RobF -> RE: learning about music: "Just let them play" Victor Wooten (Mar. 4 2021 18:31:44)
I think what is bugging me about this is that if I point out that PDL did, in fact, record covers, or that other players used PDL falsetas, or that Sabicas said "blah blah whatever" then I get called condescending or an "armchair expert" or a "gatekeeper" or whatever, when I'm just pointing out observable things. How does that work? I have no idea. I was baffled then and I'm baffled now...
I thought your comment at the beginning of this thread was thoughtful, balanced, and on target. I really liked it. Maybe Sabacas could’ve taken a lesson or two from you on diplomacy.
I think I may have a bit of a tainted view because when I started learning about Flamenco here in Canada, I met many very helpful people, most quite generous in their willingness to teach and others who were just happy to meet another kindred spirit. But there was also a percentage, a small one but still too high, IMO, who used their advanced knowledge to either “lord it over” or otherwise make me feel stupid and inadequate due to my lack of experience and knowledge. Maybe I was projecting or being hyper-sensitive, however, so I was pretty mindful not to take it too much to heart. After all, I really didn’t know much of anything so they weren’t far off in their assessment.
Then I went to Spain and studied it. There wasn’t a lot of condescension there, hardly any worth noting, mainly the odd dancer would act that way, but because I had already experienced it, it didn’t throw me and it was easy to ignore. Again, it’s not like they weren’t justified with their disdain, I was the guy in the back messing up the contra-tiempo in palmas. Also, the overwhelming majority of people were great. I met a lot of people who were at my level and we had a huge amount of fun, and I met quite a few local gitano players who were all extremely open, helpful, and friendly. Some have become close friends, I hope, lifelong. Same with the students, I made some great friends there that I still stay in touch with.
You get it in guitar making, too, even worse sometimes, not just by makers, but by ignorant customers who seem to think guitars are horses or something. Even though I was trained to make Flamenco guitars in Spain, and people there play them, I’ll still run into the odd guitarist or shop owner back here in Canada who will be more than happy to tell me just how “the guys in Spain” want it. Some of the stuff I hear is like, kinda crazy. It also seems to always, almost every stinking time, come from a person who’s never been there, and it’s too often said in a way to discount, or devalue, my work. Mainly in the hopes for a better deal. So, you need a thick skin.
Sometimes, it’s a maker who acts disdainful or superior. Sometimes they’re pretty good, most times, not so much. Besides initially wanting to haul off and slug them, I’ve learned to just look at their work, listen to their work, and then I know. I try to keep an open mind, however, and I’m open to learning from everyone. I don’t discount someone’s work just because I think they’re a dick. It’s a fallacy that only nice people make good guitars, IMO. Plus, I know what I’ve been told about my guitars by my customers, and by the true masters who’ve examined them, both here and in Spain, and by gitano players, so it’s all OK with me, it just shows me who to be careful around.
Still, most people are really great, the huge majority, but it only takes one to mess up your day, especially when you’re a sensitive artiste, such as myself.*
At any rate, I had no intent to make you feel uncomfortable, and I don’t think you’re any of those things, so I’m sorry about that. From what I’ve seen, you’ve always been sincere, thoughtful, and a straight-shooter, even when in disagreements. I have no quarrel, that’s for sure.
*This reminds of a story, if you have the time; it’s a long one though, maybe a little personal, so it can be skipped, if you don’t....
A few years ago I was in Granada when one of those discouraging put-down events occurred. On this occasion, it really cut and I was quite bummed out about it.
To clear my head and try to feel better, I went for a long walk through the Realejo, then up to outside the Alhambra, hung around for a bit, soaking in the history and the view, and then took that long walk down the hill through the woods towards the Cuesta de Gomerez. It was a beautiful sunny day, but dark in the shade of the trees, and I sat for some time on one of the cement benches that are placed along the sides of the pathway and attempted to gather myself. It was peaceful and quiet, just the sound of the wind rustling leaves, and it helped. But I still couldn’t shake it, so I got up and continued down the hill, through the gateway from the woods, and back into the strong sunlight and the busy Cuesta.
About halfway down the Cuesta I turned right into a shop and there was Francisco Manuel Díaz sitting on a straight-backed chair in the middle of the small room, working on a guitar, with the recording of some cantaora blaring in the background. He knows me, because I visit every time I’m in town, so he didn’t say a word, just nodded, looked at me quizzically, then returned to his work. I hung around in the background, listening to the great music and checking out all his photos.
After a while, maybe ten minutes, maybe thirty, he stopped working, looked over at me, stood up, and grabbing the back of the chair he had been sitting in, motioned for me to sit down in it. He then walked to the other side of his counter, where his little workbench is, put aside the guitar he was working on, turned off the stereo, and came back carrying an identical straight backed chair, which he plopped down onto the floor in front of me, facing me. He then grabbed his personal guitar, which he keeps on display in front of his counter, sat down in the chair, and played. We still hadn’t exchanged a word.
He’s an accomplished Flamenco guitarist, the real deal, and it was great to listen to him. I think he could see the tension leaving my face and how it was relaxing me, bringing me back. He then stopped, handed me his guitar, and asked me what was on my mind. My Spanish is still not very good, but I told him about my discouragement, which was related to a guitar I had recently made. He nodded in understanding and sympathy and then we spent a fair amount of time huddled over my phone, going over pictures I had taken of the guitar, discussing where I felt I could improve and also areas he felt I could try alternate implementations. It was a good talk and, coupled with the grounding his playing had given me, I started to feel quite a lot better.
By then, we were relaxed and the conversation had become good-natured with lots of laughing. I pointed to a poster he had on the wall and mentioned I had just had lunch the day before in the home of one of the performers, who is also an excellent cook. He wanted to know what we had to eat and when I told him he smiled broadly and said “Ahhh, this is traditional Gitano fare!”
After a while, it was time to go. I thanked him and said I would never visit Granada without visiting him, and he agreed. As I was walking out the door he called out loudly, “Rob!”. I stopped, turned around, and he was standing there with his arms held out sideways and a look of mock hurt on his face. I looked at him quizzically and he said “¿Mi abrazo?”. I went back in and gave him a big hug, and then was on my way.
To me, that’s what it’s all about. Doesn’t have to be about Flamenco, but that’s it, right there.