Tag Archives: gurdy

Agent Starling – Fresh On The Net – People’s Choice –

Lovely to get an Agent Starling Track featured on Fresh on the Net – and a great review of it to boot – here’s what they have to say about ‘Valley to Mountainside’ from our second album ‘Constellation of Birds’.

‘One thing I like about Fresh On The Net’s inbox is that you never know what you’re going to get. You will always get surprised. You can never accurately tell which way it’s going to go, and that’s the beauty of an independent music blog. The ten that we close out the summer with are all thought provoking and the first track to open this Fresh Faves is no different, and while I’m listening to this, I hear a bit of folk, a bit of prog rock, Celtic… it’s all there. And it’s dizzyingly good! 3/4 time, a flute, fiddle, a bass riffing away, and vocals drenched in reverb and sung in a round, I feel like I’m in a time warp – a tv show from the 60s and 70s, or maybe lying in the grass in Greenwich Park watching the clouds go by and making shapes… This is something isn’t it? Very dreamy. “Valley to mountainsidehigh up and look down at sea salt to ozone and fly out and don’t look back” This is all sung in a round! Agent Starling is Quentin Budworth on Hurdy Gurdy, Lou Duffy-Howard all other instruments and vocals, except violin by special guest Dexter Duffy-Howard. According to their gorgeously designed site: “Quentin and Lou both have strong musical provenance. Lou was originally in recently reformed prophetic UK Indie band Red Guitars and has gigged and recorded ever since, currently heading up psychedelic rock band Loudhailer Electric Company. Originally part of Suns of Arqa, hurdy-gurdy specialist Quentin is the force behind world fusion medieval rave band Celtarabia. Agent Starling are preparing to tour in 2023.” For some reason I have deja vu around them but I just can’t think why, maybe they are time travellers, and they are evoking the multiverse with their sound, whatever it is, it’s definitely left an impression on me’.


Drone Theory

The drone is a constant it’s one of the  main things that drew me to the hurdy-gurdy. Here is a list of words that I associate with the drone:

sacred, eternal, infinite, spiritual, ancient, transcendent, universal, constant, meditative, sinister, comforting, home, calmness, fear, worldly, other worldly, stillness, continuum, source, universe, God, ritual, trance, dream, oneness, wholeness, completion

The drone has meaning changes as a direct result of my mood and the context in which I hear and understand it.

Some wider context before delving into the music, drones have existed and continue to exist in many corners of the world. The systematic use of drones originated in instrumental music of ancient Southwest Asia, and spread north and west to Europe and south to Africa. They seldom resonated on their own but for the most part they were embedded into instrumental arrangements. The drone or “burden tone” (Bourdon) has served as the backbone to many folk music traditions, from Southern Italy to Scandinavia. Most bagpipes have up to three drones, in America, most forms of the African-influenced banjo contain a drone string. Since the 1960s, the drone has become a prominent feature in avant-garde and film music.

In the Middle Ages, Europe and Byzantium sang over a foundation of drones. Back then, larger cities in the Christian world hosted huge entertainment venues called cathedrals that showcased psychedelic light shows backed by endless drones and aesthetic semi-narcotic heady incense fog: cathedrals, where choirs and organ players pushed their audience into ecstasy with what was then the loudest music imaginable, resonating from the walls with lots of heavy overtones bringing heaven to earth with a lot of help from the drone. So even in their purest form, drones connected people with a vibrating universe from early on.

Drones change the original piece of music fundamentally as the melody plays against the drone. They also change so much more in terms of the audience’s actual act of listening and experience of the music. The sound world created by the drone and its interplay with the tune adds a dynamic a constant, a pull towards or away from the home tone. Each note has its own special relation to the drone creating a dyadic cadence  ( a two-tone musical interval). The drone is the essence of life itself in its most primitive state the point from which all melody stems from, is related to, understood by and must return to.

Human beings are wired to respond viscerally to the drone it embodies our sense of the infinite and  eternity it is a heady and powerful sonic form that is very much a part of our spiritual DNA connecting us to the one, the eternal life force. It embodies the understanding that “God is Sound,” and “Sound is God.” The drone is eternal and takes us to a deeply spiritual place within a few seconds.

