Any of you who have watched videos on YouTube (which must be just about everyone by now) have probably read some of the comments posted below the videos. A small minority of those comments are useful or even astute but most are just plain dumb. I usually don’t bother to get into the fray of the comment stream but one time I did and it has had some interesting consequences.
Jason Pettit and I were preparing a version of Chick Corea’s tune “Spain” for an upcoming set of concerts, so I was watching a video of John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola and Paco de Lucia performing the song to see if I could adapt any of their arrangement ideas for our trumpet/guitar duo version. This particular video is a nice performance but there is another video of just John and Paco playing it as a duet that is much more striking. Anyway, my eyes drifted down to the comments section and someone had written that Paco de Lucia is lost with his chords and scales and has no idea about Spanish music. Both of those statements are absolutely absurd. Paco has an immaculate ear and always finds the right notes to play over any harmony. He also has a huge vocabulary of chords, easily as large as any jazz musician has. Furthermore, he grew up in Andalusia, the cradle of Spanish music, and learned flamenco from his family and neighbors; so to say that he has no idea about Spanish music is just plain foolish.
Well, I had to call the commenter on that one. I wrote a response comment, starting out in Spanish asking him how is it that he is such an expert in Spanish music that he could say that a Spaniard has no idea about his own nation’s music. Then I switched to English and asked him to please point out the moments in minutes and seconds (a common way to reference places in a YouTube video) where Paco was “lost” and I would be glad to explain the harmonic and scalar elements that Paco was using at those times.
The original poster replied that he was not going to give me a free music lesson if I couldn’t figure it out for myself. He also said that true Spanish music was Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Joaquín Rodrigo and poor Paco has no idea about them. Then he went on to say that he had gone to my YouTube channel and had seen one of my videos (the blues video that gained me a finalist spot in an international competition last year) and that my playing and sound was “crap”.
Now, saying that Paco de Lucia does not know Spanish music because he doesn’t perform Albeniz, Granados and Rodrigo is like saying that Keith Jarrett, Mark O’Connor or Bela Fleck don’t know anything about American music because they don’t perform Aaron Copland pieces. They all play American music and the musical style that they each specialize in is, in fact, a tradition that Copland was loosely modeling his work on at various stages of his career. The same is true for Paco de Lucia and the world of flamenco. Those Spanish composers were heavily under the influence of flamenco since there was a sort of nationalism movement going on in European music at the time and many composers where looking at the native musical styles of their countries for inspiration. To top it all off, Paco de Lucia has performed Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez with orchestras all over the world and the videos are right there on YouTube! Paco knows Rodrigo by heart and probably can play Albeniz’ famous piece “Asturias” in his sleep.
I responded again saying that the commentator still had not provided us with those times in the video where Paco was “lost” and that I wasn’t looking for a free lesson, I just wanted to clarify and explain what was going on harmonically at those points. I also said that I was sorry that he didn’t like my music but that that video he mentioned had won me an award so someone must like it. He never replied.
However, several other people did reply and/or send me messages of support. They also went to my YouTube channel and watched my videos and said that they enjoyed them. I even got a couple of requests to give lessons. I didn’t reply to the original comment to get attention for my YouTube channel (which really needs some better quality videos anyway) but it inadvertently had that effect. Such is the world of social networking and I should pay more attention to it!
So, yes, Paco de Lucia knows his harmony and he knows Spanish music as well as anyone can –just as Jarret, O’Connor and Fleck know American music with a level of authority no non-American can match.
And I see that I need to up my social networking game!