The newest member of the family …
A couple of weeks ago, I went to pick up my new custom tenor ukulele from my friends Aaron, Nicole and Henry Keim (a.k.a. Beansprout Musical Instruments). I have been teaching and performing on ukulele long enough now, it was time to up my game and work with an instrument that I also want to work *for*, that will demand as much – if not more – of me as I will of it.
I knew Aaron would be the one to make whatever my next instrument would be. He is an expert craftsman, a deep listener of old records, and a curious soul ever on the journey, which means he’s the perfect bridge for this wood to travel from it’s latest iteration to its newest. Aaron works exclusively with salvaged wood that would otherwise be discarded. He knows where this wood has been, that it long preceded him and will long outlive him. A true artist, in every sense of the word.
I share a bit about the origin of the wood in the video below, but Aaron explains it best in the video he made on this gallery page on his website. Check it out, as well as the countless other instruments he’s made.
We went back and forth about how to describe the sound of this instrument. I know Aaron can get a bit nervous when an artist friend orders an instrument, whether they’ll like it, whether it will achieve the sound they were looking for. Truthfully, I think a lot of us don’t really know how to describe what we want, which can’t make his job easy. But I have not been able to keep my hands off this thing since I picked it up and I’ve realized that – intentionally or not – he’s achieved a sound in this instrument which is exactly what I strive for in my own voice: gentle, but full-bodied; breathy and pleasant, but present and with substance. Indeed, an instrument I will happily spend the years to come earning the right to play.
The newest selection from the repertoire …
What better way to celebrate a new instrument than with a new song! Earlier this summer, I taught at the Northwest session of the Cazadero Performing Arts Family Camp (a.k.a. Caz Northwest) and it was just the change of scenery and tempo I needed to write this little tune that had been swirling just below of the surface for me.
Oscar and I have been tearing through the series of children’s books about different science topics called The Magic School Bus. We started with dinosaurs, which was epic enough (did you know the dinosaurs lived for *hundreds* of *millions* of years?!), but went full throttle recently, reading The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System and The Magic School Bus: Explores Human Evolution almost in tandem with each other, back and forth, back and forth.
One night, as I put him to bed, I said, “Goodnight, Boo. I love you to the moon and back!”
He responded, “I love you to moon, too, Mama. … But the sun is farther, isn’t it? I love you to the sun and back!” And so it went … to Jupiter … to Pluto … and finally: “I love you to the end of the sky and back, Mama!”
I turned out the light and thought to myself, we don’t actually know where the end of the sky is, do we? Or if there is even an end to the sky at all? And isn’t that exactly what love can feel like … you launch and there is no coming back.
The End of the Sky
You and I are the blink of an eye / Going round the sun, just a speck in the sky
Something so small can be something so big at the same time / I know why, I know why
Powers of ten, again and again, to the end of the sky and back to
You and I, going round the sun
Me and you, we got nothing to do / But pass the time as we pass on through
The days are too long, the years are too short at the same time / I know why, I know why
Ringing the bell, back down the well, to the very first cell and back to
Me and you, just passing the time
How far does it go?
Powers of ten, again and again, to the end of sky
Follow the path, narrow and vast, but there’s no coming back from loving you
You and I … just passing on through, on this speck in the sky