Category Archives: youtube

Horace Weston’s Celebrated Polka (2.0)

<a href="">[[[Link to video on YouTube]]]</a>

Here’s a new recording of Horace Weston‘s Celebrated Polka (sheet ♫), which I wanted to try a different approach to. The first one I did was classical style with rubato laid on thick. This new one is ragtime flavored.

It makes sense that that you could do either way, considering that Weston was part about European art music and part about American vernacular styles like minstrelsy. In his time people thought that the euro influence was automatically better, in our time it’s maybe the other way around (at least if you’re more into rock/blues/jazz/disco than classical) but this one guy managed to integrate them. And if this composition sounds more snooty highbrow euro than rube yank, keep in mind that it was written for banjo not guitar.

The main theme has a swirly mood like a lady getting dressed up to go out.

The second theme has colorful and daring harmony for that time and place.

The third theme is a jig, as in an irish jig.

And the last bit of the third theme would sound perfectly at home in a 1920s jazz or blues tune:

(Code for indexing into sections of the video courtesy

More posts about Horace Weston:

Egyptian Fandango

Speaking of Horace Weston, Champion Banjoist of the World, I have done a recording/video of his superawesome 1882 song “Egyptian Fandango.”

MP3: Lucas Gonze channelling Horace Weston via “Egyptian Fandango”

Also: AIF, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis.

Fandango means “A lively Spanish dance in triple time performed with castanets or tambourines. The dance begins slowly and tenderly, the rhythm marked by the clack of castanets, snapping of fingers, and stomping of feet. The speed gradually increases to a whirl of exhilaration.”

It’s a great little composition with a lot of spooky flavor. Very Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Weston was a sophisticated musician.

The harmony dips into both blues and classical. I hear Paganini *and* Rev. Gary Davis. As an example of classical harmony, at the center of the piece is a dissonant chord in A minor spelled b-f#-g-d; notice the f# and g right next to each other, without even an octave between them to help them get along. As an example of blues harmony, he uses V minor (E minor) and V dominant (E7) interchangeably, without modulating, which makes the third a blue note.

Rhythmically it plays a subtle game with a strong offbeat and weak downbeat: 1 *2* 3 *4*. This was ten years ahead of ragtime and thirty ahead of jazz, and it’s clearly an antecedent.

A wonderful and special thing about Weston is that as a gifted and educated free black man in a time of poverty and intense ghettoization he was able to write his own story and document his times for himself. Very few black people were empowered to do that. And what do you find? The advanced rhythmic techniques that characterize all African-American genres _and_ mastery of European music theory.

Here’s the sheet music I worked from, which I got from the Library of Congress:

sheet music for Egyptian Fandango by Horace Weston

In terms of my own playing here, I feel good about how it came out. I like the way the time ebbs and flows, and I like the brightness of the tone. There are no bad spots or mistakes. Also, I feel like I succeeded in bringing out the weird and awesome combo of blues and classical. But the recording is too short to really succeed. I feel like I needed to get at least two minutes out it to have something that people would listen to for its own sake.

The one good thing about the shortness is that this would be a natural soundtrack for a Flickr video, since Flickr videos can’t be longer than a minute and a half.

Anyhow, you’re welcome to remix my recording here, as well as download it, upload it, and tattoo it on your behind. It’s in the public domain.


To the extent possible under law, Lucas Gonze
has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to
Egyptian Fandango.
This work is published from
United States.

Rocking Yukon Gold

The varmint Soapy Smith lived and died in the hellishly cold northland up by the Russian border and the Soapy blog blogs about a part of the Library of Congress subsite on the joint history of Alaska and Russia which contains a goldmine of information, artifacts, documents and photographs on the Klondike gold rush era history.

I went prospecting in there and stumbled across a a dusty reading room with cowboy-era footage from Alaska. I especially liked an Edison clip from 1901 entitled Rocking Gold in the Klondike.


Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1901


From a single-camera position, the film shows sluice boxes as they are operated by gold miners in the Klondike gold fields.

