Although I’m mainly a keyboard player, I also began playing guitar at some point in my youth. One summer night, sometime around 1981 or so, a strange electrical storm set in over our area, with cloud lightning cracking back and forth across the sky all night. I couldn’t sleep, and so got up and put on my guitar, and wandered out into the night to watch the fireworks. I had never heard anyone talk about alternative tunings at the time, but instinctively, I tuned the lowest two streams down one full step to create a kind of drone to play over the top off.
I then spend the next few hours playing to the storm in a doorway on the steps of an old country store, which location got me far enough away from the houses in the neighborhood as well as providing some shelter with a good but still sheltered view of the sky, and by the time I was done I’d composed a piece of music that I dubbed “Stoneflower,” named after an abstract painting of blue, luminous plant that hung on our wall at home, which somehow evoked my experience that night in a visual way.
Years later, after moving to New Mexico, I began improvising guitar to the landscapes around the area again using this same tuning. This eventually lead to The Desert Suite, an album featuring melodies that evolved from this practice.
Just after composing Stoneflower on that first night, I showed the piece to my band “Circle,” and we took it up and played it ever after. I played keyboards instead of guitar – our guitarist, Anthony DiBartolo, picked up the part I’d created on the upper strings, and then added various lead parts and such. We often recorded our jam sessions on a boombox cassette deck back in those days, and as luck would have it, a recording still exists of Stoneflower in its original form. The video just below conveys this recording with a visualization I added for fun (created with a downloaded visualization app – not some I created per se). There is an incidental vocal part near the beginning of the track, but most of it is instrumental. The musicians here are myself on keyboards (the lead synthesizer parts were played on a Moog Source synthesizer), Pete Black on bass, Anthony DiBartolo on a Les Paul guitar, and Douglas Boyd on drums. A photo of the group (but with drummer Ken Bugenhagen instead at the time, not visible in the photo), appears below as well. Note that the visualization in the video is in keeping with Circle’s backdrop: