Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.

I like a paradox as they contain truth. Every light casts a shadow and we do not care too much for the darkness of things but often the darkness gives us the true meaning of its essence. How true this is with music. How many great songs are written by people who are not particularly great on the instruments that they play? In fact for many being great at playing is a draw back as a writer with only a few exceptions such as Hendrix and Clapton.  

Success is often like that, when you give up measuring yourself by your markers of success it flows more freely. This is something sighted by entrepreneurs that money becomes a marker not the goal often the goal will be something less obvious like the challenge of making something happen.

Better to fix the mind on things that success would afford you instead of the success itself, so for the pupil and the teacher do not focus on the grade but what the grade will enable you to do. Playing in a band that performs a particular style of music requiring that level of knowledge is a better motivator than the examination day and the piece of paper at the end of it.

In business instead of focusing on the money look at what it would do for you and focus on that. The mind seems to have a way of flagging up possibilities of acquiring the ways and means of achieving that possibility. I often use the story of somebody buying a new car, once they have made the decision on which model and which colour that they are going to buy one starts to see that colour and that model car everywhere. Now that is a good example of how alert we become to the possibilities of acquiring that which we desire. There are some theories that take this idea and apply it to belief systems that once we have a belief system the unconscious will find evidence of the truth of that belief in the world around us. Now if we take this as a fact for the time being it means that the things that appear to be wholly true maybe just a fabrication of how we think and by exploring the shadow side of that or the opposite side of that we get a much rounded picture that may be ignored by the unconscious searching out the things that satisfy our belief systems.

So back to the happiness: by searching out the result of happiness, being with friends having connections with family the feeling of support and assistance there is much to point these as being where happiness can be found.

So what about making music having an effect on people? Songs that allude to the results that an emotion will give you will then in turn in its shadow give the listener the emotion that you are attempting to engender in the listener.

Best way to try this out is to work on yourself.  Listen to some music that makes you feel in a particular way and notice carefully the things that appear to trigger that response. What are the lyrics doing? What is the feel of the piece of music? Does it make you think of anything?

So success with music is giving success to others ………………………

Vic

 

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him? Chuang Tzu



 What is in a word, a lyric, a poem?

We are bombarded by words, phrases and catchy soundbites wherever we go, it is totally relentless, and for us to escape somewhere devoid of words is now very difficult. However for our ancestors solitude was easy to find and therefore words were recognised as having far more power than they do today. Because of the abundance words they seem to have been devalued, or have they?

When you realise that your pocket is being picked continuously by what you have been told which always seems to come from some authority somewhere, some scientist, some politician, some expert, one begins to see that words have not lost any of their power to influence. However we have been taught that power does not reside in words per se because that would be too ridiculous too unscientific but I believe they do. They are hypnotic state changing bundles of power.

As a musician I continuously see the power of the great pop song which seems to have its own life force about it. It seems never to die, some going on for hundreds of years if we classify great choral music as pop songs of their time.

The composers of hymns knew very well the power of words setting quotes from spiritual books to music but something that great works such as these and great poetry have in common is that they allude to something and are not literal. If the words are just what they say literally there is no power in any of the above. Maybe it is our involvement with words in the literal sense that has blinded us to what they can really do however this is not been missed by either the mass media or politicians so why have we lost faith in the power of words?

Maybe our loss of faith comes from the realisation that we cannot easily make change by logical argument on the face of it this seems to fly in the face of what we been taught but the reality is that reasoned debate does not have the power of the words behind them because they are the wrong words in the wrong setting.

Over the past year we have seen that both the UK and in America where one side will play the emotional card against the other sides logical argument and in both cases the emotional card won. The emotional card creates a power that manifests itself in the soundbite just in the same way that a good piece of poetry can eloquently draw to it and emotional response of the listener. Logical arguments not do this unless you are somebody skilled in rhetoric, of which many politicians today clearly are not.

There is power in the poetic then there must be more to words than what they mean consciously, think of the power of a great song lyric to conjure up a memory or a sense of being part of something bigger, great pop songs excel at this, particularly the ones that transcend time.

So how do we get back into the power of the words? Maybe we should put the scientific rational aspect to one side and feel out what the words mean to you as you start to craft the lyrics. Do not tell a listener what it is but paint a picture with words in their mind. Again suspending your belief in what you’ve been taught about the logic of word is a good exercise and obviously reading poetry and lyrics of people who inspire you will help greatly. Take chances with words, express something deep think of it as a courtship with your own language.

Maybe this is what we can take into the New Year; writing great songs. What would you do with this great skill? Dreaming about this might help in putting them down on paper in the most picturesque way.



Vic



www.bluescampuk.co.uk  rock out for three days in the summer


A half heard thing George?