The drone sets up a ritual, a play space where magic can happen and this feels strangely comforting to me, like home and yet a sustained tone to evoke disquiet, a sense of lifting the curtain of the everyday. A place where Mystery and magic live. Here be dragons!

The drone harnesses time in an unmarked, uninterrupted spiritual ritual, an audio element within music that transcends borders and stretches back millennia. The drone creates a sacred sonic space it entranses us .

When we play the hurdy-gurdy we create a sound world in which we can dream, drift and explore. The instrument powers up the synapses and feeds the soul. It really is a magical thing. It takes us back to our ancient past; it takes to everywhere and nowhere. When we play the instrument runs deep into our psyche, it’s like free basing history and universal geography. The drone comes from a place of resonance and intuition, something primal that exists within everything and is everywhere.

With the drone you can enter a trance state if you’re luck you’ll be able to leave your body and become the spirit of the music. It can be a full on psychedelically revelatory out of body experience through music. That is what I’m aiming for when I play with Celtarabia.

Often with the drone in the hurdy-gurdy, it’s about playing the silences, especially with melody strings  and the trompettes. It’s finding those moments, those punctuations, pauses and silences.

I think of the drone as like ‘the universal one’ of God it’s the home tone. Each note played melodically is one step away from or towards home and this is where the musical tension and meaning resides in the relationships between melody and drone.

The drone exists outside of us and deep within us. It is an oral expression of a universal hum we can only hope to fleetingly channel when we play. 

When we play the drone we are also played by it. It changes our psychological state by facilitating a focus on the present by limiting our experience of the constant of change. Putting us in the moment for a continuous period of time.

The drone allows us to take control of time by releasing us from our need to mark time. It takes us away from the mundane in every way and allows us to enter a sacred space dream and just let go. To be in the moment for as long as we choose.

In a way, the drone represents the ultimate folk music a powerful tool of personal liberation. The drone unites us as a feeling of togetherness by dint of communal or and shared wonder and allows us the freedom from the tyranny of time and the now normalised imperatives of human achievement and digital social validation.

The drone is the sound of a free universe in which anything is possible.

This is a short except from my forthcoming book ‘The Secret Life of the hurdy-gurdy’ Field notes on playing the hurdy-gurdy from the world’s most respected players.


Throughout this autumn I have been working on the Disconnect-Reconnect Show developing ideas and researching approaches to the project. From Nov 1st to 7th I was on a residency at Cecil Sharp House on a residency to develop my ideas further.

1. What did you use the bursary funding for?

I used the bursary funding to develop, refine, research and explore ideas for my new solo show Disconnect/Reconnect. I’ve been researching and developing a cross genre show in which story-telling, theatre and music are combined with new writing, digital media to create a unique folk gig that weaves immersive storytelling with live music inspired by music from the pan European and England’s traditional music repertoires using contemporary approaches to create a show that has broad popular appeal.
In financial terms I used the bursary to pay my expenses and wages whilst I worked on developing the Disconnect/Reconnect project at home and at Cecil Sharp House in London. I’ve invested some of the money on joining the Monday Singers at EFDSS to develop my singing.

2. Would you have been able to do this work if you did not have the bursary?

There is no way I would have been able to dedicate the concentrated effort, thought and experimentation on this project if the bursary had not been awarded.

As a full-time musician and artist my income is really quite low compared to the average wage so opportunities to travel and spend time in London researching ideas, new musical and performance concepts are relatively rare as the cost of accommodation, travel to from and around London are prohibitive.

Being on residency gave me a strong credible platform to conduct crowd-based research via social media. The ability to ask pertinent and impertinent questions yielded some great new ideas whilst confirming and challenging some deeply held personal beliefs.

The residency enabled me to broker relationships with potential participants for the project both in the UK, Europe and America.

Being able to discuss the ideas in the project with Nick and Malcolm in the library  and their miraculous ability to pull out fascinating resources that moved my thinking along was a joy.

I think one of the reasons I wanted to come to London was to meet and have conversations with staff at Cecil Sharp House to develop the ideas in the show. However remote working due to the coronavirus made this impossible. It would have been inspiring to have heard some stories about previous residencies and work developed as a result of them.

I used some of the money to pay for the EFDSS Monday Singers sessions with Emily Portman. This has been great fun and a tremendous learning experience, challenging me consistently to develop my skills as a singer and develop and learn new repertory. Work I will continue to focus on  over the next year as the show develops.

