Monday, September 18, 2006

On YouTube and the attitude of players

YouTube has become the biggest internet sensation of the last months, and everyone is talking about it, uploading their videos, searching for new ones, and spending their time discovering clips that run the full gamut from video blogs to TV ads, from film fragments to home made cartoons, and almost anything than can be put into a video file. For musicians, YouTube is also a valuable tool, since you can find online lessons, videos of your favorite artists, or even upload a video of yourself and then receive comments (and probably a fair amount of criticism) that will help you improve your playing and know what others think about you.

I'm thinking about taking my camera and shooting a few videos of me playing(in case I do it, I will link to them from this blog, of course), but right now the most interesting use I find in YouTube is the opportunity of watching some of the players I love (and that I had only listened to, but never watched) performing their tunes. Although music is perceived through the sense of hearing, and a good musician should be able to communicate what he wants to express only with the sound he gets from his instrument, watching someone performing gives you more information about the music he is playing, and that can make the listening experience much more enjoyable (and frequently also much more instructive...). Sometimes it can be beautiful to see someone playing even if you cannot hear the music, for there is a lot of plasticity involved in playing (I love to watch Bird moving his fingers or Dolphy's embochure...) and sometimes the player expresses a lot with his body as well. It is like the difference between going to the opera and just listening to the CD at home. The music is the same, but there is much more than music in an opera play. The same happens with a guitar player or a sax one. For instance, just take a look at some of the Tommy Emmanuel videos on YouTube, they are among the most amazing performances I have seen in my life...really astounding!

Music is a blend of many different factors: harmony, melody, tone, color, texture, technique, feeling, attitude...and countless others. While some of them are fully contained in the music and a video does not change anything about the way they are perceived by the listener (watching a guitar player does not affect how you perceive a chord progression), others are enriched by watching the interpreter, and your understanding of them might be noticeably affected.

Lately, I have been really interesed in the attitude of players towards their music and their instruments, since this is probably one of the things that has evolved the most through this last years. It is interesting to think about this before you grab your instrument and start playing, because it can change your whole aproach to your musical activity.

As an example, I leave you here three short videos of three of my favorite 'tocaores' (flamenco guitar players): Diego del Gastor, Sabicas and Vicente Amigo.

Can you see the difference in their attitude? Doesn't it seem that Diego is more 'in touch' with the instrument and the music and that this music flows more naturally? Doesn't it seem that Sabicas has more 'chemistry' with his guitar? All those expressions in Vicente's face look to me like the ones of a heavy metal guitar player playing a solo and acting a bit to impress his public...Don't get me wrong, I love contemporary players and he is an amazing musician (and I also love heavy metal players who act on stage!), but looking back one can easily see that the attitude of the musicians has changed as much as their technique or their musical knowledge, and that it hasn't been necessarily a change for good.

If you do not agree with me, comments are welcome, as usual :-)


Anonymous said...

We can't see the videos, Volaya... include the code as code!

Vane said...

Eh, Volaya, apart from not seeing the videos... I'm happy to have you back, I was worried that your oriental odissey had made you forget your blog!