Feb 15, 2015 – Florence, Italy – day off
My son Ezra is here. Now part of the Security Gang. Due entirely to timing, he has never been out on the road with me. And so, at 17, he is finally here. Only for one week but still very, very cool.
We couldn't get right into our AirB'nB place so we went to lunch with friends of Julia Hensley (badass artist/graphic designer who did the cover on my new disc). Classical guitar luthier John Weissenrieder and his wife, baroque harpsichordist Anna Clemente.
What a treat this was. It is so rare to have the right kind of space to be with people while on the road. Oftentimes, socializing on the road can be discordant. Road life puts me in a strange, hypersensitive space. It doesn't quite work hanging out with folks for more than a short amount of time. My focus is either on the show in the evening or, on a day off, taking care of all of the things that I haven't been able to deal with due to the traveling and performing. But this afternoon was wonderful. We had a lazy lunch full with lots of interesting conversation.
Afterwards we went down to Anna's workspace and met her harpsichord. What an amazing instrument. So many strange acoustic phenomena with this thing. Firstly there were only single strings per key, unlike the piano's three. And all the strings are single steel – no wound strings. Then there was the function of turning on and off an octave – so each key functions like a 12-string guitar. There was, also, a fantastic mute system that gave a wonderful plucked sound but still with a decay. Very similar to how I see a muting system on my instrument. And finally a big surprise came when I poked my head over the strings while Anna was playing some Bach. Because the bass strings are way longer than the treble strings, with my head inside the instrument, the stereo was insane. High strings way left and low string way right. With a smooth gradation across the spectrum.
Another interesting point about playing the harpsichord: improvisation. Doh! I had totally forgotten about this. The harpsichord parts in baroque music may be the only part of the entire Western classical music repertoire that is improvised. Anna showed us some of the scores and what you get is:
1. a bass part
2. a chord chart
The bass parts are sometimes pretty wicked. Not like a Paul McCartney bass line, but something more like a J.S.Bach running-wild-river bass line. The chord information is quite different from jazz chord notation. Figured Bass is the name for it. It gives you the inversion of the chord along with what the chord is. So Anna is basically sight reads the bass part and improvising the upper parts. I need to look into this some more. Amazing that an improvisational structure has been retained for four to five hundred years, while the rest of the repertoire became entirely fixed.
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Next up was a trip to John's workshop. Guitar building from the ground up. The smell of wood and glue permeating everything. Beautiful instruments hanging on the walls. These are high end guitars – John makes only about eight per year. We played two different styles. A classical style with tuners that looked similar to a violin's, but with hidden gears inside the headstock. This one played wonderfully and had a full rich sound. Then a spanish style instrument that had a slightly pokey-er tone. The action was crazy high for a guy like me, used to extremely low touch-style action. But the fretwork was done so well that even with a high action it played perfectly in tune. This was a fantastic peek behind the scenes of what goes on inside of a guitar.
Back to the AirB'nB and some much needed rest.
Feb 16, 2015 – Florence, Italy – day off
It is amazing to have a day-off that isn't a travel day and is somewhere where you would actually like to be. Here we are in Florence, Italy. I've never had a day-off here. And this was a full-on real day off – no traveling at all. Ezra and the guys and I wandered around the city with no real agenda.
And into the Galileo Museum.
witch detector number one:
witch detector number two:
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I decided to run an experiment while I am here in Italy. As of about 3 years ago I pulled gluten from my diet. This was something I resisted, in concept, for many years. But finally gave it a try, by severe prodding of my naturopath, after some winter skin issues pestered me more than usual. These issues left quite quickly. But, to my surprise, after only two weeks my whole body felt different. Not only did I have much more energy than I was used to, all my joints loosened up and began working more smoothly. After about a month of this I had one piece of bread and Bam! My hands and knee joints got inflamed right back to what I used to think was normal. It isn't a huge amount of inflammation. But something I notice immediately when I am on my instrument or in the dojo.
Some of the current research has been suggesting that it may not be the gluten in the wheat that causes this kind of general inflammation, but the pesticides on the plants. Apparently, for some ungodly reason, doses of Round-up are sprayed over 90% of the fields to kill the wheat right before harvesting. There are some countries who ban this process. I'm not sure if Italy is one of these countries. But it seemed like, for the week here in this amazing place, I should forego my gluten ban and dig into the pasta and bread available. Let's see if Italian wheat is any different that US wheat.
Well, the results are in as far as my body goes. And the conclusion is: Yes, Italian wheat cause inflammation just like US wheat. Oh well. And least it tastes freaking amazing. Bring it on, for the next 5 days.
Feb 17, 2015 Florence, Italy – Viper Club
Extremely intimate performance in a very well designed rock club. Acoustically tiled concrete bunker. Not something you often run into.
Not very well promoted, I'm afraid. Even though the guy running this place was superbly attentive to all of our needs. I'm not sure what happened to the promotion. But at this point there is nothing we can do. Just go out and play the show.
Which we did. And we, also, did it superbly. Fantastic audience. Possibly a better audience than we were a band tonight. Great listeners and a few sang their way through the whole show. I think I even spotted some young dancers in the back!
Secret weapon of the tour. Michael's battery and double iPhone charger: