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Thread: August Watters - two books arrived today

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default August Watters - two books arrived today

    The first book is well known, I don't doubt, on this forum: "Exploring Classical Mandolin - Technique & Repertoire" which looks to be a justifiably-acclaimed volume, supplying a survey of the world of the contemporary classical mandolin from the perspective of a 21st-century American. Yes, historical practises are engaged with, but the emphasis is what we do with this stuff now, and how we can add to it while not being tied down to any of the European schools. As a European, it does look a very American volume with an American outlook. This doesn't worry me at all, and I like the freshness and vigour the author has brought to the subject.

    I'm particularly attracted to the contemporary repertoire contributed by Watters himself - really beautiful, challenging and interesting pieces, which I've only had to time read through once. I look forward to brushing some of them up.

    And we are encouraged to improvise. Heaven's above!

    There is a wonderful and healthy contemporary repertoire being composed in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, yet by contrast I find the classical mandolin pedagogical output to be rather staid and boring, though would love to be proved wrong. In short, I can't imagine this book being written by a European. But it could have been if we were willing to take more chances, explore new areas, encourage outliers to take centre stage.

    I was delighted to read the title of the second book I ordered: "New Solos for Classical mandolin - Concert Repertoire for Practice & Performance", but my heart sank somewhat when I skimmed the titles (only) of tunes: Scottish Bells, Road to Inverness - I started thinking, "Not more imitation Scottish jigs and reels!". And worse: Ode To Joy, We Shall Overcome, etc. But...

    Scottish Bells is sublime! Nothing could be further from what I dreaded. Believe me, as a Scot I have to say we have more than our fair share of jigs and reels, but we could with more of this stuff by August Watters and others.

    Very quickly the pedagogical underpinning to the book becomes clear. Each piece develops techniques that are essential to good mandolin playing, and are found in historical treatises, but does so in a contemporary classical language, accessible yet fresh, not afraid of dissonance and angularity, yet without ever sounding "difficult" on the ear.

    And after each piece, August gives us much to think about, with exercises to develop the techniques used in the compositions. This is learning while having fun, seeing how exercises can morph into real compositions, and how we can engage in the process of that ourselves by messing around with the basic material, just seeing where our fingers and ears take us.

    This is the pedagogical aspect that has been missing from so many dry music books, the invitation and encouragement to play with...stuff: techniques, arpeggios, scales, dynamics, tunes, chords, etc.

    I'm looking forward to getting stuck into these two books. And if August Watters notices this thread: Chapeau, sir! Keep up the good work.

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    I'll make sure August sees this review; I believe the virus shut-down has kept him at the Oregon coast--I live in the valley so we might be visiting as the travel opens in June. My background is in music education, and I agree with your words about the pedagogy--I have seen to many books that start with a "whole note equals 4 quarter notes" stuff (no it doesn't!!) and then go into "Mary had a little lamb" tunes. August writes for serious smart adults who might be beginners or experienced, and the video access with his book cannot be matched.
    I play mandocello, so my main work has been in his book for that instrument; again, as you say a 21st century approach in (of all things) BASS CLEF! All due respect to the historical Bickford and Goichberg books, August's contribution is timely as the low-C tuned instrument is getting more and more attention. I thank you (and August will I am sure) for this detailed and thoughtful review.
    Jim (Dr. Imhoff, Oregon player, Boston U adjunct)

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Cheers, Jim. I have a mandola in G, 8ve below mandolin, arriving soon, and I have toyed with idea of tuning it in C. If I do so, August's mandocello book will be my first purchase. In fact, I might buy it "just in case", as sometimes these kind of books might be hard to locate in the future. I did play tenor banjo in CGDA tuning for a while - Mel Bay published my Bach for the Tenor Banjo book - but I'll admit that reading orchestral scores in the alto clef fills me with dread. The bass clef I don't mind at all, or treble.
    Rob

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    As I posted below I cannot say enough nice things about Mr. Watters’ book. And I am so glad to hear about this second publication - I ordered today. Thank you!

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...sical-Mandolin

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
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    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia (Dogal R92-M strings)

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Cheers, Jim. I have a mandola in G, 8ve below mandolin, arriving soon, and I have toyed with idea of tuning it in C. If I do so, August's mandocello book will be my first purchase. In fact, I might buy it "just in case", as sometimes these kind of books might be hard to locate in the future. I did play tenor banjo in CGDA tuning for a while - Mel Bay published my Bach for the Tenor Banjo book - but I'll admit that reading orchestral scores in the alto clef fills me with dread. The bass clef I don't mind at all, or treble.
    Rob
    I'm a retired conductor so I had to read all the clefs--and sing all the parts. But I was never a string player until I retired and got serious about mandolin and mandocello. My wife has a tenor banjo, I'll have to try your book!
    I was very disappointed when a conference I wanted to attend in Edinburgh was cancelled (like everything else). I haven't been, but my wife has and has great things to say. If I ever make it let's meet and pluck some Bach.

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Sounds like a plan, Jim. Edinburgh is a fine city...normally.

    Tim, you will love "New Solos for Classical Mandolin"!

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    And now a third book has arrived: Progressive Melodies for Mandocello.

    I just wanted this for my library, not thinking I would want to tune my (still to arrive) mandola in C instead of G. That C would be an octave higher than the mandocello, of course, but the book still gives me useful reading practise in C tuning. I read through the first four pieces without too much hesitation, and found the pieces very attractive.

