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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Tom Bliss absolutely beautiful guitar work (108* d) RE: absolutely beautiful guitar work 19 Feb 10

I don't usually contribute to threads like this as you generally just get people with strong opinions either way expressing strong views.

But actually the reactions to Qualey's, as opposed to Bourassa's and Foster's, version may be rather illuminating.

For some people, myself included, Bach's genius is expressed in the counterpoint between the treble and bass melodies. For us this is where the whole beauty of the piece lies, and any version which omitted one or the other must by definition be lacking.

Bourassa and Foster both maintain the relationship in their versions, and so the only real question is whether the performance expresses the necessary flow. This is actually technically impossible on the guitar because some notes are inevitably damped because fingers have to be moved before the required duration is reached - so maybe there's a case for saying don't bother to try. But most of us can forgive a few small hiccoughs because the showmanship of achieving 90% of both melodies throughout, while also handling the changes in temo on a six string guitar is simply staggering.

Qualey, by contrast, maintains the upper melody but does not attempt the lower. I rather like his change in time signature and emphasis, and the open tunings are pretty, but for me the piece doesn't hold water. All the tension is gone, and the musicality is regularly subverted because there are no 'throughs' - no bridges to hold the work up.

Now the interesting bit:

Some love the Qualey version, some hate it. It may be some of the haters do so because they just plain don't like to hear a familiar piece 'done wrong,' but I'm curious to know if there's another reason.

Tot Taylor, of the 80s pop group Advertising, wrote a marvellous book about the difference between left and right handed music.

The theory goes that right hands - or more accurately, left-hemisphere-dominents - are logical and linear, and therefore tuned to tunes. They find their stimulation in melody construction, decoration and variation. Right handed music often has a simple, frequently well-used, chord structure, and all the interest is focused on the melody. So examples would be most folk dance tunes, most blues and all 12 bars, a majority of country songs and their pop cousins, reggae, rap, and most trance and electronica etc. Most tune players are very left hemisphere - and they don't much mind what chords you put in as long as you don't buck up their feet (and you can spoonerise that if you like).

Right hemis, on the other hand (so to speak), are lateral, conceptual thinkers. They are tuned to harmonic structure, and drawn to inventive progressions and rich chords such as augmented fourths and major sevenths. Very left-handed music will often have a very simple melody, with all the interest coming from the shifting shapes of the lower lines (that's a simplification because it can work the other way up too).

And Dyslexics, like me, are tuned to both and so constantly confused and difficult, but very rewarding to know and love.

Now. Could it be that those who like Qualey's version are very left hemisphere dominant? (That doesn't necessarily mean right-handed by the way, it's more complicated than that). Are they so delighted by his variation and ornamentation they barely notice the 'bass-line butchery.' While those who prefer Bach's original and the Bourassa and Foster versions are more right-hemi?

Or by contrast, is this whole theory a just load of old Tot Taylor Tosh?


PS Vis Lennon vs McCartney's writing styles, Gershwin, Berstein, Hendrix... the list goes on, and so does the beat.

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