To lose the touch of a master’s hand…
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
Down the road just a bit and off to the left through the trees you will see a little building. From the road, it looks like a forgotten shack with its weathered siding, dirt stained windows, and cracked wooden shingles. Nonetheless, it’s what’s inside that matters most.
As you step through the door, you may feel like you have stepped back in time; for time has stood still in this little workshop. Under the dust and wood shavings, the hardwood floorboards hold the memories of days gone by with each scratch, dent and scuff mark.
The sun filters in through the windows, to illuminate the shop. Its rays provide the much-needed light for him to work. At night, the room is lit with the various oil filled glass lanterns. You will not find electricity in this workshop and he likes it like that; it is the way of his grandfather and his father before him worked.
The walls are trimmed in all the various tools of his trade. Hanging among hand built displays you will find chisels, files and clamps of all sizes and shapes. If you look closely, you will not find a modern tool among them, for these have been passed down from generation to generation.
He can remember being just a lad and sitting next to his father upon one of the various stools in this same workshop. He would spend hours, upon hours in here watching his father work as he created hand carved masterpieces.
He must have been nine or ten years old, when his father asked him if he would like to learn this craft. He was so excited as he proudly said yes, however his excitement lessened as the days passed by.
At first, he thought that his father would allow him to jump right in and begin carving while learning as he went along. Nonetheless, his father gave him the task of tending to the tools first. An apprentice must learn the tools of the trade before he can step into the trade.
Every day he would gather the tools his father had used, to sharpen them. Afterwards, he would gently wipe them down and put them back in their respected places. Slowly he would learn the names of each tool and soon he learned what each tool could do. Nonetheless, his patience grew thin, as he wanted so much to become a master like his father.
“Patience, my son...you must have patience!” his father would tell him.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. His apprenticeship was more than creating a violin; it was filled with lessons about life.
“You must respect the instrument… come…let us go outside and walk among the trees.” tells his father. “Each tree has a soul and a spirit. When you work with the wood, you are working with the soul and spirit of the tree. Respect the tree and it will allow you to create an instrument that will sing with the tree’s soul.”
His hand gently glides over the piece of wood that he is currently working on. Gracefully, he calls upon the spirit of the tree to come forth and make its sound known. He is following his father’s instructions that he had learned so many years before.
He can remember the first violin he had ever made. He was so proud of his work and was eager to share it with his father to show his accomplished skills. He could not wait to sell his first instrument and feel the satisfaction of cash in his pocket, for a job well done. Nonetheless, his father snuffed his ego with his words.
“For your first instrument you did alright. But, you can not sell an instrument looking like that…”
In his innocence, he thought that his first violin was near perfect. Low and behold, as he looks at the instrument today hanging on the wall, he can see the vast imperfections that his father had seen so many years ago. He would go on to make ten more before he was allowed to sell his first hand crafted piece.
With each violin that he made, he grew in his skill. Each instrument contained a lesson, some harder to learn than others.
“Always go with the grain… be gentle and show respect to the wood.”
“No two instruments are alike, each has their own spirit and it is your job to breathe life into that spirit…”
Months turned into years and years into decades. Soon, his father was the one sitting on the stool watching him create the masterpieces.
“The apprentice has now become the master. I am proud of you, my son, for carrying on our tradition. Do not let this tradition die with you...you must pass it on…” were the last words that echoed from his father’s voice.
Years later, he would do his best to encourage his own sons to become his apprentices. Nevertheless, he failed. His own two boys had interests other than becoming a master artisan like their father. His hope was regained as his sons had sons of their own. His heart broke once more, as they were more interested in instruments made of plastic and operated by computers.
He searched everywhere for an apprentice, but no one was interested. As he sits in this forgotten workshop working on his latest violin, he mourns, as he knows that his master artisanship will certainly die with him.
In a world filled with technology, the master artisan has fallen into the abyss of the forgotten. The truth of this statement is found among the group of people called the Millennials.
It is unclear as to when the millennial generation begins. Some say it began in the 1980’s while most say that it begins with the turn of the century. Either way, this generation will be the impetus that drives many breeds of existence into extinction. Bit by bit we are witnessing some of our ways of life disappearing due to the Millennials. Perhaps the greatest example is found in today’s music.
Born of the technological world, Millennials have never experienced life without electronics. They do not know what hard work is and have never felt its rewards. This is especially found within the music world as Millennials depend on computers rather than years of learning to play an instrument.
Some of the more notable entertainers have spent years, if not decades, honing their craft. Rock-n-Roll guitarist Eddie Van Halen is quoted as stating that he would practice playing various instruments for hours per day to sharpen his skill.
