First thought, best thought? Usually. But first draft, best draft? Never. The moment you put pen to paper (I’m old school) the idea crumbles in your hand, slipping through your fingers like a thousand grains of sand. Now inspiration turns to perspiration as you write, revise…rethink…rewrite…
But when the sweating’s done and your words sing like a mockingbird at midnight, you know, once again, the ecstasy of agony. Herewith are a few moments of my ecstatic agonies…
Maybe it's because we hold the guitar so close to our body, enfolding it in our arms, caressing it with our fingers, that we feel it's part of us. And maybe that feeling is what impels each one of us to find our own way with the guitar. If you're looking for your way, Guitar Journey will show you a clear path that leads directly to a deeper sense of the guitar and a deeper sense of your musical self. Those sensibilities, usually obscured by the demands of music making, can be strengthened by heightening your awareness of sound and by focusing your attention on sensations felt in the body while playing and listening.
In Guitar Journey there is no talk of sharps and flats, meters and keys. We walk the talk with our feet, hands, and voice; we use all of our perceptive faculties—mental and sensory—to enter unknown realms of guitarness and uncharted states of musical being. In those places you will find new resources for musical creativity and as you become more at home there you will you will begin to put greater trust in your musical intuition. On the intuitive path you will come to know the deep satisfaction of being at one with the guitar: you will see that you don't have to be a master to find that satisfaction, that just by being aware you can find it at any moment.
When I set out to learn the classical guitar I thought that practice and devotion would make me a master of the instrument. Now, after a journey of several decades filled with many moments of ecstasy, many hours of agony, I’ve learned that it was not me but the guitar who would be master. How was I to know that the guitar would teach me perserverance, discipline, patience; that it would show me my anger, my limitations, my ineptitude? But more than that, my master has taught me surrender. That to truly be one with the guitar, I had to give up my attempt to dominate it. I had to look within and ask myself, “What is my purpose, my intent—what do I want from music? How do I want to be with the guitar?”
The ideas and exercises you will encounter in this book are my response to those questions. I have set these ideas down to help you form your own questions and find your own answers as you find your way with the guitar. Herein you will find no instructions on how to play the guitar but rather ways to befriend it, play with it, become one with it. …
Nightingales and mockingbirds wait for the still of night to sing their song. Maybe they know our ears and our hearts are more open then. Surely they know their music sounds more beautiful in the dark.
Have you ever noticed that your guitar sounds better at night, that it has more resonance? Once the sun has set, the molecules of air begin to relax, open up and make more space for sound. The same is true for us. As the light fades, our bodies and our busy minds slow down and take on the rhythm of the night. When you´re alone and all is still, that´s the best time to listen to your guitar sing its song. Blow out the candle and sit down with your guitar. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you—an owl hooting, a horn tooting, a dog barking. Wait...
When you feel the right moment has come, play the open fifth or sixth string with your thumb. Listen to the tone fade into silence. Play it several more times and listen for overtones to come out as the tone floats into the night.
Now, with your eyes still closed, place a finger of your fretting hand on the first string at any fret but don´t play it. Play the same bass string you were playing and while it´s still sounding, play the first string. Notice how your body reacts to that combination of tones. Notice too, what kind of…
Guitar Journey available soon in PDF
Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Rosewood Book (duets for flute & guitar) contain brief prefaces I wrote as introductions to the cultural milieu of the baroque, classical, romantic and modern periods.
Perhaps the most curious thing about Baroque music is that it’s not at all “baroque.” The term Baroque was coined from the Portugese barroco, meaning deformed or irregular and was originally a disparaging reference to the asymmetrical ornamentation of 17th century architecture. Eventually the term embraced all art forms of the 17th and 18th centuries and so music of the utmost regularity and formal perfection came to be called Baroque!
The age of the Baroque begins around 1600 and ends shortly after the death of J.S. Bach in 1750. As the curtain rises on this span of approximately 150 years, all power in Europe resides in the Catholic church and the aristocracy. As the curtain falls, Protestantism has successfully challenged the supremacy of Catholicism and the French and American revolutions signal the end of aristocratic power.
These upheavals were accompanied by great changes in the culture of Western Europe. New scientific ideas flowed from the minds of Galileo, Newton and Kepler; new architecture from Bernini and Borromini; new intellectual modes from Descartes, Spinoza and Milton; heightened expressiveness in painting from Rubens, Vermeer, Caravaggio and Rembrandt and new concepts in music from an impressive list of composers such as Monteverdi, Purcell, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Couperin, Telemann, Handel and Bach to name but a few.
