“…here it rains flowers” – Linda Hogan

March 21, 2016

I have started falling in love with flats. A guitar player tends to find them hard to enjoy because in regular tuning they mean lots of barre chords and sore hands. In altered tunings things can change and one of the pieces on my latest CD is in G minor [2 flats]. I have just written another piece filled with flats: a birthday card for my wife. It opens and closes in a sharp key [G maj], but even that section is contains a great many flats.

This personal trend may have started when I heard the playbacks in the recording studio of Floodplain - another work on the latest CD. It is my first work that uses dropped D and G, a tuning where five of six strings make up a G major chord. Listening back, it felt like the guitar was missing resonance, and sounding dull. Perhaps it was the tuning where one chord can sound so rich, the others suffer. The tuning makes things in and around the key of G easy to play, but the background harmonics were missing. They provide a richness to the sound and these subtle noises make the guitar more interesting for the player.

My intuition must have worked on that problem, and the result is two pieces that drift into G minor and G Phrygian. Both modes use flats ubiquitously. These flats work against the tuning, creating easy dissonances that make the strings resound differently. The tuning also invites drones, strings that repeat while melodies or chords move over them. These drones allow tensions to grow and resolve as the melodic sounds clash before falling to an open string.

Open tunings create new possibilities; new chords and new patterns emerge. One of the weaknesses can be too much sameness as one is drawn into the ease of the tuning. Every once in a while it is good to make a system work against itself, subverting it to the greater good.

Nasrudin had invited his friends to dinner for a meal of roasted quails. When they were ready, Nasrudin placed them on a serving platter with a lid to keep them warm. He brought the platter to the table, returning to the kitchen to fetch the remaining dishes. While he was in the kitchen, the well-prepared pranksters, hid Nasrudin’s platter and replaced it with another that contained live quails.

When Nasrudin was ready to serve the dinner, he opened the lid and all the quails flew out. Nasrudin watched the birds darting around as they flew out the windows.

“O Great Creator”, he said raising his arms toward the ceiling, “how marvelous of you to give life to these cooked birds, do you also plan to reimburse me for the butter, salt and tomato paste?”