Friday, February 22, 2008

Derek Bailey

My external hard drive crashed the other day and with it went my formidable iTunes library, so I am stuck in the primative state of listening to CD's for sonic entertainment. I wept a wee, precious tear for my misfortunes, but truth be told, these cullings are good for me - they force me to redefine my baselines and see what's really out there.

I grabbed a couple handy choices for the car today, a little bummed at not have my usual iPod's worth at my disposal. I was about to pop in the lesser of four evils when out slid a CD-R someone burned for me of Derek Bailey's guitar improvisations, and in his plinks and plunks and surprising reliance on harmonics, my faith in the universe is renewed.

Bailey sought for non-idiomatic music, people coming at an instrument not to obey or disobey convention but to create something personal and unique, to be a Zarathustra approaching Geetar Mountain. He used standard tuninig, standard gear, standard everything and used that as a basis for creation, even when his own body started to fail him. Astutely stated in his Wikipedia entry:

Carpal Tunnel, the last record to be released during his lifetime (ed. he died
on Christmas day 2005), documented his personal struggles to come to terms with
the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in his right hand, which had rendered him unable to grip a plectrum (and in fact marked the onset of his motor neurone disease). Characteristically, he refused invasive surgery to treat his condition, instead being more "interested in finding ways to work around" this limitation. He chose to "relearn" guitar playing techniques by utilising his right thumb and index fingers to pluck the strings.

The whole reason I love writing about music so much is that it has a way of dipping into the machinations of what is going on with me personally and helps me the contraption of life in the direction I want, moreso than any other art form. Today, on one of the periodic cruxii of perpetually redefining myself, this disc of rackety guitar noodling was the perfect thing to slide out of the jewel case of some other CD.

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