Archive for 2009-08

Golden

02009-08-31 @ 23:08

A few photos from last week. That’s why they call it the golden light, just before the light turns blue… Guitarcase in my kitchen.

Golden light plus rainbow and red spot, in DMV!

DMV, hugging the floor. The past and future is a blur, only the present in sharp focus.

Golden

02009-08-31 @ 22:08

That’s why they call it the golden light, just before it turns blue…

Monday in Santa Fe

02009-08-31 @ 13:08

Looks like I am back on the infosuperhighway. I’ll have music for you tomorrow.

Wednesday in Santa Fe

02009-08-27 @ 08:08

A day filled with mundane tasks, dealing with garbage and recycling, cleaning, doing dishes, putting fresh armor on my nails (((I gave my nails a rest after Jon and I returned from the private performance in New York and took a week off of guitar-playing))) and playing guitar… all the while thinking about Bella, my Tibetan Mastiff.

The old girl, born in 1997, has a nasty open tumor on her back and we will soon have to decide what’s best for her.

Maybe inspired by Bella’s fate, I have had great conversations with Roshi Joan and others about end-of-life. Surely death is as big a deal for any life as birth is, but we don’t seem to talk about it much and most people would rather forget about it.

Anyway, I won’t go into it because, well, you signed up for music, not for my writing about death, which you might find morbid.

Here is another happy-Bella-pic:

Tuesday in Santa Fe

02009-08-25 @ 20:08

Overcast with rain now and then. Dug a hole for the little three foot tree that was a gift from the school we did the benefit concert at the Lensic in June for. The soil around here is mostly sand and rocks and digging even one to two feet down takes a lot of effort. Well, it’s got a new home now and the drizzle-rain gave it the perfect welcome.

Went back to the Canyon Preserve and took a few photos. Colors looked incredible in the muted light of the overcast sky.

Minimal Mac
I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
— Leonardo da Vinci

In the evening I made dinner for Roshi Joan Halifax, who I had not seen since we met in Soho, Manhattan, in May (((we were playing at the Blue Note, she was doing something at the U.N.))). Interestingly we knew that we were both in Manhattan via Twitter.

From the New Yorker. This is the article, but you need to subscribe to read all of it.

Molchanova uses a technique that she refers to as “attention deconcentration.” (“They get it from the military,” Ericson said.) Molchanova told me, “It means distribution to the whole field of attention – you try to feel everything simultaneously. This condition creates an empty consciousness, so the bad thoughts don’t exist.”
“Is it difficult to learn?”
“Yes, it is difficult. I teach it in my university. It’s a technique from ancient warriors-it was used by the samurai-but it was developed by a Russian scientist, Oleg Bakhtiyarov, as a psychological-state-management technique for people who do very monotonous jobs.”

That’s hardly a new technique or something invented by the Russian military. In Zen, this is called just sitting, or shikantaza. In fact, I think it was preceded by a hunting technique that may be thousands of years old, whereby hunters learned to sit still and use panoramic attention, that is, attention that is distributed all around the body instead of focused on one particular spot.

It is curious that I started practicing this technique on my own as a child. I would sit down somewhere and just de-focus. I would hear everything around me, I would see things that moved in the field of my vision, and my awareness was just like a spehere radiating from where I sat. It was just a game I played by myself.

What bored engineers can do with an automated console:

Monday Snakes

02009-08-24 @ 09:08

Here is a recent recording for those who wonder what the latest band sounded like. This is “Snakecharmer” from Dallas on August 5th, as always recorded straight off the board by Alan. There was a new fourth verse unison by Jon and Stephen, alternating between 3/4 and 4/4. Michael Chavez did the dumbek solo.

Audio MP3

You can download the 320kbps mp3 file here.

The set list for Dallas was (from memory):

Snakecharmer
Three Days Without You
Morning Light
Firelight
Santa Fe
Heart Still/Beating
Borrasca

Intermission

Silence
La Luna
Streetlight
Up Close/2 the Night
Two Sisters/Duende Del Amor

Encore:
Samba Pa Ti
Barcelona Nights

Did I forget anything, Stephen?

Sunday in Santa Fe

02009-08-23 @ 08:08

Stephen alerted me to this slideshow of photos from the Aladdin in Portland on Flickr:

Saturday in Santa Fe

02009-08-22 @ 10:08

I love these rumors. Never confirm or deny! Here is a link to an old rumor-collection from 2003.

If you like trains… here is a video I found on Vimeo:

Videos

02009-08-22 @ 08:08

Ottmar Liebert – Selected Videos
A new page where I collect videos.

Thursday

02009-08-21 @ 11:08

In the evening, dinner al fresco with friends. The weather has been spectacular and it’s been really nice to be home.

Check out these beautiful living root bridges!

