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David Gilmore: Getting To The Point

Phil DiPietro By

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AAJ: Well, this is the wonderful complexity of your music. But it doesn't sound like that to the listener.

DG: Ritualism doesn't have that much polymetric rhythmic stuff goin' on. Some of it's implied, but Steve will have a whole tune just kind of looping with polyrhythmic stuff. I've written tunes like that but they didn't make it to my record. There are tunes where the meter changes within the tune but not long stretches where one meter is played against the other. There are only short bursts where one is played against the other...in a melody or something like that. Poly -rhythm is implied or even improvised a lot. Rodney goes into some metric modulation and we all do a bit of that. We do even more of that live.

AAJ: Yeah whatever that is? Metric modulation is...(SEE: http://homepage.tinet.ie/~251/lesson5.html)

DG:Here's a way to think of it. A basic one. For example say something's in 4. A lot of times I base things off of the triplet. So each beat is da-ta-ta, da-ta-ta, da-ta-ta, da-ta-ta.....like eight note triplets. 123,223,323, 423 etc. You can accent, for example, every 4 of the triplets..so its still triplets, but in 4 note groupings, so those twelve notes grouped in 4 groups of three are now in 3 groups of four, even though they are still played as triplets 1234, 1234, 1234...datatata,datatata,datatata.

Snapping your fingers while counting this over that pulse will show you how the emphasis can be shifted into a different rhythmic strata or layer. But the trick is really getting back to where you were, originally. Well that's always the trick I guess (laughs). But I mean that looping thing I was referring to earlier. When I improvise I base a lot of things off of triplet figures where I omit certain beats.

AAJ: You mean in your single note lines? I can really hear the time in your single note lines. It's a great element of your linear playing that there's rhythm in the line..which not many guitarists have, or if it comes out in their playing, they're not thinking about it in those terms.

DG:To me, guitar players for some reason have lagged behind in rhythm. It's a rhythmic instrument. I mean you hit it..it's a percussive instrument. I played drums a percussion before I played guitar. I'm a closet drummer. I love playing rhythm guitar as well, just laying in the pocket with the rhythm section. Just taking a few choice notes and just exploring the rhythm of those notes and then...seeing how other cats react to it.

AAJ: Well, that really came out in Lost Tribe a lot...between you and Adam Rogers.

DG:Yeah, sure. Well, I can't touch Adam when it comes to notes. In a way I had to find...he's such a note freak, and such a great player, and he's got such fluid lines.

AAJ: Nolo contendre, man. One of the great soloists on the instrument of our time, right along with yourself, in my opinion. I was thinking in terms of you guys playing off each other in Lost Tribe with those cycling single note lines, those hypnotic riffs behind the melodists or the soloists...like "Mythology from the first cd or "Second Story from "Soulfish .

DG:Oh yeah, definitely. That too.

AAJ: Can you break it down, timewise on a few of the tunes on your cd?

DG: "Ritualism is in 11. You can think of it as 11:8 but I like to think of it as 5 and Ã?—?":4.

AAJ: That's interesting...

DG:Phonically, it's 1,2,3,4,5 and1,2,3,4,5 etc. No space between the "and and the "1 .That's 4 quarter notes and the last is a dotted quarter note.

AAJ: Yet somehow the stuff is so slamming...

DG:Well, see the bass line is one bar but the piano line spreads over two bars before it completes...so it's an over the bar piano line while the bass is one.The piano line doesn't complete 'til two measures of the bass line. When you stretch certain things out like that, it's a good way to get away from the stiffness that often happens when you try to write something in an odd meter. So the stuff over the top is spread out...and NOT playing on the downbeat all the time is very important as well. When we play in 4:4 we don't play on the downbeat all the time. The old fusion stuff emphasized the one with a crash every measure... that drives me nuts. It takes getting used to feeling those meters in order to feel comfortable playing over and writing lines that feel, just, natural, in that meter. But that one is, yeah, 5 1/2 :4 for the whole tune. It does have short beats and long beats..the long beat shifts to different positions on a couple of bars. So it's almost like a clave concept ...what's the terminology they use...harmonic rhythm? Yeah. That means like, shifts in different areas to give it some variation.

AAJ: So are you totally conversant in this theory of time, basically?

DG:What do you mean ?

AAJ: I don't know what I mean...obviously...that's why I'm askin' you (laughs)! Time is something people feel, then there are advanced humanoids like yourself who can explain where it comes from and thump it out on their leg and explain the theory behind it. Have you studied clave, son and montuno and all that?

