Bitter Bloom is Domenica Romagni (cello, voice) and Mark Harris (guitar, voice). We play what is nowadays usually referred to as 'old time' music - 'old time' being an umbrella term encompassing numerous regional traditions of American fiddling, singing and stringband music from Appalachia, the deep South, the mid-West and beyond. We offer our own take on songs and fiddle tunes in this tradition, and we make new music inspired by it.
We’ve been playing music together since 2012. We've spent most of the time since then based in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but are now based in Fort Collins, Colorado. We enjoy leaning into the crooked rhythms, spooky dissonances and rough edges of old songs and tunes. And we try to approach old-time music with an experimental bent, exploring possibilities latent in the tradition while retaining its singular spirit.
PLAYING OLD TIME ON CELLO AND GUITAR
Neither the cello nor the guitar is exactly known to play a starring role in old time music. A cello is a rare sight in an old time context, and while the guitar is very common, it functions almost exclusively as a rhythm instrument. Through a lot of study and experimentation with technique, we’ve tried to develop ways of playing that would allow these instruments to occupy a front-and-center position in an old time group, carrying the tunes with the same conviction and the same distinctive groove as a fiddle or a banjo would.
On the cello, this has meant adapting old time fiddle bowing techniques and cross-tunings, as well as utilizing extended left hand positions that allow for steady drones even in the high register. On the guitar, using a strongly accented pick attack and some creative left hand muting allows for a backbeat pulse with ringing drones, giving a more dynamic, percussive sound than would be possible with standard flatpicking technique.
We think the results have been well worth the effort - familiar sounds take on an unfamiliar cast, like seeing a photograph in negative. The combination of instruments lends a deep resonance and throatiness to the tunes, and their similar pitch range allows for twin-fiddle-style close harmonies and dense textures.