Part three in my personal strategy: Practice compassion. Daily. I truly believe in this strategy and try to live by it. These three parts are secular concepts that interface well with whatever spiritual or religious beliefs a person may have. Compassion makes the world a truly wonderful place in which to live. It is contagious, too. This can be a very cold and difficult world. The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly challenged us all.
On February 3 of this year, while taking a walk in frozen Minneapolis, Minnesota, I slipped and broke my wrist. It was a fracture of the scaphoid bone on the left hand. Extremely painful. I freaked out and began thinking my career was possibly ended. It was hard to deal with and surely put me face to face with my neat little strategy. Tranquility became difficult to attain and I encountered a good deal of anxiety. I still am. Finally, after many long weeks, the bone is healed and I’m doing physical therapy. I’m also playing guitar again, painfully, for an hour or so each day. I am, at last, confident that I will return to playing at my former level, perhaps even better, due to the many insights I have gained.
Little did I know my Meditation/Sleep/Relax music would be an important part of my healing. I also discovered some chanted mantras—one is 10 hours long!—that, along with Richter’s 8 hour piece, “Sleep”, have been great blessings. At times now, I am knowing a deep sense of peace and tranquility and compassion. I am learning to deal with anxiety. I’d only experienced it on rare occasions before. My compassion surely extends to those who experience it on a regular or even daily basis.
I am putting my music up here on the website as downloads without any cost. It feels so satisfying to do it. I hope to eventually get my entire recorded “ouvre”—how pretentious! Ha ha!—up and available to anyone who would like to listen to it. We hear so much about “monetization” these days, and I do get it. My monetization comes from performance fees, and perhaps the odd donation someone may choose to make. My book, in hard copy, as well as physical CDs I’ll continue to sell at prices sufficient to cover my production and mailing costs. That’s it. The world can be a beautiful place and I’m so eager to get back to playing live music, with other live musicians, for a live public. What a luxury!
This is the second stage of my personal Strategy for a Rich Life. Seek Tranquility.
I believe we have to actively seek it. There is just so much noise, confusion and out-right stress in the world that the quiet and still aspects can be drowned out. If we are to do good to others, to live compassionately, to share our gifts, to positively engage as World Citizens—-we need to come from a place of calm. And to do this requires some effort on our part. To seek tranquility.
How? How do we go about this? I believe “mindfulness” is key. Whatever it takes to achieve mindfulness. Crystals, astrology, meditation, I Ching, long walks, music, poetry, sacred writings. This is just part of a long list. I feel for certain that the important thing is to seek this sense of tranquility, achieve some degree of mindfulness, consciously slow down a bit. How does the 70s cliche’ go? Oh, yes: Stop and Smell the Roses. Most everyone loves roses. Not a bad idea, come to think of it.
Lately, I’ve become intrigued with “sleep music.” It is also called music for meditation, relaxation, calm. I am particularly enamored with the efforts in that direction by Max Richter. His 8 hour composition called “Sleep” is wonderful! He called it “a lullaby for a frenetic world, and a manifesto for a slower pace of existence.” I don’t think I could say it better than that.
So I devoted myself to creating my own composition of “Sleep.” It is nearly 2 hours long. It reflects my 2 years spent in India, as well as my 40 year involvement with Flamenco. I have imbedded a “bhajan,” a Hindu sacred song, in the piece. I learned it, along with the text, entitled “Aum Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram”, during the times I stayed at the Anandashram, in Kanhangad, South India many years ago. It is the ashram of a great Saint of India named Swami Ramdas, Papa Ramdas, no relation to the American-born, former Harvard professor by the same name. We chanted this bhajan and mantra each evening and I derived great peace from it. Happily, it recurred to me, in it’s entirety, when I began thinking seriously about seeking tranquility and writing music to help with that.
Perhaps the most sacred “palo,” or flamenco form, is one called Siguiriyas. I created my piece called “Contemplation” around this palo. There is a carefully imbedded and deconstructed Siguiriyas in my new creation, as well. Lastly, there is a thread of Soleares, the palo of aloneness, throughout.
