A Rose by Any Other Name: What’s in a name?

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At dinner this week while celebrating my father’s 88th birthday I was asked by one of his friends what I called my music. This person has a few of my CD’s, and loves them, but wanted to know what to call it so she could describe it to her friends and family.  It took me five minutes and hundreds of words to describe it, and I knew right then what my week’s blog post was going to be about.  Thanks Gay!

A little over two years ago I got a very interesting email from my friend and fellow instrumental guitarist Kinloch Nelson with the subject line “What’s in a name?”  It’s one of the best treatises I’ve ever read on the conundrum of what instrumental guitarists like me go through in what to call our music.  Think about it.  If someone says they’re going to a folk, jazz, blues, classical, rock, or punk concert we all have a pretty good idea what type of music we’re going to encounter. Bookers at venues know when one of these acts calls to book a gig what they’re booking.  And we know what genres we like and those we don’t, so we can support ‘our’ music and leave the rest to others. We know what bin to go to in a record store (yes they still exist), or what to look under at iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, or Pandora to listen or download our favorite music. For those of you who know my music, what would YOU call it. One word, no more, no less. What is it?  And you can’t be nice and say “Good” or “Great”, what GENRE is it? Okay, I’ll be nice and you can have two words. But no more. Continue reading

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Why I write music

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Recently I’ve been playing lots of gigs at libraries in New England. They’re very interested in my 60 minute program that uses music, guitars, and lecture to discuss how the guitar has gone from parlors and homes to the largest concert stages on the planet as the world’s most popular instrument.  At the CD table after each show I’ve been surprised to hear people notice that I’ve composed most, if not all, of the evening’s music.  I keep forgetting that these folks are there for the information and to support their library not necessarily because they’re a fan of my music-most of my shows are ticketed events and the folks coming know who I am.  The folks that come to see me at the libraries think of me as a guitarist/lecturer while I’ve always thought of myself as a composer who plays the guitar, and that got me thinking about why I compose music.

For as long as I can remember I’ve heard music in my head; I hear it pretty much non-stop from the time I wake until the time I go to sleep.  It’s one of the reasons I rarely listen to music anymore as it’s akin to having two radios playing two different radio stations at the same time.   This is especially true when I’m in ‘writing’ mode and have one or more pieces of music in active composition mode.  When I was a kid I never told ANYONE I heard music in my head-I was a dumb kid but I wasn’t stupid enough to tell anyone I was hearing things that weren’t there.  And I honestly thought the music was stuff I’d subconsciously picked up over the years; I had no idea the music was ‘mine’. (Still not sure about that). Continue reading

Variety truly the spice of life

Lately I’ve been thinking about how important variety and change are to me as a person and artist.  I’ve always bored easily with the status quo, and not only embrace change, but I try to make change happen.  For those of you getting to know me, this is the first sign that a human being is eccentric. Most humans abhor change-just look what happens to Facebook when they change something. Most people freak out. I don’t.  I need my routine to vary, so it’s not all that routine. I’ve found that doing the same things over and over, in the exact same way turns my day into a factory-like setting, and while it’s incredibly efficient, it’s mind-numbingly boring for me. I actually get less done, and what I do get done isn’t always my best work. Change and variety energize me.  Continue reading