One of the intangible but valuable benefits of the residency is that I feel much more confident about the project and my own abilities as an artist and validated by the Alan James Creative Bursary Award as a musician. I know previous awardees have gone on to create wonderful things based on their research and I hope Disconnect-Reconnect will have a similar impact.

3. What future plans do you have to use and/or develop the work created?

I’ll be developing the work into a show and album that I hope to tour in autumn 2022

I’ll be working with my musical collaborators closely to develop and refine their  musical contributions to the show.

I’ll be writing more new tunes that respond to and develop the tunes shared with me.

I’ll be looking for additional funding to produce, rehearse and tour the show using Arts Council Project Funding Awards.

Using the insights, I gained on residency I will be developing the show further and challenging myself in new ways as a performer. By developing singing skills, mouth music skills and foot percussion skills.

I’ll be actively seeking out and developing my skills as a story-teller and raconteur. I’m hoping to spend some time with Taffy Thomas.

4. Any other things you would like to say or like us to know?

The show I’ve been working on whilst I’ve been here at Cecil sharp house is a solo show called ‘Disconnect-Reconnect’. It’s about how music allows us to cross borders without inhibition and connect people even when we’re really isolated. Underlying that it’s about creating and listening to music as a shared social experience.

The show involves storytelling digital media and of course tunes on the hurdy gurdy. It’s designed to be a lot of fun with plenty of laughs and heart. There will be  guest appearance by a number of musicians via video so that I can take all my friends on tour with me and navigate and share my musical world in an augmented concert experience using projections.

One thing that’s been particularly interesting while I’ve been here on residency, and caused me a lot of fascination is the archive resources and the library, which are just tremendous. I’d like to say a big thank you to Nick and Malcolm for finding and searching out some really great materials. Of particular interest are the photos from the pre-war international folk dance and song festival held in 1935 a few years before the start of the second world war which give us an extraordinary glimpse into another world whilst provoking deeper questions around national Identity and state.

The images from the 1935 Festival are a delight and I’m sure I will find a way of incorporating them into the final show.

Special thanks to Nick for introducing me to some new ways of thinking and understandings in this area.

I’ve also been using my time during the residency to engage in discussions with other musicians and artists around the country and indeed across Europe to find out what their feelings are on things like Brexit, the impact of COVID and the social nature and intangible benefits of playing music together and for audiences that go beyond the simple metric of ticket sales. I’ve been looking at like the spiritual emotional, and social dimension of making music together. So that’s been really interesting.

Here are some of the questions I asked on social media:

It’s day one of my Alan James Creative Artist residency at Cecil Sharp House and I’m starting with a question to musicians in the UK. In one word (or more) describe your feelings about Brexit.


It’s day two of my Alan James Creative Artist residency at Cecil Sharp House and I have another question to musicians in the UK.

‘Brexit has proved to be hugely divisive. What can we as musicians do to build bridges with Europe and re-establish cohesion within our own society?’


It’s day three of my Alan James Creative Artist residency at Cecil Sharp House and I have another question to musicians in the UK.

‘The impact of the Covid pandemic and Brexit has been tremendously isolating for us all, what stories do you have of overcoming isolation and creating connection with other musicians and audiences during these challenging times?’


It’s day four of my Alan James Creative Artist residency at Cecil Sharp House and I have another question to musicians in the UK.

‘What does the new normal look and sound like for you as a musician? What has changed, what has stayed the same, what is better, what is worse?’


It’s day five of my Alan James Creative Artist residency at Cecil Sharp House and I have another question to musicians in the UK.

‘Playing together has a spiritual, social and emotional value beyond the economic drivers of ticket and album sales. How do you use music connect to others and what are the ‘intangible’ benefits you find in the act of making and sharing music?’

Participants took part in the discussions in quite large numbers and the answers given were thoughtful, funny and had heart-warming qualities I’d like to bring to the show. The answers to question five were particular insightful moving beyond anger to hope a central theme of the Disconnect-Reconnect show.

