With the tiny baby asleep, I’ve been into straightening up my workspace during my off hours. That’s what you do in the New Year, right? It’s sort of like a spring clean but with an eye on the past as well as the future. While shuffling piles of papers into folders, in the name of organization and efficiency, I found some old photographs. Visually captured moments that instantly took me back 10-15 years. As I was looking at these snapshots I started to reflect on what I was listening to when these pictures were taken—a musical timeline materialized.
Each photo captured an event, a moment from my particular history. Music, especially those tapes, LP’s and CD’s that have fallen to the back of a cupboard or in the bottom of a box because you’ve “gone digital,” can have the same impact. A song or piece can serve as a sonic picture. A moment in sound that documents, to the world, that for a brief time a piece of art was created. The beautiful thing about a recording is that the artist(s) makes the work and then, bravely, sends it out to the world with the hope that someone will connect with it. It lives on and can become not only the artist’s story but a part of yours or mine.
Perhaps what’s most special about this process is that there’s a chance the listener builds a relationship with a song that is completely independent from the artist’s. As I type this, I realize that I’ve got a laptop full of memories now that don’t have an image, but create a soundtrack of my life. So, here are some sonic pictures (in the highest fidelity possible via the internet) of my journey on this planet. Putting this together was a tremendous amount of fun as I broke it up into musical snapshots in 2-5 year increments. In an attempt to be succinct, keep myself in line and not bore you, I allowed myself 3-4 sentences to describe each work and it’s significance. Hope you enjoy! For those feeling inspired, let me know your favorite tunes and sonic pictures: @zaneforshee
Leo Brouwer: Estudio Sencillos VI: Ricardo Cobo My first “Cool” etude for the guitar. I was so proud and still feel that way today as I teach it to students.
Fugazi: Margin Walker From a dubbed cassette tape to my ears. Seventh grade was never the same! Their DIY approach had a huge influence on me and I still love them to this day.
John Williams: Lute Suite No. 4- Prelude in E major My first guitar teacher made me a dubbed copy of John William’s “Seville Concert” and this piece was my introduction into the world of classical guitar. By the time I was 17 I was driving with three other guitar students from St. Louis to Chicago to see him perform. I remember it like it was yesterday—Williams wore a purple striped shirt, blue pants, and black reebok sneakers.
Drive like Jehu: Do You Compute These guys were my heroes during my days in an indie rock band. They completely blew my mind, making the rock quartet dynamically powerful through their creative song form structures. Way ahead of their time.
Tom Waits: Jockey Full of Bourbon I love Tom Waits. Found him when I was 17 and have been listening ever since. I’d check out his interviews with David Letterman, too. Watch one by clicking here.
Sergio & Odair Assad: Jobiniana No. 1 I first saw them when I was 15 years old. Knee deep in rock & classical—-they had me on the edge of my seat.
Morphine: In Spite of Me College! Freshman year and my friend sent me a mix tape (remember those?) from Olympia, WA. with this fine trio.
Benjamin Verdery: Bach Cello Suite No. 4-Bourree Grew up listening to him on cassette tapes while riding the bus to school. Now I call him on the phone…funny how life works. One of my guitar heroes.
Van Morrison: Radio This album still has the most timeless sound to it. It’s a requirement for me during any road trip. Also, he’s very punctual as a live performer—I dig that!
Charlie Hunter: Your Cheatin’ Heart I first encountered Charlie Hunter at a live show in 1997 (1 week after my junior recital). Everyone at the club was speechless. We still are today.
Led Zeppelin: Tangerine My college roommate from my senior year forced me to listen to Zepplin during my 20’s. For all my moaning and groaning I became a huge Zepp fan—this was the one that won me over.
Jeff Buckley: If You See Her Say Hello (Live) I love this entire album as it shows what a HUGE artist Jeff Buckley was both as a singer/songwriter and as performer. I also found it inspiring that he set himself up a weekly gig at this cafe to simply practice performing—-he’s the real deal. He’s also covering a Bob Dylan classic and this performance is beautiful.
Murray Perriah: Scarlatti Sonata K. 491 Murray is one of my favorites. He makes every piece on this entire album come to life and this sonata by Scarlatti is a perfect example.
Rufus Wainwright: Vibrate Rufus is one of the best songwriters living among us today. He is so creative and writes works that are authentic, humorous, and intimate.
Tom Waits: Chocolate Jesus Did I mention that I like Tom Waits?
Wilco: Hate it Here While I never met Jeff Tweedy, we grew up in the same parts and I’ve always been a fan of his work. This album comes after he re-booted the group. This was also the album they were touring when I saw them open for Neil Young at Madison Square Garden…
Julian Bream: Cuentos para la juventud & La Maja de Goya What else can be said about Bream. He was the coolest of the cool. The wild man of classical guitar and showed everyone who played (and listened) what phrasing and tone color was all about. I bought this album used at a guitar shop for 6 dollars and it stayed in my car for 2 years on repeat.
Jackson Browne: These Days He’s just so good and he wrote this when he was 16.
MGMT: Electric Feel I lived in Spain for a year and cruised around much of the country listening to this track. It was particularly fun for me as I had this album just before it was getting big there…timing is everything.
