Monday, November 15, 2010

Music is Known by the Company it Keeps

I heard some Carlos Santana on Saturday. I was playing a friendly game of pool with some close friends. While I was preparing to shoot I said,” how many notes does it take for an individual to recognize the distinctive sound of Carlos Santana's guitar?”

Two out of the three said, “one or two notes and I know if it is Carlos wailing on his guitar.”

What quality of his musical mastery creates single notes on his guitar so instantly recognizable to his fans? Is it his precise phrasing between notes, bars or rifts? What ever it is, Carlos Santana's singular musical signature screams out loud whenever he plays his guitar, luxuriating in instant recognition.

Even more curious to me is Carlos being so recognizable inside a type of music, Latin influenced in this case. Even in itself is recognized as a genre of music from a certain part of the world standing for its own sake, before adding Carlos Santana to the mix. The rhythm and beat is such that I at least know it as the Latin sound minus the influence of Carlos Santana.

There is a Latin sound.

I believe many would agree that that is true. A certain rhythm has us moving to the beat, even before we recognize a particular piece of music we may actually know by name, by Carlos or even an other musician. The music is distinctively south of the border, Latino influenced, Hispanic in nature, music moving in a certain beat or cadence where we know what type of music we are hearing at the moment it begins playing.

Where did that recognizable beat, rhythm or type of music originate? If it was in
Latin America somewhere, what particular area of those countries can lay claim to fame of playing it for the first time. To me, Latin American influenced music is so distinctive; I can not imagine it coming from anywhere else. Though it does, it has and it will continue to do so. Can we agree that the roots of this particular sound and style of music originated in a part of the world where the romance languages are spoken now and in the past? I am speaking of Spanish in this instance. I believe French is considered a romance language as well but would Carlos Santana's music ever be mistaken for being French in nature? I think not.

As a particular type of music or sound that comes from it gains popularity, then I say it is easy to see where the influence comes from no matter what part of the world decides to continue the style adding nuances of an artist's own creativity. Though a new musical piece is produced, the style that influenced it remains to be Latin American in style.

Just for fun, say this style of music began in
Guatemala. Is it possible that in nearby San Salvador there is someone else picking out the notes on a guitar sounding strikingly similar to the chords and notes emanating from the guitar in Guatemala? Is this section of the world blessed with this about to be created sound connected in someway with an invisible array of collected consciousness? With each interpretation of a new rhythm style or method of producing unique sound somehow felt in the ethereal stuff that holds us all together?

Tough to put this in an easy to understand concept isn't it?

Why didn't music with a Latin beat originate in
Russia? Why didn't Polka music originate in Mexico? Why is London known for the birth of the Mersey beat in the 60’s? What exactly is the Memphis sound? Why is Philadelphia known for beach music?

I don't know! Do you?

Tossing these ideas around with three or four friends we came up with one common denominator that quite possibly connects the music to the location of any musical genre's birth. The types of instruments would have a great influence on the design of the music. Whatever materials were available at the onset of the music's so-called birth determined how the music would be played and how it would sound.

Maybe that floats for musical design or discovery from a long time ago. What about today's modern niche music? Since we're mostly discussing Latin music in a modern vein, I suppose that is somewhat true as well, though the electric guitar has been around over 50 years now. We have watched and heard the era of Rock and Roll morph into a hundred different sub pockets of stylistic sound.

So is Latin music a sub-niche of rock and roll? Well I personally don't think so, though to others it may be. There is a monotheistic sense of singular sound from the output of Carlos Santana's guitar. He took an instrument that has been through thousands of incantations and created a sound of his own. He is an original wrapper, no pun intended.

So if ancestrally music is, was and will be influenced by the musical instruments available at any given time, well I have talked myself out of agreeing with this hypothesis. If we took our study seriously, journeyed historically hundreds of years into the past, well then maybe there is a thread running through it that might convince me there is a base of substance to support it.

What makes more sense to me, then just the instruments is substituting the word tools for instruments. Now we can add the sound of the human voice, toss in an attitude, reflect current mores, add the depth of awareness of space in time and finally add musical experience with a sprinkle of acute awareness of what seems to work into the overall mix.

This is a fairly long diatribe to attempt to reconcile and correlate these same ideas with what works and doesn't work when adjusting and/or fine tuning the guts of applying for a foundational grant.

What the heck is he talking about?

I may be way off base here. I can say from even limited experience that what worked in the nearby past does not necessarily work yesterday and certainly not today in the world of writing grants for funders seeking a home for their dollars.

Do your own personal roots contribute to a substantial difference in how you state your case? When looking for support for your nonprofit, do you apply for grants only matching the thread running through your successes? Do you let significant dollar funders slip through your fingers because they aren't who you are used to approaching? What tools do you now possess in your grant writing arsenal that is just laying there gathering dust? What new ideas are hiding in that same box of tools waiting to be expressed in a completely different way?

Only readers around my age will know who Kiki Dee is/was in the musical world. Along with Elton John she expressed. “I got the music in me!”

When approaching funders’ requests for proposals, entering the mix of fund seekers, having your heart filled with music from the get-go is a pretty good place to start. Passion allows your audience to buy from you. They sure don’t like to be sold a bill of goods. Passion moves through an audience silently yet smoothly and effectively captures the crowd with a tune only you can play. Your distinctive sound overwhelms their resistance. The till opens and pours willingly into the needs and wants your non profit requires, growing and prospering.

You think there is no music inside of the foundation universe? Try a different tune; fill it with passion for your goal. I think you will be amazed at the response when you play the right notes. When the heart strings of any organization runs parallel to where a foundation wants to go, you will be playing beautiful music together.

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  Practice, practice, practice!



No comments: