Sunday, March 19, 2017

Up Against What, Exactly?

Preface to post done before I slept about 7 hours.

I slept with a slowed down guitar riff, played by Dave Matthews repeating towards infinity. It was slowed down to, I believe, about 40% of it's "live" speed.

One would think that, slowing music down enough would reveal "mistakes" in the playing, like a non-muted string that was brushed against by a finger at a certain point that wasn't enough to detract from the loquacious note that the finger was playing on another string, and so, stayed on the recording, or enable one to put an oscilloscope on the super sustained notes and determine that Eddie Van Halen bent that string to a hair sharp of the #A440 pitch standard. Maybe, if you can only hear it if you slow it way down, the "unwanted" pitch ringing for more than a few milliseconds, then it stays on the recording.

Joe Satriani, in a Youtube video that I saw, was demonstrating a certain technique on the electric guitar and was pointing out that a certain amount of "noise" was an unavoidable side effect of using the technique*

But, my argument is that, no, virtuoso musicians make even the "noise" sound good. Sure, Dave Matthews barely sounds a couple of open strings within the riff, so subtle that they weren't even picked, but the result of him lifting his hands off the strings for a split second, letting them sound for that long, in the act of positioning them. And, a close look at the spectrograph, or whatever Audacity calls it, reveals that the "errant" notes fall right on an off beat. They were a clue as to how Dave was playing the riff, revealing when he lifted his hand, at least.


To be a great guitarists, you must keep your every movement in strict time with the beat, even the "non playing" times when your hand is gliding over the strings to the next chord, and, in that way even the instances of extraneous noise will have a percussive element to them by falling right on a beat.
For more on this, listen to the finger squeaks on the acoustic guitar played by Paul Simon on his song "Learn How To Fall," off "There Goes Rhymin' Simon," from about 1973. You almost have to transition "awkwardly" between the chords and get those squeaks to play that intro right. And the guitar is mixed very brightly, as if to enhance them. They sound like a rubber soles slipping on the hardwood floor of a cathedral, to me.

Dave Matthews has been a hard rhythm guitarist to figure out. I'm still scratching my head and considering the possibility that he used an "open tuning" on the guitar he used.

*I think it involved tapping the strings in such a way that the string was free to vibrate from his finger to the pickup, but also in the other direction, from the adjacent fret to the nut, creating a random note which is dissonant with the one being intentionally played.

With a third arm, he would be able to
mute unwanted strings. I Pity the guy..
The fretboard and strings would have to be a certain set length, maybe even like 88 feet, or something, so that playing it backwards i.e. from the fret to the nut instead of from the fret to the bridge would produce a musical scale.
That is a problem for geometric physicists.
I think it would give you a 12 tone scale, which would basically come from dividing a single half step into 12 equally spaced notes; the way an octave is done in the real, well tempered world.

End Of Preface To Post Done Last Night

Introduction To Post Done Last Night

I'm filling the tub.

I've got B.B. King on.

This is the first time I have listened to B.B. King intentionally.

I have a list of the 20 greatest blues guitarists, according to someone, and I've been tracking down recordings of as many of them as I can, and will sit and listen to the 20 greatest blues guitarists, along with a few thrown in from any other "greatest" lists that I might find by Googling Billboards and Rolling Stones, etc....

Begin blog post Sat March 18, 2017
Here it is 12 hours before I am to be out there playing.

I haven't slept, of course and the pot is not really making me feel inspired or full of vim, or...

And so the thing is to be ready to go out; the C harmonica had a plugged hole last night. It's been a real workhorse these past 5? weeks or so, the C harp...

The A harp had already had a plugged up hole; and there is a reason that the hole that is plugged up is always the one note that you want to play...yeah, because you have played it out of tune because it's the one note that you always want to play..

6 AM, Sunday, March 19th...

I think I made about 10 bucks the couple hours that I was out playing on this fair weathered Saturday night.

I was rushing; trying to get there by 10 PM, as that was the time that I had told my new friends in the van going from California to Toronto.
I don't think I got their names.

The young lady, of probably 22 years of age, spoke in a British accent and was from London. I told her that I had friends (the Lidgleys of London) who also lived in London, and then was more specific in adding "Hertfordshire" as the exact place in "London," which drew an immediate protest of "That's not London!" from the young lady, who looked like a cross between Sinead O' Connor, when that singer had shaved her head, and Demi Moore, when that actress had her hair in a crew cut.

They talked a bit about San Francisco, and the young lady said that the Haight Ashbury area is very much, she didn't use the word "infested," and she didn't have the word "skeezer" in her vocabulary, as she had only then encountered me; but conveyed that there were a lot of modern day hippies there to the point of overkill.

The couple said that they had never been homeless. The young lady seemed to be of the attitude that anyone could change their appearance and somehow escape homelessness through the route of perceivances becoming reality.

I told her about how homelessness was absolutely something that I had taken as a yoke upon myself, back when becoming drunk every night was more of a focus of mine than imagining myself sitting in some apartment without even any money to put beer in the fridge.

I mentioned how the process of subtracting expenses rather than increasing income, lead me to the point where I had no bills.

It had started in the early 90's when I was making enough money delivering pizza to keep a roof over my head, but not much more.

I started to think about how restfully I might sleep in my car, knowing that about 700 bucks a month was being diverted into my pocket, and not some landlord's.
This made economical sense considering that I was consolidating my house and my car into one much lower monthly bill, and was using the thing as a work tool to deliver pizza at the same time, thus becoming like a shopkeeper who had a little bungalow behind the store.

