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Tradition- medicine or poison?

As a guitarist divided between artistic career and didactics both in free schools and in universities, I always understood the "tradition" as an organizing element.


Like an old scroll, written by thousands of hands, tradition frees us from the unintelligent effort of inventing the wheel.


The problem is that it can be a smokescreen between us and the creativity, hiding the path of experimentation.


One of the most common examples of this type of side effect can be observed in the behavior of some luthiers, always using as references, ancient instruments, often built centuries ago. The great guitarist, Paulo Bellinati, once mentioned that the "Stradivarius" of the guitar are being built today. I fully agree with this statement, I am surprised and even a little dissatisfied, to see young people repeating old trails, without any questioning.


I don't know if for lack of ideas, or for fear of risking new formulas, the blind respect for old references creates a comfort zone that often discourages the search for new paths. The result ends up being "more of the same".


Still hitting the button of the guitars consrurction, I feel that there is a great rejection of the use of the tensor, an instrument arm stabilizer very common in electric guitars and steel string guitars.

One of my guitars has a tensioner and I guarantee that it is an essential piece, especially for guitarists who travel a lot to places where the weather conditions are very variable.


The most interesting thing is that this apparatus, which does not even appear externally, does not cause any side effect to the instrument and even so the tensor is rejected simply because it is not traditional.


This same phenomenon happens in the musical environment. A very recurring example refers to the concept of improvisation.


Once a student from Unicamp came to me and said that he had listened to my new CD, and that he did not like my improvisations because the phrases were not jazzistic. What was implied in his comment is that his horizons proved to be very limited, and therefore he begins to reject the work of someone who escapes his area of understanding, whose contours are totally delimited by tradition. Actually he was just repeating his mentors ideas, that probably repeated ideas from their mentors as well.


My observations lead me to believe that the artists who take the highest flights are those who have sought to go beyond the limits of tradition, using it as a reference, but seeking to widen the belt of these limits.


In a way, the school is responsible for this phenomenon. The commitment to the solid training of the student implies a strong immersion in structural issues and the consequent contact with tradition. The side effect of this reality is that curiously it is becoming more and more common for young musicians to reissue this tradition. Rare are those who use it as a bow to throw their ideas beyond the walls.


Faced with these facts, the question becomes inevitable:

- is the tradition the medicine or the poison?


The answer that immediately comes to my mind is:

- it depends on the dose!

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