Why did I join Guitar Circle?
For most if not all of my life I have wanted to play a musical instrument. As a kid I briefly went through a phase of wanting to play the bassoon: it has a strange, humble sound that one can easily ignore but the tone of which is the rival of even the cello. Bassoons are expensive instruments, however, and my folks didn't have the money to spend on something that expensive that might just be a passing notion. And then for a while I wanted to play the trombone, like my father. I even did play the trombone for about 6 months, until my father had to "temporarily" borrow the trombone he had given me to play a "really stupid show that's never going to last". Well, that show was A Chorus Line and up until Cats it was the longest running show on Broadway.
And then, somewhat older, I took up the Indian tabla and really loved it. I practiced my ass off and really shocked my teacher as I rapidly made breakthroughs. As part of a punk/new wave band Doppler Effect I even performed publically with Mr URS and another old friend, with John Cale (yeah, the Velvet Underground John Cale.) But I eventually got laid off from my summer job at Grand Central Cameras and couldn't afford the lessons anymore. In addition, I was studying physics and really didn't have the time to spare on what would pretty obviously just become a hobby.
So then, about two years ago, I attended an Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists performance at St Mark's Church in the East Village, and I loved what I saw: Robert Fripp led a procession of maybe 70 guitarists into the church and they passed notes around in big circles and did other crazy things. I had been reading about some of what Guitar Craft / Guitar Circle was about, so I dove in when I found out there would be a local 3 session intro course meeting once a month on Saturday mornings down on Bleecker.
But here is what I really wanted to say, and that I've told no one until now. There is a part of me that has always been afraid of making music. Why? Because I know that given my family history, music had the potential to amplify in me whatever megalomaniacal tendencies I may have buried down inside. At least in terms of the professional world, one's success is based just as much on the perception of your heavy weightedness (artistically and chops-wise) than on your actual musicianship. And I always felt like a part of me would very readily respond to all of that crazy shit.
With Guitar Circle, however, I feel like there's enough built into it and its methods are so group-oriented that the odds of it switching on the aging megalomaniac inside are low to nil. Indeed, it's such a rigorous methodology that there almost isn't a megalomaniac on the planet with enough energy to make it through all of the hard and tedious work that's necessary. You really have to have a love of music to make it through. Plus, even if there was a megalomaniac left standing, in the context of the circle there's not a lot left for him to do. Sure, once every few weeks one might have the chance to solo over part of a piece for a couple of bars. But that's pretty much it: The Circle has transpersonal music-making demands that are sure to crush the hopes of even the most raving megalomaniac.
This is the context, then, in which I am learning the guitar. And even if I become pretty damned good at it, it's not like I could even make a career out of teaching this strange tuning to anyone. This is pure music in a group context and it is what I have needed all these years. And that's why I practice at least an hour a day, sometimes two or three.