Thursday, October 1, 2015

Banjo Rights

Linus van Pelt once said that the world would be a better place if everyone was issued a banjo at birth.

So here's my thought...

Abolish the NRA. Replace it with the National Banjo Association. Make it easy for people to get banjos without a background check. Sponsor unregulated banjo shows. Create a class of high-paid banjo lobbyists.

Some say (some say!) that people should need a license to operate a banjo in the same way they need a license to drive a car. I disagree.

Some people just like to take their banjo to a picking range. And as citizens they have that right. It's a social thing. They don't want to hurt anyone with their banjo. They just get off on making noise and hitting a target note. And they always wear proper hearing protection.

There's got to be an amendment somewhere that can be twisted enough to apply to banjos.

As far as I know, there has never been a mass murder committed by someone holding a banjo.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Look Into My Eyes...You're Getting Sleepy

This is the most important aspect of everything that is going on around you in current political "news".

It is infinitely more important than Trump's latest inanity or why Bernie chose to give a speech at a Christian university.

As an example for my point I'll use a recent article that posted about Bernie Sanders' visit to Liberty University.

One line in their article:

"Oddly, the response to this news was not impressed with Sanders reaching out a group he didn’t agree with, but questioned why he was going."

When media tell you what people are thinking, how people are responding, it is all a fabrication. Media are the transparent creators of what you think.

You don't even know that you see the media. You think you are looking at the topic of the moment, but you are seeing, hearing, and thinking what they want you to see, hear, and think. They are controlling you. You are only seeing ideas that they want to impose on your mind. It isn't exactly subliminal, but it is powerful and it is devious.

People take in the statements. The statements play upon innate drives to be a viable part of whatever is "trending" (a ridiculous concept to begin with)...and those drives have previously been implanted using the same methods.

Upon consideration the statements would reveal themselves to be vague and meaningless. Ask questions. ASK QUESTIONS! Who is responding this way? Was I responding this way before they told me how to respond? Are they forming my response without my even being aware of it? And what AREN'T they telling me?

Two words you should always mistrust when you hear them used together: "Some say..."

Yes, this is going to entail some activity on your part because you are going to have to find your own answers.

And those of you who are capable of more abstract complex thought...consider this: There is no such thing as an "objective documentary". The moment someone decides which way to point a camera and when to open the shutter subjectivity is running the show.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This Little Light

You may be asking yourself, “Has GLJ gone off the rails? Has he abandoned his life to sit drooling over a keyboard and ranting like a maniac?”

Oh ye of little faith.

First of all, I hope that my posts and blogs don’t come across as rants and rages. Someone told me I need not fear, that my concise, focused, well-honed writing wouldn’t be mistaken for “rants”.

I hope he was right.

I’ll tell you a story.

I really wanted to volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Circumstances did not allow me to participate in the categories that were specified at his campaign website. So I looked around and asked what CAN I do?

Here’s what I came up with:
1. I’m a deep thinker.
2. I’m a highly skilled writer.
3. I’m a highly skilled communicator.
4. It’s been proven repeatedly around the world that social media are effective tools for spreading messages, advancing causes. The Sanders campaign is benefiting hugely from this.

So this is what I can do…I can participate in this way.

I know that my audience is comparatively small. But we sang a song in Sunday School…“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

And even if I'm only preaching to the choir, I hope that the choir finds some encouragement.

You can help by sharing my FB posts and blogs when you appreciate them. “Likes” are encouraging and greatly appreciated, but “shares” put the ideas on the road.

From now on when you see one of my posts I hope you think, “There’s GLJ doing volunteer work again. Now what can I do?...”

And by the way, I’m writing songs and making visual art like a madman. A new set of songs will be available soon.

Sympathy For the Victims

It's clear to even a passing glance that the current Republican Party is completely different than that of our parents and grandparents. It's similar in name only.

I've heard it put this way:

Today's Republican Party is made up of three classes.
1. Those in control. (The oligarchs, the One-Per-Centers, the corporations, the banksters.)
2. Their hired shills, (Politicians; the pundits; the media. Mercenaries who are being well compensated for their participation.)
3. The suckers. (The real people "on the ground" who are being tricked into thinking and voting in ways that serve class number 1. They are fooled with emotional triggers that get them heated up and blinded to what's really being perpetrated. Issues that are usually based around race, gender, birth choices, and all sorts of misrepresented "rights". Stink bombs. Trojan horses.)

