Guitar Revolution: Politics Is Not The Only Way

Politics is not the only vehicle of change…

Just after the brexit vote announcement I launched Guitar Revolution…a project thats aim was simply to form pop-up guitar orchestras around the country to play one of my compositions.

Now, the timing was coincidental really; I’ve always been fascinated by the role of community in music, those of you who know me personally will know that actually the majority of my adult life has been focused around those two things – I also like donuts, walks in the park and John Grisham novels ;). So Brexit wasn’t the driving force, this project did not have any allegiance to leave or remain (and don’t worry this is not a blog about Brexit). But nevertheless, guitar revolution was riding on a wave of Brexitness. 

Since then, as Guitar Revolution jetted (in a white diesel van) around the country forming pop-up guitar orchestras, all manner of political bizarreness has occurred. Of course most recently we are witnessing a whole new level of political insanity….

Now as I said this blog isn’t about Brexit and nor really is it about my political standing, although you can probably take a guess at what I voted for. This blog is instead about how important it is to remember the ‘real’ stuff. How your role in community is even more important than that one vote you have… Crazy, I know! 

This Guitar Revolution project showed me that your real actions really are so much louder than words or Facebook posts.  We engaged with thousand of people across the country and built a collective orchestra of hundreds. These actions are so much louder than Facebook rants and drunken arguments in the pub that result in a hangover of lost friends and upset egos. Continued below….

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Here are three points from that experience, that I believe are worth a read:

Number one, ‘Actions – this is not going to be easy’…

 Ive got plenty of experience of trying to bring people together in a musical context and it never gets any easier, I’m not sure it gets harder, but definitely not easier. The human race are a funny bunch.The general public are majoritively quite resistant to getting together for anything less  in size than a political rally, football match or an adele concert. Something that is mainstream and massively controlled, the idea of venturing out for a socio-musical experiment to play a minimalist piece of music, organised and composed by a scruffy guitarist from the west country is apparently not on the average brits list of priorities. Its seemingly niche, which is a shame because I was hoping the revolution would be relatively mainstream. Disappointing, I know!?!?!…..but hey, it just meant we had to work harder.

Number two ‘ Louder! – there is a reason we are scared of getting together’…

It takes a lot of energy and ultimately bravery to come and join a group of strangers to play music. It takes a lot of energy and bravery to join a group of strangers to do anything. Aside from the usual ego risks that playing music comes with it, it comes as a disruption to a busy schedule, it comes with all manner of social anxieties or pre-conceptions. Ultimately the idea of getting together with strangers to play music is powerful in a positive way but comes with powerful challenges too. As life increases in complexity and difficulty the idea of breaking out of that gets harder…Just like the idea of breaking from your normal comfort zone and views. I gotta be honest, if I was invited to join a pop-up guitar orchestra, I may well be the first to bottle it.

Number three…. ‘Words – The results of actions like this are far more positive than angry Facebook posts’…

There’s a simplicity to all of this, something I touched upon in my first blog. The simplicity of gathering people together to play. In this case it was gathering people together to do something different. Now in these crazy political times, of constant bombardment of ‘facts’ and strong view points the abstract simplicity of playing guitar together might seem like a token act of togetherness, but Im quite convinced that it is actually far more than that. (I would like to point out, I fully support your Facebook rants too)

Im not claiming that after each performance of guitar revolution, people spent hours discussing with others, rationally debating their political views. Im pretty sure no-one mentioned politics once or, in fact, the future of humanity. But! It did this…. and this is something I think we all need to focus on more than ever. 

….It got people out of their comfort zone, it got people out of Rupert Murdochs comfort zone and made people feel welcome and part of something positive, peaceful and original….something that was about being together not attacking others. Something vibrant and inquisitive…its a foundation of confidence to question the world around you.

For everyone on this messed up little island, being open minded, peaceful, and social is key to helping us progress. Whatever your political views, being social, community minded and open is the key to getting along, moving forward and generally not descending into being a country of absolute morons. Getting behind something musical is massively uniting. There are no ‘facts’ or view points, there is only the music. Because really, everyone wants the same thing. Don’t they?…

So, go and create something…  bring people together. Show the world that together is better. Do something! Organise a gig, get some people together to do something creative and pointless…something that is for nothing more than breaking the monotony of modern life and reminding us that we are human and we are here to laugh, dance, sing and share our smiles. 

Building a Guitar Revolution Part 2: Apathy and Emails



In these ‘Guitar Revolution’ blogs I promised to give a little insight into the process of setting this up, a kind of journal…an honest reflection. Here is the second instalment:

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working away, usually in front of a computer, trying to make good stuff happen. Turns out when trying to create a conceptual piece of music that brings together one and all, you will have to email, email and then email some more. Its been hard, but its been good. I only wish I didn’t always have to be on a ruddy computer all the time….I mean, Im meant to be a musician!?!?!

