Scott Marshall’s Hurdy Gurdy Mania “Lightbringer” Review

Review of Scott Marshall’s
“Gurdymania III: Lightbringer”

Jim Norton
Completed 3/24/2022

Scott Marshall’s CD album “Gurdymania III: Lightbringer” is a gift in its ability to stir the
imagination with overpowering, stark, dark impressions. Yet, it also contains heartening, lilting tunes that invite the listener to dare continue dancing in the midst of life’s prevailing oppression. Life as it always comes to us is mirrored in this fascinating CD. The back cover contains a photo of Scott holding a Hurdy-Gurdy and, immediately upon looking at it, I was struck with how such massive hands could perform with the kind of intricate and fast-paced dexterity required by the instrument. These are not the hands I would want performing delicate brain surgery on me, yet the technical precision, coordinating chords, wide-ranging tempos and smoothly flowing melodies combine to form seamless musical impressions of the highest order.


The album cover, designed by artisan Claire Jennings, is reminiscent of a Salvador Dalí painting displaying images akin to those that appear in dreams and nightmares. Against the blackness of space is a circle representing, presumably, the planet and surrounding atmosphere. Encased inside the circle (of life?) are weird images of multi-headed white horses, some of the heads with tongues of fire, the proverbial huge snake possibly symbolizing the satanic, a hefty egg with its shell cracking, various humanoid figures in black, one seemingly walking surreptitiously away from the brightness of the “Lightbringer,” which brings a stream of starlight down to earth, a fireball in the sky with an owl in its center (symbol of wisdom fleeing the planet?), and one image that carries a connotation probably not intended but is difficult to resist. The coincidence of recent Russian attacks on the nation of Ukraine and a “six-legged,” elongated black bear stalking the planet in the cover’s depiction is noteworthy. The number “6” or “666” in Christian legendry is an indication of imperfection, just shy of the number “7,” which is regarded as perfect completion. The bear since the 16th Century has been the symbol of Russia, representing both positive qualities of strength and sheer might, and negative qualities of ferocity and awkward clumsiness. How ironically enigmatic that a shadowy six-
legged bear on a CD cover emerges in the present context of unimaginable horror inflicted by a rabid, Russian “bear” on children, women and men in Ukraine!

The remainder of this review will consist of one person’s subjective impressions and
visualizations evoked by listening to each of the 13 selections of the CD. That, of course, and 65₵ (American) will get you a cup of senior coffee at McDonald’s. It is good that we live at a time when objectivism and science are more heavily relied on than in more legendary times. That, however, does not deny the possibility for whatever cosmic energies motivate personal intuitions to be harbingers of truth. Perhaps, an extended conversation among admirers of Scott Marshall’s artistry would yield in a more interesting collage of surrealist impressions.

1) Wychfinder: An online word search defines “wych” or “wyches” as brine springs
or wells. Variant spellings, however, also include “witch.” Either way, most of the
composition until the very last portion remind me of the scurrying, hurrying
preoccupations of humans with getting that which cannot assuage thirst (brackish
water) or which, if found, will deviously bring harm. The entire piece is in minor
tones, not the kind that sooth, but that reflect self-defeating pursuits. That is, until
we get to the closing measures when the strident tune and rhythm begin to fade,
making way for two-part chords highlighting how at the end (of the song or life)
comes the awful angst at having failed to pursue one’s authentic passions. I wish I
could observe how Scott manages to play fluid dyads at the same time as keeping
the melody going.

2) Hypersleep: An ethereal quality pervades this piece, created, I think, from a
couple of strings locked against the wheel of the instrument. Yet, changing chords
also contribute to the sense of wandering in that mind-space that goes wherever it
will, the floating melody augmenting the same sensation. Transportation into a
realm beyond conscious awareness where whatever connections we have to the
Cosmos intermingle, flowing in, around, and through Oneness.

