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 4: We did it!

So, The Guitar Revolution tour has come to an end. After an over subsribed launch at the London Olympia in september 2016, we took the concept on the road in early 2017. Visiting 7 Cities across the UK, bringing together hundreds of players to form our epic pop-up guitar Orchestra’s to play the piece Guitar Revolution.

A huge and heartfelt thank you to Martin Guitars for powering us and making it possible. All the amazing and world class guest acts who played such inspirational sets and put so much effort into reaching out into the wider community. The players who joined us and ultimately made the magic happen and of course all the audience memebers who helped create such amazing atmospheres at the shows… there is so many more, you know who you are, thank you. 🙂

Below you can enjoy a few live video’s of our performances and more…

 

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Building a Guitar Revolution Part 3: Rehearsals Begin

This is the third part of a blog about ‘Guitar Revolution‘ you can read the other parts by clicking here Part I, or Part II…or you can just enjoy this blog post on its own.

In this episode I’ll be looking at our first rehearsal sessions, and explaining a little about the journey to creating The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra .

The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra has been a work in progress since 2015. Don’t take too much from the phrase ‘work-in progress’ though – I see everything I do as a work in progress, I think its a great way to be. It helps me to handle the polarising swings from crippling self doubt to awe inspiring arrogance 😉 we all suffer from that as an artist and if you say you don’t, I imagine you might be pretending…

The word arrogance might be a little strong though, perhaps more feeling ‘proud’, yes proud. There are moments of pride, interspersed with that more familiar self doubt. Constantly evolving and moving, helps you to accept that; being creative is just a process, not a product.

The band itself is an ever evolving group of players.The guitar players for ‘guitar revolution’, who are key members of the CWGO, are very much evolving to an extreme extent…I never know who will turn up. The ‘foundation’ members though, (those who play through the whole set) are a lot more plan-able, although they have also gone through various changes.

We’ve had a mix of line ups for different tunes, including hang drum, tabla ,double bass, and even in amygdala part II with drums, cello and piano. Its been a fascinating journey and my approach has evolved drastically….(And just because you dont see it now, doesnt mean you wont see it again!)

I wanted to get a band together for this Guitar Revolution tour that really was focused on the idea of ‘Guitar revolution’…

Something that would push some boundaries, try some new approaches and inspire the audience, something that would compliment our revolutionary pop-up guitar orchestra.

Increasingly over the past year I have been performing with ‘Arthr’ in the CWGO line up…and the work that we are creating together has evolved into something exciting, something that is perfect for these GR shows. You should at this point check out what ‘Arthr’ creates with his blend of animation and electronics to get an idea of ‘Arthr’s pedigree. Our work together is based on the idea of being ‘orchestral’ or ‘symphonic’ and working together in unison to create an ‘interactive symbiotic cinematic explosion’…(sorry got a little carried away there with the ‘pride’ side if things.Ill balance it out later)…

In other words…

‘Arthr’ takes a feed from my guitar and manipulates the sounds I produce to create immense textures. A lot of sounds are completely unrecognisable from the guitar, but the vast majority started life as a vibration in my Martin 000×1.

We’ve been honing it for months, we’ve performed a few english dates together and headed over to Ireland in May last year for a few shows to really try things out (its often best to try out new things abroad, not sure why)……here’s a very early clip from our first rehearsals…..

It really excites me the sounds we are creating. It feels different and unexpected….exactly what I wanted. Theres an interaction between us that is even deeper than your usual musical exchange. I can only describe it has having a conversation with someone who manipulates your words…no wait, thats pretty negative…erm…I’ll think of another analogy soon.

Of course there are practicalities involved in this stuff too….I would love to have hang, tabla, drums, cello, bass, electronics blah blah but of course there is a financial reality…but also one thing I have learnt during the past year of taking the band out on the road is how differently a band sound is communicated live – Its a practical reality, live sound is louder, bigger and seemingly more overwhelming than listening to recorded sound. My current opinion, and this will of course change, is that recorded sound has far more scope for complexity but live performance demands more simplicity… Im not sure why exactly, but Ive really found a trio is perfect. Crazy as it might sound but I feel we are creating an orchestral sound best, as a trio… I know it seems like a contradiction, but come check out a show to see. So, who’s the third player? Well, aside from electronic manipulation from ‘Arthr’ I have chosen to bring in bring in the big guns…. double bass to be precise.

For this tour Im working with two different double bass players. Joe Limburn and Ben Taylor, both jazz playing pro’s. Its an absolute pleasure to work with both of them….

I love the double bass. I love the depth, the versatility. Its so outrageously orchestral….



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.…

New Single Release – The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra

The release of two new singles from ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’. Edinburgh and The Chine, are two exeptional pieces of music, featuring Hang Drum from Matt Calder, Tabla from Harkiret Singh Bahra and Double Bass from Lukas Drinkwater. The video for Edinburgh is already live and of course you can download or stream the new singles now… from Spotify and Itunes..

There will be various performances this summer from the orchestra, including Larmer Tree Festival and the Acoustic Festival of Britain, stay in touch to see more dates 🙂


‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’

Chris has launched two singles from ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ which are available to download from iTunes etc and to stream from Spotify and more… The album is nearly there and over the coming months there will be opportunities to see chris perform as ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’. The first chance will be on the 3rd of May at The London Guitar Night, where Chris will be joined by Tabla player Harkiret Singh Bhara. Get your tickets here
 

New Piece/Video Recorded For The North American Guitar At Their London Studio – Exclusive

Chris debuted a new tune at The North American Guitar London Studio a few days back. Its part one of two, and the second part is set to include ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’. Rap your ears around part one now!

Chris to Lead Beginners Guitar Summer School for International Guitar Foundation

Chris has been busy working on developing a new beginners guitar course. This Summer he will be offering a residential beginners acoustic course for IGF at bstunning venue in Shrewsbury. Click the image to book your place, or email us vida the contact page if you have any questions.

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