Musings @musicandmeaning.com

Amelia, where you bound for?
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Friday, 24 October 2003

And the air was beautiful

Three or four years ago, I attempted to learn how to play Nick Drake‘s "From the Morning" (one of my favorite songs). I gave up after a few tries. Maybe it was because I didn’t have the patience to "get" it, or maybe I just wasn’t ready. In any case, the song basically kicked my wump.

For whatever reason, about three weeks ago I found myself digging up the music for it, retuning my guitar, and getting set to have my wump kicked again. Not surprisingly, I was pretty awful. Managing each measure was a fight. Welcome to discouragement. But the next night, I picked up the guitar again (one good sign was that I didn’t tune it back to standard) and tackled that first measure, and the second, and the third… Still a fierce fight. But maybe not as impossible.

As each day passed, discouragement made way for the motto of eventually: I’ll get this arpeggio, eventually. I’ll remember the next phrase, eventually. I’ll play p m p i and not p m i m, eventually. And each time I reached a point where I could dispense an "eventually" sentence, I felt the enthusiasm burn that much brighter.

I still haven’t retuned the guitar to standard. And it’s amazing that I now can play most of the song without having to look at the music, and even sing at the same time. It’s sloppy playing — still plenty of missing or sour notes — but I think I’ve persevered through the most difficult stages of learning the piece. I find myself picking up the guitar to work on tough measures more than once a day sometimes — maybe for a few minutes while I’m waiting for some water to boil, or sometimes right after I wake up in the morning. It’ll take me at least another month or two to really grow comfortable with the song, but I’m looking forward to the days ahead, tossing away old "eventually"s and creating new ones. Ultimately, I look forward to having this song become even more a part of my life: in my playing, in my thoughts, and understanding more about music and the musician who wrote and played this song.

Nick Drake’s playing was always a mystery to me, and in turn, I suppose he himself was a mystery as well; as a songwriter, as a guitarist, as a person. Maybe I was too awed or overwhelmed by him to learn this song when I first tried. But now that I’m finally able to play a little of it, I have a better understanding of his music, and his guitar playing, and him. Perhaps not a clear or close understanding, but certainly a tiny bit more than before. I’m no painter, but I imagine it’s sort of like finding the unique brushstroke of a famous artist, and getting a sense of how that brushstroke could create such a work of art.

Posted at 5:49 pm | Filed under Favorite posts, Music

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