And then, in the late 90's, I got into building covert dwellings on overlooked land, or land that had been set aside for the promotion of certain birds or what have you, or land that was in Arizona which is so big that it was easy to find a cranny to move into, and got to the point where I was living pretty much like a king, without paying anyone for real estate.

The couple were fascinated with that, and other, stories, in a way that gave me the impression that they came from pretty well off families, but had abiding concerns about the condition of fellow humanity.

A skeezer walked up and started to skeeze, as the three of us stood talking outside The Quartermaster. He had seen me before, and knew that a smart retort lurked on my tongue, but was kind of able to use what I will call "directional skeezing" to communicate primarily with the couple, keeping his voice down to the point where I could only sporadically catch words like "cold" or "hungry," here and there. Unless he was communicating using clouds of alcohol vapor the way native Americans used to use smoke, that could be...

The couple didn't have any cash, and had already offered me cigarettes as "the only thing we can offer" and so I relished the sight of the skeezer picking up his intensity; knowing that the skeezer was running down a long road just to find that the store is going to be closed when he gets there.

I looked forward to seeing his reaction, I really did. It would be a nice nightcap. I was telling myself that this was going to be an installment of payback for all the times that I had watched tourist's passing 20 dollar bills to his ilk, while I screamed internally "No, don't do it; he's full of shit!!" 

And then of course, self remonstrating over what it is that angers me about the situation, and, am I wrong and do I need to change my way of thinking. I usually settle upon: "Anyone can ask anyone for something and can say whatever he wants; and if the person gives him something, then there is no room for envy on my part, for the skeezer, nor for anger directed at the person for having made the skeezer the object of my envy."

And then, I imagine: What if I walked up to the person who had handed the skeezer 20 dollars, and said something like: "Hi, don't mean to bother you, and it's really none of my business, but I noticed you giving the begger guy some money, and if you really are set up well enough with money that 10 or 20 bucks is nothing to you, I'm wondering; would you give me some money, too?"
I thought about the older black man in Mobile, Alabama who had accosted a couple who had walked past me as I played and not tipped me, and had gotten them to give him, what amounted to only 5 dollars but the point was that he then walked over to me and said: "See, you can sit there and play your little guitar, but I know how to make money!"

So, I let the skeezer have the floor, hoping that the couple wouldn't wind up pulling their "emergency gas fund" out of one of their shoes or something, after being driven to pathos. The way the girl's face had lit up when she had talked to the skeezer looking guy, one of the first New Orleans people she had encountered, with myself being next, was not promising. They were ripe for the skeeze. Visions went through my mind; of the girl removing a locket from around her neck while tears stream down her cheeks "Here, pawn this and get your grandmother that medication first thing in the morning -promise me... I wish we could do more..."

First, the majority of skeezers will assume that the person is lying when they say that they have no cash. 

Myself, I like to test the skeezer by saying something like: "Man, I have like exactly enough to get what I need in The Quartermaster with like 16 cents left over..." and then the recommended "Sorry, man, I would help you out if I had it" just to see if, given that intelligence, and hearing it from someone who apparently has a heart, he would persist. Nothing like depriving oneself of one's needs to help out a skeezer, I say.

I consider the assuming that the person is lying; even though it would be potentially opening a can of worms to try to be more forthright; to be a slight upon the integrity of the person, upon whose decency and sense of charity the skeezer is hanging his hopes, while at the same time, basically insinuating that the person is being dishonest.

And sure enough, after a being told frankly by the guy, that the couple had no money, the skeezer told them "You don't understand," followed by a reiteration of how miserable he was, and with the addition of histrionics and the use of the stereotypical "preacher" voice which lent great gravity to his utterances of "I'm out here sleeping on the ground, in the cold, in the rain! I'm hungry, I'm tired, I'm thirsty!! Lord have mercy!!" He was like a Shakespearean character. Enter: beggar.

The couple were so young and a bit doe eyed that I really thought the skeezer had a puncher's chance of getting them to go in their bags and produce maybe a half pint of Hennessey, or give him something of value. They need to learn through experience, I thought, as I continued to stay out of it, but was feeling my anticipation of seeing the skeezer rebuffed becoming a bit tenuous. I was rooting for them.

And, they didn't give him anything, after the girl had to become a tiny bit brisk in dispatching with him. This was after I had said "I don't give money to adult men..." in answer to the tacit question posed by mechanism of the guy having said something like "Sorry, man," and then the girl having echoed it, which imparted a certain momentum whereby the ball just seemed to have bounced to me.

The skeezer knew that I was going to say something like that, if I were to say anything. He had tried me a few times in the 4 years that I have been playing at the Lilly Pad.

"So, you choose to sleep on the ground in the cold and the rain; and your point?" I said, as soon as the skeezer was out of earshot.

"I know, It's a life choice, that's all it is," said the young lady.

Sunday Morning, after sunup. Saturday night's 10 dollar tip jar was sobering. There were just a lot of people who were not spending money. It just may be that they are all broke and in town attending some kind of seminars aimed at helping them to grow rich.

I had gotten to the Lilly Pad at about 10:45 PM, and played for a couple hours, never seeing the couple who were traveling by van from California to Toronto, but having played at near my top level, expecting them to walk up any second.

The tourists were probably all of one mind in not believing in tipping, and the 10 dollars that I eeked out, after having rushed to get out there, was probably the result of my putting a lot of effort into playing and getting 10 of them to buck the herd and throw "Tom Petty" a dollar.

1 comment:

alex carter said...

Those "hang arounders" must be infuriating. I guess in an environment like where you are, where there are so many of them, you almost need to be a sort of Johnny Carson or Bob Hope, able to "handle the crowd" and make the skeezers look and feel embarrassed, while not revealing that they're really bugging you. And that's not a skill that's easy to come by.