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David Zinn on Strumstick music

I thought I had run dry. After many years of writing and playing songs on the guitar and being in around a million unknown rock bands, it no longer seemed very fresh. I had gotten more interested in meditation and had come to feel that silence is so perfect, why would anyone bother to make music? Then I happened upon this little three-stringed instrument called a Strumstick, and it changed everything.

The Strumstick is something like a cross between a mountain dulcimer and a guitar-- that is, it's a simple folk instrument with a small body and a limited scale. A wonderful version of this instrument is made by Bob McNally (for more info click here). At first I tried to play it with a pick like a guitar, and it sounded horrible. The more I tried to make it sound full and resonant, the more it sounded tiny and pathetic. I had to throw away my ideas of how I wanted it to sound, and let it show me how it wanted to be played.

As I continued to work with the strumstick it started to open up for me, and I began to hear a quiet music coming out of it that seemed like something I had been waiting my whole life to hear. Something simple and welcoming, exotic and familiar at the same time-- like new American ragas. After a while it was playing me, and I could no longer resist. Surrender was my only option.

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About Nest and the evolution of Sticksongs


Nest is a collection of quiet, acoustic songs about the mysticism of everyday life-- love, presence, silence, stillness. They explore the possibility of deep happiness and freedom that arises when we let ourselves be as we originally are, without limit. It might be called Nondual Folk Music, if that phrase has any resonance with you.

To my knowledge, Nest is the only full collection of songs to be written and performed using the Strumstick as the primary instrument-- and so I refer to them as sticksongs. (If there are others people doing this with a Strumstick, please email me!) Along with a couple of Strumstick tracks, I add a vocal track or two, perhaps electric bass and a little toy percussion (clay pot, waste basket, suitcase, etc.).

It all comes from a desire to go beyond. Beyond what? Beyond the little me, where real life always is. Beyond even the idea of going beyond. Why else would anyone bother to make music?

song samples       |    about the series      |        available recordings      |          buy

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