That Bitch-Goddess, Success
Did I mention this already?
I did, as I've only got so much in this brain of mine to share. Ah, here the nave writer ventures into the oft poeticized notion that there is some struggle between the intellectual life of the mind and the physical life of the body and soul. Anyway: Back in Vegas, after a long day of note-taking, hand-shaking, picture-snapping, nodding, smiling, and listening, I followed Jon Iverson to his hotel room where we picked up a couple of guitars and traded riffs.
As with most things, when it comes to playing guitar, I don't know what I'm doing. For the first five years of my fiddling, I played in made-up tunings. It really wasn't until I joined a band, having to communicate in a certain language with other musicians, that I started playing in what we can call a standard tuning. Now, other than the fact that, from skinny to fat, the strings on a guitar go
there's not much else I can tell you.
I can make music, though. I can play songs for you. My own songs, I mean. I have no idea of how to play any songs you might already know. No Nirvana, no Led Zeppelin, no Rolling Stones. And even within the band, I have to be the one to lead; the others must play to me. Not because I am the best musician, but because I can't play to them. I play alone even when playing with others.
Still. While I love the way I play guitar, I would, sometimes, like to dig into a classic rock riff. I would sometimes love to slide into some dirty solo, some undeniable high pitched cry. But I can't. And that the fact that I can't sometimes upsets me. I want the option. I want to own that card, keep it hidden until I need it.
Monty brings up an interesting idea one that has often intrigued me when he relays:
The teacher will appear when the student is ready to learn.
I bet there's truth in there. I like to tell myself and others that I enjoy learning. While we were playing, Jon Iverson taught me just a couple of things. He shared with me the secret of A minor. That is: according to Jon, I really like A minor. I would have never known. Even now, I still really don’t know. I can't tell you what A minor looks like, or what it sounds like. For all I know, it might look like a Totem Arro; it might sound like a DeVore gibbon.
Jon also gently informed me that much of what I play can be traced back to songs and ideas that have existed for years and years and years. And years. I'm not doing anything new or different. I could play one of my own songs, and Jon might play "Stairway to Heaven" right on top of it, and the two would hold hands like an old married couple sitting in the park. Being slowly swayed, feeding the dirty pigeons, contemplating the fat-ass squirrels.
Not that I ever really entertain the possibility of doing or thinking something new or different. When JA, one day, offered his advice on this blog, saying, "Each entry should be an original thought," I quickly objected: "I don't believe in original thoughts."
I had a professor in college who taught of poetry: "A poem should do one of two things: it should say something new, or it should say something old in a new way." I always shot for the latter.
The next day, Jon revealed that he was scared to teach me more because learning conventional methods might erase all of my natural...
All of my natural what?
What's the opposite of convention? Lawlessness? Impropriety? Chaos? Neglect? Am I choosing to isolate myself, as I often do, rather than, say, communicate, half-assedly at that, with a band? Is this art or is this contempt? Am I nave or am I stubborn?
Alright, shut up! Shut up.
Monty also suggests that I'm getting my education "even if it doesn't seem like it."
John comes over to ask, "May I borrow your copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover?"
"Sure," I reply.
John grasps the book, lifts it into the air, holds it out to Elizabeth, and points to the cover image: "You see this, Elizabeth?"
"What is it?"
"It's a boobie."
"No! It's what separates us from computers. It's not a boobie. It's an abstract expression; a semi-circular line with a pink blob in the center. A computer would never see this as a boobie!"
Buddha brings up an interesting idea one that has often intrigued me when he relays:
Maybe you're just not neurotic enough to be an audiophile or reviewer.Well, I do like to think that I can hear emotion, relate to passion, love love, and all that. As I write this, I'm listening to Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell share lines about that old, familiar feeling, sounding something like Serge Gainsbourg and Bridget Bardot. I'm listening through my cheap computer speakers, and I'm sure there's so much I'm missing, but, then again, I know I'm missing nothing. Still. I can certainly hear the difference between the sound of music coming from my computer and the sound of music coming from my home system. And I do care about that difference. It's as big and as obvious as a semi-circular line with a pink blob in the center.
There are those who think hi-fi is so frequently off-putting to women and musicians because they [women and musicians] can listen through the badness of gear to actually hear what's going on.... Even if they can hear the difference, the majority of their brains vote that they don't care, 'cause they "get" the music just as well, either way.
In a great e-mail titled "Fly Specks," a reader addresses my holistic approach to listening to music:
Why do you currently listen to music in the first place? Is it for your own personal pleasure and enjoyment? Or is it in order to try and hear differences in audio equipment? Or perhaps even to try and "fit in" with the "audiophile" community?
Let's say you do start listening for fly specks. And let's say you do start hearing some differences. Will you still be able to listen holistically again (or as Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg once put it, "wholistically")? And will you experience as much pleasure and enjoyment listening to music as you did previously? Or will those fly specks remain in the back of your mind nagging at you?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with your holistic approach to listening to music. It's the best approach in my opinion. Er, unless of course one is aspiring to become an equipment reviewer.
You don't have any such aspirations do you?
Elizabeth voiced similar concerns this morning: "If you learn a more technical approach to your craft, you may lose..."
Lose what? I always forget what it is that I might lose. Something about naivety, something about purity, something about art.
While I love the way I play guitar, I would, sometimes, like to dig into a classic rock riff. I would sometimes love to slide into some dirty solo, some undeniable high pitched cry. But I can't. And that the fact that I can’t sometimes upsets me. I want the option. I want to own that card, keep it hidden until I need it.
And I want to get paid.
I could probably write 75% of a very fine audio equipment review. I can create a story. I can describe a product. I can relate what I hear. But. But I can't make comparisons because I can't hear differences, and if I can't hear differences, the review is moot. Moot. Mute.
Art Dudley visited the office today. We went out for lunch. Towards the end of our conversation, JA flashed back to his days of working as a musician.
"So, yes," he said, "I wanted to be in a touring rock band, but would I pass up the opportunity to tour with a cabaret show? No! The pay was good."
"Sounds like it was a fun experience."
"Oh, it was terrible... You see, Stephen, by doing what you're doing, you're remaining pure. You're an artist."
An artist not by choice, but by default, because it's better to be an artist than to simply be alone. I couldn't tour with a cabaret show if I wanted to.
Back in the office, we make more jokes about the semi-circular line and its pink blob. Some call it a boobie.
"I want a report on that book by Monday," says Art.