So… whats happened recently? What has the happy blend of hard work from a host of helpful people and my many mildly miserable hours of emailing actually achieved? …well, quite a bit actually. Here’s a list:

1.We have sponsorship from Martin Guitars, which as I briefly mentioned in the last instalment is an insanely cool thing. Aside from their support its great to be associated with a company that has a progressive, green and people focused ideas at the heart of what they do. Thank you Martin Guitars!

2. Sean DeBurca has finished the design, which you can see at the bottom of the page, and Im sure you’ll agree its insanely cool. Physical posters are on their way!!! :) :) Thanks for all your input during the design process folks.

3.Dates for leg one of the tour are up and ready! View them here and reserve your tickets now…

3.Several workshops in schools/colleges have been confirmed. Great news for spreading the word. We could do with more to really reach the wider community, can ya help?

4.Various exciting artists confirmed for guest slots. Names to be announced very soon. They’re all world class and are gonna make the shows so very special!!! – they will also be playing a part in helping to get players together for Guitar Revolution. I was overwhelmed by offers after putting a frankly awkward video out of me rambling on and asking for acts. I think the frequency of responses may have been partly due to me mentioning it was paid? – Im not sure. Anyway, its great to have so many people in touch. We do still have a slot or two to fill, so if you’re local to a date get in touch.

5.Guitar tutors are getting on board. This is a crucial one…. its a no brainer really, so if you are a guitar teacher, get involved. Ive only managed to contact a handful out of the thousands of you, so please save me some email time and get in touch. You can teach the parts and get in touch to let us know you’re doing it. It’s cool to hear from so many already to say ‘you’re doing it’ and ‘no thanks’ is fine too… although shocking to have some responses like ‘oh, they don’t practice anyway, so my students wont be interested’…I mean, seriously??? I despair sometimes I really do!

6.The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra line up for these shows is coming together too, we head into the rehearsal studio from the end of this month. Exciting new sounds itching to be heard.

So thats the main developments over the past couple of weeks, which aint too bad when I look back.

The general process has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster though…the responses have been quite extreme in polarity, its usually ‘yes wow! yes yes please!’ or a an extremely apathetic and negative response. Now Im not going to get into the trap of believing anyone who says ‘no’ to getting involved is ‘apathetic’, but in all honesty it seems especially when it came to approaching guitar teachers there really was a shocking amount of apathy amongst those who didn’t want to be involved…an often genuinely ‘discouraging’ response, rather than a simple ‘thanks but no thanks’. Which is a little crazy, but hey! thankfully there is a huge bank of inspirational teachers already involved, and many more to come Im sure. So get in touch guitar teachers! …apart from the apathetic ones….unless this brief blog has inspired some kind of life changing explosion of energy and inspiration, in which case I would love to hear from you too. Actually, thinking about it, you wouldn’t get in touch anyway if you were apathetic would you? :)

Aside from the knock backs its still overwhelmingly positive….massive thanks to every single one of you is already involved, and thanks in advance to those who will be.

cheeers
C
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Building a Guitar Revolution Part1: Start at the Beginning

This is part 1 of a series of blogs, of journals, recording the journey of ‘Guitar Revolution’. If you don’t know what ‘Guitar Revolution’ is; here’s a quick summary….

Guitar Revolution is a piece of music made up of four parts, for an infinite number of guitars. The parts range in difficulty from very simple to complex. Players are invited to learn the piece for free and join a mass guitar orchestra of strangers and perform the piece. The Project was launched at The London Acoustic Show on the 10th of September. You can find out more here.

So, that’s it. That’s the revolution, in a nutshell….

There’s a fair bit to share with you at this point since its come a long way from conception to realisation and as we prepare to take it to communities across the UK; I can’t help but think, ‘blimey so much work has already gone in!’…so here’s the story so far, the conception of the idea, and how we got here.

The conception of the idea:
Strange as it might seem (even stranger as I don’t really like the game); I think Music is a bit like football. It brings people together. When those people get together, especially in their ‘teams’ as spectators or players; they lose themselves in a way that is borderline scary, although actually quite wonderful. In fact, when the ambience is right, people from all different teams can get together and share their love of football, and equally lose themselves in the moment. Of course football also suffers from all kinds of bad stuff…elitism, racism and then there’s those people who somehow know exactly how it should have been played.

Now, call me crazy but the similarities with musical culture and kicking an inflatable ball around a pitch are shockingly close…and before you get all upset by the comparison please remember a very large number of the population see how some play the game as an art, and Im not going to disagree…

Anyway….the point of this analogy? well, I wanted to explain to you why I would spend so much time trying to bring groups of people together to play the guitar. That football feeling of being together as a ‘team’, the players, the supporters, everyone, its amazingly powerful. It’s something I wanted to capture in a piece of music….

Now there is one very distinct difference from Arsenal FC and ‘Guitar Revolution’…and no, its not just the money…its that the players in Guitar Revolution are anyone and everyone who can kick a ball (erm…I mean play a guitar…).