This journey has been one of discovering deep peace, personally. I am so happy to share my Sleep Music.
Yes. Embrace creativity. Your own. And that of others. Can ART be seen as: what thou art?
Everyone is creative. It is what we are. Sometimes, it is obvious. Dancer, musician, film-maker, singer, painter, poet, writer. Other times, it is not so obvious.
Our thoughts are free. Dreams, hopes, aspirations. They, too, are art. Unfettered expression, our world with wings.
Fear is the Great Inhibitor. Fear of failing, of being ridiculous, of offending others, of going against the current. Of being ostracized.
I believe we must cultivate fearlessness. We all know how cool it is to be different from the pack. To stand out as an individual. To express our individuality through our look, our ideas, our “swag.”
And, beyond that, is to surrender to our most creative instincts. Juice up our lives. Hydrate our souls. Irrigate our longings, our expressions of those longings. Liberate our creative voice. Embrace Creativity.
Am I being preachy here? Professorial? Not my intention. No soapbox, either. I do want to share my ideas. A creative life is full of juice. Not too safe, Not boring.
This is Part One of my personal strategy for happiness. With or without a specific religious focus, it remains the same. Creativity. Tranquility. Compassion. Today.
I have decided to write more frequent blog posts. I’m thinking weekly but maybe 2-3 times a month is more realistic. After finally completing my book I see I’ve become accustomed to sitting down, gathering my thoughts, and writing about them. Also, I’m always seeking greater congruity in my activities. I’ve been putting a lot of time into developing a YouTube channel. It is very fun, satisfying, and provides a good focus during days of covid which equates to no or few live performances. So the blog can be seen as the written component to The Intrepid Guitar.
I am listening to Metamorphosis by Phillip Glass as I write. I love these pieces. I find I’ve become a huge fan of Max Richter’s music, also Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, and Ludovico Einaudi. I find so much to love, to admire, even to absorb (and ultimately emulate…) in their music. Richter’s Mercy slays me. Absolutely. So, in keeping with this, I’m trying my hand at Sleep music, meditation and relaxation music. Creating “soundscapes,” exploring repetitive grooves, de-emphasizing development somewhat. Looking more to the Sound and a little less to the Mechanics of it. Let’s see where this goes.
No political commentary except to express my hopes for a peaceful transition of power, a general healing of what has become an extremely divided and antagonistic citizenry. And for the adoption of a truly progressive agenda that begins to right the many wrongs that exist in this very wealthy and influential country.
After all these years of studying philosophies and systems of belief, I inadvertently stumbled upon my personal message. I’m not a preacher, so don’t expect any sermons. Probably no podcasts either.
Simply put, it is this: Embrace Creativity. Seek Tranquility. Practice Compassion.
Yes. That’s the big news, I guess. After 2 years, it’s hard to believe but this project has finally come to fruition. I’m really very happy with the way it turned out. I had an insane amount of help from my dear friend, Janice Jahn, who typed, edited, proofed and did a million other things for me. So, for now at least, the book will be available through this website. Eventually, I’ll get it out on e-book and Kindle and Nook etc, but for the moment, only hard copies are available.
Oh yes—-the BOOK is called “Love, Magic and the Guitar.” It consists of 4 books, really. Book One is The Intrepid Guitar. In conjunction with that, I’ve created a YouTube channel of the same name. Thus my new passion/obsession: making videos, trying to create meaningful and compelling content. Also, trying to get views, followers, subscribers, all that.
Book Two is The Book of Strategies and is probably as close to a “manual” as I will get. Strategies for practice and performance, memorization, improvisation, making money in music and so on.
Book Three is Love Magick and the Guitar. Mostly, it is written in 3rd person, about a guy uncannily like me, named Matias. The book is a way to pay homage to and tribute the many great people who have helped me and influenced me in my 5 decade-long career.
Book Four is The Blog Book, Glossary and Graphics. Selected blog entries from these very pages. I started writing my blog in 2007 and, although I haven’t been terribly consistent in keeping it up, it does have items of interest. Then I put just a few musical studies and charts plus a long list of my favorite players.
