Ravenna Flamenco

el arte de la guitarra

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Flamenco, Anyone?

posted in performance on march 12th, 2009
two guitars

Hello, world! I’ve survived the PhD exams! And am nearly coherent enough to tell about it! Before you ask: no, I’m not quite a doctor yet—I still have to scribble out one of these "dissertation" things… . But I am nearer to being a doctor than I’ve ever been (and may, I’m told, play one on TV sometime soon).

But enough of my pursuit of nerdery! We care little for such things here, no? I have, after all, replaced the "daunting-stack-o’-books" picture with the "infamous-and-ubiquitous-guitars-icon" picture. So: what (you may ask) is new?

Well, as my intrinsically nerdy nature dictates, I feel compelled to tell you in two stages. Here’s the first: it would seem that, despite my best efforts, flamenco guitar refused to be "back-seated" during my exams (see below). This is, of course, a good thing. But it also made for an interesting personal experiment centering around this question: what happens to one’s (i.e. "my") guitar playing when a really big project muscles its way onto the scene?

The result was something I didn’t even realize I was the least bit interested in (cf. "exam panic" below), but, as it turns out, should care a lot about. The good news is that with rare exception, I still managed for the most part to pick up the guitar every day. And most of those days included some species of structured practice. I think there were three factors in particular that helped this to be the case:

First, my guitars are never "put away." I actually don’t store them in their cases. Is this potentially harder on the instruments? Yes, potentially. But does it mean that I play them more? Certainly. Since my guitars are always "out," it’s easy to pick one up over coffee in the morning (which I regularly do)—or in those little "dead spots" in the day that aren’t quite enough time to do something, but are just long enough to feel wasteful. For example: I can revisit a problem spot in a peteneras I’ve been working on (more on that later) or play through a couple sevillanas in the time it takes water to boil. There’s another 8-10 minutes in the time it takes penne to cook (depending on what you consider "al dente").

This is not to say I actually leave the poor things strewn all over my house, willy-nilly. I actually hang them on the walls. I mean, let’s face it: guitars are pretty. So why not leave them out? Having them there, staring you down, as it were, is also a good reminder of whether you’ve been neglectful or not (sort of a Foucauldian micro-politics of power meets musicianship … oh no! I can’t turn the nerd off!).

Anyway, reason two: I don’t watch TV. Don’t even own one. They’re degenerate, vile devices and should be scorned by right-thinking people. Yes, you’re saying (I know you are! I can hear it): but how much time do you spend in front of a computer, mr. no-tv-snob? Arguable way too much; I agree. But let’s think about this practically: what is an hour (or six) of mind-numbing television watching more likely to displace? The time I spend stalking my friends on Facebook or the time I spend practicing arpeggio variations? I honestly don’t see "Pumping Nylon" winning out on this one.

Finally, reason three: before push came to shove (time-wise, that is), I made some choices about where my musical priorities were best focused. This means I backed off on Ravenna Flamenco and on my involvement in dance classes and La Peña in order to leave myself time to "just play." I know this seems counterintuitive, but in fact I found that the playing I did get in was productive and allowed me to expand my skills and maintain my enthusiasm (rather than just maintain dance repertoire).

Though don’t get me wrong: I do love playing for dancers and singers—and in fact can’t wait to get back to it (which will happen on the 23rd of March). (The "getting back" to Ravenna Flamenco, you may have noticed, has already begun.)

And this brings me to "part 2" of "what’s new." This part aspires to give a quick rundown of all the stuff I should have covered in past blog posts but never got around to (see "exam panic" below). Since this particular post is already getting obnoxiously long, I’ll skip right to the details:

  • If you haven’t been to www.zamaniflamenco.com lately, do check it out. We’ve posted a new promo video and a photo gallery on the "media" page. Also, dancers Dani and Zánbaka (who are currently cooling their heels in the south of Spain), are keeping us all up to dates on the vagaries of travel and study in Andalucia on the new ZF blog.

  • I recently played solo guitar for a dinner event at the VA in Seattle. Much fun was this; there will be post coming soon on the ins & outs.

  • The Northside Grill, Zamani Flamenco’s erstwhile monthly gig, has closed! So no more monthly gig there. The good news, however, is that our summer festival and event calendar is starting to fill out (starting with a private event two days before the dancers are back … more on that later).

  • Plans for Ravenna Flamenco: I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the flamenco metronomes, so I’ll be working in getting more of those put together. Next up is solea, then perhaps some tangos. These are, as always, a bit labor intensive, so bear with me!

  • More RF plans: as I mentioned above, I’m working out a Peteneras by Pedro Soler. I’m planning to tab this out for the edification of all of you (it’s a great piece—it forces you to play slow!), but I’m finding that transcribing "toque libre" is absolute murder. I may just scrap regular time signatures altogether and let the notes fall where they may. In any case, keep your eyes peeled for a new addition to "tabs."

And now, dear reader, I’ll spare you further suffering by bringing this marathon blog post to a close—and I promise to limit such abuses in the future. What can I say? It’s been a while! In any case, I hope you all are well and am looking forward to diving back into the thick of things.

Now you! Go play!


tags: nerdery, practice
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