Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Nylon Strings Riffsmaster

I live in north Texas, a place of varied and innovative music. But let's pretend for a moment that I live in west Texas, which is a metal mecca. We can even pretend that I live in west Texas in 1972. Let's pretend also that I have a Telecaster, a theremin, and the weirdest percussionist in Texas. That will get us in the right frame of mind for this post.

The kind folks at Splice Music set up a contest called Guitar Gods. You see, the folks who hang out in their forum wanted a contest which features some Good Old Fashioned Rock n Roll. You know Good Old Fashioned Rock n Roll, it's one of those dead languages they teach in high school, like Latin or football. So for the contest, the entrant is supposed to record a guitar riff, and then build a song around it, using Splice's little easy-to-use flash recording studio.

I freely confess that I spent my teens listening to soaring glissandi guitar solos by men in tailored three piece suits; before that, I listened to Mark Farner, who, if you're too young to remember, captained a rock band called Grand Funk Railroad, the least respected fun bunch ever invented. Don't worry that they got no respect--remember, in those days "wise minds" panned Led Zeppelin. In some ways, I posit, certain kinds of respect and certain kinds of rock music just don't go together. I still remember all the words to "I'm Your Captain" and "We're an American Band".

You can easily imagine how eager I was to enter any contest named Guitar Gods. My inner Bill Nelson/Carlos Santana/Mahuvishnu John McLaughlin/Phil Manzanera could come out to play. Oh? That list of guys? Who are they? Call them Dinosaurs for Good, in three piece suits.

There was only one problem. I don't play guitar. I don't mean I don't play guitar well. I mean, well, I don't play guitar. This posed a real issue for me. It is very hard to be a guitar god
if one cannot play guitar.

I came up with a solution. I would play guitar, even if I don't play guitar. I went downstairs and got my wife's high-school guitar, an acoustic Yamaha G-55A. It's very cute. It looks like something Buffy Sainte-Marie might play. Oh? Buffy Sainte-Marie? Who was she, you ask? She was a slayer. She slayed demons with songs about all sorts of odd and heartfelt things. They just blew up. You had to be there. Trust me. She was just enough before my time to be quaint rather than irritating.

I pulled out that guitar, fortunately not well-tuned (as tuning can defeat a good rock song), and my trusty VN-1000 voice recorder. I improved out a rockin' 17 second riff. Then I put that riff on my home studio. I ran it through a flanger. I ran it through filters. Soon I had my very own rock riff.

Then I figured "we need a vocal". I wanted to do a vocal track to accompany my new metal song.
It had to have lyrics about llamas and elves and hedgerows and camels and a crimson garden.
I sang and sang and sang. I made up all the words as I went along. Soon I had a nice little 52 second a capella track.

I uploaded the guitar riff and the vocal to Splice. I had already uploaded this really rockin' theremin solo I'd made with Coagula Light from, of all things, a photograph of an attractive woman's face and a software synthesizer called The Whistler, and I had this really cool recording of Home Depot bolts being clinked, as adjusted in a synthesizer to make a rhythm track. Other Splice members had uploaded great gongs and drums and cymbals, which I mixed into the piece.

One good fellow had added an extended section of donkey bray. Who could resist a donkey's bray?
Essential, I say.

Soon I had my little parody-of-every-good-song-from-1971 assembled. The guitar solo and the vocal didn't work when played together, so I made the 'pella of my voice into the equivalent of an instrumental break.

The result, "In the Crimson Garden" is every bit as much silly fun as I'd hoped it would be.
I do not believe it will elevate me to the rock god pantheon. I do not know that I even believe in rock gods, being rather agnostic about the divine nature of the medium.

But I know that when the question rings out "Can YOU rock?" I can say: "BRING IT ON!!!".

Anyone got a cigarette lighter to hold aloft?

Here's where you can hear my rock hero moments (or, at least, the silliest thing I've done so far today):
"In the Crimson Garden"--guitar riff by gurdonark, vocal by gurdonark.

EDIT: I had rather fancied that my guitar hero work would go unheralded, given that cheap microphones and diffident singing only really works in Smiths songs. But I see that my guitar sample, "I Play and Flange My Wife's Axe", which is the basis of "In the Crimson Garden", was just remixed by a 16 year old organ aficionado. The result is, quite simply, proof that we all have a little Robin Trower in us, if only we can find it:

The first remix of my guitar riff.
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