Nearly thirty years ago I was involved in a project with the son of Roger Moore, Geoffrey Moore. My band, Red Touch, were secconded into the project, with a few people being replaced mainly for political reasons. The band was very good but rather at odds with the zeitgeist of the moment which was two guys with funny hairdos playing keyboards.
It was here that I really honed my writing skills and a handful of numbers that I created at the time I still play, and were really pretty reasonable. This was due to the focus of a project backed by a management with record company interest, being paid to write songs is a good motivator.
I really got on well Geoff and he used to come over to my little cottage in Kent for tea with his then girlfriend, my girls were very young then and I think it was all a bit beyond them but they loved to see him along with Marie Chantelle (who is now married to the Prince of Greece, yes there is a prince of Greece). Geoff knew all of the celebrities from Sinatra to Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine to Jack Nicholson and he also knew George Michael.
The experience was rather bizarre of how the other half lived jetting about the world et cetera one of the strange events was after Geoff took some of our recordings to a party were George Michael was in attendance, the songs included one entitled Everyone Loves a Fool a jazzy ballad that I wrote for Geoff which really showed off his vocal skills as a crooner.
The band ran into a problem when Geoff was taken ill after the Christmas period and ended up in hospital in Beverly Hills. It all came crashing down over the next few months including an interview with his dad stating that Geoff had a drugs problem because of the band he was in which was rather sad because none of us had the money for any drugs even if we wanted to have a problem!

However the point of this is what happened about a year later when George Michael released Kissing a Fool it was so similar to my number, a jazz ballad in a similar tempo, similar groove and virtually the same title but what interested me was an interview that he did about the song and how it came about. The song apparently popped into his head while he was on a flight to America, of course those of you who do NLP will know that half heard things have real power to manifest as your idea as they pop out of your unconscious and I think this is what happened. I did not press the copyright issue for various reasons and I took it as a form of a compliment that one of my songs could do that. I would not say that they were exactly the same and I do not for one minute say that it was done deliberately but many of the recent copyright issues including Sam Smith’s copying of the Tom Petty song would classify in the same bracket of a half heard thing.
I am sorry to hear that George Michael has died during 2016 to add to the very long list of musicians and artists who have died this year, all I hope is that the Grim Reaper may now turn his attention to politicians, maybe that will be picked up as a half heard thing.
Vic
www.bluescampuk.co.ukmake it a resolution that you are going rock

Twenty years to reflect

Twenty years ago the band that I was working with changed. Life got in the way, the guitarist moved to Australia after getting married and the bass player and drummer who were involved in another band that had more gigs also moved on. So a small number of us continued with new players still under the name of Red Touch.

 

This month after two decades of not seeing one another we got back together again, playing the old material most of which were self-penned numbers which we had not revisited in any form in that time. On listening to the albums that we had released two things struck me, first of all we were good, better than I or any of us remembered and secondly the songs were really well written. Maybe it takes twenty years to have enough distance on your own writing to be able to see what you’ve managed to create.

 

Listening back to old CDs the songs sounded like they were written and played by other people I didn’t notice the type of errors that I used to imagine when I previously played the music but now I could hear a really solid level of musicianship and artistry in what we had created.

 

Meeting up and playing with the original members was such good fun, everyone being excited to meet after all these years. There was a definite feeling of love between the people and although we never left under a cloud of animosity I don’t remember us being so close maybe this is a good example of absence making the heart growing fonder.

 

This realisation fits the last blog post about beliefs and opinions and that they may not be reliable as they seem at the time and they are prone to change which highlights their unreliability. What do we do about this? Well maybe we should just do things and not think about it too much and then step aside and act as if it is not us to get some objectivity. The fact that our opinion of the work was so distorted at the time is of interest to me and although one could argue that our perceptions we be deluded now due to the excitement of playing again it has been verified by people outside of the band.

 

The gig itself was amazing and was the icing on the cake with the audience confirming what we had said about the quality of the band, but for me the strange and surreal feeling of playing that this event engendered is the most interesting all the members felt the same but expressing it in different ways, one saying it was a memory for end of life reflection, another saying it was a spiritual experience and others saying it was dreamlike and euphoric.

 

SO now it is time to ponder this and the coming year. 2016 was rather a shock to all I think and to think of all of the musicians who have moved on but it is time for us to look ahead at the coming year and what we are going to set as a vision for our creativity

 

So I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas with health, wealth and happiness for the coming year.



 

Magic is Art


I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman. Alan Moore



In the last 40 years of teaching and playing I have experienced a number of extraordinary happenings where simple, ordinary people have become prolific artistic performers. I could say that in all that time I was unable to spot the ones that were going to become the great musicians. In hindsight it was obvious because they were the ones who put in the hours and their ability to play and create literally crept up on me.