3) Spacewitch: A profundo bass drone begins this piece with the melody barely
audible, but almost immediately exploding into the foreground, accompanied by
some double-stringing and a steady bass pounding. The minor tones suggest
something ominous is intended. The technical prowess of combining a steady beat
of a pounding heart underlying dyads and melody with one hand while the other is
turning the crank leaves me in awe. The starkness of this piece suggests something
akin to the Bible-thumping preacher trying to scare the hell out of us. Sad, the
preacher ignores the reality that we are already, all the time, in hell—and heaven.
The Oneness of life includes all experiences, the struggle between what we perceive
as good and bad is constant. How else would we recognize the difference if life were
comprised of only one without the other? Remember Plato’s Cave?

4) Carnac Street: Knowing nothing at all about Carnac Street, free association is set
loose to imagine any scenario I want, and the scenes that come to mind are those of
the nouveau riche gathering in public places filling up the air space with swivel heads
endlessly chatting about ways to increase wealth, the values of some stocks and
investments over others, and similar self-aggrandizing endeavors. The prevailing din
is undisturbed by a flute-sounding obligato above, as if a higher voice is attempting
to break-in, or blend-in with a more expansive understanding of life. But, it fails, and
the ceaselessly senseless dissonance fades into mindless obscurity. The flute sounds are particularly intriguing if produced by the Hurdy Gurdy. I apologize if my mind-
wanderings misrepresent the intention or character of Carnac Street.

5) Lady Pajot: A delightful gigue easily evoking the image of a dancing Lady Pajot!
The only online references to “Lady Pajot” I could find were of a yacht by that name
and, interestingly, an 1850s Hurdy Gurdy rebuilt by Samuel Palmer in recent years.
Another obscure reference mentions the name Pajot in connection with women in France who were resistance fighters against the German invasion during WWII.
Perhaps all three connections can apply to this upbeat composition, whether of a
boat skipping over the water, or women banding together in complete abandonment
of self to resist oppressors, or a musical instrument that can capture the authenticity
of dancing in the midst of life’s complexities. The piece features, yet again, the
technological prowess of octave coupling and harmonious triad chords while keeping
the lilting melody flowing. It sets the feet to wanting to dance.

6) Mindmeld: Both the beginning and conclusion of this piece feature an airy,
whooshing or whispering quality that hints of otherworldly realms, say as when one
is asleep and the mind is free to explore wherever it wants. Underneath is a rolling
rumble intimating, perhaps, a universal Om, a symbol of ultimate reality or essential
truth. Also present are higher-pitched skipping sounds bouncing around as if
synapses are leaping in the brain. The rhythm comes to the fore, sometimes steady
and other times syncopated, produced by something attached to the strings, a piece
of paper perhaps. Again, flute sounding notes (amazing coming from a stringed
instrument) resonate above the rhythmic round of the mind’s meandering through
both inner and outer space. Realizing the blend of so many different tonal images, a
task that the dreaming mind regularly accomplishes, it would be an absolute thrill to
see as well as hear this piece performed, hands replicating brain function.

7) Hop Garden/Whitechapel: The name suggests what in years past were called
“beer gardens” in America, places where friends would gather weekdays after work or on Saturday nights to booze-up, dance, engage in both lighthearted and soul-
searching conversation, leaving behind the immediate pressures of eking out a living or dealing with other irksome realities. The dancing melody throughout and an
interweaving countertheme arouse images of untamed celebrating and freedom of
movement unconcerned about appearances. Suddenly, the music stops, except for
the barely audible drone that is joined by worrying whooshing sounds. Then the
music and its rhythm return, but those themes seem upturned. Is the celebrating
inverted the way old-time photos that included negative black-film images provided
another perspective? The minor tones of the entire piece may lend another clue that
despite images to the contrary, loneliness, sadness, and the tough realities cannot be
danced and drunk away. Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes comes to mind.

