Master of bending and misusing
“Could I help you figure out which is true? I could not. See aforementioned disclaimer vis-à-vis omniscience, lack thereof. Do please, however, believe me when I tell you that some things just don’t matter. Including the resolution of this particular issue.”
—from “White Bronze” by Kristy Arbuckle Lommen
When you play guitar, there’s an action called a “bend,” which is when you pull a plucked string sideways on the neck of the guitar. It changes the note, and it’s usually used for emphasis or for punctuation. What was a true note, clean and simple, becomes something else.
Jimi Hendrix mastered this. He always knew exactly how far and for how long he ought to bend the note to cause a moment in the music to rise. He knew when to bend notes, and he knew when not to bend them, and he knew this because he was so conversant with how this moment in the music related to the moments before and after it. He knew that if he lingered just so and rode it just right, he’d make the air ache.
That was his genius. He knew where to bend things.
And he didn’t know it because he somehow stood outside of music and followed his own, self-written rules. Not at all.
What Jimi did so well was stand inside of music—immerse himself in the “rules” and the forms—and embrace them so well that he knew all the places that those rules, such as they were, showed a bit of wear, and had a little give.
The genius of genius comes from understanding boundaries. It comes from mastering the boundaries of what is possible.
In a poetic way, the strings of Jimi’s guitar are the lines that bind what is possible in his discipline. A “ruler” is somebody who draws the lines around where you’re allowed to go. Music is bound by more than guitar strings. The rules of music are more than the strings of a guitar—they’re timing and vibration and how they work together. That is true enough. In Jimi’s case, though, his guitar strings are his tools for dealing with the abstractions of music.
And so I say again, the strings of his guitar are the lines that bind what he can and cannot do.
He is master of bending them. Not of breaking them, nor ignoring them. Master of using them, and then of misusing them.
At this point, I could use some unnatural construction to force a commentary on how this relates to Kristy Arbuckle Lommen’s story “White Bronze,” because I think it does. She’s a writer, and she’s writing a story, and in story-writing there are definitely prescribed rulings about right ways. Kristy’s choosing wrong ways.
Thing is, though, she did a good job. Sometimes, a good job trumps “wrong.”
I could force that comment in.
I won’t, though, because I haven’t finished reading “White Bronze” yet.
If you’ll excuse me, I am going to do that.
This story brought to you by “White Bronze” by Kristy Arbuckle Lommen
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