I have mentioned before that success in the world of the arts is statistically neigh on  impossible and therefore having an unrealistic attitude to your ability is a great place to start. Another good place to start is with Alan Moore’s assertion that we can alter reality by the very things that we do by manipulating symbols, words, sounds and images to affect change in the minds of the people who listen.

I have long had an interest in NLP and I noticed that many successful songs are effective not because of the quality of the poetry but the command orientated lyrics that demand action on behalf of the listener. Songs such as ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘All Right Now’ and even ‘Wild Thing’ are in this vein. These lyrics have a downward command orientated inflection and therefore fall into this concept of Alan Moore’s spellcasting.

However ridiculous you might think these things are the very act of subverting reality and your belief in what is possible, seems to be an important ingredient required from a successful artist. Merely dealing with reality is not enough, distorting reality is just the beginning, making people act in the way that you have distorted reality is the aim.

We are definitely entering the world where facts and truth are being trumped literally and metaphorically by the emotional aspect of language, we see that all the time in politics, we definitely see this within the media. It is abundantly clear that emotional soundbites are far more effective than reasoned argument and longer lasting. Evoking the spirit of Englishness or Americanness is powerful but we have to be very careful to look after that evocation because even a cuddly cat if mistreated has a very dark side to it and so does Englishness.

Being optimistic about the above quotation means that we can do incredible things if we can picture them and then formulate sounds that bring the vision to life. Look at the successful music of the band such as Queen. Think of any of their famous songs and they truly seem to have a life of their own; being completely animated when we hear the music you see Freddie. Magical!



Vic



www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of rock band magic

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence.

I deal with a lot of young people in my teaching of which many are teenagers. They are full of the unshakable belief that you know nothing and they know it all even if you have forty years of experience. I remember being like that; in fact the only thing that life experience gives you is that you know less and less as the years go by, so in a way they are right. The things that seemed certain when you were younger seem more uncertain as you age and then if you are lucky you get to an age when you realise that everything is open to the challenge of its unreality.  

So might it not be better to stand in a place of uncertainty, in the Chinese view you do not need to believe in something just suspended your disbelief to make things move and change.

What would happen if we changed our point of view? Maybe it would give us the possibility of seeing something different and new? From my own experience when I first became interested in playing the guitar I detested reggae and if someone had said to me that within five years I would be playing in a reggae band I would not have believed them, but I did, I then realised that reggae contained the essence of music that I also later found in other roots music such as the blues, it acted as a doorway to a new assessment of what music was. So look at the point of view that you currently hold and try out the opposite viewpoint for a couple of weeks and see what happens. Sometimes as you do you notice new things and start discovering ‘by accident’ things that confirm your new view.

What happens if we change what we believed we are? Now here is a good one, when we are younger we believe many things that as we age we realise were ridiculous, however as I have said before naivety is an important ingredient to success because if you were not naïve you would not even start because the odds are so impossible but ……

If you are old enough, look back and remember what you believed then and compare to what you believe now then think of what you might believe in ten or twenty years’ time. Then think of what you would need to believe to make the changes or achieve the things that you want and just do it. Because it is quite likely that the changes that you have already made in life are more radicle than the ones that you need to now make.

Ask yourself the question ‘what would I have done differently if I had changed my beliefs earlier’, remember that everything that ever existed started as an idea, so get the idea.

Vic





www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of music heaven




Men honour what lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but do not realize how dependent they are on what lies beyond it.


We have unleashed some form of Demon with the new technology. What appears to be a blessing in that you can record easily and provide much of the written material that you require to teach and create. You are also able to research music in ways that we were never able to before. However the problems are numerous, if you are using the internet space as a marketing forum you are competing with a market that is infinitely bigger than anything pre-Internet.

There was a time you could just place an advert in the local press and you would reach all of the people that were likely to be interested in your message in your area. Now this is pretty much impossible and not only that your competition is the rest of the world.

This is a problem which could destroy the economy of countries and is probably doing so already with the coup de grace coming with the algorithms that will take away many jobs; hopefully not yours. If you are flexible in your thinking to see that music teaches skills that have no definable outcome something which a computer cannot deal with you have a distinct advantage.

Ironically this problem leads me to putting something on the Internet as a membership forum to link musicians and artists together and create a market and a creative space in which they can work and hopefully generate some form of income.

I cannot see a positive outcome from the way that children are being educated at the moment; they need something to make them creative for the world that we are entering where movement between jobs and the learning of new things or the development of new ideas is imperative. This is a very real problem which seems to be almost unnoticed by the idiotic politicians that we have in this country and the United States who are making more of a system that does not work in the life cycle of the human but works well for the ticking a box world of the accountant.