8) Tithe to Hell: A high-pitched string is locked to the wheel (rather than a bass
drone sound) and another plucking single string maintains a steady beat throughout
this piece. All while a repetitive melody line or catchphrase busily moves within the
tonal framework. One imagines a scene of two workers with sledge hammers
steadily pounding a girder into the ground in perfect rhythm, while other workers
scurry about in other supportive construction roles. The humdrum of repetitive
manual labor, perhaps for minimal compensation, is a hellish cost of having to eke
out a living for most of the world’s people. Curiously, Scott Marshall’s massive hands
suggest that he is not unfamiliar with heavy labor.

9) Lightbringer: Claire Jennings’ surrealist depiction on the CD cover provides clues
for living into Scott’s tonal snapshots of being. The subtitle of “Lightbringer”
appropriating the Hurdy Gurdy as a messenger conveying enlightenment amidst
chaos may also indicate the intended meaning. A soft, rhythmic two-tone see-saw
effect begins this piece, creating the up/down movement of waves descending into
clearer view. Quantum particle waves, of course, animate all life, flowing in, through
and around all that exists. Might it be that they connect everything, urging toward
more awareness of life’s Oneness. The melodic arpeggios become more pronounced
as the music proceeds, and then an abrupt halt. Silence. Suddenly the silence is
broken by a bursting fortissimo featuring at first the same see-saw notes that later
evolve into a triad that repeats to the conclusion. Meanwhile the full
instrumentation capability of the instrument is opened in a sforzando effect as if
making a grand proclamation. The stars of light breaking into a maddening world are
there, as much as the invisible quantum particles. We belong to the whole cosmos,
its resources for authentic, joyous living close beside us. The power of music is to
capture both the depths and heights of living and, thus, be enable to continue the
song and dance.

10) Egg of Doom: Unabated pathos are the first words that came to mind hearing this piece. Those televised images of women and children refugees tramping along war-
torn country sides in an attempt to find safety in a neighboring country immediately surfaced. The plucking of a steady bass three-note melody in a minor key is joined by
first a solo string that is joined by another and then another forming a minor
harmonic trio overlaying the bass theme. Thus, it is when our self-defensive or
protective shells crack and we are overwhelmed by darkness, and then fade away
into the embrace of a mysterious Cosmos.

11) Magick People: A quick googling of “Magick” introduces the occult, a world view
highlighting resources inherent in more mystical forms of knowing. Such sources are
not outside our bodies waiting to be tapped through appeals to some high in the sky
deity, but reside within us, a part of our nature since the Big Bang. Magick people
are tuned into the Cosmos that resides within them, and they within it, and through
such practices as yoga or meditation, become able to let go of the ego and join the
flowing dance that is life. Magick people meld into all life experiences in a sense of
wholeness and harmony with all that is. The underlying drone of this piece or OM is
joined by celestial tones of hyper awareness of an amazing, dancing Oneness.
12) Wicca Man: What first jumped out at me in this piece is that rumbling basso
profundo note; reminding me of a sound that I thought could only be produced by a
64’ tone of a pipe organ. Before the earth-shaking rumble enters, there are modulating chords intermingling in a playful way. The chords are joined by a flute-sounding string carrying the primary motif as the deep bass tone becomes more pronounced and is sustained to the end. Again, attempting to visualize the dexterity required by such a composition leaves me overawed. The title of the piece refers to another spiritual way of life that has sources in ancient, pre-Christian wisdom as well as modern ideologies. It is sometimes referred to as a nature spirituality or pantheism, which may be simply another way of recognizing that all life is inter-being and flows mysteriously in, around and through the entire Cosmos in fluid harmony.

