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很多出色的吉他演奏家都使用过DADGAD调弦，它的空弦音听起来是一个Dsus4和弦，可以突破传统标准调弦的桎梏。它灵活性强，适合凯尔特音乐，印度的拉格音乐，以及美国西弗吉尼亚的阿巴拉契亚音乐。英国民谣先驱Davy Graham在60年代早期广泛使用这个调弦，由于他的启蒙，一些伟大的摇滚乐手比如Jimmy Page以及Trey Anastasio也对其有所涉猎。但只有少数演奏家像Pierre Bensusan一样如此热衷于用这个调弦来作曲。到现在差不多四十年，Bensusan用这个调弦创造了一种高度融合凯尔特音乐、中东音乐，以及爵士和巴西音乐的个人曲风。
Bensusan现年53岁，他出生在阿尔及利亚的Oran，并在巴黎长大。这样的童年经历对他之后的音乐风格产生了深远的影响。和许多年轻的音乐家一样，他深受60年代民谣复兴的影响，在他发展出自己标志性的指弹技法之前，他像Woody Guthrie和Bob Dylan一样用扫弦伴唱。
Bensusan在签订他的第一份唱片合同时才17岁。一年后，他的处女专辑Près de Paris (1975）在瑞士的Montreux爵士音乐节上赢得了法国唱片大奖。自那以后，Bensusan发行了大量精心制作的专辑，内有像管弦乐般复杂迷人的吉他独奏曲。Bensusan还写了The Guitar Book这本书来解释他的唱片中每首曲子的故事和想法。
A1:我十一岁那年得到了人生的第一把吉他，开始扫弦伴唱一些法国民谣和美国民歌。之后我接触到了Bert Jansch和John Renbourn这样的演奏家的作品，这令我恍然大悟：原来吉他还可以这样弹！之后我便开始学习应用对位技法的指弹演奏。
A3:1978年我去北爱尔兰旅游时结识了一位叫George Lowden的朋友。几个月后，我在巴黎的一家店里看到了一把Lowden，当场喜欢上了它的声音和外观。我马上给George打了一个电话，找他定制了一把桃花心背侧雪松面板的吉他。到现在差不多33年间，我是用这把琴录制了许多唱片，并给它起了Old Lay这个名字。（正式的商品名为S22）我还有一把Lowden叫New Lady，到今年才使用三年，是我的签名型号。它有云杉面板、玫瑰木背侧，与我之前的那把声音有很大的不同。它很灵敏，声音很空灵，并且十分清澈明亮。这把琴最神奇的一点就是它太顺滑了，稍不注意就可能失去控制。演奏时我必须时刻全神贯注，这是一件好事。
A8:我第一次听到Milton Nascimento（一位巴西的词曲作家）的作品时，我觉得它不但是一位伟大的歌手，而且是一位用其富有感染力的嗓音作画的画家。是他启发了我用歌喉去增强吉他的感染力，与此同时，我从George Benson那里学到了爵士唱腔，之后又受到Bobby McFerrin的启发。但是我发展的是属于我自己的风格，毕竟一味地模仿别人是没有任何意义的。
Interview: Pierre Bensusan
January 17, 2011
A lot of great guitarists have made use of the DADGAD tuning—in which the open strings sound a Dsus4 chord—to break the constraints of concert tuning. That’s because it’s versatile and adaptable to Celtic tunes, raga, and Appalachian styles, among others. British folk pioneer Davy Graham used it extensively in the early ’60s, and in his wake great rock players like Jimmy Page and Trey Anastasio have dabbled in it, too. But few instrumentalists have made so much from it as fingerstyle legend Pierre Bensusan. For nearly four decades now, Bensusan has used the tuning to play his highly personal blend of Celtic, Middle Eastern, jazz, and Brazilian strains.
The 53-year-old Bensusan was born in Oran, Algeria, and reared in Paris—an upbringing that would eventually lend a cosmopolitan sense to his music. Like many young musicians, he got caught up in the folk revival of the 1960s, strumming and singing songs in the mold of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, before developing his trademark fingerstyle approach.
Bensusan was only 17 when he signed his first recording contract. A year later, his first album, Près de Paris (1975), won the Grand Prix du Disque at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Since then, Bensusan has released a handful of carefully conceived albums filled with compositions of orchestral-like complexity and stunning stylistic variety. Bensusan also wrote The Guitar Book to illuminate the concepts behind those records.
