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Because I do not play the guitar, nor do I want to, I have this with. I do not play the guitar, I play with the guitar. What is this with? What’s with the with? If I learn how to play where does with go? Does with disappear, like a noise out of a sentence, and what was with doing? I don’t play a person or a wooden bee. Once someone can make music on the guitar, is with forgotten? Is noise the sound of with? What is the work of with? Does music just conceal the with-ness of doing the guitar, or is it that once playing the guitar is underway, and music making becomes effortless, the guitar and you merge and the doing, the playing, is no longer with anything, no friction, the guitar has vanished and you are alone without with.p.70
I chose this extract from Guitar! because it speaks to the generative space of the unskilled, the unlearned and the unprofessional. It opens the possibility of with-ness… being with others… being a witness with others. What happens when you lose the with – when you have acquired skill, when you have acquired accreditation… what are you missing, who are you not seeing? The materials that I have selected are united by a sense of with-ness, soundings that stumble from the personal to the social, and spaces of pedagogy.
Archie Shepp the saxophonist, poet, playwright, and activist’s 1972 album, Attica Blues includes a song called, ‘Quiet Dawn’, which features the daughter of Shepp’s bandmate, Cal Massey. At just seven years old, Waheeda Massey’s charming vocal assertively progresses through the track with a confident disregard for harmonic and rhythmic conventions. Waheeda’s feature is illustrative of the anti-hierarchical ideals of some of the avant-garde jazz of the time. Shepp has always been clear about the role of his music – as a site for his political activism that necessitates a connection with his people.
The second image is of the front cover of a phonetic language instruction book for Punjabi that my mum gave to me when I was a child. I have drawn on the cover an instruction for dare I say it… turning yourself into a guitar! The directions are loosely based on a pranayama technique that helps to alleviate anxiety, typically you would say ‘Om’ but I have replaced it with my favourite filled pause, ‘umm’ – those sticky words that indicate spoken language but do not appear in written form. I had a short stint as a pranayama teacher at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf while I was a student there. I had not been trained to do so nor did I practice it regularly, I felt a bit bad but then I thought my ‘learning together’ approach was a bit of a corrective to the master-student pedagogy used at the school.
The third selection is a short excerpt from translator and cultural theorist, Niranjana Tejaswini’s book, Musicophilia in Mumbai: Performing Subjects and the Metropolitan Unconscious (2020), which details two forms of music pedagogy prevalent in the learning of Hindustani music and the different kinds of sociality they evoke.
Aman Sandhu is an artist who is based between Glasgow and Montreal, his practice includes sculpture, drawing, and performance. He often collaborates with other artists, activists, writers and academics.
“YOU ARE AUTONOMOUS, you can say it out loud – no you really are free – but feeling free enough to use, or even see, the space up in front of you needs to accrete within a relationship, the words in your head are not enough.”
Lizzie Homersham Guitar! is a genuine wonder. As it discusses ‘finding someone you don’t know’ it resonates with one dimension of heartbreak but also inspires a sense of a new horizon’s possibility. I am re-reading Guitar! for the first time free of my role as editor, no longer checking words on screen but with a finished form in hand. In a couple of hours, I complete it cover to cover and am lifted. Guitar! possesses qualities I would like to imprint in my life: patience and steadfastness, observance and permeability, spaciousness and balance between heaviness and light, a cared for oscillation between the need to be in company and the need to be ‘alone’. In Guitar! one finds a zest for life, derived from making noise, and being heard.
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