Pic of the day: Pierrot with a guitar by Honore Daumier
If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act i, scene i
I hadn’t picked up the instrument in earnest in quite a while. Oh, I had played a bit here, a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but nothing serious. I had not had an even mild journey of musical creation in what seemed like forever, and in actuality was probably months. Months in which I had simply played music that I had played before, music that was already under my fingers, music that was ready and easy. Nothing to think about, something where the music is automatic.
Automatic but lifeless.
After even a short excursion into a more creative phase even the most banal and plain of pieces of music seem to flow better, seem to feel stronger, brighter, jump more readily wherever I want them to. I found the time to actually get to that place today, after simply not having the time to for quite a while.
Sometimes that creative spark can come from the smallest of places. Today it was a simple 6 note pattern that I had never played before playing a piece of mine that I had played a thousand times before. A simple arpeggio sequence with altered cadence, and maybe a note or two added for effect. Added to it first by alerting the altered cadence further and then adding additional arpeggios to it.
It was a joy.
For some reason, probably one of ease, I tend to begin all my playing in the key of C major. It falls easiest under my fingers. C major was the first scale that I learned, way back in the early autumn of 1983, when I was beginning to learn the rudiments of the instrument in Curtis High School. I think the first song I tried to play was the M*A*S*H* theme.
I’m not 100% sure I could play it right now, but it wouldn’t take too long. “Suicide is painless” the title of the song, is a pretty easy song.
When I picked up the guitar today, I immediately reached for the G Maj to C Maj 9th combo and added a D min to G sus2 combo to it. Lots of open strings and banjo picking early. Nothing but fun there. It’s not an old song of mine, but a variation on a theme that I have been playing for years, one that I add to, take away from, and generally play around with. It is light years from where it started, but it’s where it needs to be now.
It has this counterpoint piece that is fluid and beautiful and unlike anything that I had ever written before. It is utterly simple, shapes more than chords. Tenths, both major and minor with an ascending bassline and an alternating harmony on top of it. Sounds almost classical, but I am not good enough to quite pull off an actual classical sound. So I guess almost will have to do.
Until then I will make do stringing together music cobbled together from what bits of musical knowledge that dance in my head, and probably in the key of C.
When I jumped out of C major, it was straight to B flat. Blues stuff. That stuff I don’t ever have to think about. I look at the guitar, put my hand down, and it comes out. Sometimes it’s ragged sounding, sometimes hostile, sometimes joyous, but there’s always something strong going on there.
Just started by comping on that Bb 7th, and find those blue notes, picked the notes that are there, slid my hands gracefully across the fretboard. Gently, quickly, nimbly dancing on just a few frets, but dancing fast. Double stops mixed in with chords and single note lines, more or less at random. There is a structure to it, a loose and subtle one, but it’s there. Then there is a subtle slide from that Bb 7th to an Eb 9th, and I start to slide in earnest.
Here is where I start to just run my hand up the fretboard, like I’m Robert Johnson using an old coricidin bottle or switch blade, using my middle finger like a slide, barely paying attention to where it’s going and paying more attention to the sound. I’ll know when to stop sliding when I get there, no need to think. Just do it.
When I get down to the first fret for the few seconds that I’ll be there I make a point to push the boundaries just a bit, purposefully play notes too high, play a D where a C would be the right one, hit an open note, then slide back up to the Bb 7th.
12 bar blues, my way, the only way to go.
That’s it from me, America. G’night.