With his warm baritone voice and trademark scatting, Bensusan is also an accomplished singer. Unlike previous releases, his latest album, Vividly, is split evenly between instrumentals and pieces with vocals. But the recording has plenty to offer the guitar aficionado, including cluster chord voicings, unusual chord progressions, shimmering harp-style harmonics, and dense counterpoint.
We recently spoke with Bensusan about his influences, his short-lived foray into electronic effects, and more.
What were your formative musical experiences like?
I was 11 years old when I first got a guitar and mostly strummed it, accompanying myself singing French tunes and American folk songs. Then, when I heard the music of players like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, that really gave me a kick in the pants and stimulated me to learn how to fingerpick and play solo, in a contrapuntal style.
How’d you get into using DADGAD tuning, and what was it about it that moved you so deeply?
Early on, I discovered a lot of alternate tunings by just randomly playing around with my tuning pegs. After a while, I come to the conclusion that I had to stick to one tuning and learn the fretboard in it. I chose DADGAD for its versatility and have been using it exclusively since 1978. [Ed.: In a rare deviation, Bensusan uses standard on his composition “Altiplanos.”] DADGAD is a flattering tuning, which means that you can remain at the surface of it and have an exciting time for a little while. But if you just play a lot of open-string voicings and don’t really investigate the tuning’s full potential, then you are going to sound just like everyone else. So I went about studying DADGAD carefully, playing around with many different scale and chord patterns, many different ideas and styles. After doing this a while, I was able to freely express myself in the tuning. Then DADGAD became invisible: I was playing the tuning—it wasn’t playing me.
Tell us a little about the Lowden that has long been your main guitar.
In 1978, when I was touring Northern Ireland, I met a friend of George Lowden. Several months later, I saw a Lowden guitar in a shop in Paris, and I immediately fell in love with both the sound and look of the instrument. So I called the luthier immediately and asked him to make me a guitar with mahogany back and sides and a cedar top. I’ve played that guitar, which I call “Old Lady” [Ed.: It is officially known as the model S22], for almost 33 years now and have used it on all of my records. I also have another Lowden, my “New Lady,” which is about three years old and is my signature model. It has a spruce top and rosewood body, giving it a different sound than my original Lowden. It’s very responsive, has a lot of headroom, and is very clear and bright. What’s amazing about the newer guitar is it can be so fast and effortless that you really have to pay attention to what you play so things don’t get out of control. It forces me to approach things carefully, which is good.
In what way do you feel like the new guitar can contribute to things getting “out of control”?
If you aim right, that instrument gives you a 3-D rendition, close to perfection, but if you don’t pay attention, you can get overwhelmed by the strength of projection. I am grateful that I have to pay that attention to how I touch it, which is the way it should be, and can only help me to become a better player.
How would you describe your compositional process?
I let my imagination play its role and then allow the guitar to take over. At the beginning, a new piece is just an idea that I have. Over several weeks or several months or several years, I’ll start to incorporate my fingers without ever losing sight of the original concept. Technique can distort an idea, and I’m vigilant about watching out for that. In a way, composing has strengthened my instrumental technique—figuring out how to accurately express something on the guitar has greatly improved my knowledge of the fretboard and my touch on the instrument.
So in the beginning a new piece is only in your head?
Very often, it is completely and only in my head and has nothing to do with the guitar. I like it to stay that way until I feel the time is right to give it an actual sonic form with what I have in my hands—a guitar—without losing the content to comfort zones dictated by my instrumental technique. Of course, I also find lots of inspiration just by wandering on the instrument. So, it’s a combination of both—imagination and talking with the guitar, looking for the right notes.
Your style is all over the map. Can you pinpoint some of your influences?
Oh, they’re so varied. It can go from Arabic music—I was born in North Africa—to Celtic music and songs from central France, Brazil, India, Cuba, Mali, and beyond. I’m a sponge and am constantly listening to a lot of different things. But at the end of the day, I’m trying to put all these different sounds—which I’ve learned not by studying techniques and theory, but through osmosis—through my own filter to see what comes out. My music is also influenced by my life today and the world in which we live, which is not the perfect place. And thanks to music, for the last 40 years I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled all over world, experiencing a lot of different cultures and geography. This has definitely informed my music as well.
You sometimes scat sing in the manner of George Benson. How did you get into that?
When I first heard [Brazilian singer-songwriter] Milton Nascimento, it occurred to me that he was not only a great singer but a painter who creates beautiful moods with the color of his voice, and that inspired me to augment my guitar playing with my voice. At the same time, I got into scatting through George Benson, and later I was influenced by the amazing things Bobby McFerrin does with his voice. But I’ve tried to scat and sing in my own way—what’s the point of copying?
