The lift people….?

The first time I visited Italy I travelled around a few cities in the north, stopping at youth hostels, looking around and basically wondering what I was searching for. Art galleries, museums, culture etc. What I usually ended up doing, there and on other holidays, was staying in at the hostels, talking to other tourists, and drinking wine.

At one time, I think it was in Verona, I was sitting by the edge of a river alone, almost certainly with those same questions in my head (why am I here? What am I looking for? What do other people do?), a man came down the steps to join me. He spoke English, with an Italian accent.

He did most of the talking, and explained that I looked so obviously English. Most Europeans understand this, I think. We have a look. (Badly dressed? I speak for myself, of course.)

He had lived in England, and Germany, and he was Italian. But he had really good memories of his time in England, and he spoke English very well.

Then he told me his theory. That English people were lift people. Italian’s were definitely on the ground floor. Close to the earth, simple, straightforward. German’s were on the second floor. No connection to the ground. Head in the air, filled with ideas, but fashion? Healthy food?… Not their strong point. But English (British?) people didn’t belong on any particular floor. They travelled between them. They could be like Italians, or Germans, or whatever. They were able to adapt.

Of course whenever I tell this story it’s pointed out to me that I like the theory because it makes us sound cool. And this Italian guy obviously meant it as a compliment. But it could mean that we just mimic others. That we’re not stable. That we avoid ourselves. That we are, in fact, adrift.

From the point of view of Flamenco guitar, it is true that I avoid having a ‘style’, or set of fixed techniques. That I like the idea to be able to change, and be anything I want at any fixed moment. Of course, it means whatever I do never sounds quite right, but I’ll come back to that.

So 2 videos of the same piece. An intro to a soleares by Sabicas, called Aires De Puerto Real. One, as I usually play, and the other in a more traditional position. I’m searching for the right sound, and wondering if I change position, can I find that sound easier. And if I play a lot in the traditional position, as many have done in the past, will it affect the position I normally play in. Of course there are so many options to try….

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Right brain, left brain…

I used to live next to a library. I discovered many things that still interest me there. I would wander around and pick books that grabbed me. Introductions to quantum physics, macrobiotics, 9 star ki, Zen Buddhism, vegetarian cooking, etc. Lots of fiction too, of course. I guess there are certain moments of your life where seeds get planted.

One of the books was a how to draw book, using the right hand side of your brain. I always remember it is the right side (and I’m someone who still confuses right and left!), because in the book it talked about a solid, straight L, and a flowing, italic, creative R. Anyway, the idea is that you must spend more time in the right side of your brain, because not only is this the creative side, but also the healthy side. It’s where your body heals itself, or so the theory goes.

To give an example of one of the techniques, you had draw something. Firstly, you have to turn the image, which was a line drawing, upside down. This was so that your brain couldn’t try to create something meaningful. It was best if it was just a series of lines. Then you start somewhere and very, very slowly draw lines. I remember the book explaining that eventually the aggressive, domineering, seeker of logic and meaning Left side of your brain would get bored and let the Right side take over. And this was a really good place to spend time in.

I think my main focus in learning flamenco guitar has been influenced by this. When you slow the music down to very slow, and look at a series of notes, whether classical notation, or TAB (which is numbers), in a book, there is no music, no meaning. It is just a line to follow. And I concentrated on that for a long time. For years, and for pages, and books of pieces, most of which were flamenco. After a while, I could speed it up until it was recognisably a piece of music, and then I would move on. I liked the learning, more than the playing. 

The problem lies in what to do with them after. I’ve never learned to play anything properly. I’ve just got from a to b, beginning of piece to end, and then moved on to another piece. They were vague replicas of the originals, but I think the process kept me sane (or saner), and that was really the point. When I stopped doing this, when I let all the plates drop, just over 4 years ago, I missed that. I did replace it (iPad music), but here I am, coming back to these vague replicas I had/have. What do I do with them? And do I keep doing that? More pieces, more books. It’s tempting. Or do I need a new therapy?

To be continued….