I don't like the term "suckers". It has an unuseful pejorative tone. Sometimes "The Duped" is used in an attempt to be more conciliatory. I prefer "Victims". They are good people whose own better natures are being turned back to knife themselves in the heart. And they are coerced into grabbing the handle of the knife to help drive it in.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Mahatma and Bernie

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Mahatma Gandhi

Think about that as you consider this:

Bernie Sanders is consistently drawing 5,000 to almost 30,000 people per event. One evening a couple weeks ago 100,000 people gathered at the same time in various American homes to support and/or express interest in Bernie. That event has been called the biggest political event in American history.

People are flocking to Bernie Sanders because he is speaking the simple, obvious truth that we are all dying to hear. He hasn't changed his message. He's been talking about and acting on the same values for over 40 years. He lives the way he speaks. While other candidates are flying around in private jets Bernie is still flying tourist because he doesn't want to lose contact with real people. He can be seen walking to work in DC. (Obviously, at this rate he's not going to be able to keep doing these things. And it's clear that he won't be happy giving them up.)

And yet, the media are not telling you about any of this. They are telling you about buffoonery, lies, and nonsensical proclamations in campaigns and faux-campaigns that are thriving on the publicity.

The media are owned by people in power who DO NOT want you to hear the truth. Even the Democratic party is "owned" by political insiders who don't want to yield their power to an outsider like Bernie Sanders.

If Clinton, or Trump, or Walker, or any of the clowns out there drew a small fraction of the people who are flocking to witness and respond to Bernie you would be hearing about it around the clock.

They aren't going to be able to keep ignoring him. So watch for the next step in Gandhi's model. They will ramp up attempts to mock him. It's already beginning to occur.

In the face of all this, support for Bernie is growing at an amazing rate.

Notice that the title of the link below says "crowd of 20,000" while in the next line it says that he drew a record 28,000 that night in Portland, OR. This is not a typo. It is not obfuscation. 8,000 people had to be turned away because the venue wasn't big enough to hold them. This is consistently happening day after day. No one was prepared for the quick rise of interest in Bernie Sanders.

Last night he drew 10,000 in Madison, WI. If you are thinking "well, sure...Madison...left-wing college students"...this morning he drew almost that many in Rochester, MN. This was the second time he drew that many in Rochester in the last month or so. Rochester is known to be a Republican enclave.

Bernie Sanders is drawing people across party lines. They know the real deal when they find it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Heard and Not Seen

Heard and Not Seen
© 2015 by Gary Lee Joyner

What kind of guitar do I like?
Do you mean a certain brand or style?
Or one particular fetish object?


A guitar needs to stay out of my way
A guitar must not get in my way
As soon as I notice it I don’t like it
I like to make love in the dark
The touch that isn’t there
The touch that’s so elemental
It may not even be there


Here’s the truth
Here’s the deal
This is how it is
It may not have the romance you’re looking for
But listen


I’ve been married to guitars for 48 years
No divorce in sight

Three things become clear over that length of time
1.     You now look like each other. (Check out Segovia at 90)
2.     It’s hard to be in the same room together for any length of time (ignoring each other helps)
3.     You accept that you are stuck with each other for the duration

OK, four things
4.     Don’t you touch her without asking
I’m standing right here for god sakes

Listen again

As we both know
If she ever did leave
I would sit every night at an open window
With a cold-burning candle
Ready to guide her back home

Complicated, isn't it?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Not Your Father's Guitar Capo

© 2015 by Gary Lee Joyner

A former participant in my guitar classes at Blue Bear School of Music, San Francisco, who is now a geographically distant friend recently asked my impression of guitar capos. Here's his question followed by my response. By the way, his name is also Gary.

Gary, What are your thoughts on capos? Playing guitars with a friend, he was of the view that with acoustic guitars, we should play in first position. I occasionally capo for singing.

Hey Gary

My first thought is how good you are at bringing up interesting topics.

I love thinking about capos. I have led lots of workshops about capoing, often under the title “This Isn’t Your Father’s Capo”.

And I like bringing different ideas together…to expand ways of thinking.

For example, in a tangential way one might compare capos to the movable frets of a sitar. Similarities, differences, parallels? Fun to think about.

Or…since capos are in fact simply clamps they might be compared to clamps in a workshop…or in surgery. Holding something together…keeping something at bay…musical sound as glue or blood flow…

Or…more directly…capo usage can be compared to a transposing instrument. One can play and think in C while actually sounding in Eb by capoing at III. This tidy benefit led to guitarists being seen as poor musicians when they had trouble communicating with other musicians. A pianist isn’t impressed when you say “I don’t know, I’m playing in C” when he/she is hearing Eb.

