A sonic fiction of the guitar by Captain Beefheart


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In the late 1970s Captain Beefheart handed his new guitarist, Moris Tepper, a list of ten commandments: a sort of personal pledge, a magic spell, after all: a sonic fiction to be embodied whilst playing the guitar. This list starts something like this:

1. Listen to the birds. That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar. Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush. Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

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