You must play until you are no longer afraid of the guitar. Many players are afraid to touch the guitar, and they act like it. You must create an intimate relationship with your guitar. Getting over your fear of it is much like a romantic-sexual conquest. It is no poetic metaphor when some songs refer to a guitar as though it were a woman. Mastering a guitar is really very similar to conquering a woman, and when you fail to master it, like when you fail to master a woman, you have the same feelings of humiliation and violence.
When you are alone with your guitar, you must win if you are to be a man. And you can win - with any guitar. Sit there with it for six hours. No guitar can withstand the creative spirit that is in every human being.
Anyone who calls his guitar a “box” does not understand. Anyone who calls his guitar an axe cannot play it very well.
The typical middle-class interpreter of folk music makes his guitar sound like a metronome, without timbre changes and without percussive and loud-soft tone contrasts. He is a friendly guy. He likes everybody. He smiles alot. He wants you to like him. He’s volk. To hell with him. The real test when someone is playing hot or hard-driving is this: Does his music make you want to dance, or not?
…while technique is very important, it is only part of the story. Music is a language - a language of emotions. The worst possible way to play these songs - and I am not only talking about my own compositions - is in metronome time at a uniform volume. Another terrible thing would be to play any composition the same way every time, or to feel that you have to play it exactly the same way as someone else, such as myself, played it or said to play it. A good technician must also be creative.
When I play the guitar, even when I am practicing, I am besieged with images, memories, deja vu experiences, and emotions; and for every chord I play, for every tune I write, there is within me a distinct and unique image, emotion, or feeling. What made and continues to make guitar playing exciting for me, and what makes it bearable during long, long two-set jobs, is the continual show of emotions, images, memories, etc., that comes before me internally as I continue to practice and play.
If you sit and listen to yourself, the creative act will happen. You cannot make it happen, but you can put yourself in a situation where it must because human nature is constituted that way. Writers and philosophers have tried to explain precisely what it is that happens during the creative act. Typically, the writer on aesthetics attempts to at least suggest that some deity takes over at the creative moment, that there is something divine about artistic creation. While I believe that nothing is more fun than the moment of creation - even if it is just a moment - I have never experienced anything transcendent during those times. Most writers on aesthetics are not artists or musicians.
You must take your guitar and go someplace where you are comfortable and relaxed. Don’t worry about being introverted, anti-social, about not being friendly, etc. Secretly, steal away with your guitar. Don’t let anyone know you’ve gone. Take it and go some place where you can hide from everybody. When you get there, pick up the guitar and start playing what you feel like playing, whatever it is. No matter what others think, be your own person. It is healthy at times to want to be alone. If you never want to be alone, then you should start worrying.
The ‘dreamachine’ is a a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli. It was created by the painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist Brion Gysin in collaboration with Ian Sommerville.
A dreamachine is “viewed” with the eyes closed: the pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain’s electrical oscillations. The “viewer” experiences increasingly bright, complex patterns of colour behind their closed eyelids. The patterns become shapes and symbols, swirling around, until the “viewer” feels surrounded by colours. It is claimed that viewing a dreamachine allows one to enter a hypnagogic state. This experience may sometimes be quite intense, but to escape from it, one needs only to open one’s eyes.
Gysin’s Dreamachine used a 100-watt light bulb, a motor, and a rotating cylinder with cutouts. Its users would sit in front of it, close their eyes, and experience visions as a result of the flashes of light. Gysin believed that by offering the world a drugless high the invention could revolutionize human consciousness.
You can experience a HTML dreamachine in your browser by following this link - http://www.netliberty.net/dreamachine.html (however, I am highly dubious as to the effectiveness of this… to be honest, you’re more likely to just have an epileptic seizure)
"…a cry in the dark, a lone voice and a guitar engaged in the dialogue of the damned."
Certainly one of the strangest, most mysterious and eerie sounding of all bluesmen, Skip James possessed a rare talent for deeply personal musical expression and an impressive facility as an arranger, creating a unique body of work across the course of his life. His intricate and rhythmically unpredictable guitar-work was rivalled only by his “near-surreal” piano playing, and no other major bluesman had mastered two instruments. Skip possessed a classically-informed finger-picking style which was fast and clean, using the entire register of the guitar with heavy, hypnotic bass lines played in open D-minor tuning (DADFAD), which resulted in the “deep” sound of the 1931 recordings. Most haunting of all was his voice; a keening mournful falsetto. His legendary 1931 recordings were some of the rarest of all the classic blues 78s, and their sublime artistry made them priceless.
James made music so haunting and hallucinatory that a critic would later compare him to Poe and Van Gogh. Another, struck by the “lovely contrapuntal lines and eccentric phrasing,” went so far as to claim that James’ melodies were “more like Elizabethan music than the blues.”
The selected song, “Devil Got My Woman”, was partly inspired by a girlfriend who’d deserted James for his best friend:
I would rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man
'Cause nothing but the devil changed my baby's mind.
When most blues singers wailed about a scheming woman, they either cursed her or begged her to come back. But instead of grovelling or complaining, James cast himself as Satan, as a figure of darkness and power.
He once told his biographer Stephen Calt that he played his songs “to deaden the mind” of female listeners. To James, the blues were an incantation, a way to cast a spell.