My all-time best friend is my guitar, and she’s a beauty. Sure, it’s a her. Just look at that figure, for crying out loud.
Purists may argue that the acoustic guitar’s shape has evolved over time and it is, in the first instance, practical and highly functional. I don’t buy that. It is not simply an asexual instrument. A deep seed of design inspiration was divined from the femme fatale. Observe the long, slender neck, the unmistakable hour-glass shape of the tanned body, narrowing in the middle and bulging seductively in the rounded hips. And what a poetic moment that such ornamented patterns should adorn the strategically-placed sound outlet.
I do play a bit of classical guitar, and some blues and so on. Decidedly poorly, in the company of Segovia and Clapton, but I can finger and strum to make her hum (oh look, a rhyme!) in harmony. As it happens, the music is in my hands. Well, it manifests there, in the fingers actually. My guitar responds to my fingers. Playing my guitar is clinically a tactile experience. I trust the significance of this revelation is not lost in the romantic moment.
I am currently learning a new piece titled Grauna, by the Brazilian Joao Pernambuco. Quite challenging, actually, with some subtle fingering, which does often lead to groans (get it? Grauna) of frustration. Learning to play a new classical piece from sheet music is, for me, a singularly creative experience, despite the irksome fact that I’m not the composer. I find it is tantamount to carving an obscure figurine from a log of wood with a tiny scalpel. And it has to be cut strictly in accordance with a tangled code. Tangled, because I’m unfamiliar with the piece and have never heard the music. In addition, my sheet-reading ability is poor and unpractised, and it takes me forever to play the piece with any degree of fluency.
While it is a painstakingly slow process there is of course profound melodic reward. The mysterious shape and sound of the amorphous melody pattern does eventually emerge through the fog of frustration. As I chisel off each fine layer of rough bark, the song’s grain and character is gradually revealed. I feel a bit like a toiling midwife, coaxing a resonating life form out of these lifeless and inhospitable black dots on the sheet music.
Naturally, each piece of music has its own personality and the melody evokes a certain emotion. Think of it as a persona and consider that these dormant children only crystallise and morph into shape, form and structure when the sound on the instrument is manipulated in a particular fashion and frequency.
Disquietingly, the melody is only given the breath of life when it resonates in the hearts and minds of men. Think about that for a second. Orchestrated sounds only gain meaning and become music in the confines of the auditory perception of man. The miracle and metaphysical mystery of music is fatally confined to our abstract facility. What a discordant insight: that such a powerful force has such a limited application.
So anyway, on a cheesy sign-off note (editorially obligatory), I often hug my best friend, because she is the passage to a finer dimension, to a gentler world in harmony. Say aaah…
Zander Heeger is a free-lance writer not averse to creating harmonic tension that resolves to benign consonants. Like, he’s a sucker for a song