Every now and then as one goes through life, events happen to which we ascribe meaning. I had such a moment yesterday.
I had the wonderful opportunity to do a solo guitar concert 2 nights ago at the “Mozarthaus” in Vienna, Austria. Mozart lived on the ground floor level of this building. The building sits on “Domgasse” – the Dome being St. Stefan’s Cathedral.
The concert was in the basement where they now have a lovely small hall for chamber music. The building is now a historic landmark museum, and they host concerts, events…it’s just so cool. I’ll need to go back as a tourist and check it out!
It was in this building that Mozart and Haydyn met. It was an honor not only to set foot in this place, but also perform music there. Holy powdered wigs, Batman!
As I walked in, and throughout the concert I couldn’t help but think of the towering genius of Mozart – and here I am doing my little ol’ funky fingerpicking, playing Billie Jean, beatboxing, and so on. The ridiculousness all of it was humbling and totally hilarious at the same time.
During my first guitar and beatbox tune “Chameleon” the melody lines wove in and out of eachother, the beatbox groove hit and I saw smiles in the crowd. I knew then and there, old Wolfgang would approve and it made me feel good. He was a playful groovy son of a gun…I felt him smiling.
Afterwards, as the audience was screaming, and I had to just take it in and enjoy kicking butt musically in the former home of one of our worlds greatest musical geniuses!
But, lets not forget Mr. Fux either. “Who’s that?” you ask.
Last night at the concert as I introduced my tune “America”, I told the folks that the tune was born as I studied “Gradus ad Parnassum”, Johann Fux’s book on counterpoint (which Mozart also studied by the way). You can actually buy this book at Barnes & Noble. It’s a music education classic – just a small pocket sized paperback, but heavyweight in the concepts!
Fux lived during the same time as Bach and was the “Cappelmester” – i.e. choir leader, organist and head teacher in charge of music there at St. Stefans Cathedral in Vienna.
His book was (and still is indispensable) to my musical education and to my fingerstyle guitar approach. The ability to “juggle” more than one “voice” and see where voices in the music hit at the same time – or don’t hit at the same time (called counterpoint) was strengthened by doing all the written exercises in his book over coffee each morning for about 2 years. Once you can visualize the concept on paper, playing it becomes easier.
This work translated into “seeing possibilities” as a composer and arranger rather than just thinking like a “guitar player”. That’s why I always try to teach students “concepts” as opposed to just songs. The mileage you get from a correct concept can be the spark for hundreds of songs and arrangements.
Special thanks to Mozart, Fux, Bach and the all the Masters of music, you are all a never ending source of inspiration to me. My dream is to provide people with music that is not only entertaining, but intelligent too, and I hope you were groovin with me last night, (and I kinda think you were).
Your student, Adam.