Everything You Know About Making Music
Those closest to me know that I've been in a rut, musically speaking. I'm not talking about my hi-fi. The system sounds better than ever. Seriously. I press play and I just want to throw my hands up in the air and say "Fuuuuuuuuuudge." It simply sounds awesome. And I don't usually get so excited about such things, but the music consistently sets me back into my seat and makes me want to curse. I don't understand it, but there you go.
And I'm not talking about my library. As I write this, I'm listening to The Dears' Gang of Losers. I'm not yet familiar enough with the album to try to summarize it here, but I can say that because I'm listening to it as I write this, I almost can't write this. The Dears are trying to capture my undivided attention, and it's just about working. Gang of Losers is one of last year's many very good albums. Track 10, whatever it's called ("Ballad of Human Kindness," actually), absolutely kills me. It's got horns, of course, in addition to great guitar riffs and soulful screams. Which is a combination that always does it to me. No one should have to live all of their life on their own. Ain't that the dear truth? Happy New Year, by the way.
Anyway, what I'm really talking about is my own music-making. For weeks months, even I'd pick up my guitar and strum muted nothings and sour notes. A sad, sad thing: these hands were barren fields.
Weeks ago months, even I'd mentioned to Kelli how I'd never owned an acoustic guitar. She was surprised. What did I practice with at home? I'd borrow an acoustic from a friend, or just flesh out ideas on the electric; there was always something around somewhere. I'd played cheap Yamahas, ugly Ovations, and broken-down Silvertones and Stellas, but a nice acoustic was always something that eluded me. Most recently, I'd been using a Johnson that once belonged to a friend. An ex-girlfriend of his had left it with him, and he bequeathed it (and all of its sorrows, I always feared) to me. When I could, I'd haul it back and forth between my place and Kelli's, but more often than not, the acoustic guitar just wasn't around. And what did it matter anyway? These fingers were petrified trees. But I'd always wanted a Hummingbird, I told Kelli. The Gibson models are beautiful, of course, but the Epiphone version is more my speed.
A few days ago, I arrived at Kelli's place to find her sitting happily and anxiously beside a large, guitar-shaped box. Upon seeing this large, guitar-shaped box, wrapped in Christmas greens and tied with a great, red bow, I thought: "No! She didn't! She did. She remembered. But this is too much! She shouldn’t have. She did!" And somewhere in there I did wonder why she went through the trouble of wrapping it. After all, gifts are wrapped to conceal their contents, and this could be nothing other than a guitar. It was obvious.
"Sweetie," I said, "You didn't have to do this!"
"It's nothing," she said. "Open it."
I did. And I was surprised to find not a guitar, but a soft guitar case. I wasn't disappointed, only surprised.
"Ah, this is great, sweetie. Thank you so much," I said.
"There's something inside," she said. "Open it."
I did. And I was surprised to find not a guitar, but a guitar humidifier.
"Oh, cool," I said.
"The guy at the guitar shop said that it's really important to use a humidifier, especially during these winter months in New York City apartments, with the heat always on."
"I love it, sweetie. Now I can bring my guitar back and forth, from my place to yours, easily."
"Yes!" she exclaimed. Apparently, this was her plan, exactly. She'd felt sorry that I couldn't always have an acoustic guitar handy, and this soft guitar case would solve that problem.
I sat there, examining the soft case and reading the humidifier's instructions, not at all disappointed, but simply, as I said: surprised. A moment passed when Kelli said, "You know, it's a shame to waste this wrapping paper. Would you do me a favor and roll it back around the spool in the bedroom?"
Those closest to her know that this request isn't out of character. Kelli saves and re-uses wrapping paper. I love her for this. "Sure," I quickly responded. It was the least I could do. I neatly collected the wrapping paper, folded it gently, and walked into the bedroom.
Like love itself, my sweetie is full of surprises. Guess what I found in the bedroom. I told JA about it:
"Kelli got me an acoustic guitar for Christmas! My favorite an Epiphone Hummingbird."
"She must really like you," he smiled.
"Surprising, isn't it?" I replied.
A long time ago, when I started this entry, all I really wanted to say was that playing a great guitar is a wonderful, surprising thing. In fact, playing a great guitar is kind of like playing an entirely different instrument. It almost begs to be played in a new way, almost forces you to re-think everything you know about playing guitar, everything you know about making music. It's certainly enough to get you out of a rut, musical and otherwise. Like love, I'd say. In fact, like Kelli, my love, who encourages and challenges me to play passionately, sing loudly, and smile widely, it is a wonderful, surprising thing, one that inspires me to break loose from any rut, even the often-stubborn rut of myself.