Sunday, August 16, 2009

Joe Satriani on music

I have been getting reacquainted via the wonder of YouTube with one of my favorite musicians I used to listen to some years back: the incredible rock guitarist, Joe Satriani. He is one of a handful of instrumental electric guitar players who is successful as a solo musician. He is a "guitar player's guitar player."

Joe (known also as "Satch") is the youngest of five children from an Italian family. I assume he is probably Catholic, but I don't know for sure. His style is mostly hard rock, but, in my opinion, his music is very purposeful, very musical, and very distinctive. His songs can be quite beautiful, imaginative, and melodic, even as they are "rock'n." He doesn't just thrash for the sake of thrashing. He plays with a musical vision clearly in mind and communicates that vision well through his playing. If great electric guitar playing interests you, check out some of Satriani's live performances here, here, and here. (The last one, "Flying in a Blue Dream," is awesome!)

One of the things I like about Satriani, as is evident from interviews with him, is that he is not a stereotypical rocker with a big ego and a party-hard attitude. He seems to be a very down-to-earth, really nice guy. And he takes his music very seriously--a dedicated, hard-working musician. He is first and foremost a professional musician and artist. This is one reason why his career has been primarily as a solo artist. He prefers to perform his own songs rather than play someone else's music. In this way (he remarked in an interview), he can maintain a strong personal, emotional attachment to every piece of music. Each song has a unique personal meaning for him and comes out of a particular mental world to which he returns as he performs; each one transports him to a certain emotional place. And this is what he prefers as a performing artist.

I found an 11 segment video interview with Joe on YouTube, part of a "Living Legends Music" series. The whole interview is very interesting. But I want to highlight two parts. The first in this post, and the second in a post following this.

Here is part 9 of the interview
[sorry about the width, there is no smaller window available]:

The following items from this segment struck me as especially interesting. They remind me of themes that are similar to previous posts I have made about music and art.

1. Speaking of how his music is always under development and that his experience of life is always in contact with his musical art,
My way of dealing with it [life] has always been to internalize it and turn it into music, that’s what I do. So I write all the time. Maybe an eighth of what I write winds up being heard by the public.
2. And this remark is suggestive to me of the dual goals that good artists have to hold together harmoniously if they are going to create art that an audience can relate to and that has a chance of lasting--the twin goals of being faithful to your own personal artistic vision and of creating art that is accessible to and mindful of your audience.
During the playing of a song, part of me is on some sort of, um, trip—I don’t know how to explain it. I’m sure there’s a part of me that is being the professional musician, keeping it together, making sure that I represent this melody the way the fans need it to be represented. [emphasis mine]
Satriani has a well developed sense of how a good song is both a) unique, personal, special to the artist creating it, and b) something the audience can attach to and love as well. This involves using a dynamic interplay of the artist’s unique inner vision together with perennial sounds and ideas loved by his audience.

In this segment he also spoke about dealing with and preparing for the unexpected in performances, and, making each song unique and connecting to each emotionally.

1 comment:

  1. Joe satch is probably the only one today who has managed to have a proper mix of shredding and melodic playing ... Mindless shredding is of no use if you don't have any melody

    Vin - Free Guitar Lessons


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