The Hives: Try it Again This is my daily listen as it get’s me moving to keep up with the tiny baby. My wife is responsible for introducing me to this fine group of gentlemen.
M. Ward: Let’s Dance This week we lost a musical giant. He was a hero to many, including my good friend Christian Biegai, and this is one of my favorite covers of his work. Light a candle for Bowie and his family. Hope you enjoy this one too, Christian!
My name is Zane Forshee and I’m a coffee addict. Not tea, not cocoa, not a mocha frappucino with 17 pumps of whatever flavor you want shoved in there… Nope, I want 2 shots of espresso with a bit of boiling hot water added to it. You get extra cool points if you add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the espresso before you brew it. We call that little touch “Christmas in a cup” around my house but that was during a kinder, gentler time known as: B.B. (before the baby). The new time period in my life, A.B. (after baby), approaches coffee with the understanding that this is how I get anything accomplished. Some people reading this are thinking “How can you do that to espresso?” My answer? It’s good, it’s cheap, it works, and I can make that cup last an entire practice session or almost 3-4 hours of teaching. It is the fuel that keeps the engine running.
As much of my life revolves around the guitar, beverages play a huge motivating factor in getting the work done. One reason for this is, I think, the simple ritual of making the coffee: setting up the pot to brew, preparing the coffee grounds, placing the cup(s) on the counter, turning on the kettle, straightening the kitchen, each action helps to clear my mind before I sit down to work, it’s a little like a meditation. The coffee itself is both a comfort and tool that makes the approach towards the practice chair that bit smoother. This is partially due to fact that most of my practice time, these days, comes either at an ungodly early hour of the morning or late at night. Ye olde coffee wakes me up with the same intensity as the Hive’s tune: Come On.
The funny thing about life is that everyday it manages to surprise you, and it’s up to you how you deal with it – you can tuck and roll and keep going or you can simply stop, and wonder what’s going to happen next. Example: if the tiny baby (who’s not so tiny anymore) wakes up early, or doesn’t want their nap. Although to be honest it is not so much of a surprise, there is a little glint in the eye and a raised eyebrow which communicates clearly that tiny baby doesn’t want to sleep but wants to par-tay! Anyway what it means is that the practicing is getting done a bit later in the day. I’ll be frank, it’s not fun, right now, to sit down to practice late at night. All I want to do is sleep, but if you’ve got put the time in…you’ve got to put the time in. There are two techniques I use to combat this lack of motivation besides the mighty espresso bean. #1: Piggy Timer (aka: Pomodoro Technique). The timer is the best way for me to get the ball rolling when I’m a bit reluctant to start. If I can make it through those first 15 minutes of a practice session, then I’m good to go for the rest of the scheduled time. I set my super pig for 15 minutes. This helps keep my warm-up focused and then I take a quick break, sip that coffee I so lovingly prepared, and reset the clock for another 25 minutes (repeat as needed). You can read all about this strategy by clicking here. It’s an interesting thing to observe when you give yourself a time limit on any given task (especially something as open ended as practicing sometimes might be). I find it helps to organize my work and provides a bit of comfort in knowing that there is light, so to speak, at the end of the practice tunnel. If I still can’t seem to motivate for an evening practice session, I lean on my next motivational tactic #2: Practice Reward. As the lack of motivation occurs, for me, primarily during evening hours, my reward usually consists of either: a beer, a scotch, a bourbon, a wine, and some sort of cookie type object (cake or pie will also do, I am equal opportunities sugar). This is helpful not only due to the fun nature of the reward but also because after working for a few hours at night, I can’t always slow my head down to go to sleep. Having a little “treat” serves not only help me get the work done, but to give me a few moments to unwind on the couch—I highly recommend an adult beverage accompanied by a good read. If a book isn’t your thing, you could try this fine approach created by Mr. Nick Offerman which you can check out here. Also, I should mention that it would be a single beer, or a scotch, etc. Not a beer, a scotch, bourbon, and a glass of wine. If that were the case, nothing would be accomplished for the rest of the week…ever.
As we are now fully ensconced in the “Holiday Season” (is that Mariah Carey I hear, or Slade for my British friends!), I’m changing up my post practice beverage of choice. The eggnog has been located and retrieved from the local market (no small feat!) with the first glass poured this past Friday. Upon finishing a late night practice session for a concert the following day, my head still filled with the Scarlatti sonata I was rehearsing, I trotted out of my musical vault to briefly revisit my childhood. One glass, one fresh pint of eggnog, a bit of nutmeg, and Nat King Cole’s version of the Christmas Song and—Boom! It was Christmas circa 1980 whatever it was… It made all the work a bit sweeter, and the concert went well, too. Never underestimate the power of sugar and dairy. As I have more concerts in the coming months (lots of exciting news about that soon), I’ll be leaning on the use of the super pig and a love of beverages, both hot and cold, to pull me through. What are your favorite drinks to help you practice and/or cope with the family over the holidays? Or better yet—what should I be trying: before, during, after? Let me know! You can find me on twitter: @zaneforshee – Cheers!!