In all, the book is 214 pages of text. Considerable but not overwhelming. A pretty quick read, really. It has been a remarkable experience for me, an experience that has tied my life together in so many ways. It makes one realize the connectedness of their life and how, truly, “the child is the father to the man.” I think Emerson wrote that, if I remember correctly. It has also helped me understand and solidify “my message.” More about this in subsequent posts.
I am back in Minneapolis MN after grabbing a last-minute flight out of Madrid. O’Hare airport was—–harrowing, to say the least. We are all attempting to deal with this very difficult time. At the very least, it is an EXCELLENT time to stay at home, set up a regular practice schedule and Play alot of Guitar!!
I think it is important to keep your spirits (relatively) high, stay cheerful, take care of your personal appearance and maintain some type of routine. I’m starting to do alot of teaching and I’m having good luck with ZOOM. Normally, my teaching is pretty limited to around 8 students of flamenco guitar. But, since I’m not doing any live shows—I’m expanding the teaching segment.
Flamenco technique, right and left hand, flamenco pieces and variations, rhythms and compas—-yes, all of this. Also, particularly since working on my book, I’ve gotten off into strategies for effective practice, for effective use of time, for motivating oneself. Also, dealing with injuries and nail issues. Improvisational strategies are a great favorite. Argentine Tango has become a specialty of mine and I can offer a good deal of help with that. Gypsy jazz is a new passion—my right hand picking is pretty damn good (surprise!) probably from those many years of playing rock and pop. I’ve even got my ’68 Les Paul Custom tuned up and in service. And oud, too. It’s all music and it’s all exciting, inspirational, and fun!
So, I’m charging $30 for an hour class, payable to my Paypal account. Schedule at one’s convenience. After all, we have time! And, I really love having contact with other musicians now that I’m not hanging out and jamming/performing with them as I have pretty much always done. Facebook me or [email protected]
That’s the Spanish equivalent of “shelter in place.” It seems to be the most effective means of checking the spread of this dreadful and fearsomely deadly virus. Here in Madrid, just this morning the government put in place another order to stay inside for the next 15 days, at least. Spain had a very bad day yesterday: 3076 new cases and 372 new deaths bringing their totals to 28,572 cases and 1753 total deaths. So, it is VERY REAL here, don’t doubt it. And despite what one may be hearing from the US government, it will likely far surpass Spain’s suffering or even Italy’s, who are incredibly hard-hit.
I grieve for the Iranians who, despite having very high numbers of cases and deaths, are reeling under draconian sanctions imposed and even ratched-up by the US government. What is the most distressing to me is the brutality and indifference exhibited. Apparently, hard-core Republicans like the hard-ass approach—Marlboro Man once again! I am ashamed, to put it mildly. I’ve been to Iran twice and found their society and their people to be among the most generous, kind and friendly I’ve ever known. As a non-sequitar, let me add that they also produce a lot of really excellent flamenco guitarists!
So, yes, I am staying inside, pretty much ALL the time. I did go out briefly, to the supermarket, for supplies yesterday. I waited in a block-long line of people 2 meters (6 feet) apart as admittance was being very carefully regulated. When my time came, I found the shelves quite full and found plenty of manchego, yoghurt, fruits, veggies and wine. I thanked everyone I dealt with for their brave service—they were, everyone, self-deprecating but appreciative. A couple of them opened up and gave me sincere reports of what they are dealing with. The Spanish people are an inspiration. They are very touchy-feely and also tend to live very long lives and this, in part, explains the impact of the virus. Every evening, at 8 pm, on the dot, they open their windows, balconies, patios and stand up, boisterously cheering and applauding the health-care workers. I can not help myself from getting very emotional and choked up. I suppose with my age and my A-fib heart condition I am at risk. I don’t know, at this point, when I can return to the US—surely I’ll face a quarantine when that happens. I do very much want to be with my children and their families. Apart from that, I’m fine remaining here.
