However stubbornly an artist may persist in their conviction that the emotional aspect is as important as, or even more important than technique, usually one tends to think that in actual fact they don’t have enough ‘numbers’ in their repertoire, and that such a preference is only a way of justifying artistic products that are simple and without any particular stylistic ambitions. Consequently, affirmations of this nature are often ridiculed, put aside and thrown away along with the chit-chat.
In actual fact, taking a rapid bird’s eye view across our times, what immediately strikes our gaze is how the scholastic aspect of artistic production has been favoured over this way of thinking – in other words performance over content. You only have to consider all the new media personalities dished up by popular television contests, whose noteworthy and stunning technical preparation often outweighs content and emotivity, in defiance of the recent past when examples in the world of music – and more specifically that of singer-songwriters – reveal voices that were slightly rawer and less refined but that sang nothing less than works of art in verse. Naturally, it never pays to generalise. There are still those who think that technique isn’t everything, but the impression is that there are not many who still support this view – children as we are of television aestheticism and a superficiality that’s becoming more and more alarming.
For us guitarists, above all for lovers of fingerstyle, the danger of losing ourselves in the dark forest of pure technicalities is rather high, busy as we frequently are with arpeggios in search of any melodic and emotional opening or intent on beating the instrument in a quest for new rhythmic solutions. And frequently, a guitarist’s audience is made up only of guitarists and there are those who are convinced that this is the most desirable of possibilities. I needn’t say that I don’t think this is the case.
It’s clear that, just like in everything, it’s always the personal sensitivity of each individual that wins, but if artistic research only and exclusively addresses those who work in the field, then the path that every artist should never stop trying to pursue will be missing: collective sharing. It is in fact desirable that the impulsive participants at a guitarist’s concert should include housewives who’re unaccustomed to bending or hammer-on, but who are intrigued and seek emotions. Because this is art’s final aim: create emotions through language.
And so, in the smoky trenches of the guerrilla fight between technique and emotion, I believe that the only winning strategy is a healthy balance, so that technique is always at the service of emotivity. The bottom line is that technique is nothing other than a vocabulary: the more vocabulary one knows, the clearer and more effective what you want to say will be. This is not to say that if I don’t know many words, I won’t manage to express myself correctly, just as an accurate and stylistically perfect lexicon may not always be useful for communicative purposes. In any case, even the incredible Michael Hedges used to say that outstanding technique may impress another guitarist but it will never win you the heart of a girl. I agree with him.