Monday, September 28, 2009

A few links:

Guitar Circle New England Minutes (I'm the scribe):
Also, the myspace page:
If you're friends with me on Facebook, you can look up the Guitar Circle New England Group, too.

Okay, bye.

Monday, September 14, 2009

As a short aside, the AAD Orchestra Preparation Course started for me this morning at roughly 8am.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

On Dried Fruit

On my beginner’s course*, there was a great deal of “stuff” flying about. What I mean by this is that there was an unbelievable amount of information on offer, from the basic, to the musical, to the extra-musical and emotional. From the moment I stepped out of the car at the retreat, to the moment I stepped into the airport to head back home (and even long after that, it seems), there was a constant stream of feedback available to us. It also feels more appropriate to say “available”, as opposed to “given” or “directed”. Describing it otherwise is, while not necessarily dishonest, logically inaccurate.

As one would expect with a course centered around the guitar, there was naturally an enormous amount of music available. At each meal, the food was “introduced” with a short performance from someone on the course, be it one of the house team, a long-time Crafty (or three), or an intrepid beginner. There were several performances that made a lasting impression on me, such as most of the Tuning the Air performances, and Greg Meredith’s song, “Walking From Here to Heaven”.

What struck me the most, though, were Patrick Smith’s performances. They were all solo guitar, on his Ovation. If I remember correctly, he played three times, each time at dinner. His compositions are solid, well written, and have some occasionally thorny harmony, which adds to the appeal for myself. On top of this, he’s a very skilled player. The second time he played, however, was not perfect. Granted, almost no one pulls off a perfect performance, but this short piece was actually not played nearly as well as he could play it. There were several mistakes, a couple of which were bad enough to prompt restarting a section.

I am not pointing this out to draw attention to the supposed inadequacies of Patrick’s performance. In fact, as Patrick was struggling to play a passage which he clearly knew, one could actually feel everyone in the room supporting him and his performance, offering silent good will to him. When he finished the last chord, the sense of relief was palpable. It was not a sense of relief that it was over, however, but relief that he’d made it to the end. As he sat down at the table, we began to eat, with very little talking. Within minutes, though, this led to what Jaxie Binder called “the first real silence on the course”, and it was deafening.

Later on, after dinner, I walked over to Patrick and told him that I’d really enjoyed his playing, warts and all. He thanked me, and we talked for a little bit—he told me that it was hard for him to play at dinner, largely because he was coming straight from preparing the meal, preparing the hall, and cleaning up the kitchen to prepare for after-meal cleanup. It is difficult to play guitar when your hands are pruny, and I can attest to that.

But, I didn’t. I agreed with him, but for some reason, it didn’t quite hit me until about a month or so after I got home to Boston. I greatly appreciated his presence at the course, and had a vague idea of what role he was serving at Raft Island, but I didn’t quite put one and one and one together. The sacrifice that he was making, to ensure that we were all fed and nourished, and that the hall was always prepared and set for meals (which is difficult to manage for 60+ people), and still felt the need to play and offer, regardless of how warmed up he wasn’t, or how pruny he was, is an example that I think we all could learn from and appreciate. I hope I do, eventually.

*This already feels like the right thing to say, even though I haven’t attended another course in person yet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One of the interesting (and appealing) aspects of Guitar Craft, to me, is the matter of 'repertoire'. There are quite a few compositions (I suspect they number in the low triple digits) that are considered 'Craft repertoire', beginning with Theme I, and proceeding to Theme II, Theme III, etc. Theme III is more commonly known as Eye of the Needle, and has been one of the major focuses in my practice, the past few weeks. While not an extremely demanding piece, it is still quite difficult, in part because of the counting, and in part because of some of the fingerings.

I can play the piece, front to back. The problem I have been having with it, and that was pointed out by Victor, is a problem that surfaces in pretty much everything I play: on the numerous occasions that I brick a note, I tense up, and then try to fix the mistake by playing the next couple of notes really in their spot to make up for the mistake. Needless to say, this snowballs fast, and a passage that's only four bars long can get hosed fast. In my aim to 'get it right' (Victor's words), I am missing the music.

A couple of times that I played it, tonight (I have been working Eye very hard, lately, probably to the dismay of my neighbors), I actually found that it came out pretty well, with only a couple of spots that were unsatisfactory. Later, however, while playing something entirely different--something that I wrote--I had a very interesting revelation. Eye is a piece that I have known for at least a year and a half, through listening to recordings of it. I already had a sort of fuzzy map of the piece before I ever started actually playing it, and knew how it sounded. With other things that I've been shown, however, such as a simple A minor exercise, or the bassline to Third Relation, I don't quite feel the same restriction and tension, because I am the first person that I've heard play it all the way through. This is not to say that I'm infinitely more confident with other things--not by a long shot. But there is a different feeling, a need to get it 'right' that perturbs, when I get it wrong. "That's not how Victor played it!" "That's not how it's played on Intergalactic Boogie Express!" "That's not how I wrote the damn thing!"

That last is especially interesting, in relation to a few things that I've written that came out of an aleatory process, or out of a complete accident. How do you repeat an accident? Or, perhaps more appropriately, how do you play everything as if it were being composed on the spot, each time? How do you open yourself to that sense of chance?