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When the guitar becomes the teacher: The Concert Guitar of Olivier Pozzo

September 22, 2015

 

Having been on an artistic retreat for a couple weeks I found there was a guitar maker in a neighboring town and arranged to meet him. My research had found comments about one of his guitars and a couple of videos of virtuosos performing on them as well. This gave me no real information about the quality of his instruments but it gave me some background.

It was a very hot day [35 c] and it had been a long walk uphill to his home as my wife and I arrived at his door. We were shown in and given some refreshments and had a chance to cool down a bit before the playing of instruments began.

The guitar he most wanted to show me was his concert model: a spruce top with a lovely sweet sound. One of the ways I try out guitars is to improvise a bit, letting my ear find the richest sounds on each particular instrument. Coming from a retreat, I was in good shape [except for the extreme heat] and had been practicing about 4 hours a day for two weeks. My hands were strong and capable but as I played the guitar things started to sound ugly. Continuing to play, it turned out that the ugly sounds were my vibrato, I was pressing down too intently, with too much strength. Continuing, I began to release most of the pressure, eventually finding the correct amount to employ. As I began to “right size” it, the vibrato started to blossom and the strings followed the whims of my fingers without protest.

At this point I turned to the luthier and told him that the guitar was very sensitive. He explained that his ideal instrument was one that would be very responsive to a player, that he loved music to be expressive and nuanced. I laughed, because the you tube performances had featured quite brilliant playing but did not exploit the expressive potential of his instruments.

The instrument had a brilliant singing sound – I thought of the great Bouchet from Bream’s 20th century guitar album. I continued to play and soon found that my basses were too loud, overwhelming the melody. My thumb is trained to produce strong bass notes so that the counterpoint [multiple melodic strains] in music can be clear. [On my current guitar this is necessary.] I started to scale back the force used and found the clarity improved. With much less effort my imagination was able to become more detailed. It began to seem that I was getting a guitar lesson from a guitar!

At some point in the near future I want to own one of these marvelous instruments.

 

Nasrudin’s donkey was parked outside a store, and as one of the Mulla’s enemies saw this he began urinating on the harness. In mid-stream Nasrudin came out and said

“You scoundrel! – by the grace of God, I curse you: in one week, you will break your leg.”

The man, quite distressed by this, scurried away and tripped on a rock.

He grabbed his leg howling, “Oh, my leg! Oh, my leg!” After catching his breath he looked at the Mulla and said “I thought you said seven days, and yet, here I am with a broken leg, now.”

“Must be someone else’s curse,” Nasrudin chuckled. “Next week you’ll have to crawl on your hands and knees.”

sgm_2010_Olivier_Pozzo

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One Comment
  1. Maryellen permalink

    Food for thought. What do our guitars have to teach us if we listen and play attentively?

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