Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Playing without walls

Walls. Fences. Lines. Do not cross. Things we learn as we navigate through the world.

To quote Metallica:

New blood joins this earth
And quickly he's subdued
Through constant pained disgrace
The young boy learns their rules

With time, the child draws in
This whipping boy done wrong
Deprived of all his thoughts
The young man struggles on and on, he's known
A vow unto his own
That never from this day
His will they'll take away"

But here's a strange thing - my heroes don't have these walls of self protection. They've been through the same stuff that we all have, yet they are so centered, so at peace with themselves, that they honestly don't care what the world throws at 'em. They realize that while a wall can block pain, it can also block everything else!

And they have the courage to apply this.

What the heck am I talking about? I was lucky enough to get to watch Mr. Doyle Dykes perform at Hot Licks Guitar Shop last Thursday. Granted, Hot Licks is a much smaller stage than some of the places he's used to playing, but in some ways, a guitar shop is the scariest venue for a musician. It's filled with other guitar players! And they're all sitting there, waiting for you to mess up.

Doyle didn't care about that. He DID care about giving us a great show, and playing his best. In Waldorf. Now that's pretty impressive.

With the quiet demeanor and charm of a country gentleman, he proceeded to rip it up, and then try to get a sing along going. No walls. He was just playing, and I don't think he was trying to prove anything. And that's refreshing to watch.
When asked about the direction that he wanted to go with this music, instead of a technical answer regarding theory or tone, he said "I want to express heart stuff." And then he did.

And since he was brave enough, with no wall, his message was conveyed perfectly in his playing.

Victor Wooten gave a clinic at the Prince Frederick Library one time. He sat there for three hours, playing incredibly beautiful music, chatting, and sharing his insights on music. At one point, he calmly said "I don't really care what you think of me, good or bad. I just play, and I'm OK with that."

Playing without walls.

I saw the Dalai Lama speak in DC one Fourth of July. There was a royal looking stage set up, with rows and rows of Buddhist monks sitting in front of it, with security, a big sound system, and even a huge TV so everyone could see what was going on.

So he walks onto the stage, fiddles with his clip on microphone, and says in a piping voice with a Tibetan accent..."Quite hot, isn't it?"

It was so odd - this spiritual giant, the supreme leader of Tibetan Buddhism, commenting on the weather.

No walls!

It takes a lot of guts, and a lot of bravery, to play music without walls. Or to live without walls.

But the results are oftentimes breathtaking. Some of the purest, soul-wrenching sounds I've heard are from
musicians who aren't in a shell, and don't have that wall defending them. They aren't afraid, and it shows.

I'm going to be dismantling some of those walls that I've put up. What about you guys?

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