I’ve played “The Distance Between Two Points” a lot over the last five or six years: with the Bill Evans String Summit at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, with Megan Lynch on the 2009 CD let’s do something… and at almost every Banjo in America performance over the last decade. It’s also the first track on my new CD In Good Company. This song has come to mean a lot to me as times goes by and I reflect on my experiences as a musician and as a parent. Much of “Distance” was composed in collaboration with my daughter Corey, who was a middle schooler who was quickly becoming an accomplished drummer as well as a piano and guitar player.
The initial musical phrases heard at the beginning of “The Distance Between Two Points” were the result of the two of us singing ideas to one another one evening, me with the banjo in my lap and her with the guitar, as we tried out out different chords to see which ones sounded the best. This kind of back and forth can really open up the imagination and the musical ideas were soon coming very quickly, like water in a waterfall.
We had the main theme in about ten minutes. I completed the rest of “Distance” a couple of months later in Lake Tahoe, where I went on a rare four day retreat, determined to write one new composition each day in effort to break a very long creative dry spell. As things turned out, I almost reached that goal, as I also came up with “Some Other Creek,” the result of almost constant playing throughout all four days.
Just in case you’re wondering, here’s a more recent picture of Corey and me together, from the great Mike Melnyk:
Once a main theme is written, the work isn’t nearly done. While compositions can be the result of intense collaborative flashes of inspiration, shaping that tune so that it sounds like a coherent piece of music usually involves considerably more left brain work. Like the playing of a piece itself, ideas about arrangements change over time and will evolve depending upon the performance situation. I was fortunate enough to have played this tune with a number of great musicians over 5+ years, including Jim Hurst, Missy Raines, Scott Nygaard, Michael Witcher, Steve Smith, Megan Lynch and Tashina & Tristan Clarridge. With each performance, these players contributed their own ideas to the tune (even if they didn’t realize it!).
Here’s how “The Distance Between Two Points” looks in the form of the rough chart that I took into the studio with me in July 2011:
When the time came to record “The Distance Between Two Points” with Darol Anger, the Clarridges, David Grier, Mike Marshall and Todd Phillips, I was about as ready as I ever would be, as I had been thinking about this tune for over five years, preparing for this session. And that’s the story for next time!