The synopsis for a movie idea that came to me when I was sitting in a meditation retreat, trying to empty my mind.
Two children from a far-off planet, devoid of sound and color, arrive on Earth in search of music. By chance they land in ancient India and from there they travel to Bali, Japan, Africa and fifteenth century Italy. Throughout their journey they encounter the deep, powerful rhythms of drum and bamboo and discover many intriguing natural forms—seashell, sunflower, snowflake...
When, through the wonders of 3-D, those objects morph—precisely synchronized to the rhythms of the music—into spirals, spheres and other three-dimensional forms, the kids (and their audience) jump, swing and dive into a glorious jungle gym of geometry. Playing inside those forms we see, hear and feel the surprising connection that binds nature, geometry and musical rhythm.
But the journey is not all play; the children must overcome dark forces, negotiate close calls and narrow escapes. They are abducted by the flying shadow monkeys in Bali, terrified by a tough old samurai warrior in Japan and pursued by that African trickster, Ananse the spider. Finally, landing in Italy, they meet geometer Luca Pacioli (1445–1517), author of a treatise entitled “Divine Proportion.” He conjures up a geomagical spectacle of transformation wherein the nature, geometry and music the children encountered reappear to reveal a deeper message, that nothing is separate—everything is connected.
The Way Home is a full-length, 3-D film of animated figures (lead characters and geometric forms) and live action (musicians, dancers, natural phenomena). There is a story line, humor, tension, and character development: the children (a 12 year-old girl and her younger brother) serve as guides, leading viewers into an exploration of their own sensory perceptions of sound. The film poses provocative questions meant to generate further inquiry which will be supported by interactive media, books, recordings, constructive play objects, and simple musical instruments based on those played in the film.
The Way Home is a new telling of an old story—the wonders of harmonious proportion that we find in natural forms and the wonderful ways we express that beauty and order through geometry and music. Working together, the music, images, and story of The Way Home convey an elemental force that goes directly to the deepest part of our being. This is real magic—creation, growth and transformation, the force that sprouts a seed, spins a spiral, sounds a drum...
Moon and sphere, starfish and pentagram, sunflower and spiral set to the music of ancient traditions—timeless elements for an ageless tale, one that is forever re-imagining itself, forever spiraling outward, leading us to new places, forever spiraling inward, showing us the way home.
From a book I edited and co-authored
The Clave Matrix/Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins
David Peñalosa, author
In the early years of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky, in The Rite of Spring, shocked his audience with jagged, asymmetrical rhythms meant to convey primitive ritual. Purely a theatrical conceit, it couldn’t have been further removed from the real thing. ‘Primitive’ music has always and everywhere been bound to the rhythms of nature, that is to say cycles—the rising and setting of the sun, the seasons, the tides of the sea, the tides of breathing, the beat of the heart. The function of cyclical rhythm in traditional music and dance is to align the community, each to each, each to all, all to the forces of nature. And so, while Stravinsky’s dancers in Paris were desperately trying to stay in step (with him in the wings, frantically counting), dancers, singers and drummers on a small island in the Caribbean were playing, singing and stepping rumba, perfectly locked into their symmetrical, four-beat cycle.
Art music would follow Stravinsky’s lead for the next 50 years or so until the appearance of composers who, less concerned with reflecting the rhythmic and psychic turbulence of modern life, were enjoying the more grounded, life affirming qualities of non-western music. One of those, Steve Reich, applied his study of West African drumming to his compositions and created music of a wholly new order; his Music for 18 Musicians is an outstanding example.
The purpose of this brief, biased background is to persuade/inspire you to explore the untapped potential of cyclical rhythm in general and the Afro-Cuban clave system in particular. You have in your hands a brilliant exposition of a highly sophisticated system of rhythmic organization—The Clave Matrix. Here, for the first time in print, is an in-depth analysis that shows, in a logical, step-by-step manner, precisely how all the rhythmic elements of this music relate. It does for rhythm what classic works, such as Gradus ad Parnassum by Johann Fux did for 18th century counterpoint or Harmony by Walter Piston does for that discipline. And, in its rigorous thought process, The Clave Matrix stands shoulder to shoulder with the pedagogical work of Paul Hindemith, one of the greatest thinkers the art and science of music has ever known.
I ghost wrote Eros, Love & Sexuality from recorded lectures and interviews with psychologist, John Pierrakos, a collegue of Wilhelm Reich.