So what lies beyond your knowledge? The world of the impossible, the one of dreams, Lewis Carroll’s thinking of six impossible things before breakfast.  All artistic projects start as ridiculous ideas, the dreams of the teenage budding rock star start as pipe dreams but somehow for the intrepid and the stubborn they become real. It seems that the drive magically reduces the statistical inevitability of failure. What lies within your knowledge is the fact that you do not stand a cat’s chance in hell of making it but outside of that in the world of the black swans and komodo dragons is the way of realising your liberation from ‘knowledge’. Once you have drunk from that well you know where it is roughly, so you can stumble on it again because like any topography that is unmarked things seem to move but the essence lures you back like Parsifal looking for the Grail Castle.

So start with the dream and by having the dream percolate in your thinking see what ripples come back from the edges of your mind bouncing off the hills of the strange outer world of consciousness. The place where music is formed, the Kashmir of dreams as sung about by Led Zeppelin. Places that change, sometimes illusive, strangely familiar but unpredictable, like Alice’s Wonderland.  Imagine what you could achieve with either the Red or White Queen on your side?

I feel a song coming on.



Vic



www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of unleashing your inner rock god


Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education. Chuang Tzu

Our education system is based on testing and exams with various forms of rewards given through certification etc. The punishment aspect of it is deeply psychological with people feeling that if they do not achieve they have by extension failed.
I have always found that the most effective use of gradings in teaching the guitar is to create a goal and the journey towards that goal; that is the objective not the arrival, a bit like life. Do we need all the rewards and punishments for developing musical skills or just our motivation to play?
When I started playing there was a lot of social unrest and maybe we are entering that situation again as people begin to notice how much they have been misled by the media and politicians. The idea of getting out and venting your emotional energy was a great motivator and we certainly need motivation but examinations are not generally anything other than a measurement guide for someone else. They are better being a guide for you as a motivator because walking out on a stage waving your grade eight certificate will not prove anything but playing will.
If you look at musical education as being a tool which we can use to realise our artistic goals then we can use the cheapest form of education which is now mostly online or we could also use friends and other artistic colleagues to develop our skills cheaply by watching them play and asking questions. The role of the teacher is to give a good route on the map towards technical and artist realisation, in other words getting people to think for themselves and I do not see much scope for outside reward or punishment but more self-determination and discipline.
The truest measure of your ability is made by you. Most artists find it really difficult to look or listen to their own work after they have completed it and within that we can see that we are greatest critic.
Maybe the time is right for some other counterculture thing to develop where art is being used to critique the establishment and society as has happened numerous times before and potentially can happen again as we are sitting on so many ticking bombs.
So for you as an artist anything less than world domination is not be enough.
Vic
www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of a music summer school to get you rocking

Cherish that which is within you, and shut off that which is without; for much knowledge is a curse. Chuang Tzu

Somebody came to see me during the week for an informal chat about starting guitar lessons. I tend to do this now instead of having conversations on the phone or emails going backwards and forwards about rates and times of lessons etc. I just find it easier for them to meet me and for me to meet them so that I can understand where they are coming from in their playing and if they have played before and what standard have they reached.


This particular person was interested in classical guitar and he had been playing for about four years, he spends some of his time out of the country and he has a guitar teacher while he is away so he was looking for one here. He seemed a very nice guy and he turned up with his guitar and his music; we sat down and had a cup of tea and chatted about what he had done before.

He started to tell me how wonderful the guitar teacher was in America and every lesson was like a masterclass. I found this interesting and when I looked at his music that he had every single note had a pencil mark next to it. The notation was so extensive to include both his right and left-hand fingering and also the dynamics of the piece. I then started to wonder what this guy had actually learnt and what had he discovered about himself musically or was he just following instructions.

He played a little bit to me and it could certainly get all the notes down but there was something lacking. As we discussed things further I gave him some ideas about developing the musicality of what he was playing but I could feel some sort of reticence. The thing really got me was when he produced the music for the Recuerdos de la Alhambra which he said he wanted to play as his autumn project.

I suggested that he should start looking at the piece before I see him next and mentioned some ways of approaching it, he gave me a slightly puzzled look. At that moment it was clear all the lessons had been a firm form of spoon feeding when in reality we need to find the musicality in ourselves and this can be done by teachers showing the way. However the pupil needs to learn self- sufficiency if a teacher goes into great detail on every piece when will the pupil learn that. There is only so many fish that you can give someone it is much easier for them to learn to fish and feed themselves.

