December 12, 2023

17th Century Schizoid Man I

Just in case you`re already finding the 6 strings of your guitar a little limiting – [or maybe that`s just your head? ] – I`d like to look forwards and backwards with regards to where you might like to draw your inspiration from and where you may take it to…

Around twenty years ago I was fortunate to see a gig in an Anglo Saxon church in Sussex, England and this featured lutenist Robert Spencer, and a singer. What was more interesting to me at the time was that they were playing what appeared to be a particularly melancholic form of 17th Century English music that was imbued with an almost blues-like medieval feeling, plangent and almost harrowing – it was an experience imbued with an omnipresent musical vastness and other-worldly quality.

It was the music of none other than John Dowland.

Flow, my tears, fall from your springs,
Exiled for ever, let me mourn
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

The lute’s strings are arranged in courses of two strings each where the highest-pitched course usually consists of only a single string. An 8-course Renaissance lute will usually have 15 strings, and a 13-course Baroque lute will have 24.
Even within the confines of the non-classical almost freestyle idiom of 20th Century+ blues-rock, the influence of the classical – with levels of complexity and technical mastery, ensemble playing, understanding of tonal and harmonic principles etcetera, has been seeping, albeit loosely into the fabric of our listening from the production values through to
If you listen carefully to the lesser known songs on albums by mainstream late 60`s British band Cream, for example, you will hear the classical training of rock-jazz maestro Jack Bruce evident. If we jump forward again about a decade we find this infusion of instruments, themes and even cultures on King Crimson`s astounding “Discipline” album…this record features the combined hyper talents and skills of Bill Bruford, Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp and Tony Levin who plays a (usually 10 string) Chapman Stick.

The Chapman Stick is really what this whole post is about and …I`ll be focussing upon it in a related post where all will become clear. Here`s Fripp, Belew and the King Crimson playing title track “Discipline”.


Jake Edwards

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