inherent or in a context?

So what gives something value?  Is it worth what it’s worth even if that’s not recognized or appreciated or acknowledged?

As a musician I frequently experience a vast range of responses from listeners, particularly noticeably in an informal setting such as a signing event in front of a bookstore that carries my CDs: some people are in rapt joy, and some are mildly interested, while others seem to intently ignore my presence or even smirk in pitying amusement!

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'The First Noel' in a new hammered dulcimer arrangement

When I recorded this celebrated English traditional carol for the Christmas album Hope from on High in 2008, I took advantage of the studio setting to develop it into a creatively enhanced ensemble work, changing keys and lead instruments and rhythms and moods --- on hammered dulcimer, guitar, bowed psaltery, bamboo flute, silver flute, etc. --- to have it develop in the form of the action story of which the words tell.

In retrospect, why did I feel the need to do it that way?  Well, perhaps I intuitively was concerned that the beautiful, fetching folk melody, though quite lyrical, has a lot of repetitious features, and as an instrumental it would benefit from special treatment, rather than merely being played as a tune.

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'Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming' for hammered dulcimer

 Here is a fairly simple arrangement of the great Christmas carol ‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’ ('Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen') that I’ve played on hammered dulcimer (and sometimes bowed psaltery --- it's in the key of C, so it's all on one side of the psaltery!) for a quarter of a century and recorded on my album Incarnation.  If you’re a hammered dulcimer player, perhaps this can be something you develop for your own playing during this wonderful season!

When I made the video today, I decided to use the bright-toned wooden side of my hammers, and it sounded pretty nice --- but then when I recorded it again with the suede sides, it more fluently spoke the language I was looking for.  So what you hear here is the suede, piano-like sound.

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'Silent Night' for hammered dulcimer using 'thirds' harmonies

One of the great Christmas carols --- perhaps the most beloved of all --- is ‘Silent Night’, which was written by Franz Gruber in 1818 using a guitar when the church organ wasn’t working.

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Can they see you?

Can they see you?

[Photo: Virginia Sky, with Ann Robinson and Peter Budnikas.]

Guitarists face the audience, especially when they’re singing.  Of course!  Well, pianists don’t, because they need for the piano to face the audience, so they face sideways.

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