We need to nurture what is inside of us and to some extent we do need to be initiated in this by someone else but the constant journey that you make as a musician is yours and not the teachers and although it does mean that you get return business if you teach like this because of the dependence of the pupil that is not the role of the teacher. The aim should be to make the pupil your master.



Vic



www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of playing in a band and learning how to perform and to write songs like a rockstar.


Hammer to C8 Mate

 

 

For the open eyed, there is an opportunity here; when asked how he would prepare for a match against a computer, Dutch chess master Yann Hein Donner said; I would bring a hammer.

 

 

When faced with set patterns of behaviour in ourselves or in systems sometimes we have to do something radical to make a change. The way that things are now developing when there is less and less flexibility we need to do this.

 

There is a test which asks how many uses can you find for a paper clip? When children are asked this question they can come out with many more than an adult. I would postulate that education reduces the creative aspect of the mind because it becomes a paperclip and not just a piece of wire.

 

In music we can see this in the way that complexity will lessen possibility for example if I play one chord that chord can be in several keys but as soon as I play another the number of keys available will become fewer because we start to categorise the first chord.

 

Society has become the adult with reduced capacity to think and this in the words of my father talking about the highly educated, ‘needing a slide rule to cross the road’, today a satnav or an iPhone would be the instrument of choice. As a side effect of learning we discard the things that seem not to fit and therefore start to limit what is possible. What we discard may exist or be possible because we just have not seen it before like Taleb’s Black Swans.

 

Dealing with computers either overtly or not you can feel their presence in everything we do from the letter from the doctor, to the radio play list, to the way our lives are managed. So the limiting categorisation is happening to us by an algorithm.

 

For the musician we need to use computers but not be used by them, the world is full of lifeless stuff created by computers; we need to make sure that when we make a pact with the devil we have an exit strategy which keeps our soul intact. For that we need to rely on what is left of our humanness and I mean that in the very deepest and broadest of terms, that which engages us with our nature and by extension nature herself. So use ones passions from both ends of the spectrum to really charge up our creative juices because it is that that makes our creations interesting and compelling not some watered down sanitised version of what we have become.

 

Technology will destroy that which makes us what we are if we are not careful, we are already corralled by the technology and it is beginning to suck the creativity out of us. What we need is to be able to problem solve without the use of computers and then regain some form of control and then from that point we can engage with the technology on our terms. But faced with technology being used on us then I suggest we do what our ancestors would have done to the dominating force which was trying to take their souls beat the shit out of it with a hammer. All hail to Thor.

Vic

www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of unlimited musically creativity and happiness …

 Huge structural changes are looming for the education sector




 Huge structural changes are looming for the education sector. Think of how angry you would be if you were one of the last students to get so deeply into debt before everything changes. - Gordon White





The changes are a coming and the last people that will see it are the ones with the vested interest in the established ways of doing things, the very things that are going to be changed. What happened to the infrastructure of the horse drawn carriage and vehicle market as the internal combustion engine arrived; they saw it but did they respond to it?

Maybe having a vested interest makes change difficult or maybe they do not have a way of changing. One thing that appears clear to me as I get older is how difficult it would be for me to do something different than being musician. Fortunately being an music gives some flexibility but if I was somebody trained in a skill for which there is no more demand without an aspect of being able to step sideways and use my skills somewhere else then it would be so difficult for me to do something else. Of course for people who made wheels for carts or tack for horses the arrival of the motor car must have been a disaster, and in those days there was no such thing as retraining.

I see dangerous parallels with the past with the added necessity for retraining being part of the landscape of future employment on top of all debt that a young student will accumulate from university and of course retraining will not be free either. It looks like a good strategy to keep the wheels of academia oiled following the principle of medicine that it is more profitable to treat chronical sick than to cure as you have returning business.

Over the last few weeks I have been pondering the way that art and music can help people become more flexible in the way that they think and also looking at the possibility of what you do as an artist to make money. The principles that people want to be educated and be entertained still holds  Many people want to become rock stars in their dreams particularly when a young. Performance skills being used in the world of business for public speaking is a good example of how artistic skills can be turned to a profitable skill.

Extra to the opening quotation is the idea that much of today’s education can be established virtually for free online and this is an advantage that we should use to subvert the system but we should also see its failings that we will end up with many people doing the same thing because the reference points are the same so again the world of the arts and the ability to re-design and re-engineer yourself in a sort of Bowie-esque way is something that you need to work on.

But remember the Nobel laureate’s quote from the 1960s that ‘the times they are a changing’.

Vic



www.bluescampUK.co.uk three days of rocking out and learning the tricks of the trade from professional musicians and teachers with years of experience but hurry spaces are limited and next year’s allocation is already three-quarter sold-out.




There is an old saying that men plan and God laughs.