Great rant about the sharing of music and the user experience:

the music of sound » On the sharing of music… #music #piracy #user_experience #FAIL
But thats like putting an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff, I think the main philosophical change has to be that the erosion of value must be reversed. In the history of music formats the LP is still the ultimate in my opinion, because of the ritualistic way which you engage with it. You have to consciously put an LP on to listen to it and in so doing you engage with the artwork. Every format since then (cassette -> CD -> MP3) has been a reduction in experience and this is where I think music delivery as an artform has been a failed experiment (other than in specific cases) where the user loses. Is it a coincidence that music has become a faceless, artless data file and at the same time kids don’t really care about it, place value on it or are prepared to spend money on it?

I suggest reading the whole piece.

Last Week-1

02009-08-20 @ 12:08

I took these photos in Manhattan last weekend.

Tuesday in Santa Fe

02009-08-18 @ 08:08

Had to stay at an airport hotel in Newark on Sunday, because our flight was canceled. Weather was the reason given. Arrived home on Monday evening. Glad to have some time in Santa Fe now.

Flamenco guitars sound better at this altitude, about 7,500 feet, and low humidity, 20-40%. I have written that before, but it always becomes apparent when I return here.

Monday Candlelight

02009-08-18 @ 08:08
Audio MP3

That is Candlelight, as performed on July 1st, 2008 at the SOhO club in Santa Barbara. Musicians: OL, Jon Gagan + Stephen Duros.

You can download the high quality 320kbps mp3 file here. As always, the link will be live for 60 days.

Letter to a Young Musician #5

02009-08-17 @ 20:08

Dear Friend,

There is practicing and there is performing and they are two very different sides of a coin. Practice is a solitary act while performance involves an audience, large or small. Having an audience changes everything.

Practice is something you will get used to doing every day, like eating, drinking, sleeping. Few artists perform every single day.

The truth is, you can’t practice performing. You practice to practice and you can practice to get ready to perform, but performing is so very different…

You can practice landing, rolling and catching your fall, but you can’t practice parachuting – unless you jump out of a plane. You can train your body to run a long distance, but you can’t train running a marathon race in a large pack of runners – unless you run many marathons.

So that’s how you practice performing – by performing. It’s as simple as that. The more you perform, the better you become at performing. The more you perform the more at ease with performing will you become. True, some people are natural performers, but I find that they are rare exceptions. Most people grow into themselves on stage over time.

After we returned from our first tour in 1990, we did a benefit concert in Santa Fe. Everyone in the band had lots of friends in the audience and we were excited and nervous. As a result we raced through 90 minutes of material in about an hour. Now, many years later the band seems to settle into a certain tempo for a song and that tempo doesn’t change much from performance to performance.

And remember: practicing is practicing and performing is performing. Do both!

Letter to a Young Musician #4

02009-08-17 @ 20:08

Dear Friend,

Today I am thinking about time. Time is important to a musician, that’s obvious. Music consists of time and pitch. Without time there can be no song. A melody can only exist in time. A melody can only be heard because our minds can store time, for without memory a melody would remain a series of unconnected sonic events. The beauty of music lies in the many different associations and memories a mind can attach to the flow of a melody.

Our perception of those sounds-connected-through-time, or melody, varies from person to person and can be improved by practice. Modern classical music or Bebop Jazz often contain very long melodies that evaporate in most listeners brains. It takes training to follow these long lines, and may be an excellent antidote to a short attention span. I read somewhere that the average listener can hold about 7-9 notes in their attention. Bebop melodies are usually much longer than that.

Time is the essence of music in its guise as the sisters rhythm and melody. And time is also the duration of your practice. Most musicians serve a good portion of their lifelong practice as teenagers. We may never regain that sense of time we have as teenagers – everything is still ahead of us… and four or even eight hours of playing our instrument feels completely natural.

Allow me to give you this advice:
Don’t worry about being popular in school or in college. The unpopular kids have time to practice their musical instruments or paint, take photographs or devise science projects. The popular kids on the other hand are busy going to parties, their social calendars packed with events. Sure, you might watch them with longing, but being popular in school isn’t all that. (((although honestly, how would I know, I wasn’t popular in school and spent most of my free time playing guitar and reading…)))

What happens to the popular kids when they grow up? Maybe they become real estate agents or sell cars or find another profession where they can use the social skills they learned as teenagers?

And since I am on the subject of time…

We always look for the quick fix, don’t we, the silver bullet, the advantage?

That is true in terms of becoming a better player and also true for getting signed by a record company, finding a manager or agent etc. We never think it happens fast enough. What if I tell you that I was signed by a record label exactly when I lost interest in getting signed? Or at least stopped pursuing a recording deal and instead made the music I wanted to make.

I think this also parallels our search for happiness or enlightenment. We may find either exactly when we give up searching. Unfortunately we can’t start out by giving-up-searching… the quest must come first.