Here are some of them:

Music played with others, is a form of Esperanto; a second language, whereby you might communicate with others, where you may not have a common tongue.
Chris Tandy

It’s non-verbal communication. That’s a pretty amazing thing. I can’t put a specific value on it, but I know my live would be very dull without it.
Jane Bird

I met a very high proportion of my friends through music, some of which I’ve never physically met, but music provides a real connection between us. Making music with others ranks as one of the greatest pleasures in my life, it’s been like that since I started making music 58 years ago.

Plus, another of life’s greatest pleasures is seeing the emotions that you can bring out in the audience – happy, sad, remembering. Music has the power to make connections in so many ways.

For example, years ago I was busking in York City Centre. I was playing Whistling Rufus on my melodeon, when an elderly lady stopped, listened, and started crying. When I finished the tune, she came over, grasped my hands, and thanked me. It had been her late husband’s favorite tune. Remembering that musical moment still moves me
Kevin Holland

I am just heading out for a week-long Pagan retreat where we will connect with each other through instrumental music, chant, song, mantras, drumming etc. I could go on for pages and pages as music is integral to our Ritual and social interaction and is and social interaction and is also woven through our everyday interactions. It encompasses both solitary and group spiritual practices. And is used in many other ways that I am not sure I should share here. Blessings.
David Manley

The above, yes, especially Chris Tandy’s comment at the top. Playing for people to dance, whether or not we have many words in common, can be a deep, almost spiritual experience. Playing in public when a tiny toddler starts dancing along, and watchers share the joy is pretty good, too.
Richard York

Where playing with others becomes a communication of harmony, counter melody it’s an amazing level of communication. To know where they might go with the impro. It forms a relationship. Watching dancers physically respond to that key or tempo change is pretty amazing too.
 Janet Worrell

Worked abroad for four years and could settle, make friends and absorb local culture because I found local musicians playing local music, who shared music with me. Also met other folk musicians who were travelling and shared music. Wouldn’t have been happy without music then – might not have been able to cope.
Jo Drew

‘the musical human’ by Michael spitzer is an interesting book to read an ponder upon your questions… article about it here https://www.theguardian.com/…/the-musical-human-by…
Sian Phillips

Part of my work has involved liaising, gathering in and playing along to the videos from my fellow musicians and projecting them and then working out  and researching the logistics for how to back project and projection map elements of the show. As this will make for a much more interesting live experience for the audience.

One of the unexpected consequences of the residency is that something of the spirit of Cecil Sharp house has influenced my thinking and allowed me to take my ideas forward and provide really stimulating areas for further research. Being able to embark on one line of inquiry in the library, and then come across something else that’s really quite fascinating and takes you off on another tangent has been excellent.

So, it is the library I have to thank for developing my interest and being able to satisfy my curiosity about Puirt-a-Beul music, and mouth music making in England for dancing. Listening to the wax cylinder and field recordings at the listening post in the library was a direct window onto another world and something I will treasure for a very long time.

There is an element of my research that is definitely going into the show, which is the seated step dancing whilst doing mouth music  whilst playing the rhythm with your feet. Having read the description in one of the journals about this it’s just I have to do this this is really good useful inspiring knowledge.

One of the joys of being at Cecil sharp house on residency has been have access to these wonderful rehearsal rooms, and to just be able to sit in them and play and to think and to reflect and to develop ideas, having the space and the time set aside to just do this one thing without the distractions of normal life has been lovely. One of the unexpected outcomes of this is that I’ve written a couple of tunes for the project. I really wouldn’t have gotten around to doing had it not being a residency so that half hour 45 minutes in the morning, just practising warming up and playing around with ideas, has had some really lovely outcomes.

As an artist, it’s a rare privilege to be given the opportunity to have a residency to develop new creative ideas and I’d like to say a really big thank you to Cecil Sharp House the EFDSS and to the Alan  James Creative Bursary fund for allowing me the opportunity to explore and develop new ideas and create new work. It’s been fantastic.

Sitting and writing the evaluation and having a chance to reflect on the residency has been a particularly useful exercise as it has allowed me to draw together many of the learnings, reflections and most importantly the key next steps for the project.

It’s a  big heartfelt thank you from me.

Quentin Budworth
Musician and Artist.

