Saturday, February 06, 2010

An Anecdote With a Musing Question

We often attach more meaning to some things than actually exists, and this is likely a case. However, something just happened about an hour ago that at least felt profound.

I am a very amateur guitar player. I taught myself how to play chords and arpeggios, and I can pick a few licks here and there, but I am no artists. My wife bought me a few lessons about ten years ago, but all my teacher did was show me the "power chords" and introduce me to the concepts of "hammers" and "pulls." While those lessons served me well, almost all of my ability and progress have been self-taught.

But this isn't about me. The only reason why I mentioned the content in the previous paragraph is to note that I am able to read pick up a tune's chord progressions and tablature.

When I was young, my parents used to listen to a gospel singer named Don Francisco, and let me tell you that every Christian should download and listen to his music. It is profoundly good, especially his narrative songs.

My favorite is "He's Alive," and it chronicles the story of the Resurrection through Simon Peter's vantage. After some time of picking around, I figured out that it must be in A minor (or at least it sounds OK in A minor), with an Am, G, Am, G, Dm, G, Am, G, Am, G, progression through the verses and a D, A, C, G, D in the climax/chorus.

While playing the chords alone is somewhat satisfying, if you clicked on the link then you noticed that Francisco doesn't strum. He picks individual notes in those chords--which is what I meant earlier by "tablature."

I simplified Francisco's pattern (for I am no maestro), but was able to make a decent adaptation. What isn't decent is my vocals, for I my larynx and vocal chords have yet to recover from damage caused by severe reflux (expect a post detailing that ordeal, but I digress). As of now, my vocal range is comparable to Johnny Cash's in his last couple "American Recordings" albums.

So there I was in my basement, guitar in hand, playing some tunes when Robbie (aged 2) came downstairs to listen. I had been picking some Old Crow Medicine Show (this song) when Robbie asked, "Wot you dwing, dahddy?"

"I'm practicing the guitar," I said. "Do you want to listen?"

"Uh huh," he said, and then he sat down beside me on the couch.

I resumed "We're All in This Thing Together," but I only held his attention for about twenty seconds. Before I'd ended the first verse, he was playing with Lincoln Logs.

I finished the song and started "Old Apartment," and Robbie continued to construct cabins.

However, when I took out my notes on "He's Alive," and started playing (and singing), Robbie stopped playing, returned to the couch, and listened intently through the entire song. Throughout my entire rendition, all that he did was stare at me and nod occasionally, as if he understood and agreed.

After I slowly picked the last notes of the last chord (an A), and stopped playing, Robbie clapped and said, "I yuv zat song, dahddy!"

"Would you like to hear another?" I asked.

"Uh huh," he said.

So I began playing "Why Me Lord," by Kris Kristofferson.

Again, Robbie sat quietly through the whole song. When I finished, he leaned in to me for a hug and added, "I yuv you, dahddy."

"I love you too, Robbie," I replied, before starting Johnny Cash's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman."

Within twenty seconds, Robbie was off of the couch and again playing with his toys. By this point, I had an idea about what had been going on, so my next song was "In the Garden," one of the most beautiful gospel songs ever composed.

Sure enough, Robbie stopped his playing and resumed his place by my side. My next song, Don McLean's "Vincent," once again saw Robbie return to his trifles.

At this point, I stopped playing completely to watch my youngest child play. Whilst I had been praising the Lord, he had been enraptured. However, when I sang of more secular musings, he preferred to construct pseudo-buildings consisting of nothing but right angles.

Am I wrong to assign any meaning to this?

By the way, I hope that the links to these songs actually produce the songs. Turn your speakers on if you want to hear them. They're all good songs--and much better than my versions!

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