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April 18, 2002
A view of the 'Vois
Eight inspiring hours today with Amarevois, which was great. The 'Vois has outrageous musical skills, a vast chord vocabulary, and a snazzy way of hitting high notes on the piano with a kind of modified karate chop. It's a dazzling technique, but also a dangerous one. Using it risks disfigurement and damage if you get it wrong.
The first time I tried it, I got it wrong. Hours later I'm still dizzy with pain, and these words are being gingerly tapped out with breathtaking slowness.
She seems to be able to play all known instruments, and with great skill. I hate that. It makes me feel stupid and lazy. I played her a chord pattern of mine on her guitar, so she played some accompanying flute. Then I played another chord pattern on her piano, and she played some accompanying viola. Then I walked down the street to get some croissants, and she played some accompanying French horn.
You get the picture. It's ridiculous. By way of contrast, my musical skills are limited to (a) rudimentary piano, and (b) slightly more than rudimentary guitar. For the sake of honesty, though, I have to admit that the (b) is actually a sonic illusion.
Almost all guitarists use a plectrum, mainly so they can pretend to be Pete Townshend and flail their arms around. The first time I tried to do this, I smashed my hand into the top of the guitar. I ended up unconscious with pain, and unable to move my hand in any effective manner for several months. When I came to, I abandoned the Pete Townshend windmill approach, and just tried to strum more modest chords.
But doing this involves keeping a strong grip on a plectrum. Somehow, I could never remember to do that. Hundreds of plectrums disappeared into the sound hole in the middle of the guitar, and I found it embarrassingly difficult to get them out again.
After several years of this, the sound of the guitar changed. What started out as a twang gradually became a rattle. Plucking a string no longer produced the desired effect. Instead of sounding a note, it merely jostled the vast number of plectrums entombed within. I had progressed from melody to percussion without changing instruments.
In the end I gave up using plectrums. I wanted to perform a symbolic act of throwing the plectrums away, but even this proved beyond me. They were all trapped inside the guitar, and I couldn't get them out again. Of course, I only wanted to get them out so I could hurl them into the sea in a defiant gesture of rejection. Not being able to do this proved immensely frustrating. In the end I had to pay some guy to do the job for me, and the memory of his laughter continues to haunt me.
The upshot of all this is that I started fingerpicking guitar instead. Now, to the untrained ear, this might seem like I'm doing something clever. But don't believe the hype. I'm not doing anything clever at all. It's still the same old rudimentary chords, but only one note at a time.
To give you some idea of the contrast in our musical skills, Amarevois can play a B-flat diminished seventh with an added ninth and a slice of lemon and move to the key of E=mc2 in thousands of different ways, some of which involve hitting the high notes with a karate chop.
She doesn't have a NoPro, though, so at least I could tease her about that.Posted by Sean Hegarty at 01:17 AM in the Amarevois category | Comments (0)
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