Wednesday, April 18, 2007

JunkMale Partakes in the Arts

In recent days, I have been partaking in the arts. In this case, "arts" refers to playing piano and guitar.

Upon thinking about it for a bit, "arts" seems to refer to things that usually don't allow the average person to make a good living. Sure, people like Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Hilary Hahn, and Picasso made/make a lot of money. But if I'm not mistaken, most people usually can't make a living doing only art.

It is a great travesty that the guitar solo has "gone out of style" in popular contemporary rock music. It is my opinion that the ability to play or improvise a good guitar solo is always preceded by LOTS of practice. And so it's hard to play good solos and consistently improvise fresh and different sounding solos. To me, good guitar soloing is not something that goes "out of style." This is like saying that the sonata or cantata is out of style as a musical form because no one writes in those forms much anymore. Van Gogh is not "out of style" because he's not alive anymore. So just as true art stands the test of time and doesn't go out of style, so too do guitar solos. Just because the human talent is not there to produce the art of choice, does not mean the art is out of style.

I took piano lessons for about 8 years in my earlier days. I never really liked it much, but in the end, I grudgingly admit that it was good for me, and I also grudgingly admit that I am glad my parents made me take piano for a period of time. From 8th grade to sometime in high school, I took guitar lessons. I progressed much quicker in guitar because I actually wanted to learn, and I actually enjoyed it.

My playing of music seems to come and go in spurts. A couple of months ago, I would play my select hymns on the piano quite often. By my select hymns, I mean my favorites that I have devoted lots of practice towards in order to master. Not coincidentally, these happen to be arrangements that are written in keys with few flats or sharps. These include some of my favorites like "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken," "Abide With Me," and "Glory Be to Jesus." I personally do not know how pianists keep track of so many flats and sharps. The only reason I can plunk my way through songs written in Eb is because lots of hymn arrangements are written in that key.

Before the piano phase was another guitar phase. Before the wedding, I would spend my evenings reading political non-fiction and trying to master "Jesu, Joy of a Man's Desire." Now, I know that this is one of those extremely common wedding songs that I would NEVER have allowed in my own wedding, but I must admit that I do like the song outside the context of a wedding ceremony.

And so after the aforementioned piano phase comes the guitar phase that I am currently in. When we visited Harmony's grandmother earlier this month, I brought my guitar because she had wanted to hear me play. So I brushed up on Jesu and resumed trying to master it. From there, I got it in my head to try to learn Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G major (BWV 1007). Yes, another commonly known piece, but perhaps a bit more difficult than Jesu. Or not, who knows.

Recently, I've found a site that has totally free downloads of classical piano recordings. The site was founded by a group of professional and amateur pianists who wanted some exposure for their work. And so they upload free MP3s of their recordings. I somehow randomly discovered Bach's cantata commonly referred to as "Sleepers Awake" (BWV 140). So I've gotten in my head to learn this one on guitar too. My wife has informed me that this one is not uncommon either. In spite of feeling so pedestrian, I am still resolved no longer to linger and to learn it forthright.

And so as a public service to you, I provide you the link of the free classical piano music site. If anyone else has obscure classical favorites, please feel free to leave a long list. Doubleplusgood if these songs have guitar arrangements available on the internet.

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