Banjo, Phenology and Felt

Post date: Apr 19, 2010 6:37:16 PM

I love to play the clawhammer banjo. This style is very different from bluegrass, and often the two camps of musicians stay far from one another. Years ago, I went to a concert featuring two of my favorite banjo players, Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus. Opening for them was Tim Eriksen, who I had not heard of before. Hearing Eriksen catapulted me into a completely new world. His music was so hair raising, so passionate, so gutsy. He embraces the northern roots, Appalachian, and shape note styles all in one.

Here are some of my favorite youtube videos of him:

Amazing Grace on the Fiddle

Amazing Grace on the Banjo

Golden Harp

Am I Born To Die

Fiddle Sticks on Mt. Pollux

Eriksen is also working on Behold The Earth, a musical documentary that investigates America's separation from nature. Much of the documentary is based on conversations with leading biologists, evangelical christians and environmentalists. Through this, I learned about phenology.

Phenology is the study of cyclic states of plant and animal life. Examples of this are the migration of birds, leafing and flowering of plants, and the emergence of bugs. These events are often driven by climatic variation and change. The USA National Phenology Network unites citizens, government agencies and non-profit groups, students and educators to monitor these changes throughout the United States. It allows people to collect and share information which provides researchers with data that is too expansive for them to collect alone. Since I am often tramping through the woods, it seems natural to follow these seasonal changes with my felt.

I love to track these changes from season to season and year to year. Two of the things I took note of this year was the first red winged black bird I saw and the blooming of the red trilliums. They wound up in my sketch book and two of my pieces.

Felt trillium vessel Felt red winged blackbird vessel

And what am I hoping to see? Some humming birds on the bergamot.

felt ruby throated hummingbird and bergamot vessel