Archive for experience

It’s Just a Box With Strings On It

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by Gideon K

Over the past year playing with my last band, I’ve been privileged to have some great experiences learning from other people.

When Jim, my fellow vocalist and guitarist and I went to Ireland in October to do some overdubs and mixing of our songs, we spent a few evenings up in Tom Newman’s living room huddled round the fireplace, drinking way too much whisky, singing songs and collectively purging our various blues and nursing existential woes.

Tom was reminiscing a bit. The story goes that he was in the studio somewhere with Mike Oldfield, who picked up a fiddle and turned to Tom, standing 10-15 feet away and said “catch”.

He then threw the instrument right at Tom, who caught the instrument simply on instinct, without thinking.

“You’ve just caught a Stradivarius.” Says Mike.

Now, this story alone would give most classical violinists a heart-attack, or at the very least some level of serious trauma. Stradivarius violins are esteemed beyond pretty much any other instruments in tone, respect and above all market value. The price of that little box would’ve been at least a quarter of a million, and that’s back in the 80s or early 90s when this story took place.

Tom said at that moment his perception of Mike Oldfield changed, and he started to think ‘you know, this guy is pretty cool’.

As much as musicians, mythologise their instruments or have fetishes for them, ultimately a guitar or a violin is just a box with some strings on it.

All that matters is what you do with it.

And it was this logic by which Tom managed to convince himself out of having a stroke when the roudy Irishman he was entertaining on this particular occasion started fooling around with a 300 year old, £300,000 Nicolò Amati viola Tom was doing a repair job on at the time, playing it like a ukulele, or using a hacksaw blade as a make-shift violin bow.

(There’s video footage of it somewhere if you don’t believe me)

But that’s another story…

Anyway, it’s just a box with some strings on.