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Page 2 of the Online Edition of the 2008-2009 Harvey Reid Newsletter...

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Our first child Otto, who turned 3 in August ‘08-- is coming along as a little musician. He certainly looks the part, and has pitch and rhythm, though tools and trucks are still more important in his daily life. .. Hendrix on the uke, jamming on the keys, his 1st washboard on his 3rd birthday, and a dance lesson from Aubrey Atwater. Wailing on Papa’s slide guitar & posing with hero Michael Jerome Browne Go Otto!

     

I am already well underway in making an extensive book about the partial capo, and I also hope to make a high-energy HR solo recording to release in the first half of ‘09.
After 4 collaborations with Joyce out of the last 6 albums, it’s past due time for a new solo project. I am getting the most requests for blues and slide guitar, so am planning to feature that. I will probably dig into the 6-string banjo again, and maybe the 12-string. I am starting to write some new music for the album.

For a few years now I have been tossing around the idea of putting together a music vacation with some of you, and things are happening. My old friend Brian Silber started www.islandmusicjourneys.com in St. Croix, Virgin Islands where he now lives, and if some of you want to vacation there for a week at the end April of ‘09, contact me or Brian. You would stay in a historic B & B, have days free to explore & enjoy, make new friends, have music (by me & maybe Joyce too!) at night, and have a chance for private lessons. If some of you sign up soon, it can happen, but it won’t if you don’t...


I have never been a Luddite, and I have always made good use of computers, GPS and other hi-tech tools. I was among the very first to use DAT recording (1989) technology, and to use desktop publishing (1980!) and my early adoption of laser printers, e-mail and the internet gave me an undeniable competitive edge in my career.
However, I am becoming increasingly soured on the tech stuff. I am looking at an alarmingly large pile of old computers, printers, modems, phones, digital cameras and recording machines of various formats that are taking up space, doing no useful work anymore, yet hard to get rid of. Most of the stuff cost me a lot of money, still works fine, and has become useless just by existing for a few years. Selling it on eBay is barely worth the effort. I just filled a recycling bin with books & manuals that accompanied all the outdated hardware and software, and thought sadly of all the money and time I spent learning to use now-useless hi-tech stuff.
I just counted over 75 software programs that I use regularly or occasionally to run my life. The network of 5 computers in our house is enough to drive me to drinking. I have to keep track of where all the programs and data are on all the various machines, where the manuals and passwords are. Add to that the system and version updates, and that fact that very year I get forced to acquire and learn to use new things, even though I was doing fine with an old one. I just had to add the word “spam” to my e-mail spell-checker. Shouldn’t somebody have done that?
I paid thousands of dollars in 1989 for my Panasonic SV-255 DAT machine and it is now unloved and unwanted, though beautifully made, with a nice leather case. The rechargeable battery pack is long-dead and a hassle to even throw away. I am particularly hating anything with rechargeable batteries. It seems like every time I pick up a cordless drill or tire inflator, it has no power to drill or inflate. I reach for a screwdriver and a hand pump, and want to throw the cordless one in the river.
I remember reading that close to 3/4 of all the computers ever made are in landfills now, and it won’t be long until the machine I am writing this on will join the junk pile. Maybe this means is that I am getting old, but I think there is more going on than just that.
In another corner of this room is a row of guitars that get better-sounding the longer they sit, and that will certainly outlast me. Good old Guitar 1.0. Never needs rebooting or new firmware. In the toolbox behind me is a hammer I have had since I was 12, and it works great. I love the nice oak handle. In the next room are my books, which last for centuries, and my vinyl record collection, which I once thought of as a burden, and now I am seeing as refreshingly durable and stable. My color photos are fading, my reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes are slowly rotting, and I am nervously eyeing my CD collection, wondering if they too
will self-destruct. And the hard drives that contain my digital music will crash one day. And this medium is supposedly The Future of Music– the reason that people are being told to not buy CD’s. I am not so sure that digital downloads are entirely a step forward. I have already lost the music on some of my 20-year-old digital tapes, and I have months of work ahead of me to rescue several boxes of DAT digital audio tapes before they deteriorate too much.
I am feeling a lot of love for durable mechanical things like pliers, bottle openers and cheese graters, and feeling less and less love for anything that has a battery or a computer chip in it. The word digital used to be so sexy, and now it seems to mean “impermanent” and “it will annoy you later.”
Even my bicycle, which is probably 20 years old, almost made the young employees laugh when I took it to the shop for a new tire. It is a Cannondale, once a very good bike, and they were almost sneering at it like some uncool, outdated thing like an old cell phone. How is it that a machine that works perfectly can become obsolete, not because it is broken, but because there is a faster, cuter or smaller one?
I suspect that a lot of you who are using older printers and web browsers and other digital tools know what I am talking about. And now all our old beautiful radios and our analog TV’s are about to become inoperable because there will soon be no more analog broadcasts.
How do we get off the train? How do we stay in the modern world but stop throwing away our tech toys? I don’t hate technology– I actually like it and am good at it. It frustrates me to throw it away, but I especially hate to contemplate how much precious time I spent learning how to use it. By contrast, every hour I have spent learning songs or playing a musical instrument has been an investment, and I don’t regret the time I spent reading books or traveling. The primary thing I have learned from using over 100 software programs is that I should spend as little precious time as possible learning anything new in order to get my work done, because whatever skills and knowledge I gain will likely not serve me very far into the future.
I wondered as I looked through a mail-order catalog, with battery-powered wireless gadgets that tell you when your steak is done on the grill, and battery-powered, heated hats, mittens and jackets, what a catalog would look like if nothing in it had a computer chip or a battery? Durable goods. Do we need someone to come and take away our obsolete gadgets to spare us the pain? Can we possibly enjoy them so much when they are new that we can shrug and dispose of them casually when they no longer work or become “un-sexy”?
I wish I could explain in some compelling way to young people how much more satisfying the hours I have spent learning music have proven to be as compared to the hours I have spent learning about hardware and software. Maybe I should make a movie they can watch on their cell phones and e-mail to each other...

