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Of Music and Magic.......

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Hello all, I have been thinking about the universal appeal of music... how it can reach across barriers of language, culture and age and connect the composer with the performer, and the performer with the listener. What is "it"? What is the nature of that magical connection that occurs when a listener stops what they are doing because a piece of music grabs their attention, causing a slow smile to spread across the face... or a foot to start tapping... or an appreciative "hmmm" with a raised eyebrow? The reactions vary, but the listener knows immediately when the magic is there - something in the music touches them - and connects with their heart, mind or spirit in no certain order. Of course, each listener brings their own set of ears and musical reference points. What is wonderful to some is appalling to others. My teenaged daughters dig the rap/pop stuff - and the repetitive and overproduced nature of this music really annoys me - the absolute opposite of the magic I seek. Yet the magic is there for them, and I think any piece of music is valid if only one person likes it. There is no right or wrong music. I remember my parents asking me to turn off Kansas' "Dust In The Wind" and my daughters would consider this tune very "eighties" - their term for all things passe and "oldie". So here is my point of musical reference: I am forty five, and have played guitar most of my life, though never professionally. I am currently learning some absolutely gorgeous arrangements by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith. Johnny played a chord-melody style with a clever, harmonically rich musical voice. By the way, Johnny is retired and living in Colorado Springs which he considers "as far away from New York as I can get, without getting too close to LA". I was honored to speak with Johnny a few times recently and he is doing very well. I find Johnny's arrangements to be brutally difficult to play smoothly - part of the reason I love them so much. I do not read music, so I've been learning these tunes by listening closely and figuring out the changes, and by using chord charts I've found for a few arrangements. NOTE: For all you mac users out there, check out a great shareware app called The Amazing Slow Downer http://download.cnet.com/downloads/0-10216-100-4215378.html?tag=st.dl.10005-103-1.lst-7-1.4215378 which stretches the length of an audio file up to 400 percent , while maintaining the original pitch. The quality of the audio suffers, but all the notes are there, making it a very cool learning tool, and the ONLY way I could have figured out some of Johnny's chord passages. For the past week I have been learning "Tenderly" from JS's "Moonlight In Vermont" album. This arrangement is a BITCH to play! And oh my god is it beautiful! If anyone reading this is a guitar player and would like a weighty musical challenge, I will post an mp3 and chord chart for "Tenderly". But I digress.... My musical tastes are wide and varied. I love music that swings [Roomful of Blues, Benny Goodman sextet] or flows [Bonnie Raitt, India Arie] or kicks [Joe Satriani, ZZ Top]. Now... there are some composers/artists who manage to infuse boatloads of magical swing, flow and kick into one piece of music - Mozart and The Beatles come to mind. What was happening in the minds of these musicians when they began with a blank slate... and created something truly magical? I do believe that for some, creating musical magic is as easy as breathing - and for the rest of us, we just have to work a bit harder. And in the case of The Beatles, I'd suggest a large part of the magic was due to one of my favorite types of human communicaton - synergy. Each Beatle was talented in his own right, but when they were together.... jeez. And of course, the fifth Beatle, George Martin, was equally important in this magical mix. The art of producing music [recording, mixing, mastering] are equal to the arts of composition and performance in terms of a tunes magic quotient...doncha think? But my questions are the same for all of us involved in the creation and presentation of music. Where does the magic come from? What is it that makes one melody insufferable, and another melody unforgettable? What is the "it" that a talented and intuitive recording or mastering engineer adds that can kick the magic up a few notches? Why is it that some melodies, like "Danny Boy" and "Shenandoah" are timeless? I've written this post mostly because I want to learn... I want to know what other musicians think and wonder and have learned from their time in the trenches - be it performing onstage, setting up and pressing "record" in a studio, sitting during a quiet moment searching for inspiration, or feeling that strong "need" to find the nearest instrument and just play something - that internal compulsion to express through music. What are the sources of our own personal musical muse, and how can we learn to develop and enhance this place in ourselves - this capacity for creating magic. There are no absolute truths here... but I just betcha we can teach and learn about a few things about magic and synergy and music. So I invite anyone reading this to do a "brain dump" as I have here, and spill your guts, speak your heart, and ask and answer any question that comes to mind. Best Regards, Dennis Turner Cedarville, Ohio
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