Music and Musical Instruments

If you can talk you can sing. If you can walk you can dance. --  African proverb

    My favorite musicians and bands include Bob Dylan, Loreena McKennitt, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, The Moody Blues, Judy Collins, and Avalon Rising; these are all individuals or groups whose work I feel I know reasonably well. Others with at least a few pieces that I like, but whose work I do not claim to know well, include Indigo Girls, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Darkness, Gaspar Sanz, The Youngbloods, Joaquin Rodrigo, The Reverend Gary Davis, James Taylor, and Cat Stevens. And although I know enough to appreciate their musicianship, I have never liked the Beatles.

    Pieces of music of which I am particularly fond – and many of which I have played or tried to play on guitar – include Embryonic Journey, Mister Tamborine Man, Southern Cross, Like a Rolling Stone, All Along the Watchtower, House of the Rising Sun, Tomorrow is a Long Time, Just Like Tom Thumb Blues, Mozambique, Landslide, Pancho and Lefty, Light My Fire, Moon Shadow, One More Time To Live, One Tin Soldier, Buckets of Rain, The Selkie of Sull Skerrie, American Pie, Suzanne, Galileo, and Canarios.

    I didn’t expect either of those lists to be so long when I sat down to type them.

    The most wonderful experience I have had playing music was the slow, dawning realization that I actually was going to be able to play Jorma Kaukonen’s Embryonic Journey (from the Jefferson Airplane album “Surrealistic Pillow”) on a guitar. This work is one of the most difficult finger-style guitar pieces ever, and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful. Did I say difficult? Think “1000 notes in two minutes, and barre chords all the way”. The first time I played it through recognizably, I just about cried. For those of you who read fantasy, the experience of learning this piece was like Corwin’s ride through shadow in the first of Roger Zelazny’s “Amber” books. You start in some place ridiculous, ugly, and unrecognizable, and step by step, note by note, measure by measure, the world slowly changes into a beautiful place, a place you never thought could exist. It took me two years. Lest you think I am boasting, let me tell you how Kaukonen came to name the piece Embryonic Journey. It sounds very sixties / psychedelic era / flower children, right? Maybe so, but the reason he so named it is it was his first composition! – his own “embryonic journey” as a composer.

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Musical reviews, and other experiences:

    A Brief Encounter with Kate Price

    Dead Can Dance in Berkeley, California -- 9 August 1996

    Jay’s “Piano” Story -- A Cautionary Tale for Parents, Perhaps

    Lisa Gerrard Live in San Francisco, 24 October 1995

    Loreena McKennitt in San Francisco


Musical instruments:

    Faking a Baroque Guitar