DG:There's so much I have to learn. I'm ignorant of the terminology, the names of some of these rhythms. I've heard them and even played them without knowing what they're called.

AAJ: Not only that, you've played them with masters of percussion.

DG:Shame on me, I should know what they're called. It's true, I'm just more of a feel guy there.

AAJ: Did you pick all this stuff up before you started playing with these virtuosos?You must've had some basic knowledge before you came to the table.

DG:Well, when you say know..I have certain tools I use to stay within something that's difficult rhythmically. I have certain methods that I use. I've met Indian musicians who have a certain way of counting things out or feeling things out that's totally different and I find to be more complex, but they find it simpler. My method may not be the right method for that style. If they were to teach me how I was supposed to think of it, it would be alien to me.

AAJ: I thought you'd probably studied with Trilok, or something along those lines.

DG:Trilok never really explained to much to me regarding the symbols and the rhythms, you know the Ta Ka Dhin, etc (see: http://chandrakantha.com/tablasite/bsicbols.htm.. I got some leadership from Jamey Haddad, who's an expert on that stuff. He's brilliant with that. I want to go to Brazil and really get hip to all the stuff there. Once I have a feel for these things, I gravitate towards that type of music, and I have certain skills that I bring to help play it, but I don't know what they're all called.

AAJ: So, we got through the first tune..

DG: "Kaizen is in 4:4. Just syncopated on the upbeats, the jazzy swinging thing. "Paradigm Shift shifts all over the place. But that was just a melody I put together the way I heard it without thinking about the time signature. Then I sat down and I had to write it down later. It's a more intuitive approach.

AAJ: Well that's the beauty of it. I assume you're not intellectualizing too much, like a Steve Coleman might.

DG: It's what I hear. Then I figure it out. Steve is definitely more analytical and scientific in his approach to writing and improvising. I don't always have the patience for that. But I enjoy working with him because it pushes me. Whenever I do something with him I try to give it my full attention, because too few musicians do that, you know. We spend our early years learning and absorbing so much and then when we get to a certain plateau, it's exhausting to continue learn and absorb new stuff at the same rate as when we were younger. To continue to grow in your knowledge and expansion takes so much more effort when you're older, and when you hit a certain level. This is not just in music, I guess, it's language and other careers too. There's so much resistance to it. We're not rewarded financially or anything for any kind of increase in knowledge and creativity. In fact, it's kind of like the inverse relationship..the more you know, the chances are you won't make so much money. The reward system is not practical at all. This contributes to so much complacency among musicians in terms of their level of musicianship. And the music industry doesn't really...

AAJ: It's due to some factors in the music industry which aren't the musicians' fault.

DG:Yeah. It used to be where exchange of knowledge among musicians was freer. It still happens, but not like when Bird and Diz were together, Coltrane...

AAJ: Well this is an interesting tack.

DG: Well, it's how I feel. The openness just isn't there. Coleman is someone who finds a lot of things in nature and the universe and tries to relate it in a musical sense. He's just fascinated by that. And he's found an audience for it. He's been very fortunate in that aspect.

AAJ: Is he one of cats that shares?

DG: Yeah. Sometimes you've got to pull it out of him though.

AAJ: He seems like he'll share once you show him you're a believer.

DG: Yeah. And again, it's like I have my certain way of approaching his music. I still break it down in the same basic way and find a certain harmony with a certain scale that works with the music that he's doing. I might have derived it from some concept that he had, but I'm still breaking it down in terms of scales sometimes, and he's moved way beyond that. He just doesn't think that bound when he improvises.

He would have things where there are no scales written but more like ...he would have these cells, containing certain intervals. He was studying Bartok for a minute. This one book by Elliott Antokoletz [The Music of Bela Bartok: A Study of Tonality and Progression in Twentieth-Century Music] analyzes Bartok's music. He borrowed some of the concepts from that book and put it into some of his music on "Black Science . Unfortunately, he spends months digesting this stuff and when it comes time for the record date, we have about five days to learn it. This forces me to put it into terms I can digest more easily, such as converting the concept into a 5 or 6 note scale I can deal with. Not just scales, but intervals, expansion, contraction, the Fibonacci series and all this stuff. To me, that's great and its his thing, but I haven't found too much use for that approach with the stuff in the things I've done. I like the more intuitive musical approach, with some science.

AAJ: Well, I think your stuff is a bit more accessible.

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