After early study of Western classical violin, I was drawn to South Indian (Carnatic) music. In this centuries-old tradition, the violin plays a key role but is held and tuned differently than in Western music. The style is rich in melodic ornamentation, complex rhythms, and various kinds of improvisation.
I eventually accompanied several distinguished South Indian musicians and dancers in concert, spent a year in Madras (Chennai) on a Fulbright grant, and earned a doctorate in ethnomusicology. I wrote a study of violin technique in light of the instrument's amazing versatility and its role as an agent of influence between musical cultures. Ornamentation in South Indian Music and the Violin
is an academic article based on that study.
On returning to the U.S.A. from India, I turned to home-grown American music, playing electric violin for country, rock, and fusion bands in New England. Moving to New York City, I wrote a body of music for electric violin, baritone violectra, guitar, bass, and drums. My band, Gordon Swift Group
, performed in nightclubs and concert venues around the city.
These days I play acoustic violin for parties, weddings, and receptions—sometimes appearing with my wife, harpist Marcie Swift (marcieswift.com
). For several years I've led The Lost Acres String Band
in performances of our varied repertoire.