The Mist Covered Mountains

I’ve been making and playing music of one kind or another all my life. When I was around four or five, I remember sitting down at our neighbour’s piano and discovering that I could play by ear. Somehow I just knew what keys would produce the right notes to ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’, ‘Alouette, Gentille Allouette’, etc.

Sadly, we had no piano at home, and although my parents enjoyed music, neither were musically inclined. They did buy me a guitar from the Simpson’s catalogue (later Sears) but I failed to make any progress on it. I  later discovered that those cheap guitars were basically unplayable. 

We moved out to BC when I was 12 years old and we had the good fortune to have a landlord who was a pretty good guitar player.  He had once played with the Spencer Davis Group before Stevie Winwood helped make them famous. Not only that, but he was patient and didn’t mind giving me a few lessons. Soon I was saving up to buy my first real guitar, a Suzuki classical from Royal City Pawn Brokers in New Westminster, which I promptly converted to steel strings.  

Since then, music has been a continually expanding journey for me, with many guitars, various stringed instruments, and keyboards. Along the way I did some live sound mixing and experimented with recording using computer based digital audio workstations (DAWs). Though it’s always been just a hobby, I’ve made many great friends along the way and have gradually evolved into a decent enough (if limited) player.  I even wrote a few songs that were well received. Nevertheless, I’ll always feel like a pretender in the company of truly talented pros. 

I seem to have an endless sound track running in my brain and it’s always either composing new tunes or replaying old favourites. I don’t seem to be in control of the playlist.  The current track could be Led Zeppelin or an old Sunday School hymn, a Cape Breton fiddle reel, Puccini, or Sinatra. It might be something that I can’t even identify, maybe I’ve heard it before, maybe I’m making it up on the fly.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with virtual instruments. Basically, you play melodies and chords on a keyboard or some other input device and the triggered sounds are from prerecorded samples. Sampled sounds from real instruments have been around for many years, but it is only recently that they have become good enough to be convincing to most ears, particularly when it comes to solo performances. Though most can’t yet fool the experts, they are getting good enough that a lot of what you hear in modern film scores and video game soundtracks is at least a mixture of ‘live’ and virtual instruments. 

This is my first (completed) attempt at creating a musical arrangement using virtual instruments. The Mist Covered Mountains (Chì mi na mòrbheanna) is a traditional Scottish song that was written exactly 100 years before I was born. It has been widely performed and recorded. 

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