Our recent 4-CD set and 80-page hardback book called “The Song Train” (www.SongTrain.net) has been extremely well-received, though we of course wish we could get wider exposure for it. If you know Oprah or Larry King, put in a plug for us. Look for a feature story on the Song Train coming up in ‘09 in Acoustic Guitar Magazine.

They loved it, and I am probably going to co-write an article for them featuring a number of the songs & ideas from the project


It has done very well in bookstores, and turned out to be an ideal gift, not only for spouses and friends, but grand kids, uncles, nephews and neighbors. Our hunch that a lot of people want to learn to play some home-made music have turned out to be right, and we are convinced the basic idea of people learning to play music through good but un-complicated songs is the best way to get rolling. You really don’t need much more than a guitar and a Song Train to start exploring the world of real music. 7 of the 56 songs only have 1 chord! We enjoy autographing them for people, so feel free to ask for us to sign one.


Martha Stewart encouraged people to make their own salad dressing and wreaths, and as fun as crafts and scrapbooking are, we think everyone should experience what it is like to get a good song going on their own. In these tougher economic times, it’s a perfect way to stay home, enjoy yourself, and do something that is fun, social, meaningful and inexpensive. A lifetime of music for about the cost of one guitar lesson...
The Song Train web site now has a lot of useful information, lyrics, chord charts, essays, and some interesting insights into the year we spent working on it, choosing and learning the songs.
Music is a lot like lovin’– don’t just leave it only to the professionals. Make sure you experience the joy of doing it yourself.

 

In the Weeds with the Masters– On stage at the Tumbleweed Festival in western Kansas with Tom Paxton, Bryan Bowers & Don Edwards. An honor. (pic-Russ Tidwell)

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