Monday, February 6, 2017

Stone Spiral and May Aufderheide

I’ll be playing music with Josh Bohm on guitar at Stone Spiral in Maplewood this Saturday, and you can find them at It’s an off the beaten path coffee house and I like to play there because I can pretty much play what I want… it’s more a “concert” than background music.

I’ve played a couple classical pieces on occasion – which is a big deal because I’d never worked up a classical piece to performance level – and usually we do rags and original tunes. Plus there some great food, it might cost a dollar more than you think it should but the chicken salad sandwich with the Great Harvest bread, OMG! And the staff is good folks.

So as we like to say “it’s a show you won’t want to miss!” Random thoughts on stuff I play, in the ragtime world, May Aufderheide is considered the best female composer. She wrote a bundle of rags, more than most women, between the ages of about 20 to 25. In “those days” once you got married, writing ragtime was considered “unwomanly” and you gave it up to raise kids and feed your husband.

This is too bad, but on the other hand, it seems to be the first time where women composers got themselves on reasonably equal footing with men. May to me is an original… you have to get into it a bit to notice, and she hooks you by waiting to show her stuff.

Usually the first strain of her rags is the most conventional, and after that… it’s “on.” The rhythms are different than most other rags I play, some of the harmonies are more unusual, and a lot of “Full” chords, with three or four notes. I play three: Dusty, Richmond, (both from 1908) and Buzzer (1909). I liked Buzzer because of the end of the first strain, which is really easy, but the rest of it’s been a bear, and it’s taking a long time and a lot of frustration for me to get it together. But finally! I can pretty much play it without fear.

In any case, I’m doing the other to this weekend. Dusty has a “beer garden” feel and Richmond is the simplest of the bunch but again in a very original fashion. The third strain has a really cool bass line, and there’s a certain heartfelt simplicity about it that “gets you”… especially if I play it right.

“Perfessor” Bill Edwards has a good bio of her here If there’s one thing I’ve learned playing this music, it’s that if you think you should know it by now but you don’t, it means you need to practice it more. Eventually it comes around. Anyway pop by Stone Spiral if you can!

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