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William Ackerman | Returning

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New Age: Contemporary Instrumental Easy Listening: Mood Music Moods: Featuring Guitar
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by William Ackerman

Will Ackerman won a GRAMMY for this CD in 2004. A selection of guitar pieces from my earlier work only this time I chose to record them as solo guitar pieces and not ensemble recording.
Genre: New Age: Contemporary Instrumental
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter
4:18 $0.99
2. Anne's Song
3:56 $0.99
3. The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit
6:16 $0.99
4. Pictures
5:09 $0.99
5. Hawk Circle
5:06 $0.99
6. Barbara's Song
5:06 $0.99
7. Unconditional
2:36 $0.99
8. Visiting
5:46 $0.99
9. Processional
5:00 $0.99
10. In a Region of Clouds
4:22 $0.99
11. Last Day at the Beach
5:04 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
In picking the pieces to record for “Returning”, some were obvious and others less so. One thing was certain, that I wanted this to be a collection of guitar solos. Because my early career involved solo recordings almost exclusively, a great deal of the material for came from that period. By the time I recorded my third album, “Childhood and Memory”, I was already adding additional instrumentation and when I released “Past Light” in 1983 I had moved into ensemble recording almost exclusively. Ensemble pieces are conceived of differently than solo work. The guitar in these pieces may only offer chordal structure and rhythm and rely upon other instruments for the melody. It was actually fun to strip back the pieces to reveal the solo guitar at their core. And it was a happy surprise to find that a number of these pieces were melodically self-sufficient despite the fact that I’d never performed them as solos. Solo material became more plentiful again when I evaluated “The Sound of Wind Driven Rain” which was released in 1998. I had wanted and intended this recording to describe a full circle in my career, a record which was like “Turtle’s Navel” (1976), “It Takes a Year” (1978) in being solo or at least demanding melodic self-sufficiency from the guitar.
These were my initial thoughts in putting “Returning”, together.

In sifting through the early work to decide which songs should be included in this collection, I came to the conclusion that these songs need to sound like me; they needed to have a “voice” which was pretty much mine. I considered pieces like “The Search for the Turtles’s Navel”, “The Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen”, and “The Rediscovery of Big Bug Creek”, for example. They were left out of the program because they showed too much of the “Turtle’s Navel” because it was the first song I wrote that is still in existence (written in ’69 or ’70), but it was written in the shadow of John Fahey’s wonderful recordings on Takoma Records, specifically “Volume 6: Days Have Gone By.” “Pink Chiffon” and “Rediscovery” sounded like John Fahey again, but through a Leo Kottke filter; the double thumbing for propulsion more than an historical reference to the blues.

That was my thinking. I admit that it shifted a few times before coming to rest, but the songs below make sense together and I’m pretty much at peace with the collection. I’ll tell you why.

This is probably the best song I ever wrote. Some songs you work on for months or even years. You have the verse structure, but the chorus eludes you… or your just missing the bridge that connects the sections gracefully. “Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter” flowed out of my guitar sitting in my little 405 square foot house at 2133 Cornell Street in Palo Alto, CA on a spring day without pause or interruption. It simply appeared; born with all its’ hair and wearing an Armani suit….not a note was missing and there was no work whatsoever in its’”composition.” I will never understand, really, where these songs come from. I’m just grateful that they do appear from time to time. I named this for the same woman who inspired“The Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen”, by the way.

The song as I originally recorded it was done by a young man who was very nervous in the studio and was consequently high on adrenaline. I managed to play the notes in 1977, but the nuances and dynamics of the piece were unknown to me; in fact beyond me.
This version is exactly how I want the piece to sound and, hopefully, to be remembered.

2. ANNE’S SONG (1977)
Is the most challenging piece I ever came up with. I’m normally happy to stay in an almost Alpha state to write and play. Working with and producing Alex de Grassi and Michael Hedges, among others, I was witnessing musicians pushing themselves to the very edge of already staggering skills. I was either lazy or simply content to have a simple melody be my objective. “Anne’s Song” was different. I suspect it’s very existence owes something to the proximity of the true genius of Alex and Michael. I simply needed to write a piece that showed that I had some technical ability which would allow me to transcend what might have become a crippling inferiority complex.

I had never once in my life felt comfortable with my playing of this song. My attempts to play it in concert always disappointed me and my two previous recordings of it seem forced and athletic. Somehow in wrestling with the piece for this record I realized that I needed to bring the pitch down a bit, thereby somewhat relaxing the string tension. The net result of that change was that the playing in the uptempo part of the song seemed finally graceful and light. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out the puzzle, but I’m glad I finally did.

Far less known than Fahey or Kottke was a guitarist named Robbie Basho who also recorded on the Takoma label. Robbie probably influenced me more than either Fahey or Kottke. He paid me a wonderful compliment before he died of telling me this was his favorite of my songs.

My mother committed suicide when I was twelve. This I wrote to try to capture the innocence of my childhood on the night before she died. I don’t offer this to be dramatic or shocking. This is what this song has always been about and only after years of therapy am I able to simply say it.

