Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2014

Musician Profile: Nicolae Feraru, Gypsy / Roma Traditional Music

by Nicolae Feraru

            Sometimes when I talk to Americans or others about my music, it’s hard to know where to begin.  So let’s start from scratch.

            I am from Bucharest, the largest city in Romania, where I was born in 1950.  Like my father and his father before him, I am a Gypsy and a musician.  I play the cimbalom, a dulcimer in the Romanian tradition, called ţambal in Romanian.  But I need to explain more.

            For centuries, Gypsies in this part of Romania distinguish themselves from others by the occupations they follow.  Some are nomadic, but most live in villages and cities, traditionally in their own neighborhoods.  The many occupations they traditionally follow include those of coppersmith, flower seller, silversmith, spoon maker, and many others.  I am a lǎutar, a musician.

            My grandfather, Marin Feraru, played the clarinet and also the small cimbalom (ţambal mic).  He lived in Caracal, west of Bucharest.  Around …

What is Gypsy Music?

Gypsy music is music of the Roma (Romani or Gypsy) people.  It should be noted that the word ‘gypsy' often has a negative connotation, and the Romani people would never use this term to refer to themselves.  Therefore it is preferable to refer to them as they refer to themselves, as ‘Roma'.  (Please see this website, The Voice of Roma, for a much more thorough discussion of this topic)

The Roma are a diverse ethnic group originating from the Indian plateau and spreading throughout the Near-East, Europe and North Africa on a journey that has lasted at least 1500 years maybe much longer.   They have been known by many names in the various lands they have inhabited such as Tsigane, Zigeuner, Gitano, Bohemian, Egyptian, Gypsie, gipsy and of course, gypsy.

Along their long journey, they have come to embody a certain mystique of wandering people, adept as entertainers and tradesman, but most famously trained as musicians.  Along the thousands of years they have journeyed since leav…

Romani Culture and Music / Taraf De Haidouks

The lăutari who perform at traditional Romanian weddings are virtually all Roma, although their music draws from a vast variety of ethnic traditions — for example Romanian, Turkish, Jewish, and Slavic — as well as Romani traditions. 

Probably the most internationally prominent contemporary performer in the lăutari tradition is Taraful Haiducilor. Zdob şi Zdub, one of the most prominent rock bands in Moldova, although not Romani themselves, draw heavily on Roman music, as do Spitalul de Urgenţă in Romania.

Flamenco music and dance came from the Romani in Spain; the distinctive sound of Romani music has also strongly influenced bolero, jazz, klezmer and Cante Jondo in Europe. European-style Gypsy jazz is still widely practised among the original creators (the Romani People); one who acknowledged this artistic debt was Django Reinhardt.

Classical music: Romani music is very important in Eastern European cultures such as Hungary, Russia, and Romania, and the style and performance practices o…

The Mandolin's Heyday

Frets, March 1979 Early Gibson mandolin family instruments consisted of mandolin, mandola, mandocello, and mandobass. Varied in size and tuned one fifth apart, these instruments were the fretted equivalents of the violin viola, cello, and string bass and could be played in much the same manner, using music composed for their bowed counterparts.

In my view, the evolution of instruments occurs in three basic ways: a new instrument is developed, an existing one is improved in response to public demand, or a maker first produces an instrument and then attempts to create a demand for it. Sometimes this entails writing or arranging music spedfically for the new instrument and promoting the music along with the instrument. The Gibson Company used this approach with considerable success to create a demand for the mandolin family instruments. When they introduced the mandola, mandocello, and mandobass around 1910, they also introduced the concept of a mandolin orchestra that could play regular…

Gibson Mandolin "Orchestra"

by Gregg Miner

Disclaimer to Internet readers:

The following text is a humorous essay written for the layperson. It originally appeared in a companion booklet to my 1995 Christmas Collection CDs. The information, while factual, is presented in a personal, unorthodox manner. No offense is intended toward my fellow musicians or fellow musicologists.

I must confess that I'm among the many who are infatuated with old Gibson instruments, particularly those made between 1900 and 1930, heyday of the mandolin and banjo. The Gibson story began with Orville Gibson, who, among other things, revolutionized the mandolin in the year 1898. Dissatisfied with the sound of the traditional Italian-style bowl-back mandolin (not to mention how to hold the slippery thing!), he completely redesigned it -- giving it a relatively flat, shallow profile, and applying such violin principals as an arched, carved top and back. His basic design was refined by the Gibson Company over the years and reached its z…

The South Hadley Mandolin Orchestra (SHMO) is a non-profit musical organization established in 2013

