JOHN FEATHERSTONE

7-STRING GUITAR

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The main guitar of this album is my Bluebird 7-string, built for me by Andy Manson. It was recorded in Paris using a Mojave MA-200 coming in towards the soundhole, at fairly close range from 14th fret. In addition, an AKG 451 is neck-side of that, an AT 4041 is aimed up towards the bridge, an AKG 414 captures ambience and a Fishman Ellipse Blend is a failsafe DI input (sparingly used). All these sources were admirably mixed by Tony Harris at New River Studios, London. All these pieces are fully scored for 7-string guitar, voice and flute and can be ordered via the website. Any volunteer transcriptions would be welcome!

 

01 Gambit A gambit is a throw-away, opening move. That’s about all it is. This opener was a spontaneous reaction to having my guitar action reset by the Manson team in Exeter! Using an ADG capo on 2nd fret with otherwise standard tuning, the challenge was to keep the melody strong while whacking all 7 seven strings at a time.


02 Angel unaware Capo 5th fret. This number was written after meeting a great friend, Torsten Harder, after an open-air concert I gave in Berlin. An intimidatingly fine musician, he was very kind in his appreciation. An angel unaware? The fast arpeggios seemed to conjure up the flutter of wings, Hannah’s beautiful voice added a human, yet fragile, almost ethereal touch.

 

03 Edinburgh Air 6th string tuned to D. It’s amazing how my brain works as a musical sponge. I walk around the city for two days and at the end of it music pours out. The challenge here was conjuring up a bagpipe on a guitar. Why the ballad style melody sounds Scottish to me, I don’t know!

 

04 Let it rain There we were in Newbury chez John and Jane Kane, good friends who loaned us their house for a holiday. Beautiful internal décor, but outside it did nothing but rain. So I stayed in and wrote. By the end I was past caring. Here is the result.

 

05 Happy go lucky Born in a moment of fun and scribbled down in my Moleskine. Though until now my two 7-string albums have been simply guitar and voice, this time I felt an extra instrument was needed. Thoughts went immediately towards my son Matthew who I knew would romp through all I could throw at him in the flute department. He even threw a lot more crazy stuff. For the curious, the introductory guitar percussion starts on the second quaver of the bar. Is that any help?!

 

06 Lost and found is the name of a friend’s idyllic guest house in Devon. In need of a good break and finding one there, it was my way to say thank you to Karen & David. The view from the end of the garden, the pub on the water’s edge serving fresh fish, the micro-climate … Enough to revive the soul.

07 Floating Played in C, Capo 3rd fret. I transcribed Bach’s prelude no. 1 of the 48 and then wondered what to do with it. I have to confess I love Bach but hate Gounod. This prelude has trully ‘been there and done that’ in the history of music. (I especially like Arvo Pärt’s use of it in his Credo.) In a funny sort of way I wanted to pull it back from its religious connotation and keep it more universal…  Anyway, it all seemed to float along in some way. Hence the title.


08 It’s Christmas! As I started to write the main theme, it sounded strangely Christmassy. So I decided to make a feature of it and play around, ‘stuffing’ the piece with as many Christmas carol references as I could. There are 14 of them in all. ‘Guillaume, prends ton tambourin’ and ‘Petit papa Noël’ may slip past the chaste anglo-saxon ear. I leave you to spot the rest.

 

09 Swing low This is a famous Negro spiritual referring to the death of Elijah as, according to Biblical tradition, he rose up to heaven in a chariot. The deep sorrow of death is counterbalanced in this number by the brazen joy of hope. The reworking of the spiritual was triggered by the sudden death of a good friend. Since then several close to me have boarded the chariot. So I dedicate this one to the friends and family who have gone before me.

 

10 Life goes on In the light of the previous track, the only response is to affirm that life goes on. It has to. There’s a certain amount of ‘mournful’ blues in this piece but it all degenerates into light-hearted pastiche by the end. Spot the references again to Deep Purple, Ten Years After and Mozart all played with the left hand. The effect at the start is a combination of left hand hammer-ons and right hand percussion on the top side of the guitar.

11 Hidden meaning Two Manson guitars are used on this track. (7-string Bluebird and 6-string Heron). For both, the 6th string was tuned to D. If you’re the sort of listener who wants to know what everything means, you may be disappointed! Sure enough, every composer’s frame of reference becomes apparent in what he creates. Sometimes it’s explicit, sometimes hidden. Sometimes there’s not much there to show in the first place. You can decide.

 

12 Last word Now this is confusing. The last word is … non-verbal. After all the various components of this album I felt there needed to be a final, unifying statement but I wanted to make it without words. Could it be a reminder that all our noise will one day end? Who will have the last word in that case? ‘This is the way the (music) ends – not with a bang but a whimper’ (as T.S. Eliot almost said).

 

Site web Mary Featherstone

Photos David Wyatt & Alfredo Salazar