What is it about Bream?
I was recently talking with Bret Williams on his podcast The Classical Guitar Insider. After leaving a very entertaining session, I immediately regretted two things. Firstly I swore to much. I don’t really know why, but perhaps it will leave me out of favor with the feint of heart. Secondly, I answered a pretty great question, poorly.
Bret asked me “What is it about Bream, Williams and Segovia, that makes people so passionate about them?” (or something to that effect) In my caffeine induced fervor I replied that I see an identifiable struggle amongst the three of them, which inherently made them human and therefore appealing. Segovia struggled as a flag bearer for our beloved magic box, Williams struggled against a pre-ordained role that he was reluctant to take on, and I believe Bream struggled with the instrument, as many of us do, technically. Now, I am not saying that Bream was anything but an incredible musician and guitarist, but I do believe that he did not possess the seemingly effortless technique that some players seem to have today, and I love that about his playing, he always seemed to be right on the edge of his abilities.
So, as I said, that was the answer that I regretted.
Having thought about that question some more, I think there is something much bigger at play, and that is standardization and homogenization.
In the very successful mission to improve all aspects of the classical guitar, we as a community have enjoyed better playing, better compositions, and better teaching than ever before. Ergonomics, technique, musicianship, sight-reading, and many other facets are undeniably improving and at a very rapid rate. But, as with all gains, there is some loss, and I believe we have lost a great deal of individuality in guitar playing. And, it is that distinct individual style that made the playing of Bream, Williams, and Segovia so enchanting.
With fewer other guitarists around to deem what was right or wrong, fewer competitions to rank players without errors, and fewer university programs to teach a standardized curriculum did the earlier generations benefit from a greener pasture of creative freedom that resulted in more individual playing? And, if so, was the trade worth it?
What do you think?
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