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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Silence, Please, I Can't Hear Myself Play

The true voice of the guitar is lost in the strident sounds of the city

An amazing landmark was reached by the human race during the first decade of this century: more than half the world's population now live in cities rather than in the countryside.

Allow the thought to swil around in your mind's imagination: billions of people living and commuting shoulder to shoulder in evermore confined spaces, sharing their precious spare time in the same overcrowded bars, restaurants, discos, exhibition and performance venues, their profusion providing both a reason for and an escape from the stressed and frenetic lifestyles of over-worked (and more often than not underpaid) metropolitan dwellers. The chances are that you are one of them.

I need not continue to elaborate the negative aspects since you will be only too familiar with them (as too of the undoubted benefits of city living). But let me ask you this: how high up your list of annoyances is noise? Have you noticed it is impossible to conduct a conversation on an average high street at normal pitch? When was the last time you entered a bar or restaurant with no background music? How often do the ear-splitting sirens of emergency vehicle stop you in your tracks and disturb the relative quiet of night?

City noises - foreground and background - destroy the lightness of silence. Such is their constancy that we have become unawares, or at least, undisturbed, by them. For many it goes further, the attraction of city life is the reassuring hum and din of human proximity. Remove it and many are left floundering in the unbearable lightness of silence.

Where does all this leave the music lover and the guitar player? The guitar is an instrument almost as quiet as the quietest save the clavichord and a very few others. its lingering resonance summons angel-like harmonics from deep inside its cavity. The loudest strums are more discrete than orchestral instruments lightly brushed or blown.

The sound of the guitar is best savoured to a background of total silence, save perhaps for the breeze stirring the leaves (as Joaquín Rodrigo liked to compare the sound itself) or as Federico García Lorca wrote:

The cry of the guitar begins,
The cups of dawn are breaking,
It is useless to stop her, it is impossible to stop her.

Lorca was prescient for maybe the near silence of dawn may now be the only time when the majority urban dwellers of the world can come close to hearing the full sound world of the guitar. And if you doubt the power of silence do as I have done these past few days. I have spent it in an ancient stately home far from the city. Every nook and cranny was stuffed full of, even dripping with history and...silence.

In the magnificent quiet every note rang true and long, my every musical thought arose blessed and anointed, every sound lingered and caressed the walls and trees and plants and returned enriched to my ears.

City living comes at a heavy price when we lose such elementary pleasures as the silence enjoyed by our forefathers. As a "classical" guitarist I seek a classical silence where to nobly strum and soothe my savage (and urban-savaged) breast.

And no, the stately home where I rediscovered silence is not mine! It was built during the life time of Henry V111 and is in a far country. I won't tell you where it is, otherwise you might seek it out, and your friends too, and their friends with their cars and motorbikes and mobile phones - and with their arrival silence would have bolted, yet again. And with it, me too.

20th October 2013, London

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Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=2811 .
© 2019.

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