Diagnosticians and Therapists
Still Inconclusive


My interest has always been singing the songs.  Playing guitar was the vehicle for doing that.  (And yet, when I go down to the basement where my gear is I always say, "I'm going down to play guitar" never "I'm going down to sing."  What's up with that?)

I can make my way around my acoustic pretty well, but it's still rudimentary.  And despite my three telecasters, I've never spent much time playing with the sounds.  In the band I just bang away on the chords trying to keep the rhythm going.  They're nice guitars, so I feel guilty about that.

Now, since the objective is to restore dexterity to my left hand (the chording hand), I'm focusing on the guitar sounds.  I'll skip the singing for awhile.  I've set up one of the small amps with an effects modulator in my study.  I'm playing very loud.

One of the most transcendant and luminous pieces of piano music ever recorded is the solo concert that Keith Jarrett did in Cologne back in 1975.  I first heard it a few years after it came out (thanks again to the unknown librarian who was selecting albums for the Oshkosh Public Library in those days) and it was one of those recordings that changed my life.  I go back to it often and it always refreshes me and brings me new joy.

Only recently did I come across the story of how that concert came about.   It was a mess.  The stagehands brought out the wrong piano.  Not the one that Jarrett had requested, it was in lousy condition, had bad sound, malfunctioning pedals.  Jarrett almost refused to go on.  Seventeen year old Vera Brandes, the promoter, managed to talk him into it. 

And that damn piano forced him to go further into himself, into his technique, into his lyrical imagination than he ever had before.  It redefined his career, became the all time best selling piano album and continues to have a tremendous impact.  Resistance. 

In high school I was baffled by the notion of poetic form.  (This was the heyday of free verse).  Why would one want to confine oneself that way?  Sure, I could enjoy a clever rhyme scheme but that seemed like such a secondary effect.  It took me years to understand how pushing against the resistance of form unlocks and opens creativity inside that can't be found in any easy way.  The seemingly arbitrary constrictions of the sonnet form are so attuned to the rhythms and sounds of the English language that they can bring a poet to a level of sublimity that a free verse poem is incapable of achieving.  Resistance.

I can manage the chord changes to "Rockin' In The Free World" pretty well, even with the numbness in the tips of my fingers.  The muscles are fine (it's the nerves that are messed up) and the fingers know where to go.  I'm flipping switches and twirling dials and grinning at the woof-woof the amp makes when I slam the Em and let it sustain.  It sounds horrible because I don't really know what I'm doing.  So I'm pushing.  I'm listening.  I'm finding new sounds that I never bothered to think about making before.  I'm laughing and having a really good time.  It's hard.  I like that.

Resistance is not futile.  It's necessary.




This article in Wired a few years talked about design under constraint: how limits boost creativity. http://www.wired.com/culture/design/magazine/17-03/dp_intro

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