Lone Survivor

“To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.”
– Margret Thatcher

Bound by convention

My friend Fran and I were learning Impermanence by Gustavo Santaolalla during one of our recent guitar lessons.  Fran, a pediatric urologist, is a cool guy.

In the past, it’s been my experience that surgeons make for very simple guitar students. Their lifestyle is an organized chaos that leaves little room for a well-formed musical identity. Usually, I get a request like, I just want to play around (the proverbial) campfire, or I really like Bob Seger. Do you know any Bob Seger?

Fran, on the other hand, is a music buff.  His knowledge of jazz and rock — past to present — would rival Matt Pinfield’s. It certainly surpasses mine. Most lesson nights, we’re figuring out anything from Radiohead and Bon Iver  — to Pat Metheny and Yes.

After playing through Impermanence on his guitar, Fran followed up with his usual curiosity — how did he come up with that? I explained that there is nothing theoretical about it. There is no scheme.  Gustavo Santaolalla cannot read or write music, so this is just one man following his ear for music. Fran then says — interesting, he’s not bound by convention.

Most successful people you know, are not bound by convention. In fact, their actions seemingly reject conventional wisdom in all of its forms. Think of Steve Jobs, Gustavo Santaolalla, and even Explosions in the Sky — all are entities that defy convention.  Similarly, (smart) actors like Bryan Cranston look for unsafe, unconventional roles in film.

Fran, for instance, spends his free time rock climbing, playing guitar, and traveling to Africa to undertake pro bono surgery and medical procedures for the less fortunate. To a much lesser global effect, I teach guitar and blog for a living and lifestyle. While we’re not perfect, most people would think that both Fran and I are successful and unconventional guys.

If you think about it, convention is really consensus — and consensus is what keeps the tree-line even on the horizon with only a few tall trees poking through to the top. Consensus is what keeps individuals in lock step, putting one foot in front of the other in perpetuity.

In this sense, conventional wisdom is toxic to the human spirit. Your place on this earth is to create constantly — and to put your unique spin on whatever it is that you endeavor to do. Your humanity literally depends on it.

(Note: Waking Up is my premium material. Please comment if you’d like to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions.)

How to Play Waking Up for classical guitar, from the score of Lone Survivor.

I’m pleased to get into some more compelling music this week. While I’m happy to transcribe the August: Osage County score straight through — my blog’s health depends on fresh, and diverse content.

I had the pleasure of seeing Explosions in the Sky open for Nine Inch Nails in October, and I was psyched to adapt some of there music to my nylon string guitar.

I’ve mentioned this before — but once you take a shimmering, multi-guitar part like Waking Up and adapt it to a single instrument — you can see the underpinnings of the whole song. A scheme becomes apparent that the individual band members might be unaware of.

By band, I mean a true collaborative effort — and having played in a rock band for most of my adult life — you rarely know what the other guy is actually playing. That’s a cool aspect of bands that most people are unaware of.  The individual members pull melodies from mid-air as they see them, then combine and compromise to make music.

Enjoy, the tab is available below:

Waking Up is played in standard tuning. 

Waking Up — Explosions in the Sky

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Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, film composer - Broken Noons, creator of modern content for guitar.