Reluctantly, I can pinpoint my original inspiration for wanting to play guitar to the intro of Toto’s Hold the Line. Not known for being the rockinist tune in the world, but the sound of those four distorted chords, cast such a powerful spell over me I spent whatever allowance money I had on their first record. For the next several months I would spend hours, gloriously, air guitar to those chords, in front of the full-length mirror on the back of my bedroom door.
I’m happy to say I’ve expanded my musical horizons from air guitaring to Toto. When I finally got my first actual guitar I had no knowledge of how to play it. I immediately started hacking away on its strings, as though I were chopping through a tree stump with a dull hatchet. My intuition told me that the execution of these wild and powerful sounds must require the kind of energy I was displaying.
After years of hacking away I would come to learn the importance of craft, collaboration, engineering, and active listening when it comes to making such sounds. Not to say that raw energy can’t play a part, but one of the most interesting things I learned is that the amount of energy I put into playing the guitar isn’t always equal to the amount of energy that comes out on the other side. A light strum across a Les Paul plugged into a Marshall amp with the volume set to ten has the power to shake a room. Whereas a distantly miced, vigorously strummed, acoustic guitar can sound like a summer breeze blowing through the trees.
Sometimes, the most explosive results come from the smallest of efforts or the most understated outcomes are the fruits of hours, days, even weeks of toil. For this, the creative process can be very frustrating. Other times it can almost feel like cheating. When I open myself up to the idea that things don’t always work the same way every time and that the process is often beautifully mysterious I can, eventually, feel real satisfaction with what comes out the other side.
Hopefully, some of this music will help you appreciate the mystery in some of the frustrating processes in your life. -MMM
This month’s playlist includes song by: Martin Hannett, The New Pornographers, Live Skull, Angel Olsen, Deerhunter, Government Issue, Boa Morte, Siouxie and the Banshees, Daughters of Saint Crispian, Justin Remer, Wynton Marsalis & Isaiah J. Thompson, The Beta Band, Lucrecia Dalt & Jan Jelinek, & Ravi Shankar
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