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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sound & music

Yesterday evening I was lazily fingerpicking my '64 Guild F-212 and I was floating in its gorgeously rich tonalities and sound and I was impressed about "How much" I loved listening to myself playing, yes... I know the usual stuff about astral body, blah, blah, blah...

... nonetheless, I noticed I wasn't liking the "tune", BUT the "sound" itself - i.e. a two tones below concert pitch (A=440hz) twelve-strings guitar produces a totally new plethora of weird vibes, due to (harmonic) rattling of slopped double strings... the overtones are reminding to some Claudio Rocchi, Leo Kottke, Gabby Panhuini, Robbie Basho's (guitars) sounds which are in my DNA.

Unfortunately, this "memory lane" aspect do not completely explains the pleasure of those "sounds" - they're growling and strange, BUT sort of, like in the seldom imperfect, sometimes detuned/slightly timing poor blues singing from the Masters - i.e. Robert Johnson, Skip Spence, Pete Williams, Son House - they add humanity to an otherwise "too much polished" guitar sound...

Let's think about John Lee Hooker's seminal "Boom, Boom" without his wild "aho, aho, aho!" at the beginning of the song (in the Chicago scenes, from "The Blues Brothers" movie, for example)... what would it be without it... can't imagine!

Yesterevening I was playing an up tempo my own version of "Cripple Creek" and the simple, repeated with variations, melody was GREATLY enhanced, in variety and sense of surprise, by those growling, baaaad sounds... no one bar was like the previous and I knew the following round was also different... ordinately and cleverly using chaos-theories while playing;-)))

The above also brought me to think, in early '90s while in Dublin, when I was picking a brand new Lowden acoustic guitar in a nice shop... after some minutes of quiet playing, a shop employee joined me with another Lowden for a brief jam...

When we chatted about the guitars, he didn't told me "Nice playing!" or something... to my surprise, he said: "Nice touch, nice sound!"... indicating my hands.

To my younger mind this sounded like an absolute compliment, MUCH better than a generic, impersonal and corteous "You play quite well..." or the like.

Now, decades after, I sort-of "know" that there is no (good) music without (good) sound... every instrument has its secrets and the skill to master it is pure richeness.

When five years ago I attended to a (lute) masterclass by Hopkinson Smith, as an invited auditor... during the two VERY intense days, Hopy infused in young lutenists part of his wisdom and knowledge... I was impressed that he spent 80 percent of the time insisting about "beauty of sound" while playing: right fingering and body position, breathing... it was clearly in a life-long love story with the sound of his lute and the healing and distilled peaceful force coming from a few grams of wood and hide glue and strings.

All the above is absolutely "right" and pretty natural, as well... eons ago, before the Music it was the Sound and its infinite declinations.

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