Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The "Lone" Musician

I find it interesting that two musical parts can be less intimate than one, but more uninhibiting also. With two musical parts, things become relaxed and festive. A man's voice and his guitar: festive. Two horn players: festive. Guitar and banjo: festive.

The lone musical part however, the solitary expression, is the purest, and shares the most intimacy with it's listeners, for there are only listeners. A lone alto sax blower, running scales over some band in his head: intimate. The deep and rhythmic throngs of the lone African djembe: intimate. A person reading poetry among silence: intimate.
How then, does the solitary musician keep our interest?
The lone sax player's note selection suggests at an imaginary (yet, existing) underlying part, that not only he hears, but he who listens hears. After a while, it appears that something else is there.

The rhythmic throngs of the djembe are polyrhythms, found on and utilized by multiple parts of the drum; an orchestra of rhythmic tones needing nothing except organization; again, suggestive to space, and filling space.

The poet is not just speaking for himself; he speaks for nature and for the imagination; for when the poet speaks, we listen, but when he rests, we examine mental images and internal feeling based on words he has said.

The verdict here, is that "lone" musicians are never alone. There's something there anchoring the function and inspiration of the single instrument, whether we see it our not. Whether it be something we see like the sax player's foot tapping along, or something we don't see like the sax player's thoughts of clouds as he plays the Reinhardt classic, "Nuages"; humans still understand it, and it's very different from the group configuration.

In a group configuaration, many things change. You have to assume that while he plays, the lone musican must be filling as much space as possible, even if using silence. An acoustic guitar player does not play a single-note, single-string melody by himself, but rather he strums a three, four, five, or even six-string/note chord; a chord with six parts ringing through at once. Some acoustic guitarists that combine rhythm and lead parts, and an example of that kind of player is Joe Pass.
What Pass did was play all the basic parts of a jazz ensemble band on the guitar. That means, his thumb often caught the bass line (as well as high-string melodies), while his index and ring fingers provided chordal accents, as well as some brilliant "in-between" lead lines. He often did this entirely by himself with no accompaniment, and produced a whole album of songs in this manner.

Joe Pass's thumbed basslines held everything together (even when not playing), and he provided eighth-note, triplet-chord accents in between his chromatic lead playing; a simple, yet delicious recipe. It's the pulse and walk of the bassline, the harmony of the piano, the volume accents and syncopation of the drums, and the dramatic, improvised soloing of a horn, all on electric guitar.

These are dramatic shifts of rhythm on his part, and it's all suggestive. That's what the solo, lone musician ultimately is: suggestive. This involves more solitary imagination than the mutual imagination of a musical group. Solitary imagination is a deeper, more potent form of imagination, and it affects people more powerfully.

The lone musician teaches us that power and deep emotion doesn't have to involve hundreds in unison chanting, a multilayered orchestra, a harmonized chorus, or a rock & roll band, but that it also exists on the solitary end, where there is space to be taken up by it's listeners.

Henry David Thoreau favored the sound of a solitary music, flute specifically, and that was much like how he felt about life. But perhaps this is when we ask: Music, Life, what is the difference?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Man, Oh man

So we're sitting here drunk now are we? Where have all the cowboys gone? Not Paula Cole but a distant fellow, among folk like john wayne and james dean
"Yeah, we've seen this scene"
But how propelling into a metallic age of gadget junkies,
strung out on how it all may be improving
Can steal your gut right from your hip
It's a trip

Drinkin with my buddy's only good with creativity
In a mellow bar steeped in good times, longevity
Isn't that like a chameleon;
To change rods so I can better reel ya in
The green gods took my back,
And I let em stack
Upon my head
The golden thread
of Wisdom
In my mind, of something strange
Although I feel not all alone,
Where are these

Are you deep inside her or murking about her?
Keep your wits about you*
I'm not sure how you see,
but I see nothing but humility
amongst my peers
(although some with the strangest of ears)
My only fears,
are that this cat
and that cat
won't seal the rap,
and that cat
ignores the tree sap
any longer
time to get stronger
Shut up, shut up, shut up

Endless sprouting blossoms of the cascading rains, fall over my head in bed.

She is there
Who is there
Why is she there
and When
I stare, or glare
Leave it not for the powers that be
but with the power that is in me
The power of love was given to us;
From a sprouting, vegetating, blossoming, enduring, proudly noble Tree
and there which it came from.

Jappers in the mornin'
Snappers in the evenin'
Tripping on nothin' but lemonade and Wallace Stevens
Tryin' to teach
without tryin' to teach
And if it seems like I know something you don't know
then maybe it does

Sleep oh sleep
This only ode of mine
is for you
To fall asleep without a thought in the head
Except "Wow my comfy bed"
And we'll bid you goodnight,
when we're ready,
And until then,