12 August 2006

i can see for miles

Every once in a while you can get very lucky. You get a glimpse of what is possible, you get a chance to see the world through someone else's eyes. Allow me to tell you about my Saturday morning. Get comfy, this could take a while...

I went to collect the money for the old Yamaha. I'd arranged to go early to catch the guitar teacher before his first student arrived. When arranging the meeting, I'd mentioned how different the replacement guitar - a Maton 12 string - felt, and that I was on the point of going back to the Yammy. He said "bring it out and we'll check the set-up". I mumbled "OK".

Of course this caused me a problem. He'd want to see me play to identify why I was having trouble and, of course, the truth is I'm shit at at guitar. I can't really play properly. So I asked Mrs VVB, who gave me one of those...female...looks, and said something including the words "male", "pride", "testosterone" and "stupid". I eventually deduced I was being given a message.
Back to this morning. I waited until he opened the doors and then in I went. "Did you bring the Maton?", he asked. Ummm. Went back to car and got it. Laid the case on his desk, he took it out, played a few chords. I had never heard that depth of sound from it since I'd owned it. "Yes" he said, "it's got a wider neck and I bet you hold it like this?" demonstrating. Ummmm. "This is what you'll need to do."

Then a short anatomy lesson; how the hand works, which tendons get used and overused, how the tension goes up your arm, the elbow ('tennis elbow') and into your neck. Yep, it all sounded very, very familiar. Now in fact I knew a little of this, but to have it explained very carefully and matter-of-factly was actually somewhere between reassuring and revelatory. I started to get the feeling this bloke just loved what he did.

And that's when it started. He's playing at his nephew's wedding this afternoon (the teacher's brother being a good friend of mine, hence the connection). He showed me the set list, picked up a classical guitar and off he went. Not just playing...explaining, telling the story of the music, the composer, who else around the world plays, the different schools of thought on classical guitar, why he belongs to a particular school.

Now, I love music but I'm a legend in my own lunchtime, as already admitted. That said, I reckon I have some feel for it and I love music in my life. But this was another dimension. For a second, I saw down through the ages - why some chords provoke certain feelings and responses, why some keys have similar effects on people. The timelessness...the relationship of key to key, of note to note, that hasn't changed over all that time.

For a second, you understand how
"music hath charms", why it is such a universal language. How it can bridge divides. You wonder what more it could achieve given the right conditions.

This was all pretty amazing and uplifting, for a Saturday morning especially. But as it turned out, his 9am lesson never arrived so we just got chatting. We covered a bit of politics, teaching, children, the decline of civility, and people we'd known. Why are people the way they are, why do they do the things they do. Maybe not 'they', maybe 'we'.

Concerned that not having students show up wasn't a very good business model, I asked about his plans. He's a primary school teacher as a day job but the music shop and teaching is the retirement strategy. The cash flow is less important than his own continuing progression as an artist, but more importantly the pleasure he gets from transferring his knowledge. This was so tangible I could feel it. I mentioned about my fear that he'd ask me to play something. "No" he said, "you can do that when you're ready. Drop in anytime."

I reckon we should start cloning as soon as we can, and we should clone people like this. The world would be a far better place.


MadameBoffin said...

To inspire a love of music in yourself is a wonderful thing. To inspire a love, or a deeper love/appreciation of music in someone else is... magical. I get the impression that this teacher is like a font of musical knowledge that would be a delight to drink from. I have an uncle who is similar. A great-uncle actually. He's a Dutch minister, speaks 6 languages fluently (Dutch, Latin, Greek, French, German & English) and understands more. He has a wider understanding of people and of history than I could ever hope. His greatest joy is sharing his knowledge - not in a preachy, superior way. Just a sharing of what he knows to someone who wants to hear it. He is the most decent person I know. You are so right - the world needs more people like this.

Anonymous said...

aweome stuff phil... where is the guy located? i knew a guitar instructor who was a school teacher and lived in the western suburbs. inspirational guy.

would love to see more posts like this phil, your inspirations always make great telling. more more more. hearing about what inspires you is more interesting than preaching to the converted about the weasal et al


phil said...


THanks for the kudos. This was extraordinary - ie extra, ordinary. It's hard to find moments like this all the time to inspire me. I'll need to look harder - or be more receptive, be on the lookout, like I used to be many years ago when I did some photography.

This bloke is in Kelvin Grove and the brother is also a good friend of yours.

About Me