Lots and lots of guitar! Book editing is coming along, too. Looking into ZOOM classes. Shelter in place! Be safe!
Here I am, on lock down, at my apartment in Lavapies. Ironically, the weather is magnificent, with temps in the 70s fahrenheit. Spain has been very hard hit and it happened quite suddenly. Hard to believe that when I arrived early Wednesday morning, there was little furor and no panic. That changed rapidly. For the most part, people are “social distancing” and seem to have a basically cheerful attitude.
Personally speaking, I have a nice living situation. Plenty of food and drink, a guitar, my computer, books, a nice patio to catch some sun. I’ve been reading that fresh air and sunlight are excellent in situations like this and even kill the virus. Apparently, as antibiotics were being developed, the sunlight/fresh air treatment was much played down, even abandoned. There is no travel out of Madrid now so I can not leave—I was hoping to go to Jerez and meet up with some friends, but that may not happen.
I see that I haven’t posted on this blog for 11 months. That’s because I’ve been actively engaged in writing my book. It is pretty much written now and we’ve begun the editing process. So that, too, keeps one busy during the self-imposed lock down. This has been an exciting project and I have good feelings about it. I will start posting different pages and articles from it, here on the site. I’m thinking of a Youtube vlog/channel in support of the book eventually….
The important thing, during this crisis, is to not only protect oneself, but also to do one’s best not to infect others. Many people are at grave risk right now. As the cooperative sentiment grows (along with acting on that sentiment!), I feel people can truly come together and minimize the potentially horrific outcomes. Now is the time! Medicare for All!!!!!! Free testing and free tratment for all. A billionaire’s fortune can not shield him or her from the less advantaged who can not afford to pay and have little or no insurance. And Trump has proven for once and for all that he is woefully unequipped to lead the nation. He is a criminal and an idiot and already has blood on his hands through weeks of denial and downplaying the epidemic for personal gain. HEINOUS! His presidency should be finished. I hope so! Good riddance. A shame that it took something this terrible to fully expose him and his cronies.
Enough said. Stay well friends. Socially distance yourself. But don’t forget to love your neighbor.
Yes, indeed. Since September, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, specifically, for “the book.” Love, Magick, and the Flamenco Guitar it is called, at least as a working title. I’m generally happy and satisfied with the results so far. I think it’s time to pull back, collate all the material—a lot of it is on my dictaphone, a prehistoric devise I bought on the internet but seems to work well. So, pull all this together, see where I am in the process, decide where I am and where/how to proceed. Could be, I’ve got enough (more than…!) material and it’s time to begin the excruciating process of editing.
I spent a good part of the winter in Madrid and it was a great place to be. Minnesota had a ferocious few months and I can not handle that type of cold anymore: Guatemala has changed me, I guess. I saw a lot of shows, nothing of any great consequence; still, it is fine and fun to see the more “grass roots” performances and “gigs,” too. It is looking like I’ll be in Minnesota for most of the summer. I’m feeling Guatemala’s siren call, but too many activities happening here to get away.
My director, Dame Libby Komaiko, died in January. She directed the Ensemble Espanol, in Chicago. I was guitarist with them for 24 years. This weekend is a large scale homage event for her, in Chicago, and I’m driving down there to participate. Libby was a dear and lovely friend, also a huge part of my career as flamenco guitarist. I got to work with so many great artists while with the Ensemble. Her work was magnificent, her outreach was vast, the good she did was, and is, legendary. It should be an emotional and cathartic weekend.
My tango group, Rogue Tango, records a CD end of May. I’m performing an original work with my ballet dancer son, Aaron, in mid-May—his choreography to my music, entitled El Alma Preso. Lots of performances around town, finish up the book, chill out, take some walks, do some teaching: a busy summer. Maybe slip away some weekends; get back to Antigua, Guate end of August. That’s the update!
And frequently recurring
25 year old Matias drives in his cab
Looking for a fare
Dispatcher’s voice comes over the radio
An order for a pickup
Its in Morse code
Matias copies it, typing
On the guitar’s fretboard
In a Jeff Beck style
What have we here?