Saturday, August 2, 2008

He'll Kill You With a Feather

Last night I was privileged to see guitar virtuoso Mark Knopfler perform in Miami Beach.

I've been to literally hundreds of rock concerts over the past forty (yikes!) years or so (Zeppelin, McCartney, The Who, Tull, Springsteen, etc etc) and this one definitely lands in the top ten.

Most listeners probably know Knopfler as the leader of 1980's group Dire Straits and author of megahits such as "Sultans of Swing", "Money for Nothing" ("I want my MTV...") and "Walk of Life" ("Here comes johnny singing oldies, goldies Be-bop-a-lua, baby what I say...").

But you might not know that he's gone on to become a prolific film score composer and magnificent solo artist. And I use the term artist with all due respect.

One reviewer on Amazon described the "Cal" soundtrack as "a beautiful, haunting set of instrumentation and melody, combining Knopfler’s outstanding musical talents with his study of traditional Irish music."

Mark is a true master artist. Sure he can bang out a killer riff of staccato notes with anyone on the planet. But he doesn't NEED to hit you over the head like that.

He knows that subtlety is more powerful. He'll let the rhythm section do the heavy lifting. And he just drops in the occasional perfect accented note.

Understated and brilliant.

He's also a master of anticipatory tension - something all writers can relate to and should study.

Watch as his tune opens with a quiet story, engaging the listener.

Slowly the pace augments. In the background, the snare picks up. One by one, another instrument joins in...

Violin... accordion... penny whistle… bass... more drums...

And then the release - the explosion!

Afterwards, unlike most, he'll pull it back and give you yet another tasty and brilliant quiet morsel.

Sometimes he goes on to a dramatic buildup again.

But more often than not... he's gotten you revved up... he built a crescendo... gave the release... withdraws... and then slowly teases you with an understated refrain.

You're waiting, gasping for breath... listening to every quiet note and echo...

Wondering, anticipating… will he take me to that magical place again?

Ultimately, great art, great writing, great music mirrors the waves of passion that lie within the human spirit.

And there's a reason.

They come from the same place - they ARE the essence of what it means to be human and ALIVE.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I absolutely love the live version of "Telegraph Road" on Dire Straits' Money For Nothing compilation for that exact ebb and flow of tension, build-up, explosion and sudden suspension. Magic. (My four year old's favorite is "Tunnel of Love.")

Some people say Clapton rules the guitar; I respectfully beg to differ. Mark Knopfler reigns supreme.