Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mastery of Musical Mystery

Words were unnecessary. Michael Waters walked up to the platform in the small venue, picked up the guitar, and began to play. And notes, sweet music, the elixir of life poured around and about and through us. Easily it surged to engulf the shores of attendant souls and spirits, sweeping individual accords along, until as an audience we became ensconced in an ethereal harmony, attuned to every chord. Masterful music indeed.

Michael Waters is a consummate world-class guitarist. Music is his spiritual mission, not something he does to earn his way. After some thirty years of playing and evolving his style to its own unique evocation of hearing the spirit sing, without any words, Michael Waters has mastered the instrument to a level that makes it an extension of himself. His guitar is not some object on which one plays a song. His performance began as a mere trickle of sound, pooled into a melody, spilled over into a stream, gathered momentum to become a river, negotiated rapids and canyons and waterfalls, and then immersed itself into an ocean. We became as comfortable as babies in the amniotic fluid of a moving womb, taken wherever our repository of ethereal sounds drifted in its own wont.

Being in the venue, a small church in Victoria on Vancouver Island, November 5th 2011, quickly became a distinct privilege. It was as though sitting inside a cosy dome. Why only 40 or so others were there was a mystery; advertising had been good; tickets were only $10 apiece. Was our city such a mecca for 'things going on' that we were just a small representative of the many people attending other artistic venues? But thoughts like these merely disrupted the purpose of my being there; better to enjoy the music.

And the man, this artist, spoke French. English too. Before the concert he moved amongst us, chatting freely. His guitar on its stand waited on the candle-lit platform. Michael Waters was charming, sincere, warm, gracious, casually sophisticated, a man who's been places, seen things. It reflected in every composition, particularly when he shifted from the minor to the D major tuning in the second half. During intermission he spoke to us individually. Immediately afterward he opened the second set with the story of his life, told us of his mission to engage the spirit, spoke of his Oldfield, Renbourne, and Santana influences. And then he played, hardly ever looking up, with an intensity of flow and with his delightfully distinctive erudition of composition throughout to the close.

Austrian, Bavarian, Chinese or Zambian, people come together within music without need of words, of language, of awareness of syncopations, harmonies, or chords. Music has a spirit that reaches beyond the technicalities of grammar or spelling or precision. We conjoin our souls in sound. Music matters, yet needs have no specific meaning. We were not given the title of any one tune. No words evoked interpretation. Imagine a tune called The Trout, or Traffic, or Wichita Falls. Titles precondition us. But music that arises of itself has its own meaning, and that which I imagined, to be sure, was not that which others necessarily experienced. Our interpretation is naturally coloured by our own life's journey. And in the end, for me to describe Michael Waters' influence with and on music is likely to give my words an unnecessary intentionality all of their own, see? Or would you rather really just hear? Go buy his CD. He has four if not five of them. A treasure! (see: www.ladybirdmusic.com)

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