As 2020 comes to a close
What to say? Honestly what to say about such a crazy and intense year. It is December and we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Music making across the world has largely halted with cancellations of concerts of every size. In the midst of this I've been fortunate enough to live in a country which has a reasonable safety net for those who have been impacted by covid-19. I've found my income cut by nearly 75% due to the lack of participation in online learning and the general halting of much educational services for younger students.
In this climate I am 90% finished with my thesis and as I write the credits are beginning to roll on the chapter of my life I'm now coining 'The Dublin Years.' I am extraordinarily excited about finishing my thesis. My research deals with the particular mode in which guitarists of the nineteenth century taught improvisation. Guitarists in the early nineteenth century, especially so in Paris, catered to a largely middle class audience. This middle class vied with the old aristocracy and in this culture of wealth inequality and economic opportunity the guitar's popularity boomed.
It was in the cultural circles not unlike those frequented by the fictional Eugene de Rastignac or Lucien Chardon where poets, criminals and young guitarists not unlike Ferdinando Carulli or Francesco Molino thrived. Among this world of opulence and destitution, the humble guitar flourished. A world of bitter social dramatics and progressive ideas in active dispute which pitted post revolution aristocrats against the waning hopes of a new world. It was this period that produced both Schillings Aesthetic Education of Man and the decrepit funeral of Old Man Goriot, So much contrast probably played in the minds of our erudite young guitarists as they surveyed the cultural capital of their new urban playground. The idea of Carulli and Matteo Carcassi confronting these ideas in conversation entices me greatly. What social commentary would Fernando Sor have divulged in the private comfort of his peers?
In this period of philosophical awakening, artistic advancement, and eventually the emancipation of slavery in the USA, such a meek and intimate instrument as the guitar was played by members of every class of society. Students of this feeble gut-strung casket were eager to express that 'object-free inwardness' which so commonly finds expression in the ramblings of a guitar. Francois de Fossa saw this eagerness and likely led him to write his 'reglas para modular en la guitarra' a set of humble rules designed to enable the student to exercise their 'fantasia en preludiar con modulaciones.'
In 2020, it is this world of social delusions and vulgarity that I have escaped to. Immersing myself in the world young guitarists may have confronted while traversing the social battle field of 1820's Paris. As I write I cannot help but note such superficial similarities. The depravity of its cultural world, obsessed with commodity ethics and social ascension, forgoing your artistic and moral compass for wealthy patrons or perhaps just more subscribers. But these similarities do not end at the market forces which subsist between the world of Carulli and today. 200 years after the exile of Napoleon the middle class is once again faced with a social, technological, and philosophical crisis except now on a global scale previously unimaginable.
Like the French revolution which ended in dictatorship, the social progress amassed between 2008 and 2016, which promised socialized health care, increased liberties to the LGBTQ+ community, restored reproductive rights and the 'Arab Spring', ended in the reign of a failed reality T.V. star and children in cages. And now, not unlike the years following the exile of Napoleon, the US is now faced with the pallid restoration of the ruling class. The present moment finds us in an anesthetized state both philosophically and culturally. And as we awake from lockdown I see a massive opportunity for truly progressive change. I see a community of musicians thriving online, sharing their sufferings, their solutions, and their good will. I see a selfish and lonely world made smaller and more connected through technology, community, and friendship. 2020 has shown us that when faced with an uncompromising alienating task, it is in each other, even at a distance, where we draw strength. For that I have to say, good on you 2020.
I will resume daily streaming in 2021, and I look forward to the change it will bring. See you all soon at twitch.tv/deadbeardclassic.