The classical guitar is a very special instrument. It is not a coincidence that the guitar has become so popular over the years amongst all kinds of performers, rock bands, folk song artists, classical musicians, etc. Something about the intimacy with the instrument, the way it is held, the feminine shape it has, the amount of work and practice it requires, all this creates a very special bond between the guitarist and instrument.
This is significant for our understanding of the special music therapy potential of the guitar. Of all instruments, it has been tested as the one conveying the highest levels of vital energy and this with almost all guitarists. As I have already stated, the amount of love one pours into the music is directly proportional to the vital energy levels conveyed by that music. To really become proficient with the guitar, especially classical and flamenco guitar styles, one must really love the instrument. It really challenges one’s faithfulness. I can stop playing the flutes I have for months and I’ll be able to regain a fair mastery of the instrument within four to five days. If I were to stop the guitar for that length of time, it would take many weeks to regain a semblance of what I can convey musically when I practise on a daily basis. Also, the rewards are great. The many different sounds it has, allows a great depth of expression. The wide range of different sounds it can produce had Hector Berlioz whom played it well, describe the guitar as a small orchestra in itself. The great French composer Claude Debussy said of the guitar, “the guitar is an expressive harpsichord”. Manuel de Falla, a renowned Spanish composer said “the guitar is the richest and most complete of all instruments due to its harmonic and polyphonic capabilities” and the great violin virtuoso and composer Paganini said, “I am a master of the violin but the guitar is my master”. All these quotes speak of the unique and endearing qualities of this instrument. Of all my instruments, it is the one I love most and also the one I find the most difficult and demanding. As such, I am convinced that it can be very helpful to those who can listen to it with no preconceptions.
I remember once in a music class at Laval University where the teacher, curious to see the music students’ reaction to my therapeutic music, plays a simple guitar study by Fernando Sor I had recorded. Two comments came right off after it was heard. First a guitar player said with some contempt that it was the 1st study by Sor in Segovia’s well-known compilation. Secondly, a young lady pianist said with disdain that the music must have some subliminal technology included as she had felt sleepy listening to it. When I was working as a music therapist at the Quebec General Hospital for the elderly, most patients responded very well to the music. The ones who had the most difficulty receiving benefit from the music were those who had studied it when they were young. They either knew too much about music to listen with their hearts and souls rather than with their intellect, or they had not appreciated that music be forced on them by their parents and hated it. I once had my guitar teacher listen to a guitar recording I made. She could only hear the mistakes and shortcomings in the music and it was of no therapeutic benefit to her. These are examples of preconceptions that can limit one’s ability to receive the therapeutic benefits of music.
I am not a virtuoso. Yet I play in such a way that people can derive benefit from it. When I left the family home in my late teens to study music at Laval University, my parents conveyed to me that the neighbours complained that they were having trouble sleeping without the music I used to practise in the evening. That was the guitar on which I would practise every evening. I remember a morning on Christmas Day when I woke first and went to my guitar. Several people later said they had already awakened and were ready to get up. Upon hearing the guitar they went straight back to sleep. Their bodies needed that sleep after the previous evening of festivities. It remained quiet for a few more hours in the house. When friends at school got hung up on LSD and could not sleep because of acute anxiety, it would take only a few minutes of guitar before they were sound asleep. Sleep here is an indication of deep relaxation and the being going to a place where they can receive deep healing. I have seen this countless times. Once I was in a restaurant having a coffee when they put on a recording of my guitar music. I didn’t know that they had one so it was a surprise. But after a few minutes I felt deep relaxation and relief. The problems I was experiencing went away and I left the place feeling relaxed and renewed.
As all string instruments, the guitar is invaluable as a means to energize the body and mind and enhance the health and vitality of the brain and nervous system. It conveys a good deal of vital energy and creates a sense of comfort and peace. I hope you enjoy this music, my compositions and improvisations on the guitar. It may be helpful if you are open to its beneficial influence.
I had a wonderful experience when Serge Samson my sound technician gave me the “master” that is the complete final version of my guitar recording. I immediately sat down in a long chair and relaxed listening to my compositions on the guitar. I experienced such a deep relaxation that I had to go back to bed after hearing it. I slept an hour and a half in the middle of the afternoon something that never happens! I then worked many hours in great shape. After that, my daughter, some friends and I went to see the last Henri Potter. We got to bed at about 2 am. Yet, next day I awoke at the same time as always and did a good day’s work. Serge was right, it’s a success, the fulfillment of many years of work on the guitar, a very relaxing and inspiring music.
The following Saturday, I settle my daughter in the same long chair, and put on the guitar music. In the evening she describes her experience with enthusiasm in her eyes. During the music that she enjoyed she felt very inspired with a powerful desire to write. But immediately after listening she felt so relaxed that she had to go to bed and she slept an hour and a half. She then sat down to write and was so absorbed by her writing that I had to insist several times that she come to eat.