Monday, January 24, 2011

The song 'request'.

According to statistics, people would rather be lying in the casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral. Now try to picture yourself talking to a crowded bar. Now picture having to sing and play your guitar to them. Suddenly you hear someone yell," Hey, play some Tragically Hip!"half way through your performance. Let me take this one step further, picture that person shouting that in your face repeatedly at the top of their lungs as you desperately try to gracefully end the tune you've been playing your heart out.  How does that feel?

If you happen to be one of that type of audience member, please bash your head into your computer screen several times. You might end up having a better idea of what musicians feel during those awkward moments. You might say,"Suck it up cupcake! It's your job!" But how would YOU feel if i went to YOUR job and micro managed YOU like a drunken idiot in front of your customers and co-workers? Let's be honest, you and I don't get paid enough to have to put up with that. "Hey, do you guys sell jogging pants here at Le Chateau? Come on! Sell me jogging pants! I want to try on your jogging pants! What kind of store is this that doesn't sell jogging pants???" or picture this same annoying moron walking straight into your kitchen while you're preparing some puffer fish for an important guest and startles you with,"Hey! Make me a tuna sandwich! Come on man, hurry up! I'm famished! Hey, did you hear me???" Let's say you're a nurse trying to find a vein on your patients wrist for an important (may i add)FREE blood sample and the patients blurts out,"Hey, are we almost done here? Come on, let's hustle! What kind of service is this??"

Well, ironically, it was a 'professional' nurse that repeatedly and obnoxiously demanded I play her some Hip during the performance. As if i was supposed to somehow sing, play and signal to her that i either would or wouldn't play the damn song simultaneously! (Maybe it's a skill i should consider working on) After the set i walked up to her and politely told her that what she was doing was throwing me off a little and that if she could NOT do that, i would greatly appreciate it and maybe even try to learn a Hip tune for the next time. Unfortunately, my message must have gotten lost in a drunken translation as,"Hey dumb ass, why don't you do us all a giant favor and shut the hell up???" Because she ended flipping me the finger like an eight grader and stormed out in a sassy strut and never came back. Hopefully, i don't get stuck in emergency with her trying to stick a needle in me someday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Family and Music

I was born naked and confused(like most of you).  I had no clue as to why i was taken away from my comfort zone. Think about it, you've been floating around in a pool of tranquility and automatically fed through a tube i may have played around with occasionally for nine months. Everything is slow and peaceful underwater. Not a care in the world. The right temperature, soothing white muffled background noise, alone with my thoughts(assuming i had any). Suddenly you are abruptly yanked out by the head and flung into 'the chaotic unknown'.

Well, to this day, i seem to still be dwelling inside that "chaotic unknown". Suddenly I'm a divorced, 32 yrs old single father of two beautiful children fighting stubbornly to keep a crazy dream alive. According to a book i've read, i would be considered an introverted intuitive thinking perceiver. A natural problem solver. Well, it's not too far from the truth. I tend to pride myself in my ability to care, listen and provide for my children and my own ambitions.

Life has been about improving the quality of my family life and my musical abilities.  I'm beginning to believe and accept the role of a curious father and a working musician. Life makes sense to me in musical terms. Being fascinated by the history, the psychology, the philosophy, the neurology, the theory and especially the evolutionary impact music has on all of us, i have learned to explain things using what i've learned through this age old art.

For example, my son has been recently diagnosed by his teachers, his doctor and the school psychologist as an ADHD child. Personally, I can't stand the idea of a 9yr being medicated without first exploring other alternatives that might help him focus. I must admit, i don't have a behavioral psychology degree hanging in my office but i do love to read about psychology and i do have the opportunity to try out some of scientifically approved methods with my students and have seen tangible results. Helping a child with ADHD (especially your own) with homework and to study for a test isn't exactly a walk in the park. It requires patience and a clear and manageable outcome. 

Science can be a very intimidating subject for anyone to understand, let alone a 9yr old with ADHD. So is music, i just so happen to speak it fluently. I understand the ability and elements required to allow a musician to actively listen within an improvisational context. Music fundamentally consists of rhythm, melody and harmony. In what we call a "Jam", i usually find myself completely immersed in a dance between what is presently flowing and what i anticipate might happen. The more focused i am, the slower time seems to be flowing. For example: the drummer plays a repetitive groove, for the bassist to maintain some focus on what the drummer's kick is playing to provide a solid foundation on what to improvise upon rhythmically. When the rhythm guitarist strikes a minor chord on the off beats of 2 and 4, the lead guitarist has to understand that the minor chord requires a relative minor scale to improvise with. If the drummer decides to increase the intensity of his playing, the rest of the musicians will latch on to that while dancing around melodic and rhythmic motifs they hear around them. The overall sound and journey of the Jam is what makes this exciting enough to capture both the performers' and audiences' complete attention. Everything that is worth pursuing using intense sensory stimulation has a purpose.  

My son and i had one night to cram all of this scientific information about sound waves, vibrations, acoustics, decibels etc. Using his senses to visualize sounds waves and how they travel along with my guitar to allow him to add some color to the sounds in his head, we managed to talk about the vibrations that allow the sound to travel in waves. Without him ever changing the subject. I used as many instruments and implanted as many visuals in his head to stimulate his information gathering process. It was an hour study that went well past his bed time. However, i am proud to say that for a kid who was starting to get used to getting C's... he was pretty damn proud of his B+ the next day i picked him up from school. There he was, waving that test in the air with an ear to ear smile worth second we spent exploring the world of sound that night.