13) Planet Lucifer: Those of us raised in the Christian tradition have been
indoctrinated about detestable Lucifer. However, there’s one place in the most
biblical translations where his name should appear, except it was replaced by
“morning star” or “shining one” in later translations (Isaiah 14:12) instead of the
proper noun. (The King James Version retains the name.) As with the other fallen
angels in Christian lore, Lucifer, daring to preempt God’s place, is relegated to the
personification of evil. Quite an immature, jealous two-year-old tyrant
understanding of God we have there! Perhaps, we would do well to listen again to
Sister Mary Corita Kent, former Catholic nun, whose painting, poetry and other
writings in the Sixties captured the hearts of many, when she said, “Evil may be not
seeing well enough.” The opening treble chorus of the piece reminds one of the
dawning of the light of a new day, and then as the brightness becomes more intense,
the full capacity of the Hurdy Gurdy is engaged, as if an organist has depressed the toe stud engaging the powerful Sforzando capability of the organ. Again, the three-
tone theme heard earlier in #9, “The Lightbringer,” predominates, but this time is carried by the bass strings. Accompanying the treble arpeggios that began the piece
are added strings sounding more like a trumpet and other orchestral instruments.
Behold, the biblical adjectives applied to Lucifer, “morning star,” “shining one,” are
joined by Marshall’s “Lightbringer.” The two-horned black figure with wings on the
CD cover also bears light to the planet, if of evil we will be a little more careful in our
entrenched judgmental attitudes. After listening to this piece, this reviewer found
himself breathless and silent, as if having coming close to cosmic awareness of life as
it’s intended. All life consists of what human experience can only perceive as good
and bad, but perhaps the perplexity lies in our perception.

Albums: https://gurdymania.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/gurdymania

Scott Marshall, Composer of Gurdy Mania, Hurdy Gurdist

Hurdy Gurdy Innovations, Sound and Fire – w/Wolfgang Weichselbaumer – HGC Season 2 Finale

This podcast was released on July 9th, 2021 at 9:16 PM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly new.

Video:

The Hurdy Gurdy Cafe Season 2 Episode 10 Podcast
Season Finale

Wolfgang Weichselbaumer
Featured Music

  1. Uzh Kak Po Mostu, Mostochiku. Hurdy-Gurdy Solo – Andrey Vinogradov
  2. Germán Díaz – Nimboestrato
  3. Valentin Clastrier, Et la Roue de la Vie by Duo Clastrier-Kamperman (PAN 2015)
  4. F. J. Haydn – Concerto for 2 lire organizzate in C [Hob.VII h:1]
  5. Tobie Miller, Matthias Loibner and Thierry Nouat

When, why and how did Wolfgang start building hurdy gurdies?
What was the first instrument Wolfgang built?
Where did Wolfgang’s instrument’s sound come from?
Did Wolfgang study anything before building instruments?
How did people react to the sound the sound of Wolfgang’s first instruments?
Did Wolfgang know he was going to have the impact he has on the instrument?
What hurdy gurdy related inventions is Wolfgang responsible for?
What is the material of Wolfgang’s synthetic wheel?
Are instruments by Wolfgang Weichselbaumer good for beginners?
What is the most difficult aspect of building a hurdy gurdy?
How did Valentin Clastrier feel about Wolfgang’s instruments?
What hobbies does Wolfgang have?
What is the relationship of the player to the instrument?
Does Wolfgang have hurdy gurdy apprentices?
How many instruments has Wolfgang built over the years?
Does the number of strings on a hurdy gurdy effect the sound?
Do 3 strings on the hurdy gurdy give the perfect sound?
What musicians or luthiers inspires Wolfgang?

Special thanks to Sergio Gonzalez, for all of his support through these two seasons! https://www.zanfoneando.com/

An Operatic Wine Cellar Darling HGCS2E8 with Anna Murphy

This podcast was released on June 24th, 2021 at 2:40 PM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly full.

Audio:

Video:

Questions we likely asked Anna:

What is it likely getting lessons with Efren Lopez?

How did Anna Murphy discover the hurdy gurdy?

Does Anna Murphy enjoy being on stage?

What was the best/worst moments playing live?

When do mechanics work in Belgium?

Which hurdy gurdies does Anna Murphy play?

Is superglue good for a hurdy gurdy?

What does opera have to do with Anna’s music?

What are Anna’s hobbies?

What are some tips on recording a hurdy gurdy?