The South Hadley Mandolin Orchestra (SHMO) is a non-profit musical organization established in 2013 by Adam R Sweet, in an effort to revive the beauty and popularity of the traditional mandolin orchestra, which was mainstream in the United States around the turn of the 20th Century.  The Orchestra will consist of volunteer musicians, and will feature composers from around New England and beyond.
To get the orchestra off to a good solid start, it needs to purchase instruments for use by the orchestra, to purchase sheet music for the orchestra library, purchase or lease recording and amplification equipment for the publishing of videos, CDs and other promotional material, pay for the design and publishing of a website, to purchase advertising and marketing for concerts and open rehearsals, and to pay the Director and Manager reasonable salaries.  
Although the SHMO is not currently a registered non-profit organization, we are working towards that goal so that we may accept donations from …

"The Zone" aka "Flow"

The Psychology of Flow
by Jeremy Dean*

What is it like to be fully alive, right now, engaged with what you are doing? That’s the psychology of flow.
When the happiness and creativity expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was studying how painters work, he noticed an odd thing. When their painting was going well they didn’t care about getting tired, hungry or uncomfortable, they just carried on.

But when the painting was finished, they rapidly lost interest in it.

What was this special state of mind that seemed to absorb the whole of your being? Csikszentmihalyi called it a ‘flow state’. It’s the experience of being fully engaged with what you’re currently doing.

When you’re in a flow state:

an hour can pass in the blink of an eye,you feel what you are doing is important,you’re not self-conscious,action and awareness merges,you feel in full control,and the experience is intrinsically rewarding.
To create a flow experience, you need:

to be internally motivated, i.e. you are doing the activity m…

The Difference between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic bands, now finally explained! (humor)

Old Time and Celtic songs are about whiskey, food and struggle. Bluegrass songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girl isn’t dead by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it’s Celtic. The Bluegrass fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The Celtic fiddler inherited his from his mothers 2nd cousin in County Clare. The Old Time fiddler got theirs for $15 at a yard sale.” ~ The National Folk Festival of Australia

The Music

Old Time and Celtic songs are about whiskey, food and struggle. Bluegrass songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girl isn’t dead by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it’s Celtic.

Old Time and Celtic bands have nonsense names like “Flogging Molly’, “Fruit Jar Drinkers’ and “Skillet Lickers” while Bluegrass bands have serious gender-specific name like “Bluegrass Boys,’ “Clinch Mountain Boys’ and ”Backwoods Babes.”

The most common Old Time keys are majo…

Fiddler On The Slopes


Violinist-turned-Olympian Vanessa-Mae checks out her fellow skiers in Sochi, Russia on Feb. 10.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Classical music has managed to take center stage at sports events in the last few weeks. Soprano Renée Fleming sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl two weekends ago. And the Russian-born Anna Netrebko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, appeared at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony to perform the Olympic Anthem.

However, no one asked either of those opera stars to perform athletic feats. Leave those to 35-year-old British violinist Vanessa-Mae, who is scheduled to ski for Thailand in the women's giant slalom Tuesday, Feb. 18.

First marketed as a child prodigy in the late 1980s, Vanessa-Mae later found huge success as a crossover musician with an overtly sexy image. In 2006, London's Sunday Times put her at the very top of its list of the U.K.'s wealthiest young entertainers. Her fortune, then estimated at £32 mil…

Your Brain on Practice

by Jenna Bauer

In order to attain a high level of mastery on the violin, it is crucial to understand the mechanics of our brains, as many great pedagogues have demonstrated. With this in mind, I wasn’t surprised when I uncovered a commonality between Ivan Galamian’s Principles of Violin Playing & Teaching and neuroscientist David Eagleman’s latest book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain.
Both texts bring out an explicit fact: the brain is jam-packed with antics and we are completely unaware that we are the subject of its pranks. Why is it that when you hear a recording of your own voice, or the “voice” you’ve developed through the violin, you’re taken aback that the sound is not what you expected...or wanted?

Galamian coins this as subjective listening. You believe you are hearing the sound correctly, but your desires and expectations mask the actual sound being produced. Our brains persistently conceal the reality of our interactions with the world to make everything more…

Willie Nelson & Alison Krauss set for Spring/Summer Tour

published by BMNN

Beginning this spring, Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas will tour 35 cities with Willie Nelson and Family. The opening dates of the three-month tour will feature Kacey Musgraves when the tour begins in Murray, Kentucky at the CFSB Center on May 1, 2014. All Grammy Award Winning artists performing in this collaboration tour will certainly provide an over-the-top outstanding concert event..

The tour will mark the first time that Willie Nelson and Family & Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas have shared the stage together. The two groups’ unique personalities combined with impeccable musicianship and decades of award-winning songs are sure to create a show full of unforgettable moments.

Joining them for separate portions of the tour will be folk trio The Devil Makes Three, two-time Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves, and celebrated songwriter Jason Isbell.

With a six-decade career and 200 plus albums, Willie Nelson is the cre…