Saturday, January 3, 2009

The magic of music..

I have touched on this subject before, but gosh, I know you wanted an in-depth explanation.

I have fond memories of when I was about 10. (I am 47 now so you can picture the time frame). They were developing the few acres near our house and were installing a long stretch of storm drain. It was probably about 48 inches in diameter and a run of several hundred feet. There were manholes about every 50 feet, and after the construction workers left, I would go down to the construction site and crawl in the pipe and just hang out and be a kid. The pipe had an amazing echo and reverb that made my voice sound almost pleasant. I would sit in there for hours and sing the pop songs of the day at the top of my lungs. The songs I remember singing most were House of the rising sun, Temptationize and Lay a little lovin' on me. I spent an entire summer on a world tour in my mind.

Of course at the age of 10 I had no formal musical training and had no idea what made up music. I was oblivious to the constraints of music. To me, music was almost a 6th sense - it had an untouchable indescribable quality that combined hearing, touch and emotion. It produced an euphoric response that took this 10 year old kid far from the pressures of growing up. The welcome escape was an addictive respite and took me places I had never dreamed of. It was something I could not touch but was enveloped by. That is why I thought it was magic - and with a personal touch.

Well years passed and the magic got compressed inside my little brain with all the other crap that a teenager has to deal with. At about the age of 17, I thought I would like to learn the guitar. Now we are in the age of Bob Seger and Neil Young. You could still pick out the acoustic guitar in the mix. I bought a $100 Yamaha on credit and signed up for lessons. Well I took 2 lessons and said "screw that", and quit taking formal lessons. I wanted to learn songs, not the etude crap a beginner has to learn. My older brothers had every Beatles record ever made so I thought I would start there - learn the simple songs like Love me do. I did learn one very imprtant thing from the 2 lessons, learn to tune your guitar and keep it and KEEP it in tune. Tune to 440 cycles (concert pitch) and you can train your ear to play along with records (and I used real vinyl). With the help of chord books and playing with the records, I thought I was making good progress.

In a couple more years, I moved off to college in southern Indiana with my best friend Kelly (Ken) Hicks. He played some guitar too, and we roomed together in the dorm. And mostly out of boredom and poverty we played a lot of damn guitar. We would impress each other regularly with new chords, combinations and progressions. It was amazing some of the stuff we came up with, and I am absolutely sure we would have been famous if only our voices didn't suck.

Well my point here is that unknowingly, music had gone from the magic of a 10 year old to the daily habits of a couple punks. Still rejecting formal music training, there are still some things that I picked up just trying to play with other musicians. Like what chords GO together, and what chords are used in the melody, and the predictable chords of the chorus or bridge. I learned the meaning of 5ths, 3rds, 4ths, minors, minor 7s, major 7s and a bunch of crap I stumbled on by accident.

Looking back now, realize that was the time music had lost its childhood magic. The more I learned about the formal structure of music, the tighter the constraints became. Music now had limits. It is actually like math when it boils right down to it. There are rules that cannot be broken, notes that just cannot go together, and just a buch of crap you have to think about that is distracting. That is (in my opinion) why a lot of school-trained musicians cannot improvise. They do not have it in them (any more).

Lets move forward 2o years to today. Yea, I still have my guitars, but I rarely play. It took all these years, but I am finally (almost) rediscovering the magic in music. I am sure it is not the feelings I had as a ten year old, but I do detect more of mysterious quality to music. I do not try to break every song down to it's least commom denominator. I try to just experience it. Of course I am not talking about today's freakin' hip-hop or techno. I have actually been listening to a radio station that plays a lot of the older classics (and I mean older). You can hear it on line HERE.

I guess the point of it all, is there a benefit to NOT being a musician. You can appreciate the art of it without the math. I would not change anything about my musical back ground, and you can hear a couple of my songs HERE. It took me a long time to get at least some of the magic back, or at least recognize the difference.

1 comment:

One Reader said...

I find it extremely hard to improvise unless I kow a song backward and forward. Also I completely agree that the more you know, the more of the magic is gone.