    But why would I want to have my mandola in C if the orchestral parts are in the alto clef? And, living in Europe, mandola parts are mostly in G tuning. I'm getting myself confused! Still, it is fun to read through them. Another good book, August.

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Rob, alto clef doesn't relate to tuning--C is the middle line no matter how you're tuned. The orchestral parts would be written with the assumption you are tuned CGDA, just like a viola, so I think it would be tricky to play them tuned any other way.
    Of course, I think EVERYONE should play mandocello--and in the bass clef.
    jim

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    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Thanks to all who posted. Since there have been questions, I’ll give a bit more background on the two mandolin books.

    The main goal of “Exploring Classical Mandolin” is to introduce the music and techniques of classical mandolin to mandolinists coming from other traditions. (Here in the USA, that’s almost all of us!) ECM is primarily for those who want to use classical techniques to explore mandolin’s range of tone and texture—with or without getting into historical styles of classical mandolin playing.

    ECM contains an overview of historical practice, today’s various schools of thought, and my own take on what works. There are cornerstones of the classical mandolin literature, and a section of my arrangements of classical melodies. I can’t call ECM a fully-developed “method” because I was limited to just 75 pages for the instructional part, so ECM is designed to be used along with other materials.

    Like ECM, the new book—New Solos for Classical Mandolin—presents new music based on several right-hand techniques drawn from classical mandolin literature. There are also practice pages for each solo—to help the reader develop those techniques, and to extract their musical content and apply to new situations. Scale, arpeggio, and chord-melody methods are explored, since all are important to classical playing.

    As far as content, you could say NSCM is an extension and elaboration of Part 1 of ECM. The approach is different, however: in ECM I went into quite a bit of descriptive detail. Not wanting to repeat that, with the new book I took a “progressive studies” approach: concepts are taught by example, and each melody builds on the previous. So although the title presents NSCM as a new repertoire book (its primary purpose), it’s also a book of progressive exercises, exploring right hand techniques drawn from the literature of classical mandolin. But you could just as well ignore the extra exercises, and focus on the melodies.

    Rob, yours are not the first eyebrows to be raised by my Scottish-themed tunes: “Road to Inverness,” “Scottish Bells,” etc. But rather than making caricatures of Scottish musical styles, these are just my own impressionistic titles for new works. The Watters, after all, came from the Scottish Highlands. And we still hold them dear!
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
    Progressive Melodies for Mandocello (Amazon, 2019)
    New Solos for Classical Mandolin (Hal Leonard Press, 2020)

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    Registered User Rob MacKillop's Avatar
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Ha, cheers, August. Your descriptions are of course more accurate and detailed than mine, which was just a bit of enthusiastic promo for these books. I'm enjoying working through them. Many people have Scottish blood in them, hence the saying. "Those bloody Scots!"

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    I probably sound like an old record by now, but I am so enthusiastic about ECM, that I am compelled to repeat myself: the book is a gold mine and, along with videos and on-line materials, is an incredibly valuable, extremely well thought out resource. It meets the stated goal superbly. I am very much looking forward to receiving my copy of NSCM. I would not normally go on about something this much - but it is not that easy to locate and consolidate information on classical mandolin!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    NSCM arrived a few days ago. Mr. Watters simply excels in this area. Pretty special person me thinks!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
    1995 Flatiron A5 Artist (B. Weber) #95072333 (Thomastik 154-S strings)
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia (Dogal R92-M strings)

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Already own book 1... New Solos arrived a couple days ago.
    Hope I'll have time to look through it later today.

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    I would like to point with pride (and humility, so I don't actually take credit for anything here) that August earned his Masters degree in the Boston University Music Education program. There are some fundamental differences in higher education between the performance oriented programs and those that emphasize education, and I think we see this in August's work. I have watched master artists--players, singers, conductors--show people "how it's done," which often is more a matter of "how I do it." I have also seen people "guarantee" that this exercise or this method will produce the desired results. Both of these approaches have a disconnect between the music and the student, a sort of "out of context" quality. August takes a multidimensional approach with well-crafted musical selections, exercises that grow out of and contribute to the music, alternate suggestions, varied approaches, and online videos that get you out of the book.
    I once saw a film of a Segovia master class; one after another, eager students sat with the master and attempted to play their selection. Segovia would interrupt with a "NO!..... like this." One student had the nerve to point out a musical marking in the score and was immediately silenced. "NO! .... like this." When you have the status of a Segovia (or a von Karajan, or a Toscanini) you can get away with that. But it is not good pedagogy, and too many studio teachers take that approach. August offers the flexibility and multi-dimensionality that allows students to find their own connection to the music. And because of the artistic qualities in the material, that connection is musical rather than a mechanical “this way.”
    I am glad these books are getting the attention and appreciation they deserve (and I hope the people at CMSA are taking notice). We have a valuable resource in August Watters, home based as well as internationally recognized. I also think that this kind of musical and educational approach, rather than the conservatory master-class model might help in establishing the future of classical mandolin in academic institutions.
    Dr. James Imhoff
    Boston University Music Education Dept.

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    Default Re: August Watters - two books arrived today

    Jim Imhoff: Thank you so much for stating Mr. Watters abilities so well. You are 300% on point!!!!!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
    1995 Flatiron A5 Artist (B. Weber) #95072333 (Thomastik 154-S strings)
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623 (Thomastik 154-M strings)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia (Dogal R92-M strings)

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