The plans of mice and men….. we obviously do need a plan just like making a plan for sailing a boat but as soon as you set sail the wind will change you then have to adapt your plan to fit the circumstances of the environment that you are in.

However when we make a plan with a business we often expect there to be no change of wind or adverse weather conditions et cetera et cetera, but of course as soon as you adopt a plan it needs to change. Maybe in this way any plan is a good plan however crazy, however optimistic, because it sets the ball rolling, the secret is to keep adapting the plan.

There is a saying in the British Army that as soon as the enemy moves you have to change your plans so therefore forget about what is taught in business studies at school or college or university and adopt a more artistic creative outlook and think that the plan is a dream, direction and objective and therefore will need to change as soon as is it is implemented.

So let’s look at this from the perspective of organising a concert, you may have the date in mind, support bands required the type merchandise required etc., as soon as you roll out these ideas there will be a problem maybe with the merchandise arriving on time or the support band that you had down not being able to make it. Now much of what you do by planning can be secured by some form of commitment normally financial from the participants for instance getting a support act to give you some money for the tickets which they then have to sell to recoup and make a profit. I’ve always found this a very successful way of developing a support act that can actually make money and bring in a crowd otherwise why would you have support act in the first place.

So in a nutshell make your plans exciting and creative but most of all flexible and with due diligence you should be able to adapt to circumstances as they arise being  prepared to trim your sales as long as you know what the basic requirements are stick to them.



Vic



www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of playing in rock band learning the tricks of the trade from professional players.


The Grammar School Effect


Within the schools there is something that I call the ‘grammar school effect’ because it is more prevalent there, that children who are being educated seem to lose the ability to dream, having their heads crammed with facts and figures. The one thing that you need to do as an artist is to be able to dream and imagine the impossible. The grammar school system does not lend itself to that.


I was talking to a drummer friend of mine who teaches at a grammar school in Kent and he was saying that when you ask a pupil what their dream is they don’t seem to have one they just lost the capacity to have a fantasy or dream that drives them to doing something musical. He cited the pressure that they are under academically for the problem and I agree that the children in the grammar school education are so pressurised academically that learning a musical instrument is so far down the ladder of needs.


What is so incredible is that we know the value of music, singing and the arts and yet even with all the scientific psychological research it is being ignored in education and the arts are being pushed outside the curriculum.


It seems to be almost the kiss of death for children to pass the 11+ when it comes to something like music or art even politicians comment that people need to spend more time on their science and maths we will look back on this and realise that it is a disaster to think like that.


What needs to happen for us as teachers is to promote the beneficial effects of music to the well-being of people I would add to this that the ability of people to think is broadened with the aspect of music and art and this is something we need in the economy in the years to come.


It is not even that we do not have great success with arts in this country because we do. British artistic establishments and the music industry are a very bankable asset and they add to the country’s soft power however for music and arts to be undervalued in the society is a scandal but again it is another example of the pathetic nature of politics and its involvement in education.


As always the politicians will never be held responsible for this like many other things that they have done over the last few years. It is your job to do something about it in whatever way you can.


Vic


www.bluescampuk.co.uk  join the fun, music, song writing and meeting other musicians
 

Getting involved

Probably the best way of getting involved in music is by jamming with other people and although practice at home is good being a bedroom guitar player is not the best way to learn.


The old jazz musicians learnt their trade by hanging out with other players learning the standards and learning the types of phrases that their idols would play. Some great stories of people hanging out with musicians like Art Tatum and just watching close at hand what the maestro do and then going away and emulating it somewhere else.

Certainly the old blues and rock players did the same thing as well as working things out from recordings, and virtually all of the rock and roll guitarists got involved playing standards of the day at dances or at the numerous hops around America.

However what happens today is not so much of this thing going out and gigging but sitting in front of a computer screen watching people on YouTube. This does not teach you the inner language and dialogue that happens between musicians in the band. The only way to learn this is to go out and play and you should do this anywhere you can.

I started playing just before the advent of punk, there were plenty of places to play, village halls pubs etc. and we put on our own gigs they were not particularly good but they were great fun because we were young we had an audience of our peers.

What has taken over from this grassroots practical way of becoming a jobbing musician is this idea of going to college to learn the trade. Do not go to college and get yourself into debt to become a rock musician! That is quite frankly now ridiculous because of the cost. For the sort of money you are putting out you could launch a tour with the rock band and although I am not suggesting you do this you can see how far a debt of £30,000 could go.

If your university or college training is being paid by somebody else then all well and good but if it is actually going to be your debt learn what you can as cheaply as you can and build your contacts from the grassroots up.

So if you are starting out make sure you got time to practice at home but most of all play and have fun with others and be encouraged by the fact that the greatest bands of all time from the Beatles to the stones to Led Zeppelin to the Foo Fighters and Nirvana all did what you are about to do jam with their mates and got out playing.



