Erase, reboot, destroy

I have been re-reading William Gibson's 'The Peripheral' and marvelling at the man's imagination. Not that the idea of a future where a mysterious server can connect people to a possible past time so that people from 60 years apart can interact using peripheral devices. No, it's more that Gibson can imagine a future where computers can do anything without slowing down or breaking.

I am having laptop issues. About the only satisfying interaction I've had with it this week is managing to click the button that started the seven level erasing of the hard drive before it goes to the repairers. that's not paranoia, just an expression of control that isn't there.

Now I'm wondering if the laptop hasn't become a metaphor.


It's all abuot the oud

My musical experiments with the oud have taken another step. Possibly a step forwards. After years of listening to and enjoying oud playing I decided to give it a go, starting with a beautiful, handmade traditional instrument but giving up because the practicalities were driving me mad. The curved back (its, not mine), the violin style tuning pegs and the tuning of eleven strings on an instrument that was never in tune when it came out of its case, put me off.

So, I got a modern oud. Mine is made by Godin and it has a flat back, guitar style tuners and a tendency to stay in tune from one day to the next. It’s not for purists, but I love it.

The next issue was tuning. I had started with a Turkish classical tuning which didn’t quite hit the spot. Then I tried tuning it in fourths. This helped as I knew where all the notes were, but failed because it made the oud sound like a stupid, badly intonated guitar. I found the tuning that Anouar Brahem uses. I love his playing, but his tuning combined with my playing style didn’t work either. Then I spotted guitar maestro David Torn playing an oud and, through the wonders of Facebook, I wrote and asked what tuning he used. David took the time to explain and the moment I began to play I felt I’d arrived.

The penultimate part of the puzzle was playing technique. I’m still working on that but seem to have found a happy medium between traditional and not-even-slightly traditional.

Finally, I needed to play. I called up my guitarist friend Russ and we began to jam, coming up with some piece for acoustic guitar and oud in which we stayed out of each other’s frequencies as much as possible. We’re now on our seventh piece, each one being different in style and each one impossibly hard to classify easily. What began as Arabic Bluegrass seems to have settled into its own genre. What’s fascinating (maybe only to me) is the way that guitar and oud playing together sometimes touch on the territory of the lute, which is the instrument that came from the oud and led to the guitar.

What is satisfying is that my confidence is growing and I’m exploring an acoustic instrument that doesn’t primarily work in an accompanying role. The only problem is trying to find the time to squeeze this in with the fun I’m having as a bass player and the progress I’m trying to make on the touch guitar.


Back to Music

Last week New Accelerator rehearsed its set. We weren’t at our best but the songs all hold up even if a few bars of our only cover version meant Bobby the drummer and I playing the same sequence over and over again. The next step is to book gigs and see what other people make of us.

Meanwhile, the folk(ish) trio I play upright bass in has been booked to support a Canadian band, in a church, next week. Our pianist works long, grinding hours in London and so the three of us have only managed one rehearsal. I suspect there will be plenty of mistakes, but then we’re pretty good at working around these and keeping the songs together. Having no drummer means making sure one of us is keeping time and as the bassist that’s often me.

We, like New Accelerator, have opted to weed out the covers and stick with original tunes. It’s easier to play covers because most people get a sense of familiarity and will accept your performance early on. Playing original music is like walking into a pub and talking to someone you’ve never met about something they may not be interested in. On the other hand, playing original music and having people like it is way more satisfying than playing Mustang Sally. Way more.

On top of this I let the Spingere album, Rain, out into the world with no publicity. So far only one person has heard it, but they called it “beautiful” so I’m looking at 100% customer approval.


The Truth About Tenting

So, after all my whining I enjoyed the camping experience. Green Eggs and Ham.

We turned up to find the party in full swing which gave me a chance to put the tent up with the expert help of Richard Guitarist, whose house we were camped next to. The tent went up and, as this was the first time I’d seen it up, I was quite impressed. I sorted out bedding and then J came in and finessed everything (she turned the shoe holder into a small library).

Eventually I went to the party and met up with some familiar and quite a lot of unfamiliar faces. The place was swarming with children, the hog was roasted and there was plenty of cake and wine. The mood was great.

But of course there were distractions. My great pal Emma (singer in New Accelerator) was there and so was Richard’s new guitar/bass (a rather lovely Squire VI) so that helped as well.

Once we left the party the real camping began. Jude and I settled in and then were joined by J and Freya. A rather intense sibling battle broke out over glow sticks and then, eventually, we got our heads down. It rained, heavily, all night.

I woke up feeling surprising refreshed. The rain and wind and dawn chorus had woken me a few times but overall it had been fine. I quickly got dressed and read as many chapters of my book as possible before the others got up.

It wasn’t a real camping experience since we didn’t have to cook our own food. For me the perfect camping breakfast would be like this was; coffee and croissants in a nice, warm kitchen. But we did enjoy it and would do it again. Maybe there’s a lesson to learn here.