Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not some Damned Painter, Playing Bass

I play musical instruments, and have lots of them. None of which I play that well, but not because I don't want to. I am not even that musical, and can't hardly memorize a thing. Yet I really love it. I love the art of it, the science of it, the way one skill builds on another, the way that practice opens up new experiences. And I know that there are millions of musicians far better than I could ever be, and I struggle. And I know, that fundamentally, despite me being an architect an painter and drawer and reader, and the world coming through my eyes, that it is ears that matter, That music is the lion tamer.

I play bass now, with this old awesome red epiphone that Denny found in an alley, and gave to Stuart, and Stuart is selling it to me for $62.50. I don't even know if it sounds that good, but what I like about playing bass- and this is so like painting- is that for the most part, its one note at a time, and the deepest, most thunderous, darkest, fundamental part. of music. I play other things, blah blah blah, but the bass, its a 2x4, will whack you on the side of the head, will carry you.  Painting is one stroke at time, one paint daub, one line. Your arm, your hand, one mark. Like the bass. I think there is a link here.

Last night I played at the amazing Steven Bell's studio, Top of the Hill, up in the woods, rain pouring down, as sort of a session musician, for this corny, but loveable, composer, and just tried to do my best. I had to know what a half diminished chord was, and how to play E flat, and all that, and it just fits  me and how I think about the world. That it is beautiful, or not, but always, there is structure, and sense, and a way it is put together and a way to take chaos and organize it and make it something that has deep feeling.But- there's this Pythagorian sense to it, not good, not evil, just there, abiding.

The drummer, who I don't think I have ever met, went to my same high school. Graduated a year after. Knew my dad, said he had a great sense of humor. Said he was in band and was a stoner. Said his band teacher was a stoner. Went to the same middle school, but not to the hippie one I went to (we were in portables).  Knew what I knew. Remembered what I remembered. And he had this great attitude. But when I looked at him, I thought, he looks old. Not bad, but done. And I am older. I know, its what happens, but it scared me,.

And the guitar player- I worship the guy- soulful and a great bluegrass voice, and I smoked a cigarette with him out in the rain and he said he was an air force brat, and never made friends, and I told him, man, I have seen you play for 10 years, up at maltby even, and you are awesome, great way of being on stage, great presence. Love your band (man). Pretty much boy talk, out in the rain, and a cigarette is way too short to get all of one's ideas into it.

The composer had a beautiful daughter, or wife, or friend, I have no idea. He was brooding, friendly, odd,  a good person, who knew what he wanted. He said, play a third here, not the tonic. I am an architect. I know what a third is because I read about it in the encyclopedia. Which i saw a whole set for free on Craigslist today. I play it as well as I can. This is just a short song, but I want to get something right, so I can be here again. I am here because the engineer thought an old epiphone would sound right. I trey not to drink too much, but it is really hard. And I try to focus.

I don't get to play much music where people are really listening, and telling me I am playing the wrong note (how embaressing), but it feels right. Painting has no equal. Painting is by yourself. Its you, and you and the stuff on the canvas, and your rolling thoughts. Music is with other people. Or can be. Painting can't be. I have, I think, both parts. Mostly the painting part, but what I want, is, I want to be Bob Dylan, not some damn painter, not Jackson Pollock. In any case, 52, time's up. I feel this. I know there are a few years to go, but really. Time's up.

I spent an hour with a CPA, asking how to make my business work, now that I am unemployed. He has a globe in his office, and every year travels somewhere. He says Africa is best, Zimbawa, and I thought, he is right, its this globe, its seeing things, and you will never see enough, I spend my time in a tiny drainage ditch, a river, a few homely towns, and see nothing. He said, look at this printer, it prints out postage stamps and there's no fee.

What is this all about?