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New Song: “After Dinner Drinks”

Play the song:

[audio: Dinner Drinks.mp3|titles=After Dinner Drinks]

This song is a ski-slope of calamity.

An innocent matrimonial candle-lit dinner with the bonhomie lubricated with some fine wine and later (and disastrously) by other more prosaic and economical beverages.

At first, warm-hearted smiles and faux-erotic kisses and hand-strokes accompany the shared reminiscences until. Until some almost forgotten and ancient slight is innocently recalled by one and met with a piece of jocular whataboutery of equal vintage and irrelevance by the other. Playful hair-tussling and smoochy ear-pecking is put to one side to allow space for lip-tightened smirks to replace teeth-gleaming peals of laughter. A slow-motion descent into competitive point-scoring-ping-pong ensues to the accompaniment of alcohol fuelled darkening of both mood and vocabulary. Goodwill evaporates as bloods begin to boil. Voices are raised as inhibitions are lowered. The encircling apocalypse is not even noticed until its finality and permanence is assured. Things have been said that can never be unsaid. At some point exhaustion caused sleep.

At the last there is the weary quiet of a bleak morning-after. A bag is packed and a taxi called. How did this happen?

The first lesson of skiing is to learn how to stop.

The song is written in the form of a reminiscing. But sentiment in numbed. All feeling – and it’s remembrance – is avoided. Shame teaches forgetfulness. Forgetfulness destroys no information.

After Dinner Drinks

After Dinner Drinks

I’m staying tonight
I’ve got every right
But I’ll be gone
Before it gets light

We got high as a kite
We got into a fight
Some things raised their heads should’ve stayed
Well out of sight

I can’t remember how it feels

We let it all out
We started to scream and shout
Just in case there was any
Reasonable doubt

It was like a roll-call
They were all up against the wall
All the hurts and the insults, all the
Negligence and all

I need to rest for a while
Close my eyes for a while
But I’ll get my shoes and coat
In a little while

© 2015 Dave Keir


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Noodling with scales

How many useful scales are there ““ or how many would be of interest to me? Modes are one set of scales that seem to get an inordinate amount of attention from fingerstyle guitar players (and others) these days. I guess it’s their folky and archaic sound world. Arabic and other eastern scales have been explored by others, notably Davy Graham. There are dozens of the things derived from traditions world-wide and invented. I reckon that all the possible sequence of intervals have been written down and explored. A scale, after all, is simply a stepwise sequence of notes from a root to its octave; how many notes and what intervals are between them are arbitrary to the definition.

For what purpose would I immerse myself in exotic scales? Well, it’s a toughie to answer coherently; I suppose in a way similar to my exploration of harmony, I’m trying to see what all this additional musical vocabulary would do for my writing.

Now, no way would I take (say) a Jewish scale with a view to writing a Kletzmer tune; I would, on the other hand, like to hear what colours I could bring to my writing with this scale on my palette. Also, notwithstanding that I’ve questioned the notion of “modal chords”, I wonder what juxtaposition of chords I might stumble across while noodling around with some of these scales (in a sort of free-association sort of way). That doesn’t appear much like a structured approach, I know, but I have no desire to over-systematize this because I think it would inhibit that curious faculty of intuition which is the precursor of useful musical ideas. Neither do I want to study traditional, cultural or historical use of any of these scales, lest I end up making up pastiches of pre-existing forms. No, this is all about what these scales might mean to me in my writing.

So there it is. I’ll either let you know here how I get on, or I won’t – depending on how successful it all turns out.

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Noodling with harmony

The guitar seems to have a tonal centre around G major meaning the further you go to the dominant and sub-dominant sides from there, the tougher it becomes to play. (I’m talking acoustic fingerstyle guitar as distinct from, say Jazz, particularly played on electric.) There is a jump in difficulty when you reach B major and B flat, respectively, which leaves a lot of major and minor keys out of bounds, so to speak. I feel cheated.

It all comes down to being brought up in the “folk tradition” and becoming restricted to chords that rely on open strings for sonority.

So, by way of looking for a solution I’ve been working hard with chord voicings and keys ““ particularly “non-guitar” keys ““ and finding interesting ways to wander between tonalities. It really is a rich area for exploration and I’m surprised at the twists and turns that happen as I noodle using the devices that I’ve learned.

I must say, though, that the sounds I come up with are quite far from what I would normally expect of myself when just picking around on the guitar ““ but that’s partly the point of doing this in the first place. On the other hand, I’m not yet sure how I’m going to incorporate all this seamlessly into my writing. In other words, to get these voicings and voice leading ideas under my fingers so I can think about sounds rather than think about fingers. I suspect it might be a matter of repetition until it all comes naturally…

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Fingerpicking or Fingerstyle?

If I’m playing something up-tempo and aggressive then I’m definately a down-home, primitive fingerpicker. If, on the other hand, I’m doing something moody or contemplative then I’m a sophisticated, city-slicking fingerstylist.

Another thing ’bout pickin’ nomenclature: whence the “Travis Picking” terminology? I learned alternate bass picking mostly from Mississippi John Hurt, whose style, I think I’m right is claiming, predated Merle Travis just a little.

Do either of the above musings matter a jot?

In my lifelong search for inner peace it is necessary that I contemplate and, through understanding, exorcise the irritants that get under my skin.