I left myself completely open to this recording. I had no idea what sections would be quiet or loud, which sections would increase or decrease in tempo. It truly led me though, safely blindfolded.

4. PICTURES (1998)
This is the latest composition on “Returning” and came from my 1998 release, “The Sound of Wind Driven Rain.” I loved the original version, but found more depth in it than it revealed when first recorded.

5. HAWK CIRCLE (1980)
I’ve recorded many versions of this song. It began as a duet with George Winston on “Passage” and appeared as a trio with George and Michael Hedges on “An Evening with Windham Hill Live. Most recently I recorded it with the Ugandan singer Samite who’s CD “Stare to Share” is also on Windham Hill . In my entire history there is only one instance of two songs sharing the same open tuning. In 1979 Sony was letting me experiment with early digital technology. It was payback time and I was doing a video of “Anne’s Song” on a California hillside just off Skyline Boulevard between Palo Alto and the Pacific. I was waiting for the lights and sound to be right and fairly well bored out of my mind when I looked up at two hawks drifting on the warm spring air. I watched for a few minutes until I realized that my hands were moving and that a song had appeared; “Hawk Circle.”

This is the only real duet on the recording. I decided it needed to be the only song which didn’t fit the solo criteria. The arguments in favor of including it are three. First of all it is all about guitar. Secondly it is something I play in every concert I give. Thirdly it features my long-time friend and colleague David Cullen who has toured with me since 1986. This was recorded as a live duet in take one on May 6 of 2004. This is how music should be made and only two friends who know each other as we do could actually expect take one to be the only one. My admiration for and gratitude to David can’t be measured.

6. BARBARA’S SONG (1970)
Another early piece which I had considered, but was not certain of for “Returning.” It’s a piece influenced, but not dominated by Robbie Basho. I remember feeling when I wrote it that it had a different sound, though I couldn’t describe it. I now realize it was the sound of a musical voice emerging in a young guitar player.

My closest friend, who also happens to be my engineer, Corin Nelsen and I had tried repeatedly to record this piece. A number of different days and hours of recording had produced nothing of any real life. I had concluded that the piece simply didn’t want to be part of this collection. It was late one night and I had absolutely no energy left. My neck and back were killing me and my knees had even begun to ache with my sitting in classical position for hours.
I had literally said to Corin that I had nothing left in me. My fingers continued to trace distractedly over thee strings. Suddenly I felt the piece. I felt connected to it. I felt the emotion take me over and once again I hung on for the ride as it was recorded start to finish. I guess it wanted to be included.

This piece was written for a wedding of my friends Harry and Giovanna in Rome. Giovanna titled the song. The guitar is called a parlor guitar and it has a very unique sound which gives “Returning”nanother texture to play with.

Years ago I was working on a piece with Michael Hedges and had flown out to his studio in Mendocino, CA. In a short break I saw this little guitar in the corner of a back room and picked it up. Half the size of a regular guitar it also was strangely strung so that the highest string was where the G would normally be… very odd. I played it for a while and felt a quick affinity for the instrument and its unique sound. Michael saw all this and said something about how easily this came to me. Coming from Michael Hedges I was delighted with his saying so.

A few months elapsed and Michael visited my home in Windham County, Vermont for a few days. He and I played a bit of music, but mostly we walked the hills and talked. He left very early one morning to catch a plane back to California and I awoke a couple of hours later to find a small guitar case by my front door; a gift. I actually cry as I write this. I miss him and am grateful to have known him. I never play the instrument without thinking of him.

8. VISITING (1982)
The original version of this song was recorded with Chuck Greenberg on lyricon and Michael Manring on fretless bass. Michael Manring has remained a good friend and was in my Vermont studio only a couple of weeks ago, Chuck Greenberg, very sadly, has passed away. I have never known a human being with more music in him than Chuck. He never tossed anything out that didn’t resonate emotionally. He wrote most of the music for and produced the wonderful recordings by “Shadowfax”. I had not thought of recording this song with lyricon until Chuck heard it and more or less demanded to play on it.
It was a brilliant version that we did together. This is the solo song as Chuck first heard it interpreted through years of knowing it.

A lot of my earliest music was written for theater productions. “Processional” was written as an entrance to the stage for the players in a production of Romeo and Juliet directed by my friend Steve Harvey (also my favorite living poet) years ago at Stanford University. This was another song that took me where it wanted to go. I had abandoned any notions of arrangement and let the song take me where it wanted.

I recorded “In a Region of Clouds” as a rare solo during a very ensemble period on my “Imaginary Roads” album in 1988. I always liked the song and felt I’d played it pretty well, but it suffered from a malady that hit a lot of guitarists hard in the late 1980s; an overdependence on the electronic effect called “chorusing.”
This is a played with what I hope is an even greater delicacy in the single note parts and more emotion in the big chordal work. It is also purely acoustic, gratefully leaving the chorus pedal behind.

The song is played in a style which I think is pretty much mine… the almost empty single voice in the beginning building to the trancelike chords at the end. The little guitar lead at the very end seemed like a nice way to end the record.



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