Speaking of Inspiration

I’m so effin busy, this post has been half written since back during the Xanadu Days.  But I finally finished it.  Enjoy!

What inspires you?

I’ve had my head full of Muses and heavenly Inspiration for the past few weeks, you see. And of course the moment anything stirs that messy glorious soup wherein my creative juices smolder and bubble, percolate and stew, my first thoughts turn to music. Yes, there’s this writing thing. And the photography thing. And now this whole producing thing…but music is the first thing I think of.

I know. I realize that I am writing about music. Hush up and read on.

A while back I wrote about some of my favorite songs. Now, with all this talk of inspiration, I thought I’d share with you all some of the musicians who inspire me as a musician.

I started my musical career as a classical guitarist at the age of 6, so that’s where I’ll start. Probably one of the most amazing classical guitarist I’d ever seen was Andres Segovia.  I used to watch him and try to copy all the mannerisms and fingering that he would do on the few occasions I was lucky enough to see him on television.  I couldn’t find any videos of him playing these two songs I practiced endlessly back then, so here’s a few talented performers doing their own rendition: Malaguena and Aranjeuz Mon Amour .  I’d never say I ever got it down as good as these guys, but I rocked it in my own right.

The next instrument I turned my eye to was the bass.  In all honesty, I switched to the bass because it was 1. in high demand, especially for a girl and 2. I didn’t have to concentrate and think quite as much as I did playing classical guitar.  It allowed me to do something while playing that I never got to do, and that was just groove.  Go with the flow.  Feel the music, and improvise.  Classical guitar has tons of improviation potential, if you are very very awesome.  Otherwise it sounds like crap.  Bass, on the other hand, is far more forgiving, at least for me.  My inspiration for the bass is the inimitiable Gordon Sumner, heretofore referred to by his more commonly known name, Sting.  His bass lines for The Police were simple, elegant, playful, and not overly showy.  Solid, as my friend Mike aka @drnormal would say.  I once read an article he did for Bass Player magazine back in 2000, where they asked him about the importance of space when playing the bass. He responded:
“For me, the sound is only half of music – the space between the notes is also vitally important. I gave a speech at Berklee College of Music a couple years ago and talked about silence. As musicians, all we do is create a frame for silence, because silence is the perfect music.”
That concept really resounded for me.  Suffice to say, there’s a heck of a lot of Police in my bass practice repertoire.
I have lots of other instruments I dabble casually in; included in that list is the saxaphone, the drums, in particular the bodhran, and various flutey bits.  None of those are instruments I’d consider myself  particulary inspired by any one performer, so my last entry has nothing to do with an instrument, except perhaps voice – truly a marvelous instrument in its own right, to be sure.  Despite the jabs I most certainly will receive from friends and readers about writing a single music-related blog post without mentioning Sarah McLachlan, I’ve got to include her.  She’s freaking brilliant, talented in a hundred different ways, and uses her powers to create amazingly good for people everywhere. and female musicians in particular.  Sarah McLachlan is truly an amazing artist, and her inspiration to me is what you can do with music.  She’s proved you can change the world with it, between her philanthropic work and the Lilith Fair (you did hear it’s coming back this year, right?  Check the website I linked right there!)  I mean seriously, can you possibly watch that damn ASPCA commercial without bawling?  I can’t.  So unfair.
I was originally going to end with Sarah there, but it occurred to me that there was one other musician who truly inspires me with her absolute dedication to her own flavor of the craft, her  unrepentant refusal to conform, and her unique lyric patterns which constantly fascinate me.  Tori Amos will never fit into any predetermined box or genre, slamming out anger, pain, love and betrayal from a straddled piano bench.  A musical prodigy at age 5, she was asked to leave the music conservatory she was studying at when only 11.  Even then, she refused to be put into a musical box, and has pioneered ever since.

Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant, there is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks. – Johann Gottfried Von Herder