Time is the best teacher, but you’ll have to allow yourself and your music to ferment. Think of yourself as a cauldron of soup – let the spices mix, let the flavors develop, let the ingredients get softer… and play the music that makes you happy.

I shall end my letter with this observation:
In the beginning we play out-of-time, because we are scrambling to find the correct notes. When the fingering becomes more familiar, time remains sloppy while we learn to move from note to note. Later the correct rhythm emerges, at first clumsily and then more fluid… and when we listen to a master play music we can hear him/her stretch and squeeze time, playing before or after the beat… but returning to the downbeat at will. Another spiral of learning. At some point we arrive at a new stretching-of-time, only now it has become our choice and an expression of emotion, rather than the inability to move to the next note smoothly.

Time. It is the great puzzler. Enjoy your time…

Letter to a Young Musician #3

02009-08-17 @ 20:08

Dear Friend,

How should you find your sound?

Well, every hand is different, every nail strikes the strings at a slightly different angle. So, if you play long enough, your sound will eventually emerge somehow. There are rules, but they can all be broken. For example, I file my nails to a shape that is “wrong” according to some experts.

I think there are two elements to “your” sound. The first is the sound-production itself, how your fingers strike the string, where they strike the string. Many guitarists don’t make use of the many different sounds one can coax from the nylon strings and the box. That length of guitar from the fretboard-side of the soundhole all the way to the bridge is rich with different sounds. This can also help with the tuning of the guitar. Sometimes plucking the string in a different position will sound more in tune. (I recently watched a Julian Bream video and was impressed at how he would bend this note in a chord here and that note there… he was always aware of the pitfalls of a fretted instrument and the well-tempered scale)

The second element is what you play. Some guitarists are instantly recognizable, like Carlos Santana for example. Others have a more chameleon-like approach and it takes a while to hear their personality. One is not better than the other. Just different.

Finding your sound is a little bit like finding what you should do for a living, or finding your place in life. It seems to come to us of itself, almost sneaks up in the dead of the night. One day we wake up and from then on we wear our heart in our melodies. Maybe finding your sound has a lot to do with finding yourself and finding yourself comes out of being natural. In the West natural refers to whatever humans have not manipulated, controlled, or despoiled. That’s a dualistic view. It separates humans from nature. In the East, what is natural is what exists according to its true nature. There is no separation, no dualism. That also means that there is no despoiled nature devoid of humans to return to.

What is your nature? What does your nature sound like?

I discovered that at the core of my melody is a slightly melancholy feeling. Even when I am expressing happiness you will find a few notes that speak of longing. But, that is as much a part of me as my crooked right index finger – it turns to the right and because of that turn the nail is perfectly parallel to the string. A flaw may become a pearl in time.

Don’t forget to practice. And keep thinking about what your nature sounds like!

Letter to a Young Musician #1

02009-08-15 @ 09:08

Dear Friend,

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

That is what the protagonist says in Herman Hesse’s wonderful novel ‘Siddhartha’, when a prospective employer asks him what he can do. Those three talents would be of great advantage for any young musician as well. Maybe we should replace ‘I can think’ with ‘I can play’…

“I can wait.”

A professional musician WILL spend a good amount of his life waiting – for the start of the concert, for the boarding of the flight, for the bus to reach the next venue, for the recording to get finished, for the CDs to arrive in stores, and most importantly for a check to arrive, months or sometimes years later… Being able to wait is a difficult skill to master. Most people will get bored, but one skilled in waiting will not.

“I can fast.”

Being able to fast is a handy ability as well. Being able to cook for oneself is good – cheaper than going out. Being willing to eat rice and beans and sink one’s money into studio-time can be important…

“I can play.”

This ability is not as obvious you might think. Children can play, but can you, or have you already lost that skill? Most people lose it, you know, sometime in their teenage years. Children play with abandonment and don’t mind if the result isn’t perfect. Most adults on the other hand tend to be self-conscious and try to avoid mistakes. Consequently adults tend to stick with what they know. For a musician that means they keep returning to patterns they have rehearsed, scales they know like the back of their hand. That’s not really playing though… Somewhere between the scales and chords we know and the exuberant noise of abandonment lies the real music, and to get to it is the real dance of creating.

Those three skills may not seem like much to you now, but believe me they are rarer than you think, and much more useful than you can imagine.

Remember to practice.

Not Gone Fishing

02009-08-13 @ 16:08

I am leaving early in the morning to play for a private party on Saturday. My computer is leaving to get fixed. We are going separate ways. I’ll be back Monday. I hope the computer will be back sometime next week. I did set up a Monday music post to publish automatically in the early morning hours of the 17th. If you want to check up on me this weekend – twitter.com/ottmar and twitter.com/ottmarliebert.

Phoenix Revisited

02009-08-13 @ 11:08


Stephen took this photo in Phoenix, while I was giving the worst interview of my career.

Interview

02009-08-13 @ 10:08


Stephen took this photo in Phoenix.

 


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