Vic



www.bluescampuk.co.uk three days of music which is nearly sold out for next year

Intolerant minorities drive change

The above quote comes from Nasim Teleb and something that he noticed in America regarding food and labelling. His observation was that although the Jewish population was only a small percentage it was actually more cost efficient to make something accessible to a small minority than not.

He went on to state that this might be a recurring theme historically, this would explain the rise religions such as Christianity even within something as powerful as the Roman Empire. He postulates that the intolerant minority make it difficult for people to ignore them and therefore it would be easier to include these people than not. Obviously he goes into great detail historically to back this claim.

This could explain several interesting revolutions that occur in history including Bolshevism in Russian and Maoist China which was accomplished by very few people against vast odds. When we look at various structures within society we can see these minorities affect the way we do things take for instance flying. Because of a very small number of potential terrorists we all have to subject ourselves to the rigours of the suspects in order for us to catch a flight.

Education works in very similar way often regarding the to the ideas of a few people who  have influenced and directed education  for the last hundred to 200 years and possibly even earlier. In America the core idea of education emanates from one man.

As artists, teachers and performers we need to look at this as a possible way of influencing the direction of music and anything else that you try using music as a tool. Just being bloody-minded about what you’re doing can actually reap rewards well above the norm.

You might like to try some ideas if you work within an education establishment, try doing things your way in such a way that it would be easier for you to be left alone to get on with it than you to conform to the patterns laid down by others.

Think what this could mean in your musical life, be different ……………

Worth a try


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The West has immersed itself in technique and the mechanics of things in nearly every area of art and learning and lost something very precious in the process.  Our lives are now surrounded by that mechanicalism. Our houses, our clothes, our art and our science all reflect it, more so every year and the need for Prozac increases right along with it. People just don’t feel well anymore.  – Stephen Harrod Buhner

 

 

 

Music is in the feeling of things and in the abstractness of the unconscious. We have confused the theory and the technique for the art itself.

 

Did you know that the number of mental illnesses that are listed have increased massively in the last 50 years along with treatments for them?  Weird eh?  Someone is making money straight away from the new diagnosis and listing, we rarely have a mental illness with no treatment. The linking of money with illness is one of the worse ideas that we have created in a capitalist society, great for business, bad for cure. The problem is the catch 22 syndrome that happens, take this pill and then you need this to stop the nausea and this one to protect the liver and so on.

 

The something that is precious is that art is flawed it goes wrong but in that something is created that has a life of its own. You did not create it, it created itself and therefore the work is art it has life and it came through you, you as a channel and conduit for the manifestation of the work.

 

With this in mind can we claim royalties for this? Or maybe we can do something different and make the creation of the song free but let the song do something for us in return for its birth. I am very serious about this because in the book by Charles Eisenstein. Sacred Economics the idea of protecting copyright and the charging for interest on loans are some of the reasons why we are in such a mess. I suggest you read the book as it is a very compelling argument and I think that free music could make amazing things happen but more of that another time.

 

For now create something and let it be its own boss, it maybe your baby but it is its own life but make it work for you and let something develop using that piece of music maybe let others contribute to it, use it and pass the word around about it.

 

This could be massively powerful form of publicity worth more than you would make from it by conventional means.

Vic

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Between Tigers


Hanging onto a cliff a cliff face, a tiger above him and more tigers below, the man feels the vine that he is holding onto begin to give way, its roots pulling out of the cliff. There is nothing he can do, but then he notices a beautiful ripe strawberry growing to the side. He reaches over and plucks it. And it is delicious. – The Buddha



Have you ever sabotaged your own success? Maybe you didn’t take the risk that would have given you the opportunity to do something different because it was too frightening or just too uncomfortable? It is only when we get into a situation which is so difficult that we actually value what is presented in that moment. I know from my own life I have turned down the possibility of doing something extraordinary. In one of those instances I went against my better judgement because somebody who I thought would know better told me it wouldn’t work.

At the time I was in a band the son of Roger Moore, Geoffrey had a good voice and the band was really good but this was in the time when the record companies were looking for duos similar to the Pet Shop Boys and not a nine piece rock band.

I thought that we should have taken the band out and gigged, pulling in all the advertising that we could muster which would have been easy because of the celebrity cache of our lead singer. By creating a momentum which could have built upon we could have bootstrapped our way up but I was persuaded that it would not work. Looking back at it I missed a great opportunity.