Now for Arsenal inviting anyone who could kick a ball to perform at wembley would be a disaster. But, for music I believe its a bonus. Music works in layers, ranging from simplistic to complex. I believe EVERYONE who has the gift of hearing, also has the gift of being musical. I see no reason why an absolute beginner can’t play an incredibly simplistic line with the same emotional beauty that someone from the royal college can.

Im not delusional, I appreciate a mix of amateur players is likely to sound less polished than a mix of well rehearsed professionals….but music isn’t just about being polished is it? Its about; people, atmosphere, vibe, feeling, passion, magic. A terrifying amount of our musical culture is hideously elitist and exclusive. ’Guitar Revolution’ and yes…’The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ itself is very much focused on derailing those ideas.



The Story So far:
The actual piece ‘Guitar Revolution’ took a ruddy long time to compose…It’s gone through many different changes over probably a period of about a year. Why? well, trying to compose something that is simplistic enough for anyone to play, but contain parts that are complex enough to keep virtuoso’s interested…and not loosing sight of composing an emotive piece of music is actually quite a challenge. A challenge greatly helped by the lovely members of ‘the creative guitar orchestra’. These chaps and chapets were my guinea pigs. And boy did they work hard! (thanks folks :) )

So once the piece was completed, I set about doing something with it. I knew from the beginning I wanted to have it played by strangers….(see opening analogy! ;) ) The option of taking it out on tour seemed slightly ridiculous at this stage since I hadn’t really seen that done previously and I had that distinctly unnerving feeling it may well be career suicide. After bouncing the idea with a few sponsors, promoters etc I got the feeling it was too big to achieve. In all honesty the idea was subconsciously shelved for a good few months, until….. Steve Harvey (former editor of Acoustic Mag) a fine gentleman dropped me a line to offer me a slot at The London Acoustic Show. I mentioned ‘Guitar Revolution’ and being the brilliant fella he is, he said ‘okay…lets do it!’ Which to me was a bit of a shock if Im honest…but ‘hey’ I thought…this is the chance to see if it fly’s or flops, and at this point it was the only chance I’d had.

So…once the idea settled in I set about trying to make it happen. Filming the video with the help of my groove orchestra brother Christian ‘Arthr’ Ballistrari in a way that demonstrated the different parts – which really wasn’t that easy. I then set about desperately trying to spread the word. Asking people to join at any opportunity.

If you’ve ever had a party as an adult, you would have come close to the feeling of insane insecurity that I experienced, except this party was going to be a little more public and be in a magazine and stuff! Will anyone actually come?? When you are an artist especially in the naughties, everything you do is very public even if no one knows your name, and seemingly the only thing you are allowed to express is ‘success’…and the thought of calling a project ‘Guitar Revolution’ that is performed by me and a handful of my mates wasn’t going to look to good.

Anyway…to cut a long story short, a whole host of people turned up, me, my mates, and well…loads of strangers! We couldn’t fit everyone into the rehearsal room…which was inconvenient, but very cool indeed.

We performed it and it was seriously inspiring…. I gotta admit I was so stressed out that I didn’t fully appreciate it until afterwards. The logistics of performing with your band and then bringing nearly seventy guitarists onto a stage for one song is pretty testing, especially if you’ve spent the last few months in near psychological melt down at the thought of no one coming to your party…. But, nether the less…it was very very cool.

Where are we at now:

Well…Its been an exciting few months. After asking people (via social media) if they wanted to get involved and help take it out on the road, its gone from a one off to a tour that will be enriching and exciting for everyone involved.

Sadly, making this stuff happen takes time and money so my second priority after getting the support from the public has been to try and secure some funding. With the help of a wonderful person an arts funding application is in, and Im also pleased to say Martin Guitars will be powering the event, which is insanely good. Not simply because of their support but because this guitar company embody a lot of what this project is about. Although you might associate Martin Guitars as being a ‘big’ company, they are actually a family business in both the literal sense and in the theoretical sense. Trust me I’ve spent time with a lot the guys and girls who work for martin and it really is like a family. They are committed to working sustainably, they have people at the heart. I haven’t announced this yet, but I though you as a reader who has plowed through over a thousand of my words should be rewarded with something of an exclusive!

So there you have it, its happening! – the first leg of the tour is booked and dates will be released along with a very very cool design very soon. And whilst we are on the subject of design, here’s four rough sketches created by designer and guitarist Sean De Burca, let me know which direction you think should be developed?….

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So, in the next blog or journal post I’ll be getting stuck into the mechanics of how this thing is gonna work, just as soon as I know.…

Guitar Revolution

Guitar Revolution is a piece of music made up of four parts, for an infinite number of guitars. The parts range in difficulty from very simple to complex. You can learn the piece here for free, and then join us on the 10th of September at The London Acoustic Show to rehearse it and perform with The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra – everyone is welcome! click here for Tabs and much more