Cameraman: Robert K. Bonine; Location: Yukon Terr., Canada

Copyright H4088, May 6, 1901; 31 ft., FLA3065 (print) FRA0408 (neg.)

I though about posting the clip on, and then I thought of Marco Raaphorst’s Klankbeelds, where he does a soundtrack for a photograph, and I decided to do a little soundtrack.

Dodworth’s video

Here’s a video of Dodworth’s Five Step Waltz on guitar.

YouTube link:

YouTube embed:

My chops with iMovie are getting better, and I did a little editing for the first time ever for the sake of inserting Ken Burns shots of the sheet music. I don’t know how to sync the sheet music up with the performance, though.

Also, I now know how to edit out mistakes, but I didn’t do that here. Probably I will do it in the future because it makes the music better.

roots of New Orleans funeral music

Today’s YouTube masterpiece is a morbid bluesy number with a Spanish tinge that was published in 1857. I discovered it because Jelly Roll Morton quotes it in “Dead Man Blues.” This song is still around in the New Orleans funeral style that Jelly Roll was riffing on — you hear this tune as the gothic minor snippet before things get happy.

But in that context you never get to hear the whole thing, just a little snatch of it, so what I did here is let it keep rolling out all the way to the end. Then at the end I quote the beginning of “Yellow Dog Rag” by W. C. Handy, as if that was going to be the uptempo number the whole thing was setting up.

What’s the song about?:

In 1839, beset by the recent deaths of her husband, brother, sister, and infant son, twenty-seven-year-old mary Dana began to pour out her grief in verse.


Flee as a bird to your mountain
Thou who art weary of sin
Go to the clear flowing fountain
Where you may wash and be clean
Fly, for th’avenger is near thee
Call, and the Savior will hear thee
He on His bosom will bear thee
O thou who art weary of sin
O thou who art weary of sin

He will protect thee forever
Wipe ev’ry falling tear
He will forsake thee, O never
Sheltered so tenderly there
Haste, then, the hours are flying
Spend not the moments in sighing
Cease from your sorrow and crying
The Savior will wipe ev’ry tear
The Savior will wipe ev’ry tear

I learned from two sheet music sources — the Library of Congress digitization of the 1885 publication and Stan Sanderson’s Lilypond transcription at Mutopia, where you can also get MIDI.

The recording is under a Creative Commons BY SA 3.0 license. The guitar is a National Estralita. The video was made with Garageband, iMovie HD, and the built in camera in my laptop. Needless to say there’s a Nick Cave / Tom Waits influence in the singing and a Flamenco influence in the guitar.

widow’s music video for her son

Lucas Gonze -- Widow's Plea For Her SonMP3
MP4 video
Ogg Vorbis
duration: 4:52
license: BY-SA
key: A
time signature: 3/4
sheet music,

Widow's Plea For Her Son

As part of my blog series on mother songs, this post is my recording of the 1893 tear jerker “A Widow’s Plea For Her Son.”

The guitar was a 2007 National Estralita Deluxe. The microphone was a Sure SM 81 pre-amplified with an ART Tube MP3. I recorded on a Macbook using iMovie HD, the 2006 version, and the built-in video camera.

An important tip for this kind of setup is that the audio will have a high-pitched whine unless you use an external mic.

I did about fifteen takes, counting false starts. This is a quarter or less of my normal count.

The setting was next to the window in my workroom right around noon, when the sunlight floods in and creates strong contrasts.

The microphone is positioned just above the camera frame. This is to emphasize the singing.

I did the audio processing in Garageband. First I doubled the original mono source by importing the movie twice into the same Garageband file. In one of those tracks I applied the “guitars/big wheels” filter to give the guitar presence. In the other track I applied the “vocals/male basic” filter to enhance the resonance of my voice. I mixed them back together with no panning to minimize a seasick side-effect caused by the “big wheels” filter otherwise.

The copyright on the composition is in the public domain, so my version is absolutely legal.

