March 14, 2004

Low Frequencies

Bassist Blood Commits Suicide

No, no, it's not me, it's Dave Blood, from the Dead Milkmen. But I was thinking about that, and flipping through Bass Player, and listening to Jaco, and I thought, since I haven't blogged in a while (for shame!), that I'd ramble a bit about bass playing, if you'd indulge me.

I can credit my experiences with Elevator Cops and Seastar NT for the increases in my speed and dexterity, as well as my progress in making up interesting, expressive basslines (and solos). My appreciation for and understanding of music have picked up. I've noted improvements in my ear, and I can learn to play songs more quickly. (Now if only I could practice six hours a day, I might really have something here!)

All that is great. But what's more important to me, in a largely selfish way, is that through bass playing I really think I've come to understand what people mean when they talk about a feeling of one-ness with something. I'm not naturally attuned to such things, so it caught me off guard at first. I didn't know what to make of it...a moment, a few seconds at most, when I just stopped existing, but instead of a blackout, it was the polar opposite, the feeling that this one moment was the whole point of life. And it was so startling that it threw me, and I fucked up the line. It was gone before I knew what it was, and though it was indescribably beautiful, there was no sense of loss: just a feeling of having been briefly blessed by a force hitherto unknown.

But it kept happening, again and again, and I began to understand its nature, to feel it coming on, and to accept it without distraction, that moment when the equation of bass + bassist ceases to exist, and you're left with only the sum. A brilliant feeling, though it's really no feeling at all...just total peace, total happiness, total tranquility. English may lack the word...something like bliss. Bliss squared, maybe. I'm too unaware to know it as it happens, but I can feel it before and after. To be and not to be.

Like a smile over a telephone, this feeling can be heard in the music, which (I try to convince myself) makes it not entirely selfish. You can hear it when Jaco Pastorius plays, especially lead. Victor Wooten seems to have harnessed it for the past 15 years straight. Outside the bass realm, I think of Jimi Hendrix, Thom Yorke, and Jerry Garcia.

I have the sense that much more is wrapped up in that feeling. It's difficult to study, for as I say, I cannot perceive it as it occurs. I must make guesses based on the dissipating vapors left behind as I regain consciousness. I'm betting this feeling touches everyone, sooner or later, more or less often. We may or may not recognize it for what it is. But it's something.

Posted by Chris at March 14, 2004 09:26 PM | TrackBack

That's too bad about that bassist- have you ever listened to them? I used to be a crazed dead milkmen fan back when I was in and just after highschool. They had a song about living near chemical waste or a nuclear plant and the effects it had on a child:
I've got a kid
His name is scott
He's going blind
And his blood just
will not

It's funny one of the hardest things I ever had to deal with while playing guitar- particularly with other people (but even alone) is that giddy feeling when everything clicks and then starting to fiendishly giggle- fighting the giggle was always tough but led to productivity.

I do believe that much of music lies beyond theory and structure- although I suspect that when you combine that with the ineffable part that the results will be even nuttier.

Posted by: Dana at March 15, 2004 08:54 AM

Chris and the art of Zen Bass playing? :) I have a Mark Levine Jazz theory book that prefaces the tome with, jazz is 99% aquired skill and 1% magic. I'd have to disagree. I think that good players use WAY more magic than that. It's the same way with theater when somebody gets up on stage or in your basement and the entire feel of the room changes and you can FEEL the music. Now if I only had 6 hours a day to practice! *chuckle*

I picked up a Bass V-amp pro. I ordered the one for guitar... the bass version showed up. I'm actually glad it did. It's still got 16 electric guitar amp models (more if you count the ones used by the keyboard presets) and 4 acoustic simulators/enhancers. So it actually fits my playing style more than the dedicated guitar version. I've been very impressed with the emulators too. I've played through digitech and line6 and frankly I think that this one is just better. Of course it's just been me and I haven't put it into a live mix so we'll see Wednesday how it holds up.

Shame on you for not posting. lol Hopefully my band will FINALLY be getting a demo out in the next couple of months. Now that I have a place of my own I've been trying to get past my aneuristic tendency to not be able to play and sing at the same time. With some stuff it's not really that difficult... strum strum auto pilot on *click* sing sing... with most of our stuff it's more like strum complicated riff.. strum auto pilot on *click* sing.... auto pilot malfunction... *insert expletive*. But we have a gig in July already and we've already begun working on four part harmonies for many of the songs so we've at least got somewhat of a critical mass behind us to get us inspired.

When it comes out I'll either send you a copy or post it online. Anyway bak to work.

Posted by: Tim at March 15, 2004 10:46 AM

yay for the v-amps! $200 rackmount v-amp vs $800 for the rackmount line6 with more or less identical results...and many swear the v-amps are better

Posted by: Dana at March 15, 2004 11:17 AM

Glad to see you "back on the air," man :)

My old guitar teacher talked about something very similar to what you are talking about. About how sometimes everything just clicks, and it's like you open a door directly to God, or Source, or some incredible higher power, call it what you will.

Very cool post, thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Nabil at March 15, 2004 11:28 AM

I get that too. And I Found I can live without Psilocybin........Cause I can't Get IT!!!!!!!!!!
Na,just kidding folks, I don't do drugs, nor associate myself with anyone who may. But the Magical Point Tim brought up is that it is more than 1%, I agree.
I see it as this:

A- Magic - 7%
B- Skill - 3%
C- God Given Talent - 4%
D- All about the blowjob - 81%
E- Knowing how to add.
F- Add Line D and E and change
to 86%


Posted by: SeaDog at March 15, 2004 06:31 PM
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