These days I encourage people to think in terms of the key they are actually sounding with a capo in the mix…rather than the forms they are playing. It’s really not that hard. A thorough, accurate understanding of the CAGED concept is all it takes. Sadly, talk about CAGED tends to be ill-informed, not thought through, or polluted by fear and/or arrogance. For starters, calling CAGED a “system” leads to confusion.

The term “system” can be conceived in a couple of significantly different ways. I suspect that people hear “CAGED system” and misunderstand it to be a proscribed methodical approach to something, similar to the “Stanislavski System” of acting or “the 12-tone compositional system”. It may be less confusing and even useful if one compares the CAGED “system” to a plumbing system, a matrix. An understanding of an inevitable structure can help one function. But you don’t need to know about it to turn on the faucet. Musical sound as water...

But I digress. Picking up where I left off about capos…

A curious thing is that sitar playing or building a birdhouse in a woodshop or vascular surgery or Eb alto saxophones don’t arouse the dogmatism, argumentation, arrogance, or misconceptions that the proposition of capos arouses.

Here’s the deal. If you never use open strings when you are playing guitar a capo won’t be of any use to you. Actually, that’s not even true. Let’s say it won’t be of musical use to you. There can be physical applications. For example, if you are training yourself to play something with wide stretches in the fretting hand it can be helpful to capo at V or so and slowly work down over time as you become more limber. Another example of a purely physical application—a capo can make the action feel “lower”…that is, the rise of the string above the fingerboard is higher off the nut than it is over a fret. In another way, a purely sound-related application can be demonstrated by playing “Here Comes the Sun” in the key of D without a capo and then playing it with the same chord forms, but capoed at VII (which means you are actually sounding in the key of A). The sonic/timbral difference is immediately clear. You were playing on a “big” guitar with long strings. Now you’re playing on a “little” guitar with much shorter strings.

But strictly speaking, if you don’t utilize open strings a capo won’t be of any direct musical use. And that musical use is essentially transposition. Jazz guitarists don’t seem to gravitate toward capos. It’s not because they are more highly evolved human beings. They just don’t tend to use open strings. Using a capo with awareness of true keys and musical effects is very sophisticated in itself. A grounding in transposition is a great place to start.

(Ironically, Peter Einhorn, a jazz guitarist, has developed one of the most brilliant partial capos on the market. See next paragraph.)

Here’s a related topic that has excited me for a bunch of years now—partial capoing. This has to do with capoing only selected strings, often at different frets using multiple capos. (The sitar analogy becomes even more apt.) This can be approached simply or deeply. There are a number of partial capos on the market that offer a place to begin. I customized a couple dozen different variations for myself before Peter Einhorn created his universally applicable Spider Capo. Shubb Capos are particularly amenable to the alterations I experimented with on my own. I still use a bunch of them.

Depending on your guitar neck, it might work to begin by simply flipping a standard Kyser capo over to simulate both Esus and A partial capos. The piece that was on the back of the neck is now on the front. Or you can simulate Drop D tuning by clamping your Kyser from below and leaving string 6 open.

Confusion has entered the scene because partial capo manufacturers advertise partial capos as quick ways to altered tunings. This is wildly inaccurate. Standard tuning, altered tunings, and partial capoing are three separate and distinct approaches. Each one is a completely different entity—evidenced by people like David Wilcox, and myself, who have combined altered tunings with partial capoing to create yet another playing environment. But the beauty of basic partial capo usage, i.e. a partial capo used with standard tuning, is that you still have all your familiar chord forms while the “open” strings offer wonderful new combinations of sound that can be surprisingly and happily disorienting.

(There are many topics touched on above that need meta-hyperlinks because they each open entire new cans of worms. Pomo guitar ruminations. No time now.)

A final thought. The idea “he was of the view that with acoustic guitars, we should play in first position” really has me scratching my head. I operate with the idea that “shoulds” and rules don’t serve art/creativity…preferring to think in terms of what is useful in pursuit of a desired result. Any rule is useful only for achieving and/or avoiding what the rule is about. If you want the opposite effect the rule needs to be reversed. The “rule” your friend mentioned strikes me as particularly ill-considered and self-limiting. Acoustic guitars sound wonderful in first position, but a lot of fine music wouldn’t be achieved if we limited ourselves to that area. Maybe there was an implied intent that I’m missing…

A final-final thought. I once heard a drummer interviewed about working with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. They were dealing with some predictably difficult music, and she was having a hard time with it. Really freezing up. Starting to cry. She said that Shorter stopped everything, took her to another room, and gently said, “Relax. It’s only music.”