Today, Millennials demand instant gratification. Therefore, they will resort to digital instruments rather than learning the technique needed to perform.
“When you record now days—when you go in and you’ve got every instrument perfectly tuned. You’ve got the voice perfectly tuned. You’ve got a perfect record. But, you lose your heart. You lose your soul in there.” shares Classic Country Music Entertainer Moe Bandy. “When you digitally make everything perfect, you lose a lot!”
Some of the factors missing in today’s digitally recording process include the simple things that make a country song. These simple things include the sounds of the slide of the fingers over the guitar frets or the palm hitting the strings on an upright bass. A digital recording can sound perfect, but most of all it sounds cold.
In 2011, Cincinnati based WCPO sent one of their journalists into a recording studio to do a story about a program called Auto-Tune. Nearly every entertainer in today’s music market uses Auto-Tune to enhance his or her vocals to create the perfect recording. Later in 2013, a company known as LOL ComediHa uploaded a video to YouTube called “Sound Engineer’s Hard Work.” This video gives viewers a comedic but true depiction of the use of a pitch corrector in a digital recording. You can view both videos within this article on our website.
The principle problem with Millennials is their lack of emotions. This generation is taught at an early age not to feel, acknowledge or share their feelings. This creates a massive problem when it comes to music.
The core of music is the ability to express one’s emotions through the creative process of a song. If you are taught not to acknowledge your feelings, how are you going to deliver the intention of the song when the main purpose of the song is to remind the listener of an emotional event in their lives?
Another crucial obstacle with the millennial generation is their absence of creativity. Most children are born with a very creative mind, however in today’s world, creativity is stiffen to produce an adult that lacks a creative imagination.
The foundation of music is creativity and imagination. Without these two resources, music lacks inventiveness and inspiration thus generating a monotone reality.
In the past five years, we have seen an increase in this type of country music. Today we, at Strictly Country, are calling this Millennial Country.
Millennial Country is a style of music that is quite deficient of any distinctive qualities. This form of music is devoid of creativity while it produces a monotone melody that harmonizes with the majority of the songs produced in the respected genre. Entertainers of Millennial Country do not possess the pure raw emotions that are required to bring a song to life.
Due to this lack of creativity, Millennial Country Entertainers often record cover songs. Cover songs are notable songs that were previously recorded by acclaimed entertainers. A well-known example of a cover song is “Summertime Blues” that was originally written and recorded by Eddy Cochran and Rocky Sharpe. This song was covered by The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Rush, The Beach Boys, Joan Jett and Alan Jackson to name a few. Millennial Country Artists state that every melody or lyric has already been done and that is why they record cover songs. These same entertainers are also prone to ‘borrow’ melodies and or lyrics from well-known songs in order to generate their own song.
Millennials were raised with lots of praise and very little constructive criticism. This style of upbringing has created narcissistic and egocentric adults. When these entertainers are told the truth about their unacceptable music, they often resort to bulling with lawsuits or smearing a good name with the internet. Little do they realize that they are the creation of their own demise.
The precognition of being a country music entertainer is one filled with fame and fortune. Little do Millennial Country Music Entertainers know that very few entertainers reach this status. Most entertainers work a full time job during the day while at night and on weekends they perform live. When you belong to the artistic world, you do not keep regular hours and rarely do you receive a minimum hourly wage.
Hard work is the very key to becoming successful in any industry, but none more than that of the music industry. Hard work can pay off, only if you are willing to pour your heart, sweat, tears and soul into it. Very few Millennial Country Music Entertainers are willing to put the work into creating and honing their craft.
With the advent of Millennial Country Music Entertainers, the industry is changing and not for the better. Many in the industry are leaving due to these entertainers and circumstances. On the other side, classic country music entertainers are returning more so than ever.
Will Millennial Country Music Entertainers be the cause of Country Music’s demise? Only time will tell…
There is always a demand for well-crafted musical instruments. Nonetheless, it does take time to construct such a fine instrument; one that is worthy of a master musician’s hands.
Patience is the key to creating a masterpiece as the one he now holds in his calloused hands. With an eye of a jeweler, he takes a closer look at his work to see if there are any imperfections. Once the instrument meets his inspection, he tenderly starts stringing the violin. Over the years, he has trained his ears to fine tune the musical instrument.
Once stringed and tuned, he picks up his bow and begins to let the spirit of the wood come forth upon the notes he plays. It takes the touch of a master’s hands to create such an artistic masterpiece. In the silence of the workshop, he sets the musical instrument down and says…
You, my friend, are the last…
For I am the last of a dying breed.
(This article was printed in the July / August 2018 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
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