Monday, 15 November 2010

Terrible by accident on purpose

I locked myself in my wardrobe last night. That's more difficult than it sounds, it has sliding doors. It was, of course an accident, one in a long list of accidents. I threw a garbage bag containing a king size doona onto my head, dropped two fans on my feet and trapped the cat in the shower. I was having one of those uncoordinated days when my ordinary flesh turns into an irresistible disaster-attracting magnet but it was better than the day before when I had to fake something similar.

Spencer said he was having some friends around to have a jam in his band room. I came along to take notes for something I'm working on but ended up happily but ineffectively bashing away at the drums. Something got into Spencer's head and he kept calling out for everybody to swap instruments, which is fine for him because he can just about get away with playing anything, less good for the some of the rest of us, particularly me. I can't play guitar, not at all. I don't want to learn either. I have about as much interest in playing guitar as I do in dropping my hands into a vat of boiling oil. I made some loud electric noises of the atonal variety and didn't really mind not being able to play but then Spencer yelled for another swap and somebody handed me a bass.

I can play bass guitar, but I didn't want to. I haven't wanted to play for twenty years and even before that I wasn't really having a good time with the stupid thing. I used to plod along with one dire band or another, picking out the right notes and following the drummer through rhythm and the guitars through keys but I never liked it. I remember the precise day when I shut my old bass into its case and swore never again.

Two days ago in Spencer's band room I was stranded in the middle of a stupid jam with a damn bass strapped around my neck. Spencer was playing drums like he was falling down stairs, some others were having a go at electric guitar. I thought about it for a second, ran my left hand down the fret board and felt the strings bite at my fingertips but then something took over. I don't even remember making the decision not to play. It was easier than I thought, I half-heartedly plonked out a few tones, out of order, out of rhythm. Muscle memory was screaming at me 'you're doing it wrong, stop doing it wrong', but the more I persisted in not playing the easier it got. I tapped out some random nothings, played non-existent chords, jammed my foot down on a pedal to muddy things up even further and just sat there, making hideous non-rhythmic noises until it was time to swap again.

I can't quite remember what led to the momentous day when I declared, with god as my witness, I will never play the bass again but I do remember the feeling of uncomplicated relief. I suspect it has something to do with writing. There came a point when rehearsals, sound checks, riding stuffed like a sardine from shit town to shit town in the back of someone's borrowed car and playing to people who didn't really give a shit shifted from being kind of fun to nothing more than stolen hours. I just wanted to stay home and write. I know that music isn't my first language like it is for others. I can play some instruments, I can sight read music like a pro, thanks to never practicing enough between piano lessons and wishing to avoid getting yelled at. I can listen to music like most people can't, inhabit it, wear it right in the face, I can sit without embarrassment right in front of a rehearsing beginner or a world class concert pianist but what I can't do is build within myself an innate sense of musicality. You've either got it or you don't. I don't got it and for that I remain truly grateful. I have enough to do here with words.

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