Zampogna and harp duo
Zampogna and harp duo
I don’t have a standard pattern for dulcimer back braces. I don’t have a standard pattern for bracing dulcimer soundboards either. The bracing pattern, number of braces, and size of the braces depends on the sound I am after and the wood involved. It would be easier and faster to standardize things but that wouldn’t be any fun at all. I also find the results I get from taking the long route make a big difference in the sound of the dulcimer.
In the photograph above you can see the four planes I use to dimension the back braces. The braces are brought to approximate size and then shaped after being glued to the back. This dulcimer back has three spruce cross braces and a Spanish Cedar reinforcement over the center joint.
After getting the braces roughly to shape I do most of the final shaping with a paring chisel. In the photograph below you can see the paring chisel and the cute little shaving it makes. You can also see what a neat and highly organized workbench looks like.
After using the paring chisel the shaping of the braces is complete, though sometimes I will sand the braces as in the completed back shown below; it just depends on what I feel like doing. Sometimes I prefer the crisp, clean lines left by edge tools, other times I go for the smooth and rounded look left by sanding.
Next comes fitting the braces into the side linings and gluing the back to the sides.
Still, this small workspace manages to accumulate an impressive amount of sawdust, wood-shavings, cut-offs, as well as a strange assortment of things that mysteriously appear for reasons unknown. Take for example an empty quart pickle jar that I found while excavating scrap-wood from a corner. I don’t know how the jar got there. I don’t eat pickles. I do not need a pickle jar in the shop, yet somehow it is there.
I have a theory; everything lost ends up someplace else. Perhaps somewhere in the world someone is missing an empty pickle jar. And somewhere in the world someone is perhaps cleaning a kitchen and wondering how a #49 drill bit I lost ended up in a silverware drawer.
It all makes sense to me.
This time around I am doing what I call a “deep cleaning” of the shop; I am rearranging things to make work and storage more efficient. I just set up a table so I can clutter a horizontal surface that is easier to reach than the floor. There are fewer cardboard boxes with mysteries therein. I can almost walk across the room without stepping over anything. I can see the top of the bench around a half-built dulcimer. In an hour my shop will be a happier little paradise than it was earlier today.
Coffee break is over, time to get back on my head!
Ocean of Wisdom is my “greatest hit.” I first released it on a cassette in 1990. The cassette was originally going to be manufactured in the UK and picked up when I arrived there to do a six week tour. Three weeks before I was going to go to the UK I learned that the agent I had worked with did not have his act together and the tour would have been a disaster. The first gig would have been in the North of Scotland and the second gig would be a week later in the South of England. The rest of the tour had many holes in the schedule. The agent said he was still working on the tour and not to worry. Fine, except he had been working on booking me for a year and I had no confidence that in three weeks he would come up with the 15 or 20 gigs to make the tour viable.
I ended up releasing the cassette in the US in 1990. Since then several people have learned to play it and a few other folks have recorded it.
I wrote the tune while living in the San Fernando Valley. I moved there from Boulder, CO because a woman I loved got a job there.
I never quite understood Southern California culture. I grew up in New York City. Life in Southern California was like living in some strange parallel universe. In New York most people I met communicated with a direct and blatant honesty. I knew who was a friend and who was conning me.
In the LA area I found it difficult to differentiate politeness from being blown off by people. I did make some good friends but more often than not I would think I was connecting with people personally and/or professionally but it was just surface-level interaction. Calls wouldn’t get returned, agreements were not kept, etc. Again, I did meet and work with some great folks but that wasn’t the norm.
One day I was driving from The Valley so I could busk by the La Brea Tar Pits. Yes, I used to play and put out the hat next to a tar pit. I have led an interesting life.
When I got to the tar pits I set up my hammered dulcimer and this tune just sort of happened. It had been percolating during the car ride.
I rerecorded Ocean of Wisdom on the CD “The Sadness Of Common Objects” in 2007.
After a year in Southern California the relationship I was in came to an end and I moved back to Boulder. And six years later I moved to Michigan. I’m still here.
I’m selling these gizmos short. The water motors not only power a grinding and buffing wheel; they can also power a sewing machine, wash bottles, and clean lamp chimneys.
In the case of “Divine’s Red Devil Water Motor” we also get to ponder if using this device requires selling one’s soul to the dark side. I think not, but what do I know?
This song was inspired by a quote of Sri Ramana Maharshi. As he neared the end of his life he comforted his devotees by saying, “You say I am going away, but where can I go? I am always here. You give too much importance to the body.”
I wrote the song many years ago and recorded it in 2007 on my album “Songs From My Past – Music With Mountain Dulcimer.” I’m singing and playing dulcimer and through the magic of recording technology I’m also playing harmonium.