It turns out Jen is a full-service mentor. At our second meeting we talked about frets and scales and how playing the same chord in different configurations changes the sound and the feel of the music. It’s true. I learned the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” a winsome tune, all classic-pop changes and a heart-tugging melody. Except when Jen showed me how to play it using bar chords, scratching at the low strings, it changed from sweet and yearning to coiled and desperate. I find this to be nothing short of magical. Then we talked about boobs. Then we talked about eyeglasses. I’m not a middle-aged whiner; I don’t spend a lot of time complaining about how getting old sucks, and I don’t think Jen does either. But we have a context now, an organizing principle to our conversations, and everything connects. We decided which has been the more humbling decline (eyesight, partly because when it comes to mammaries we at least gave for a good cause). Then, obviously, we talked about children. Which led to organized religion, which led to God, which led to music. Here’s where we ended up.
God isn’t a thing, Jen said. It’s a process. And music is that way, too.
She tried to elaborate and I think I understand what she was getting at. When Jen plays in the so-called pocket, she’s not creating the rhythm but rather slipping into it. The sense of motion is in her, but it also exists independent of her. We acknowledge as much in our music vocabulary. People don’t make the groove. They get into the groove.
In the beginning you figure stuff out and your brain wants to know how it works. But once you figure it out you try to feel it. If you screw up a chord, keep going. If you keep screwing up in the same place, stop, and do the change again. Stop, do it again. Do it a hundred times. I’m not kidding. Then put it in time.
Webster’s Unabridged has 29 definitions for time. Here are a pertinent few.
The characteristic rhythm of a composition.
A period neccessary, sufficient, or available for something.
The period during which something happens.
Every moment there has ever been or ever will be.
I’m not actively working on the last one but it’s just so awesome to think about.