Will Woodson and Caitlin Finley are very excited to announce the launch of The Phonograph Project! This new project will take the form of monthly videos and tutorials which they are hosting on Patreon.
We first conceived of this project at the start of this year. We started releasing weekly videos in October 2019, and we wanted to transition these videos into a deeper study of our favorite music, as well as a more professional set-up. If you've been listening to our music for a while, you've probably figured out that we are particularly drawn to the golden era of Irish music recorded in the 1920s and 30s. Over the past few years, our musical practice has largely consisted of listening to and learning tunes from 78 rpm records of Michael Coleman, John McKenna, James Morrison, Tom Ennis, Paddy Killoran, Patsy Touhey, Hugh Gillespie, and many others.
The Irish music of the 1920s and 30s was incredibly complex, detailed stuff, and much of its rich texture has been lost in modern performance. We love this music. We're thrilled to get this chance to shine a spotlight on it, and if you haven't checked out what we're up to, we think that you'll really like it.
This year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the dawn of our favorite era of Irish music. The legendary fiddler Michael Coleman recorded his first two 78 sides in 1920, and within a couple of years the burgeoning recording industry was teeming with some of the finest Irish musicians in history. We are going to document our study of this musical era in the form of videos, tutorials, and historical notes. Each month, we will pick a 78 that was recorded exactly 100 years ago (or as close as we can get). We’ll study the tunes and the style of the musician(s), record a video of us playing the tunes, and create a tutorial that teaches the tunes and captures the setting, style, and spirit of the music as we’ve interpreted it.
The Phonograph Project Tutorials are written for fiddle, flute, and uilleann pipes, and we put hours of work into them each month. Our monthly tutorials contain:
One of our aims in formatting the tutorials this way is to help those who struggle to listen to old recordings learn to listen past some of the less desirable qualities to hear the absolute gold underneath. For those who already love these recordings, we hope the tutorials are a helpful source for learning the settings of the tunes, as well as a jumping off point for some interesting discussions about the recordings, the musicians, the tunes, and the era. Mainly, we want to help garner and maintain love for our favorite era of Irish music.
If you haven't heard of Patreon before, it basically operates on the old-school patronage system of supporting artists (except on a larger scale) by allowing you to subscribe to receive regular content from us. If you sign up for The Phonograph Project, you will become a patron. Depending on the amount you pledge per month, you will gain early access to our monthly videos, as well as access to patron-exclusive content including our tutorials, additional videos, and other bonus material.
Given the current pandemic, this model is one way that we can continue to create and you can continue to have access to the music that you love. In a world without performance and in-person teaching, this project allows us to continue creating and sharing our music, as well as teaching remotely. Meanwhile, our audience gains access to high-quality videos and tutorials during a period of time when they are unable to attend concerts or in-person lessons. For those who haven’t encountered many Irish-American recordings from the 20s and 30s, the project will serve as a musical guided tour; for those more familiar with the era, it’ll provide an opportunity for close study, new musical perspectives, and an opportunity to uncover some forgotten gems.
Creating and sharing music regularly has been helping us keep in shape playing-wise; more importantly, it's been keeping us sane. We've been having a great time on our weekly live streams! We host this stream on our Facebook page. Since we are a public page anyone is able to access the live stream, even without a Facebook account. For those of you on Facebook, you can like or follow our page to get a reminder when we go live.
We hope you'll consider joining us in this new endeavor!
The Beauty Spot/The Sunny Banks: And here's the first monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a recording made in the early 1920s by Michael Coleman, Michael Walsh, and Arthur P. Kenna.
Tom Steele/Farewell To Leitrim: Here's our second monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a recording made in 1920 by Michael Coleman with piano accompaniment by John Muller. Coleman simply called the set "Reidy Johnson's"; our names for the two reels come from Hugh Gillespie, a friend and musical associate of Coleman's who would go on to re-record the tunes in 1938. Gillespie called the tunes 'Tom Steele' and 'Farewell to Leitrim', respectively.
My Old Clay Pipe/The Cow with One Horn: Here's our third monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a recording made in the early 1920s by the flute player Tom Morrison. He called these 'My Old Clay Pipe' and 'The Cow with One Horn'. Morrison was a great flute player, with a punchy and detailed style of playing that's practically vanished these days.
The Collier's/The Salamanca: And here's the fourth monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a recording made in the early 1920s by the excellent Leitrim/New York piper Michael Gallagher. These are rather elaborate settings of two well-known reels, ‘The Collier’s’ and ‘The Salamanca’.
The Pigeon on the Gate/Monaghan's Reel: Here’s the fifth monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a recording made in the early 1920s by the legendary Sligo/New York fiddler James Morrison. Morrison had unique and lovely settings of these two reels, ‘The Pigeon on the Gate’ and ‘Monaghan’s Reel’ (better known today as ‘Miss Monaghan’s’).
Cherish the Ladies: Here’s the sixth monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a recording made in 1923 by the Chicago/New York piper Tom Ennis. His version of ‘Cherish the Ladies’ isn’t so different from the version of the tune popularized by Michael Coleman, but there’s some lovely piping turns in Ennis’ version that you don’t hear as often these days.
Maggie in the Woods: Here’s the seventh monthly installment of The Phonograph Project video series, our take on a set of polkas recorded in the early 1920s by flute player Tom Morrison, which he called “Maggie in the Woods”. Morrison was a great flute player, with a punchy and detailed style of playing that's practically vanished these days. He also wasn’t shy of the occasional flamboyant moment, which we’ve tried to channel here. Trills, anyone?
Photo Credits: (1) The Phonograph Project, (2),(4),(5) Will Woodson & Caitlin Finley, (3) Michael Coleman (unknown/website).