I’ve always been after a more mellow sound than what I can currently get out my guitar. Madeleine suggested I try D’Addario Silk and Steel strings, so I bought a pack a few days ago and have been playing them since. I asked Steve to demo the strings, as well as my lovely guitar Larissa, cause my abilities aren’t good enough to really show her off.
Sometimes I love them cause they’re so bright and clear, other times I hate them cause the tone comes off as thin and frail; it really depends on what kind of music I’m playing. When Steve plays them they’re shockingly bright and piercing compared to the sound I get; I’m not sure if it’s the difference in our nails or technique (or both).
They’re definitely meant for fingerpicking cause they’re so light that even moderate strumming will make them buzz, which severely limits my possible repertoire. On the bright side, it’s much easier to fret barre chords, and certain passages that were a struggle to play cleanly only require a light touch now.
Another advantage is that the tone makes me feel like I’m playing a different guitar. Even though it’s not quite the dry and mellow sound of a classical nylon, it’s somewhat staving off my desire to buy the Taylor I’ve been eying, but who knows how long that’ll last.
Steve’s the only person I know who lives by the guitar, both literally and figuratively. I’ve seen such brilliant things come out of his fingers. Sometimes in the middle of a song I’m showing him, he’ll pick up the melody and go somewhere completely different with it that’s more beautiful than the original. And even though he’s mainly a jazz guy (after Wes Montgomery), he can play any style from classical to flamenco.
I’ve taken up his belief in not using a pick and sticking with my fingernails. “Just another thing between you and the guitar”, he said to me once. And when I explain how I’m stuck on something he’ll say, “Have you done it three-and-a-half million times?” to remind me that anything’s possible with enough practice. He’s filled with all these tiny yet crucial bits of information that have influenced how I approach the instrument.
Consider the ravens. They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.
It’s starting to get uncomfortably busy. There’s always someone else to visit, another person to catch up with. Projects have a way of finding me too; I’ll hear a song and decide that I need to make an arrangement, or someone will approach me for a website or video when they’re pursuing dreams of their own.
Me and Trolley and Steph and Aaron and not you. I win.
(I have yet to get a picture of Trolley with a full glass of beer.)
It’s the same way when it comes to figuring out what to eat lately. I open an empty fridge a half dozen times, each time thinking I’ll find a hidden cache of food that wasn’t there before, then someone will call me for dinner.
I’ve been fortunate enough to jam with a few people too, including Heather, who pulled out her cello for the first time in her adulthood to give me root notes on the baseline. One draw of the bow across those strings has convinced me that I want one of my own; the tones are rich and meaty, something you feel through the entire instrument, and especially the tension of the ribbon (and I thought the guitar was tactile). We even convinced Sergey to pick up some mallets and strike the keys of a glockenspiel with us, the first time in his life he’s ever played an instrument.
I’m looking forward to the Fall, when I have nothing else booked. Part of me wishes I could take a year off and lock myself in a cottage somewhere and work on my own projects without interruption, but I don’t mind so much right now. Luckily, the work is always fulfilling, regardless of whether it’s for me or not, because so often I get to collaborate with such wonderfully creative people. I just need to ride the delicate line between distraction and over-stimulation.
She told me she tried to find this album I used to put on when we were huddled in the darkness. The problem was that she could only remember the cover, and it was after we stopped talking for the third time or something cause otherwise she would have asked.
Then she was in Chapters one day. This book of best albums of the 2000s fell down, and there it was, Ágætis byrjun, open at the page. “What are the chances?”, she asked me.
I used to think of her listening to the songs I gave her with another guy and grow jealous. But I could never say I didn’t have my own memories associated with that album, lying between a wall and warm body on a bed swollen with covers in New Jersey. I watched Jón Þór Birgisson sing into the pickups of his guitar, his ethereal voice gently making the strings tremble, in a summer romance so long ago.
That was my introduction to Sigur Rós, and in the same way I passed this album on to her. It made me feel so vulnerable to be next to her in those moments (whether she realized it or not). Every time it came on was an emotional flashback, a short-circuit to this part of my past about which I’ve told so few.
I used to hope she kept the songs I gave her to herself, and that she didn’t use them to woo another guy the way I had always tried to with her. Perhaps I was a little possessive about my music and somewhat judgmental on who I deemed to be deserving enough to hear it. Eventually I realized that it’s not fair of me to feel that way. She had shared so many songs with me in turn, giving me as much as I’d given to her, and I’ve since passed those songs on to others.
Now I wonder who else will eventually experience these songs, and what memories of their own they’ll have when they hear them.