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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

The Ordinary Extraordinary on show these past two weeks

Carlos at the BBC Manchester studio

- What musos can learn from the Olympics -

As the Olympic Games in London 2012 draw to a close what can we learn from them and relate to guitar playing? Jumping higher, running faster and throwing further are entirely sporting activities, but are the techniques only specific to them? And what does the determination and dedication to reach such excellence tell us?

I watched Jamaican runner Bolt run at 35 miles per hour and win both the 100 metres and 200 metres. The playback at a third of the speed was very interesting, it was like music. His feet, even on the replay, seemed to barely touch the ground. He reminded me of what dancers say "when we move around the stage and especially when we jump, we think of movement as upwards not downwards". In music we talk of upbeats and downbeats. Upbeats give rhythmic vitality. Downbeats give firmness and finality. To run fast, Bolt moves in upbeats. To play fast, musicians think in upbeats for this way it sounds better.

A British female cyclist caught my attention. She is a medal winner, but has suffered lots of health problems over the past years, enough to have deterred many from continuing. Another British competitor, taking part in an equestrian event, has during his career broken more bones in his body than I knew existed! Already in his 50's this was his fifth Olympic Games, and finally he won a medal - best of all for him it was gold. I am sure there are many other moving stories of struggles against the odds by other athletes, but I refer only to British athletes since they are the ones I have read about in UK newspapers. These stories reveal an awe-inspiring ambition to reach the very best result.

So, what is the very best result in guitar playing or in music? Is it technical excellence? Yes. Is it to be number one? Maybe, but this can only clearly refer to winning competitions. Is it to become as fine a musician and artist as you can ever be? Emphatically yes! Some will have all the advantages to do so, and others less so. We can draw inspiration then from the sacrifices of those Olympic sportsmen who have done so in their field, some with so many difficulties.

And then there are the group sports activities. Whether it be team sports or synchronised swimming, creating a perfect ensemble is essential, as it is for a musical ensemble. To see the high level of coordination achieved inspires me to set ever-higher standards in playing music in ensemble too.

Finally, sports activities and musical performances share another important element: the audience. Most Olympic competitors have spoken of the inspiration and strength they drew from the cheering audiences. We do the same in music, or should do so if we are in tune with them. The energy and goodwill which audiences display draw from me as a performer a special edge, and focus my mind on communicating the beauty of the music. For the athletes the adrenalin rush drives them to smash world records, for the musician it can lead to a unique expressivity.

The next Olympic Games will be in Brazil. I look forward to discovering connections between sports and samba, for I can easily imagine them already!

Madrid, Spain, 11th August 2012

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=1517 .
© 2017.

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