Chance is a funny thing. I took five days off work and went to the cottage for some relaxation.
While I was there I made some field recordings with my new portable recorder.
I recorded water:
and I recorded wind:
And I got home and went right back to work. After a vacation I am always more tired than before I went away. I almost cancelled a Monday night engagement. At the last minute I changed my mind and went. My bus home is on diversion. At 9:30 I walked passed Gallery 345 on Sorauren. Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille were playing. It was beautiful, inspiring and galvanizing. It was also depressing – to me, these guys are legends. There were less than 20 people in the house.
Henry Grimes had disappeared for 30 years. People thought he was dead. In 2002 he made a comeback.
After I saw him play I made this song. It is in no way related to the music he plays. I’m glad he’s playing it.
I’ll let you know something: when it comes to tech, I’m a bit of a Luddite. I have a natural aversion to reading about anything that ranges from synth manufacturers to recording software.
The same goes for guitar pedals.
But my brother, Noah, loves pedals. And I love all sounds. And the sounds that come from these pedals are fucking awesome.
Including this one:
As you can read, it is an “echo/chorus/vibrato” pedal. The long and short of that is that you can improvise along to short snippets of yourself playing. I think they call it “delay”, but one would have to be tech savvy to know for sure. For me, it’s enough to hear myself repeated.
And when I do, I have visions:
The soundtrack to this movie (Dead Man, by Jim Jarmusch) has stuck with me more than any quirky detail from any of his quirky movies. And it has probably had as much, if not more, influence on my concept of “guitar music” as anything else. Including John Fahey.
That being said, I offer this humble gloss on the blues as I read through Huck Finn and can’t help but feel: alright then, I’ll go to hell.
Let’s Call it Adventure
PS – There is a version of the Dead Man soundtrack that features no spoken interludes over the music. If someone can find this for me in any format (mp3, CD, LP) I would be grateful.
I’m reading a book about Glenn Gould right now. There is a quote in there about the right time to have idols – Gould puts it in the early teens, but something tells me he had a few in his adulthood – that made me feel a little ashamed of myself. I jump from one hero to the next, sucking as much inspiration as I can from them and then moving on.
John Fahey was a hero. I haven’t listened to his music in a year. Anthony Braxton was a hero – it’s been three months since I’ve heard one note he played. Two weeks ago it was Mozart – tomorrow Beethoven.
There are non-musical heroes as well – Shackleton being, of course, the most exemplary:
I was waiting for a friend at the corner of Queen and Palmerston on Friday night. There were two guys outside the Beer Store playing c&w inspired tunes as a duet with accordion and a snare drum. I love accordions, so I was happy to hear the instrument and watch someone play it well. It didn’t happen. The most basic chords and rhythms served as a pretext for twanging away with the voice – singing phony hill-billy bullshit about coffee and horses.
Don’t get me wrong. I love c&w music. I love the accordion. I love simple and beautiful things.
And I know that a person has to have a model.
But as I watched these two guys pack their gear away and walk to their cars (yes, cars), I couldn’t help but wonder: why is the only model for creative young musicians the earnest buffoon?
Are we still yoked to the myth of the noble savage? Are we so post-modern that we cannot enjoy things like refinement, hard-work or counter point?
But we must have models.
Which brings me precisely to the big problem: what do you do when your models outstrip your understanding? When your goals are, simply put, beyond you?
For most of my life I have listened to music that I was able to play (starting from punk and working through to the Carpenters) or music that I could at least imagine being able to play (Louis Armstrong through a phony blues-scale and a lot of faking), but lately I have been enamored with the Bach works for solo instruments: the cello suites, lutes suites, and the sonatas and partitas for solo violin.
What could a regular mortal possibly do with a model like this?
My friend Tom sent me some very beautiful music he made. Tom is good at keeping things simple, being direct with his melodies and not overwhelming his music with unnecessary sounds. I felt envy when I heard it.