Meeting up with Peter Kanssen in London

It was really great to meet up with Peter Kanssen yesterday and have a good play through some tunes and have a delicious Parsnip Soup lunch (not pictured). I also got the chance to have a go on Peter’s Neil Brook 3d Gurdy (storming!) and his amazing Sam Palmer midi gurdy both of which I have to say are lovely instruments. As a few people have been in touch about my thoughts on Sam’s midi gurdy I’ll write a post about it in the not to distant future.

One thing that came up during the meeting was the variable length crank as a learning tool …. to develop articulation of the coups – (buzzes) of the Hurdy-Gurdy trompette.

Far From the Madding Crowd – eMade Kinnersley Castle – Music for dancing – Far From The Madding Crowd – Peak Dance

This was a really lovely full on learning experience as participants we were offered a very full programme of learning experiences with the opportunity to dance in the evening. APR2019 Workshop Timetable . I learnt about playing and singing for dancing in Breton, Poitou and Scandinavian folk music over four days. To say that the experience was intense would be an understatement – I learnt a lot about playing styles, singing, call and refrain, playing by ear and much more.

My Mousnier Tenor Hurdy Gurdy which had it’s first outing on this trip. It was a challenge using a new instrument in a workshop situation however people seem to really like it’s low sound and roar.

For more inf visit http://peakdance.org.uk

Master Class with German Diaz at the Spielkurs Mühlhausen

Course 5: Advanced hurdy gurdy g/c
Germán Díaz

The advanced course with Germán Díaz  focussed mainly on melodies and rhythms of the Iberian peninsula, which Germán can convey authentically firsthand: It is always about the transfer of what has been learned to one’s own music, ie the question of how the techniques can also be used in traditional European dance music. In addition to universally applicable techniques, Spanish melodies and a considerable portion of concentrated musicality, you will also receive rhythmic inputs for quaters, fives and six-shots.

Another part of the work will deal with approaches and techniques for modal improvisation on traditional music, which are universally applicable in the field of traditional music and demand in addition to your understanding of music and your technical skills.

Halsway Manor Hurdy Gurdy Weekend 2019

I attended the Halsway Manor Hurdy Gurdy annd Bagpipe weekend it was amazing. I studied with Francesco Giusta. What did I learn… lots here is a video demo of the music from the workshop.

Ways into playing 2 time bourees – three part harmony arrangements for Hurdy Gurdy also approaches to playing Waltz and Mazurka – variable speed wheel technique slow cranking to give space and rhythmic spice too tunes, off beats paradidles and a whole lot more.

Here is a full list of tutors for the weekend:
The Team (Hurdy Gurdy)
Claire Dugué (Host) a native of France, encountered the hurdy-gurdy in London during her college training as an instrument maker. She was captivated by the instrument and has been making hurdy-gurdies ever since, producing quality instrument for amateur and professionals alike. Claire has now taken over the organisation of the weekend from Paul James and will be hosting the event and be also at hand to help with the technical aspects of setup and maintenance.

Gilles Chabenat is regarded as one of the very best hurdy-gurdy players of his generation. He began playing the hurdy-gurdy at 13 with Les Thiaulins, an association devoted to folk arts and traditions. Following private lessons with Georges Simon, he won several music awards and subsequently devoted himself to his region’s traditional repertoire with a desire to branch out into other musical styles.

In the wake of Valentin Clastrier, he thus felt the need to reinvent the instrument and the playing techniques associated with it. Around that time and after several years of research, luthier Denis Siorat developed a contemporary-style electro-acoustic instrument which facilitated the integration of the hurdy-gurdy into the modern musical experience.

In 1992, Gilles Chabenat began a twelve-year partnership with the Corsican group I Muvrini. During that period, he met and worked with a number of renowned artists: Véronique Sanson, Stephan Eicher, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Sting, as well as Frédéric Paris, Edouard Papazian, Alain Bonnin, and Gabriel Yacoub to name but a few. More recently, he has been collaborating with jazz musicians and also works regularly with Eric Montbel, Didier François, a Nyckelharpa player, Gabriel Yacoub and Patrick Bouffard.

Gilles’ musical experience and evolution are thus constantly shaped by the people he meets. In his approach to hurdy-gurdy playing, he draws essentially on the multifaceted nature of an instrument which has been in constant evolution for more than one thousand years.

Francesco Giusta (Italy) started to play hurdy gurdy at the age of 11 with local tutors before developing his technique with some masters of the instrument; J F Maxou Heintzen, P Bouffard, G Jolivet, G Diaz, T Nouant, S Durand and V Clastrier.