Take the approach that life is like being sandwiched between two sets of tigers and when it presents you with the beautiful ripe strawberry you need to grasp it and savour it. These events will not change the inevitable but it will make life more wonderful. This brings me to another possibility of this story that any opportunity to live needs to be grasped and sometimes this will mean ignoring the calamity of life in order to  spend  time doing things that are seemingly trivial but nevertheless beautiful like playing a musical instrument.

Vic



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BB King taught me to play the guitar

When the hugely influential guitarist BB King died, there passed an era that will never return in our memory or that of our children or grandchildren.


So many of the events in music are unique such as the arrival of the blues boom in England bands such as the Stones, Animals and the Beatles re exporting the music back to the USA, the uniqueness was not the music but the environment that fostered it coming out of segregation in America the declining British Empire and the aftershocks of war and then the children of the war casting something different in the world.
These events will only happen when comparable scenarios happen in the world. It seems that the context required for new musical innovation has to come out some form of poverty whether that is financial or cultural or even political. The fact many of the innovators in British music came from places that will close to ports is no coincidence. In my conversation with Chas Hodges (of Chas and Dave) on my YouTube site Chas explains how you needed to know someone who was in the merchant navy to be able to get access to recordings from America.

I was lucky because my brother was in the merchant navy and that gave me access to music from America which influenced my musical tastes as a very young boy, however I was lucky that when I was learning to play it was possible to have those albums on import by visiting record shops such as Dobells London to get jazz and blues recordings.

It still meant we had to learn off the record either because the music books did not exist or in the case of the Beatles Complete were completely inaccurate or just misleading. In fact the book should have been renamed the Beatles Complete Rubbish.

Chas also made the comment that on tour with Jerry Lee Lewis as his bass player he learnt to play the piano by watching Jerry Lee each night. I could say exactly the same about working note for note through the guitar solos of BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Rory Gallagher.

I believe that working through the recordings puts the music into the context that the solos are set and therefore we get closer to the original magic of a great guitar player than by staring at a book.

Choose your favourite guitar player and let them teach you how to play.



Vic

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Seekers of patterns

We are pattern seekers, we see patterns in all things, our scientists find them, our thinkers find them, our philosophers unravel them, and our mathematicians decode them.

However they are all being processed through the human mind, maybe they do not exist as we believe they do, the very act of thinking makes them exist and even the rationale of science does not escape this trap. 

With music we have created scales, chords and timings that are the patterns that we seek however they are all about familiarity and they seem to be real because we have heard them before and that familiarity makes them real as if they are some natural law.

Maybe they do not exist on their own only through the prism of our consciousness in other words we imagine them. In fact the epistemology of the word ‘image’ is telling; because the word image is from the same root that creates the word ‘magic’ and ‘magus’ or ‘magi’. In this era of the iPad and iPhone look again at the word image. We have literally created something or a range of things that have been in our conscious for many years marked by language in fact we have cast a spell and it is in the spelling.

Try this; play something that is familiar, a tune that is famous like Summertime for instance then start to change the notes of the melody but keep to the rhythms of the original tune, after a short while this will be completely acceptable, then include notes that are outside the scale and after a while these will seem acceptable as well, that is how jazz works.

Nothing is true, everything is possible. 



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Mentoring

For me mentoring is one of the most effective ways of creating a change in a pupil particularly when they have got to the point of having some grasp of the scales and chords and basic theory: maybe at around grade four.

I have always started from the premise that you need to find out from the pupil what their dreams are and where they currently are in their ability to play. That journey always has to be taken from where they are and not from where you are. I find a lot of teachers spend a lot of time trying to make pupils do what they can do, I personally find this inefficient and the best results from my experience comes from igniting the pupils imagination. This can be rather troublesome and challenging for you as a teacher because there are things that you are less than adequate in, which you have to really brush up on in order to help but I found in the past it enables a pupil to develop very quickly  on their chosen path.

I’ve had great successes with bass players, song writers, singers, virtuoso rock players, classical players, jazz musicians and what we could loosely term as musical artists. This stuff isn’t really coming from me it’s coming from them and for me the thing that tips the balance is their personal motivation to achieve what it is that they really like.

Many of my pupils do gradings and the grades are only a target and an objective on the path to their personal aspirations. Once you have them motivated and they have a goal to work towards then you have to let them get on with it. It is them who climb the mountain, not you. You may have the map but they have got to do the hard work and therefore if they do not achieve what they set out to achieve that is down to them.

One last thing to consider is that your aim is to make them better than you, do not get into the old British management style of employing somebody is not as good as you. You really want them to be the thing that you aspire to.

Most often the pupils will have enough skills of their own that will develop over time, occasionally you will need to instil some new tools to assist them. Apart from musical skills these may be personal skills such as goalsetting time management etc. This is where I use NLP as I find this to be the most effective way of achieving change.

Vic

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