REQUIEM FOR A GUITAR TEACHER (version finale)

par dh, lundi 29 mai 2017, 19:02 (il y a 120 jours) En réponse à dh

Requiem for a guitar teacher

One year ago I learnt on Facebook the death of Mike XXXX, a guitar teacher I had in the years 90-91. He died from a bone cancer, very suddenly. I did not see him anymore for at least 25 years, but sometimes listened to the two records he did and also exchanged short mails with him. I would like to write what I remember about him and my relation with him as a student, though I probably was one of the worst student he ever had.
In his short autobiography, which is the only book he ever wrote, Fritz Zorn makes the conjecture that the cancer he developed, and that would finally kill him, is nothing else than a psycho somatic consequence of the congenital hatred he has for his family, his country, himself, and at the end the whole universe. He even says somewhere, if I remember well, that his cancer is the only work he has managed to achieve in his existence. Perhaps could we make the hypothesis that Mike's cancer of the bones was, in the same order if idea, a consequence of his deep cold hatred against the musical industry, the producers and managers he dealt with, the music critics, and all the people that make profits with music without doing it themselves. To say the truth, Mike hated nearly everybody in the modern world at that time, with the exception of his wife and daughter, and some very few musician friends who shared his ideas about music, art and life.
Mike suffered from the lack of recognition he had, and from the fact he had to give lessons to people like me to gain enough money to live well. Being himself an autodidact, he was not interested in teaching activities and was thinking his music spoke for itself and need no explanations. His guitar men were Jim Hall, Holdsworth, Frisell amongst others. He was a fan of the Beatles, the beach boys, from which he did beautiful transcriptions for solo guitar. When I met him, his material situation was rather good, but he seemed to believe that the relative comfort he finished to obtain happened too late in his life, like Schopenhauer did, because he was getting old. One day during a lesson, as we heard a particularly winded version of "blue bossa" played by students coming from the neighbor repetition studio, he said : "when I hear this music I want to shoot a bullet in my head."
I think Mike was a musician and a composer before being a guitarist. He liked better European written classical music than jazz. His technic of play was very original. He was left handed but played on a right handed guitar, like Hendrix did. He used no pick, playing all with the fingers. He was a kind of virtuoso, but not in the usual, spectacular meaning of the word i.e. playing a lot of notes very fast like Paganini or Rachmaninov, or Charlie parker. Rather, he did a great work on the sound he produced, the dynamics, the articulation, the harmonious proportions of the phrases, like with the perfect shapes of the ancient Greek statuary. To speak about his work as a composer, I would call the music he did "platonic post-jazz". He was a moral man, and his music was moral, as the platonic ideas or the Kantian moral law. It particularly appeared on XXXX, a composition on his first album, recorded live : no disorders, no chaos, no E7#9 chords hammered on the second and fourth time of the measure, no shredding, no technical demonstrations, but rather everything at the right place, a peaceful feeling of eternal serenity, like in an ideal and perfect backward world, the world of the platonic essences where the good, the beautiful and the fair are the same one thing, or perhaps the garden of Eden, before the original sin and the fall. One day he told me that he never used dominant seventh chords in his compositions, because this specie of chords was not pertinent for the purpose he assigned to his music. What was this purpose ? To correct, rather authoritatively, the mediocrity and imperfectness of the modern world, exactly like Plato designing the laws of his ideal republic. Mike excluded dominant seventh chords from his music as Plato excluded the poets from his ideal city, as a factor of imbalance and egotism.
Most students at the jazz school did not like his music, calling it boring and not exciting. The god to worship at the school was Charlie parker. You had to know what he played, what he said, and the story of his life. Someone who could not play the music of parker was considered as an under-musician. Mike often mocked this idolatry, saying it has no meaning to still play this music today. He quickly saw that I could never, and was not made, to become a professional musician. But rather than telling it clearly, he wanted me to understand and to admit it by myself. I must confess I came to loathe him at a moment, because he never did the slightest adjusting in his teaching to adapt my very low level. He thought it was up to me to adapt. The climate during the lessons became more and more loaded with frustration and despair for me, impatience then indifference for him. At the end of my third year of study at the jazz school I received a letter simply telling : "insufficient level on the instrument to follow the next year of the cursus". It was so depressing. What would I do in life ?
More than 25 years passed. I finally did my way and things have not turned too bad for me, although there have been difficult passages, as in everybody’s life. I have a permanent work in a library. I met the woman of my life three years ago and even began to play the piano one years ago, after all this time without doing any music. I managed to express myself in writing. I have no resentment against the jazz school and Mike. I now understand they did the best they could for me. I think the lessons of Mike gave me an experience of how to conduct if you want to make art in the modern world : be independent and gain your life ; do your thing without any concession : drink the hemlock rather than accommodate with the powers in place to gain small privileges, because then everything would become meaningless ; don’t pay attention to the critics and perseverate even if you have no success.

dh

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