Within the years he has played in several bands, mostly in folk and medieval music performing at many folk and medieval festivals in Italy and France; worked with Lou Dalfin and in some musical project with Sergio Berardo.

He recorded some CD’s (‘En l’aire ailamont’ in 2011 and ‘Podre’ in 2013 with La Mesquia, ‘Balfolk’ in 2014 with Trigomigo) and was a guest in ‘Bon Nadal Occitania’ in 2009, with Sergio Berardo, ‘Cavalier Faidit’ in 2011 with Lou Dalfin, ‘Santulubbiranti’ in 2015 with Malanova.

Since 2011 he has been giving masterclasses in Germany and regular lessons in Turin. In 2015 he won the first price at the hurdygurdy challenge at ‘Le son continue’ festival in Chateaux d’Ars, France.

He now plays with Trigomigo, Controcanto, Bal là and has regular hurdygurdy classes in Turin and Cuneo.

Joel Turk is one of our regulars at Halsway Manor, as he has been teaching hurdy-gurdy to the most advanced players over the past 2 years. He is back this year to look after the beginners! Joel is well known for being a member of the great band Red Dog Green Dog.

Two really useful videos on modes and tonal centres

Knowing how to create modes from the major scale is a really useful skill here’s how to do it.

If you think about the tonal centre of the Hurdy-Gurdy as the drone string then changing it’s pitch can open up lots of interesting possibilities…using the same melody…


Due to the uncertain political situation and the danger of crashing out of the EU with ‘No deal’ I’m having to do some research into factors affecting artists travelling in Europe the Arts Council have published some guidelines for arts organisations here:


Also with regards to travelling in my car I’ll need a special permit called an IDP (International Driving Permit) in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, IDPs may be required for people intending to drive in EU countries after 28th March 2019.

Post Offices offering the IDP service can provide information on IDP requirements before 28th March 2019, or you can visit www.gov.uk/driving-abroad/international-driving-permit

Crikey it’s all happening! The Euro is really high – as I found out today when booking onto workshops in Germay and Holland. I’ll have to double check my health and travel insurances too… also my medical card is still valid.

I got the blues on the Hurdy-gurdy

Inspired by the Muddy-gurdy film and remembering a deep teenage of love of the blues I’ve been doing some online and action research into playing the blues and blues improvisation and started to work on how to make it work on the Hurdy-gurdy.

I’ve looked at guitar blues methodology here:



I’ve looked at violin methodology here:


The structure of the music the 8/12/16 bars would lend themselves to looping and then soloing over the top… Remember if the tune if the tune is in D solo and improvise in D likewise G and C.

images (1)

In D:
I = D IV=G V=A
I = G   IV= C V=DIN G:
In C
I = C   IV= F V=G

Blues Scales in Gurdy friendly keys:

The blues scale in D is: D F G Ab A C

The Blues Scale in G is: G Bb C Db D F

The Blues Scale in C is: C Eb F Gb G Bb


Major Pentatonic Scales in Gurdy friendly keys:

Pentatonic Major in D: D E F# A B

Pentatonic Major in G: G A B D E

Pentatonic Major in C: C D E G A


Minor Pentatonic Scales in Gurdy friendly keys:

Pentatonic Minor in D:  D F G A C

Pentatonic Major in G: G Bb C D F

Pentatonic Major in C: C Eb F G Bb









Gilles Chabenat and a hunt for the Hurdy-gurdy Blues

I’m booked in at Halsway Manor The national Centre for Folk Arts and will be studying with French Hurdy-gurdy maestro Gilles Chabenat. We’ll be working on these tunes:
valse à louis
dix petits grains d’or
bourrée prieur
allemande variations

Which are all pretty traditional Gilles Workshop covers the following areas:

Gilles Chabenat is regarded as one of the very best hurdy-gurdy players of his generation. He began playing the hurdy-gurdy at 13 with Les Thiaulins, an association devoted to folk arts and traditions. Following private lessons with Georges Simon, he won several music awards and subsequently devoted himself to his region’s traditional repertoire with a desire to branch out into other musical styles.