Featured Music

[EAR] Efrén López / Adrián Perales / Raül Bonell. Baiduska

Hurdy Gurdy – Tok jöns

CELLAR DARLING – DANCE (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

Special thanks to Sergio Gonzalez, the Hurdy Gurdy Player: www.zanfoneando.com

Hurdy Gurdy Cafe Podcast S2E8 – Guitar Pedals and Middle Eastern Influences

This podcast was released on June 10th, 2021 at 6:50 AM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly new (and there is an eclipse). (For show notes and podcast audio, scroll down, down, down…)

Audio:

Video:

Ruben Monteiro

Featured Music

Albaluna | Palimpsestus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKHVq…

KUKERI | Starceska Râčenica https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yytOM…

Ruben Monteiro | Lauranitza https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAHzD…

Questions:

How did Vikings influence Ruben’s playing?

Can you play heavy metal on a bouzouki?

What does Fate have to do with Sergio and Ruben?

Who is the Hurdy Gurdy Geek?

How important is the brother and sisterhood of the Hurdy Gurdy?

What are the best guitar pedals for hurdy gurdy?

How does a Wah Pedal work on the hurdy gurdy?

What is the best phaser for a hurdy gurdy?

What is the best boost pedal for the hurdy gurdy?

Should you use a vocal processor on a hurdy gurdy?

What is the best octaver for a hurdy gurdy?

Is it hard to play with another hurdy gurdy player?

The Hurdy Gurdy Cafe Podcast S2E7 – German Diaz – Método Cardiofónico and Robots

This podcast was released on May 26th, 2021 at 7:14 AM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly full. (For show notes and podcast audio, scroll down, down, down…)

Video –

Audio –

Featured Music
Valentin Clastrier – Comme Dans un Train pour une Etoile
Matthias Loibner – Mooreiche | Po prostu… Filharmonia!
Romance De Don Gaiferos · Faustino Santalices
El suéter de Claudia. Germán Díaz.

Questions?

How did Sergio and German meet?
What was the inspiration from Método Cardiofónico?
When did German start playing Hurdy Gurdy?
Do you remember the first time you heard the Hurdy Gurdy?
Why is Galicia so important for the hurdy gurdy?
Where can you go to make a hurdy gurdy?
What hobbies does German Diaz?
Who are German Diaz favorite players?
What about children learning the hurdy gurdy?
What was German Diaz’s favorite project to participate in?
How are robots and hurdy gurdies related?
What is advice for people just starting the hurdy gurdy?

Who was Faustino Santalices?

Tobie Miller – Early Music, Who is the Goddess of Hurdy Gurdy, and Metronomes

This podcast was released at May 11th, 2021 at 2:59 PM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly new. (For show notes and podcast audio, scroll down, down, down…)

Video:

Audio:

Tobie Miller

One of the only hurdy gurdy players to come to the instrument through early music, she is recognized as a virtuoso of the baroque hurdy gurdy, and performs in various formations, including in duo with the Austrian hurdy gurdy player, Matthias Loibner, as well as with well- known conductors such as Jordi Savall, Christophe Coin, and Wieland Kuijken.

Featured Music –

La dupuits: Première partie (Prélude) Ensemble Danguy (Don Gee) · Tobie Miller

Le Printems ou Les Saisons amusantes, Op. 8: III. La Moisson (Allegro) · Ensemble Danguy · Tobie Miller

Redstorm – Gregory Jolivet

Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau – Tobie Miller

Questions we likely asked Tobie Miller:

How did you discover the Hurdy Gurdy?

Why is it important to start in the French Classical style on the gurdy?

Tell us about your projects. What kind of music projects are you engaged in for those who don’t know.

Which goddess invented the hurdy gurdy?

What kinds of gurdies do you play?

Can we get funding for studying “Your brain on the Hurdy Gurdy”?

How does one go about learning and playing “early music” as you do?

What are some good historical methods of learning and playing the hurdy gurdy?

What was your favorite project you’ve been involved in and why?

Who are your top 3-5 players that you admire and that inspire you?

