Over the course of 2020 I released a series of three EPs, exploring themes of travel and the natural world through a combination of my own compositions and arrangements of traditional material from a variety of sources.
These recordings are available on Bandcamp, so please visit my profile, give them a listen and if you like what you hear then they are very reasonably priced. You even get a bulk discount when you buy the whole catalogue…
Recently I have been working on videos featuring live performances of various compositions and arrangements. During this time of limited opportunities for live gigs I have appreciated this medium as a way of documenting and showcasing my work, exploring the possibilities of my instruments and repertoire. Scroll on to view and read about the selection of movies included below, and visit my youtube channel where there are many more.
Buen Camino ~ This original composition for solo cittern was featured on the EP of the same name, and the video shows footage from the actual take which was used in the release.
Hybrid fingerstyle ~ These two videos feature original arrangements of traditional Irish dance tunes, using a combination of fingerstyle techniques and some less common open tuning systems. These tunings are shown below each video.
In this playing style I have combined right hand techniques from several musical traditions, applying them to the Celtic repertoire which I originally learnt to play with a flat pick as single line melodies. To these tunes I have added harmony lines and rhythmic accompaniment, but always maintaining the integrity and flow of the original tune at the heart of the arrangement.
Musicians who have influenced this process include Ali Farka Toure (Mali), Gilles le Bigot (France), Derek Gripper (South Africa), Yamandu Costa (Brazil), Dick Gaughan (Scotland) and Ramon Montoya (Spain). The arrangements have also been directly informed by ornamental and rhythmic techniques from harp, uillean pipe, button accordion and five string banjo players.
Twin citterns ~ Tony Bayliss and I have been playing together for some years now and we’ve found that the twenty strings of our two citterns combine to create a formidable sound.
Although similar in many respects there are some subtle tuning and set up differences between our instruments. Tony uses unison stringing and an entirely open G tuning, whereas I have a low C in my tuning and favour octave strings on the lower three courses.
These differences provide us with plenty of options for high and low melody and counter-melody lines in these arrangements. I’ll get round to writing a longer blog post about that at some point…
These recordings were made on the first weekend in May, in the peaceful setting of Langaford Farm deep in the heart of Dartmoor. At this time of year in such a quiet location the birdsong is something quite special, and it makes a wonderful addition to the ambient acoustic of these recordings.
Flying with strings ~ for this project with puppeteer Sarah Vigars I wrote and arranged three pieces of music, one for each of her bird marionettes.
In this video the piece has some semi-improvised sections in order to respond to and work with the movements of the puppet in the moment.
The themes and instrumentation are influenced by a range of musical traditions from Europe and Africa, reflecting the migratory range of the Eurasian Hoopoe. More details about this project including the full playlist of all three films can be found on my collaborations page, and on Sarah’s website.
Also featured in this piece is an instrument of my own making, built from a vintage presentation wine case and spare harp parts left over from my grandfather’s workshop. It has been dubbed “The Compulsive Lyre”, as once I pick it up I struggle to stop playing it.
It was originally built to be part of the live score in “Iron Brow and Thorn Coat” by Hedgespoken Theatre. This show was a retelling of a Lithuanian folk tale, so the design of the Lyre is loosely based on various forms of zither found in eastern and central Europe.
Recordings in progress, a SoundCloud selection…
As well as uploading finished recordings I like to use the SoundCloud platform as a sort of a sketchbook, uploading ideas and works in progress. In time this music may develop further, but it may also just stay there as a capture of an idea which has value as a moment.
I also try to match each track with a photo to give a sense of the mood. These images come from my own photography archive, and there is usually a link to the inspiration behind the piece, environmental, emotional or geographic.
You’ll find a selection below, and you can explore and follow my profile for more: soundcloud.com/louisbingham
Two tunes picked up on a recent trip to Galicia. The first is a Xota learnt from a CD of el gaiteiro de Foso, Manuel López López, which I found in a music shop in Santiago de Compostela. The second tune I heard in a session at A Gramola, Praza de Cervantes also in Santiago, and have since learnt is a Swedish Waltz after a master fiddle player called Ante Falk, from Stavre, Offerdal in Jämtland. Thanks to Xacobe Varela of the Gramola session for the info on that one.
The first tune is probably a twisted up version of two: Chris Newman taught me a jig by Tony Trischka in D with a name I don’t recall, then I heard the Kane Sisters’ version in E which is very similar but called Aherne’s Egg. The reel was taught to me by John Carty, and is Finbarr Dwyer’s version of Col McBain’s that he said he got in turn from Winston Scotty Fitzgerald, a Cape Breton fiddler. A well travelled tune!
Written and recorded 31st October 2019: an original semi-improvised piece written in celebration of being able to share music and ideas between people and cultures and across distances. Long may it continue. Guitar, cittern and frame drum.
Four An Dro dance tunes from Brittany. The first two I picked up from James Dumbelton on a visit to Guernsey in 2017, the third came from the playing of Jean-Michel Veillon, and the last I learnt from a classic Kornog album. Cittern, guitar, vocals and bodhran.
I wrote this tune in celebration of a much bemoaned type of weather. During the drought in 2018 I played it occasionally as a hopeful charm to bring on the much needed precipitation. After nearly two months without rain I was finally woken up by the sound of a cloudburst one Sunday morning (1st July 2018) and felt the need to mark the event by making this recording. Crouched in the doorway looking out on our thirsty garden I’m joined by my mum Gris on fiddle, and the rain which raises the dynamic and picks up the tempo about halfway through.