In the wake of Valentin Clastrier, he thus felt the need to reinvent the instrument and the playing techniques associated with it. Around that time and after several years of research, luthier Denis Siorat developed a contemporary-style electro-acoustic instrument which facilitated the integration of the hurdy-gurdy into the modern musical experience.

In 1992, Gilles Chabenat began a twelve-year partnership with the Corsican group I Muvrini. During that period, he met and worked with a number of renowned artists: Véronique Sanson, Stephan Eicher, Jean-Jacques Goldman, Sting, as well as Frédéric Paris, Edouard Papazian, Alain Bonnin, and Gabriel Yacoub to name but a few. More recently, he has been collaborating with jazz musicians and also works regularly with Eric Montbel, Didier François, a Nyckelharpa player, Gabriel Yacoub and Patrick Bouffard.

Gilles’ musical experience and evolution are thus constantly shaped by the people he meets. In his approach to hurdy-gurdy playing, he draws essentially on the multifaceted nature of an instrument which has been in constant evolution for more than one thousand years.

Recently Gilles has been working with the Muddy Gurdy project

Andrey Vinogradov has also been exploring the playing of blues on the Hurdy-gurdy

So this started me to wonder how does one approach playing the blues on the Hurdy-gurdy what are the stylistic elements of the form and approaches to leadlines chordal structures etc.

Learning Languages

I’ve been studying Spanish using the Duo Lingo phone App since the summer and have now started to brush up on  my French and German.  I have a  daily routine and my hope is that I will be able to talk to people in their own language when studying the Hurdy-gurdy in France, Spain and Germany.


I do about 40 minutes a day on the app usually first thing in the morning it stops me listening to the news and keeps me in a good positive mood for playing.

The Hurdy-gurdy has a very precise language all of it’s own and it varies from country to country I’m asking people on the Facebook Hurdy-gurdy Community page to fill in this document to help Hurdy-gurdy players understand each other.

word art

Learning should be fun

I’ve been brushing up on my sight reading skills and found this food chart to help me with the rhythms it makes me chuckle every time I look at it. It’s is great fun to play using the buzzes on the Hurdy-gurdy and short melodic phrases that ape the sound of the words. It’s a quick and easy way to brush up on those sight reading skills in a hands on way.

Developing Your Creative Practice Award


I’m really happy to announce that the application to the Arts Council to develop my creative practice has been successful. I’ll be working on my Hurdy-gurdy playing and developing a new body of work. I’ll be working with some of the best Hurdy-gurdy players in the world to develop my skills, refine technique and musicality.

It will take my Hurdy-gurdy playing to a standard that enables me to tour as a soloist performing music that I have composed, laying solid foundations for the development of new solo and ensemble work in unusual and exciting contexts. I will grow a professional European touring and support network to help me achieve this.

I will be mentored by the recognised leading players from the global Hurdy-gurdy community over a year to develop: playing skills; contemporary performance technique; composition; exploration of traditional and contemporary repertory; the use of new technology; looping and effects; recording techniques; professional performance opportunities; a unique musical voice.

For each experience I will write and record at least one piece of music that reflects and internalises the learning gained. I will document techniques taught on film. I will share the story of my musical development as a soloist over the year on a website. I will perform short solo pieces at various gatherings during the process concluding with a solo show.

This will be a life-changing opportunity to develop and refine my solo practice so that I can learn from the best, compose new work and reach new audiences. When I first learnt to play the Hurdy-gurdy, 33 years ago, opportunities to meet with other players were very limited. Now there are more platforms to meet and study performance techniques and repertory with leading exponents of the instrument across Europe on a one to one basis and in group settings. The activity will take place over a year allowing me to digest, internalise and institute these new techniques and music. I will be building my international professional network by meeting and talking with players and promoters.

I will be raising my public profile as a player by sharing my experiences with an online audience through my website and social media. These activities will raise my status as a player and create opportunities for new performance and recording to take place. The process will allow me to develop the skills, knowledge, technique, confidence, flexibility and resilience to be able to work as a soloist in many musical contexts. To demonstrate learning and gain feedback I will present a solo show. I will record and showcase new compositions along the way online using my website, You-tube and Face Book and also at specially-selected events that feature new acoustic music, including festival appearances and concerts.

After the development phase is complete, I intend to record an album of my compositions for Hurdy-gurdy and tour it internationally.