How can a metronome make us happier and healthier?

Which early music instruments were too provocative for women to play?

If someone wants to play and get that same sound like you, how would you advise they do it?

Claire Dugue on Hurdy Gurdy Building and Exoskeletons – HGCS2E5

This podcast was released at April 26th, 2021 at 11:31 PM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly Full. (For show notes and podcast audio, scroll down, down, down…)

Video –

Podcast Audio –

Claire Dugue on Hurdy Gurdy Building and Exoskeletons – HGCS2E5

Featured Music

“Folhas Cintilantes” from Matthias Loibner

“Ouvrez la Porte “ F.Paris & G.Chabenat

“Longa Farhafsa” played by German Diaz and Pascal Lefeuvre.

Topics Covered

How did you first learn about Hurdy Gurdy?

How did you learn to build Hurdy Gurdies?

What made you decided to start building?

How long have you been building?

How do you approach building?

Were you inspired by any particular builders?

Do all the hurdy gurdy makers in the UK hang out?

Who needs more trompettes?

What model hurdy gurdy does Claire Dugue offer?

What’s the deal with the exoskeleton on the Gurdies?

What special electronics can go into a Dugue Hurdy Gurdy?

What’s the best part of being a Hurdy Gurdy builder?

What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn to build a hurdy gurdy?

What was the hardest part about learning to build a hurdy gurdy?

What are some general maintenance tips and strategies you recommend for keeping gurdies sounding good.

What machinery is needed to build a good hurdy gurdy?

What is the best kind of luthier to take your hurdy gurdy to for repairs, if you don’t have access to a hurdy gurdy luthier?

How much does humidity effect a hurdy gurdy?

For more information about Claire’s work please visit:

https://www.claire-dugue.com/#home

Hurdy Gurdy Salvage, Effect Pedals, and Trompette Mastery – HGCS2E4 – with Brian McCoy

This podcast was released at April 11th, 2021 at 10:30 PM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly New. (For show notes and podcast audio, scroll down, down, down…)

Video –

https://youtu.be/Afe-9xQ0aNk

Podcast Audio –

Hurdy Gurdy Café Season 2 Episode 4 – Notes
Brian McCoy
Featured Music – 
#1 – Tears No More – Matthias Loibner 
#2 – Cosmic Drone – Califat 
#3 – Seaphone –  Little Boy also

1) What’s the source of Brian McCoy’s right hand trompette skill?
2) Are Altarwind Hurdy Gurdy’s scary?
3) What is a good beginner’s hurdy gurdy?
4) What is hurdy gurdy shaming?  19:14 Sergio video
5) Is a Gallopin Gurdy salvageable?
6) How do hurdy gurdies and Legos relate?
7) What does a Gallopin Gurdy sound like with reverb, phaser, bass boost and a compressor (not in that order)?
8) What is the importance of setting up your hurdy gurdy well?
9) Can you use too many effects on the Hurdy Gurdy?
10) Are guitar pedals better than computer processing for a hurdy gurdy?
11) What is hurdy gurdy tapping?
12) What are the best pickups or amplification devices on a hurdy gurdy to use guitar pedals or other effects?
13) How do you shape and contour the sounds that come out of your gurdy?
14) How does developing muscle memory impact one’s ability to play the hurdy gurdy?
15) How does meditation and anger impact one’s ability to trompette well?
16) What secrets are there to practicing the trompette?
17) How do drums relate to the trompet/chien?
18) How does wheel size affect playing the hurdy gurdy?

Thanks again Sergio, for being with us.