In the 1980s, you turned to effects to create lush acoustic-electric soundscapes, but it seems that lately you’ve all but abandoned electronics. Why is that?
I was reluctant to enter that world to start with, but once I did I went all the way. I was like a child in a toy store. It was amazing to discover ping-pong delays, to be able to record more than a minute of myself playing, then add layers and layers on top of that. I did sound-on-sound effects live onstage for 15 years, and my music reached a very inspiring place—though I know that some people weren’t happy with my experiments. Using effects, I felt powerful, but that ended up being a very dangerous thing. I started to feel as if I couldn’t function without effects—and that freaked me out. So, one day before a new tour began, I took a look at all my equipment and said to it, “You stay here— I’m going without you.” I left for the tour with only my guitar and a cable, wanting to touch people with just the instrument.
At first, it was difficult to be stripped of effects. The guitar sounded so small, and on some sound systems, not so great. But I started to accept those sonic limitations and work within that dimension. I concentrated on things like making a beautiful vibrato tell a story, and after a while I got to a point where I could do a concert with no PA—just a guitar and a room. Now I bring a minimum of equipment on tour— my guitar, a volume pedal, a reverb unit, two microphones, a little guitar stand, a music stand for the lyrics so I don’t forget them. And that’s it, except for an electric fan to keep me cool—and that takes up the most space of all.
Has ditching effects changed your playing at all?
Yes. Effects, especially reverb, can greatly mask the sound of a guitar and cause you to forget its natural sound. When you just play a naked guitar, you’re confronted by the pure tone and understand that it requires a lot of work and attention to make the instrument sound beautiful. When I stopped using effects, I found myself concentrating a lot on my right-hand attack and on my left-hand touch. I was forced to address the sound correctly on an acoustic level, and that’s why these days I record without headphones and maybe add just a tiny bit of effects later in the recording process.
Tell us a little about your latest album, Vividly.
On the last recording [2001’s Intuite], I put my singing aside. But this time I wanted to do a record where songs with lyrics and instrumentals shared the space equally. I tried to create a sequence of tunes that would make sense as a whole and would also make sense if you listen separately to the songs and the instrumentals. For each of the songs—some of which I was happy to collaborate on with my wife, Doatea, and a singer-songwriter friend from Los Angeles named Nina Swan—I was careful to record parts that didn’t conflict with the lyrics. I wanted a listener to be able to pay attention to one element at a time without any confusion. In other words, I treated the voice and guitar like equal instruments. I’m very happy with Vividly, which some people have told me is my best record to date. My guitar tone has improved. I sing better than I did in the past. Most importantly, it’s a record that shows where I am as a musician and as a person.
Improvisation seems to play a real prominent role in your music.
I try to be as spontaneous as possible by approaching a new composition with the notion that it’ll never really be completed. I’ll of course try to learn what I’ve written note-for-note, but very soon after that I will deviate from the piece and play it more freely, giving myself a bit of a vocabulary around the places that my fingers know. I’ll follow a piece to where it leads me. Here’s another way I look at improvisation: At the end of the day, everything we learn on our instrument has to be forgotten, because as much as you work hard to overcome the technical challenges that surface when you approach music, ultimately you need to ignore all that information in order to be fully attentive and reactive to what you are instantly composing.
What makes for a strong improviser?
It helps to have a thorough knowledge of the fretboard, to know the different locations of any given chord and its inversions, to have multiple positions for scales and modes under your fingers. At a certain point, though, you have to stop thinking about scales and actually play music. Music is much more than just a logical and harmonious juxtaposition of melodies. Inside all this, there is an intact abstraction— a brutal and vibrant jewel—calling for your senses, emotions, and all our human feelings. No words can describe that sensation. If there were, then there would be no need to play or listen to music anymore.
附：Pierre Bensusan's 的装备：
1978 Lowden S-22 (dubbed “Old Lady”), Lowden Pierre Bensusan signature model (dubbed “New Lady”), signature Altiplanos archtop made by Michael Greenfield, Juan Miguel Carmona nylon-string, Kevin Ryan steel-string
Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, Zoom H4 handheld digital recorder (for reverb)
Headway Pickups piezo pickup routed through Fishman internal preamp (60 percent of the signal), custom mic handmade in Michigan (40 percent of the signal), RØDE vocal mic
Strings and Picks
Wyres .013–.056 signature set, clear Dobro thumbpick