My recording here is permissively licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license version 3.0 unported, which means more or less that you can copy and reuse as long as you use the same license and link back to here. If you need another license, like a non-commercial license, just email lucas at gonze dot com to get permission.

livin easy @ Hyperion Tavern Thurs 9/25

I’ll do a solo set at 10:30 tomorrow night at the Hyperion Tavern at 1941 Hyperion Ave, in Silverlake, Los Angeles, California. Also on the bill: Dick and Jane (before me) and the Homebillies (after me).

There’ll be sheet music of my transcription of “Living Easy” by Irving Jones to give out to anybody who wants to learn the song, and of course I’ll play the thing myself. This song disappeared almost instantly on publication in 1899, was never recorded as far as I can tell, and has left only three impressions in the historical record:

1) Charles Ives recalled having heard it in the early 1890s, sometime around the birth of ragtime in 1893.

2) In the mid-1890s when Scott Joplin lived in Sedalia, Missouri there was a local band named after a line in the song — the “Pork Chops Greazy Quartette.”

3) Copyrighted and published in 1899.

And that’s it. It was a hot underground ragtime tune very early on, and as soon as it got a bit of commercial support it went *poof*. Until tomorrow night in Silverlake in the year 2008, 109 years later.

Musically I’ve been on a roll lately, and if I don’t break my streak it’ll be a fine night of hella old music, so c’mon by. If you haven’t done one of these Hyperion shows the thing to know is that it’s a tiny place with cheap beers, no cover, and no electricity to to amplify the music and drown out your conversation, which is better for you than me but what the hell.

The situation is low key to an extreme. Dick and Jane and the Homebillies and myself all play there regularly, and the crowd is generally heavy on musicians and people in the music business. Here’s review of the place:

Two outlandish chandeliers, a shelf full of legal tomes, and a bathroom marked “slave toilet” are all part of the casual punk rock aesthetic of this friendly, intimate tavern. There’s no sign outside, so the crowd tends to consist of scruffily hip creative types already in the know about the space. Only open late at night, the bar uses various themes like ’60s pop culture and “Guitar Hero” video game night as a draw for the inexpensive beer.

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Here’s Dick and Jane’s flyer:

Dick and Jane's flyer for gig at the Hyperion Lounge 9/25/2008

Deep River Blues

Under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 unported license as always, here’s my version of the Delmore Brothers / Doc Watson tune “Deep River Blues,” via YouTube:

Also available in MP3, Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Flac.

This is an old song but not 19th century by any means. I’m posting it because (1) it’s been too long since I posted new music and this was the nearest thing at the tip of my fingers and (2) it’s a great fit for my new 2007 National Estralita, which I bought because it’s loud enough for unamplified shows and love because the sound is so thick and warm.

St Louis Blues

“Blues” broke with the publication of W. C. Handy’s seminal compositions “Memphis Blues” in 1912 and then “St. Louis Blues” in 1914. At that time the recording industry existed but was still subdominant to the sheet music industry. Between 1917 and 1923 their roles reversed, and both of these stayed popular in the new industry.

Here are five versions of St Louis Blues in chronological order, starting almost ten years after the first publication.

  1. W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues Band in 1922: St Louis Blues, from W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues Band.

    Handy learned his trade in minstrel bands before the turn of the century, and by 1922 his sound was pretty square. His take on the hot style here is credible but still stiff, like the Eagles doing a Nirvana cover. But still, it’s his damn song and nobody knows better than him how it should go.

  2. W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues Band in 1922: St. Louis Blues—Medley Fox Trot (Intro: Ole Miss Blues), from Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922.

    By the time something gets used in a medley it’s a pretty huge hit.

  3. Louis Armstrong sometime between 1925 and 1929: St Louis Blues, from Hot Fives and Sevens (Disc 4).

    This is one of the best bands in the history of jazz at the peak of its form. This version shows the song turning into a broad framework for musicians to assert their own style.

  4. Bessie Smith in the 1929 film St. Louis Blues:

    The way she lays on the pathos is close to Handy’s original vision. The schmaltzy chorus and big-budget band is a whole nother thing.

  5. Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys sometime around 1935: St. Louis Blues, from The King of Western Swing.

    21 years after publication and still going strong, but getting further and further from the original sound, by now a hillbilly jazz tune.