Ancient Hurdy Gurdy Broke Hurdy Gurdy – Hurdy Gurdy Cafe Podcast Season 2 Episode 3

This podcast was released at March 28th, 2021 at 2:48 PM Eastern Time Zone, as the Moon is perfectly Full. (For show notes and podcast audio, scroll down, down, down…)

Video –

Audio –

Featured Music

Le Viellieux – Trigo Migo

Germán Díaz – La topolino amaranto

Sonate VI: Allegro en rondeau · Ensemble Danguy · Tobie Miller

  • Tell us about baroque hurdy gurdies.
  • What instruments have been converted to hurdy gurdies in the olden days?
  • What are the oldest playable hurdy gurdies?
  • What are the hurdy gurdies of the 18th century like?
  • In what century were the best Hurdy Gurdies built?
  • What do ice ages have to do with hurdy gurdies?
  • Guitar shaped or a lute back hurdy gurdy?
  • When were hurdy gurdy capos invented?
  • What is required to restore an ancient hurdy gurdy?
  • How many hurdy gurdies is too many hurdy gurdies?
  • What is a good schedule for maintaining a hurdy gurdy?
  • What are ways to determine the age of an ancient hurdy gurdy?
  • How often should strings be changed on a hurdy gurdy?
  • What can cause problems related to hurdy gurdy intonation?
  • What about 19th century hurdy gurdies?
  • When should a hurdy gurdy be destroyed?
  • How does one distress or relic a hurdy gurdy?
  • What is the best way to learn Baroque hurdy gurdy?
  • What are good Sonatas to learn on the hurdy gurdy?

Thanks again Sergio, for being with us.

Gurdy Mania II – Review

One Simple Man’s Review of Scott Marshall’s Gurdy Mania II

Scott Marshall’s technique on the Hurdy Gurdy is amazingly dexterous, his fingers, hands and arms nimble to the point of flawless performance of the most demanding music written for the instrument. These compositions performed on nine “slightly effected Hurdy Gurdies” by Mr. Marshall could be thought of as poetic pictures portraying the nature of life. All are presented in minor keys, indicating perhaps a preference for a solemn grasp that touches the depths of creation. Aliveness and alertness are clearly shown, but without a silly gaiety that glosses over life’s predominant vulnerability.

The first of the 15 recordings, “Country Dark,” written in half-time, is a drawn-out series of modulating chords with an underlying dominant base possibly capturing the mood of warily walking in pitch-black darkness through a meadow wondering what lies in wait. Yet, it’s as if the music itself surrounds the walker with an all-embracing zone that is safe. The remainder of the pieces feature sounds that seem impossible for a Hurdy Gurdy to make. Indeed, at times I imagined hearing an oboe or other reeds and even a muted brass instead of the instrument’s strings. These fleeting arpeggios of unusual sounds from their source dance around while continuo and chords maintain the rhythm.

One selection begins with the sound of a horse’s gait, which is maintained throughout providing a glimpse of a horse-drawn carriage rolling along at a steady pace. Several of the pieces repeat the same intricate arpeggio pattern, likely a favorite or most adroit of Mr. Marshall’s skill. Another complicated maneuver of Hurdy Gurdy playing that Mr. Marshall has mastered involves quick intermittent reversals of the flywheel to generate a different sound, something akin to breathing in instead of out when playing a harmonica. Even more astounding are the songs in which one melody is playing at the same time as a counter melody. I would love to witness that technique.

The final selection, “Spell of the Space Witch,” easily transports one into the vastness of pulsars, quarks, blackholes, and the other mysteries of space. How the composer/performer manages to eke those sounds out of the Hurdy Gurdy is another technique I want to see. Mr. Marshall’s mastery of Hurdy Gurdy performance ranges from notes sounding alone in utter simplicity to sounds of a church pipe organ with the sforzando toe stud switched on. The artist’s rendering on the album cover may capture something of the music’s wonder. There stands a tree (of life?) in the middle and other trees in the distance, and emerging out of the ground are various forms of vegetation, having worked through the black earth to offer sustenance and beauty to the rest of creation. Asleep in a cocoon of intertwined roots under the tree appears a rodent-type creature. Life’s essence is experienced as it is NOW without any need of hope for anything to be different. All we need is already given, and good or bad, it is of heaven.

j.e. norton – March 8th, 2021

To order Gurdy Mania: https://www.facebook.com/gurdymania/