Pocket of the Groove

  Ok.  I’m continuing with my attempt to learn how to play the guitar and enjoy it immensely even though I’ve yet to play anything through without a fat fingered mistake.  It’s amazing how absorbing practice can be.  Just a few notes in, and even the most acute of the day’s existential crises have dissolved.

  Just now trying to find my way through “Scarborough Fair” familiar to me (and you maybe) courtesy of the Simon And Garfunkel cover on their 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.  For me, their rendition was even more important to the 1968 film The Graduate than their “Mrs. Robinson” for the former’s telling of a wonderfully mysterious tale of courtship. 

  It is an old English ballad.  Some say it arose in the time of the plague and that the refrain: “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme” refers to an herb bundle used to mask the then pervasive odor of death. 

  Of also Mrs. Robinson perhaps.  It would take something pretty powerful to gain the willing hand of a fair young maiden with the mother of whom the suitor had also slept.  And indeed that collection of herbs held ancient pagan esteem for their power to arouse and attract. 

Love imposes impossible tasks,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,
Though not more than any heart asks,
And I must know she’s a true love of mine.

  The music itself is interesting for this here novice to play around with.  The first two notes are the same, but the first is a half note and the second a quarter note which means that the first is held twice as long as the second. 

  One obviously doesn’t watch a clock so what is interesting is the different emotional impact of even slight variations in duration.  As luck would have it, Paul Simon was quoted in an article about working with just that in this week’s NYT Tuesday Science section:

  “The stopping of sounds and rhythms, it’s really important, because, you know, how can I miss you unless you’re gone?  If you just keep the thing going like a loop, eventually it loses its power.”

  “My brain is working that way – it’s dividing up everything.  I really have a certain sense of where the pocket of the groove is, and I know when you have to reinforce it and I know when you want to leave it.”

  Well, his is a sensibility to which one can only aspire.

*Interesting to note that Mike Nichols, director of The Graduate, originally wanted Robert Redford for the role that launched Dustin Hoffman’s career.  Shortly into a screen test with Redford he realized that he needed someone else.  “The Graduate only works if it’s a 21-year-old going on 16, who’s sexually insecure.  Well, Redford is this… classic sexual matinee idol…”  From NPR’s Morning Edition Broadcast 12/9/02

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