Law in Contemporary Society

On Approaches

-- By CasidheMcClone - 19 Feb 2016

A very small number of people will vehemently disagree with this statement: the traditional methods of playing the guitar are almost tapped out. This is bad news for those people who, deep down, still want to be rock stars. Simply put, there’s very few ways that you can use the same methods and make the instrument sound new. You’re not going to rock harder than Hendrix or Satriani, and you’re not going to play faster than Morse or Vai. You’re not going to get more expressive than Santana or BB King. You can try and play smart, but your compositions aren’t going to be as complex as Hedges’. With enough training and practice, you could probably play his stuff better than he did, but Kaki King beat you to it. Technically, you could always try and get attention by pairing the guitar with something else: some additional part of the act that isn’t dependent on playing at all. But for the purpose of this essay, I’m not considering spectacle, and besides, some of the people already mentioned have done that better than the modern aspiring guitarist can hope for (See Hendrix’s burning strat, or Kaki King’s visual approach to songwriting).

All of this doesn’t mean that the instrument isn’t worth playing; it just means that if you pick in one hand and hold notes with the other, it’s going to be very, very difficult to break the mold. But Stanley Jordan has shattered it. More impressive is the way he shattered it: by getting a unique sound out of an instrument played by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Jordan’s tracks are at once sonically soothing and theoretically rigorous. There’s a lot happening on one instrument when Jordan plays, and it takes no small amount of effort for a listening guitarist to navigate the auditory maze. Simultaneous melody lines play in harmony on a single electric six string (brand?), and Jordan seems to be able to fit a rifling solo wherever he wants one. Jordan’s take to on the guitar solo is incredible. He is capable of playing his own rhythm line with one hand while delivering riffs at Morse-like speed with the other. It is, frankly, nuts.

At this point, I know more about guitar playing than I do about being a lawyer. That would be great, if I wanted to be a guitarist. But I want to be a lawyer. The most important thing you can do in just about any profession is bring something to the game that everyone else can’t, or at least that everyone else hasn’t thought to bring. But with so little experience, how can I find out what that is? Is it something I can figure out, like a puzzle? Or is it more of an exercise in observation, looking for opportunities that others either don’t see or don’t care about?

Stanley Jordan developed his “touch-tap” method of playing the guitar by approaching the instrument as a pianist. The method has gotten attention recently, and you can find videos of kids playing popular theme songs with it. Some guitarists, such as John Butler, have successfully blended it with more traditional finger-picking methods. But no one I know of is as good at it as Stanley Jordan is.

So if Jordan broke the mold by playing the guitar like a piano, how do I break the mold of my career? The answer isn’t obvious, and I’m not even sure how or where I’m supposed to be looking.

I want to do prosecution after graduation. Maybe the way I can bring something different to the table is by approaching prosecution like defense. A district attorney is representing the county, defending the common good. However, I mean in terms of the actual defendant. Maybe I should approach prosecution with the defense of the accused in mind. They are, after all, a part of the community. So when an attorney attempts to prosecute a defendant, that defendant is a part of the community the prosecutor is representing. The prosecutor has a duty to the defendant, a duty to make sure justice is in fact just. A duty to avoid unethical pressuring, to avoid sneaking in evidence obtained improperly, and not to rely on an overworked and understaffed Public Defender’s office in a decision to bring a weak case to trial. Most importantly and most often forgotten, a prosecutor has a duty not to prosecute if they aren’t sure of the defendant’s guilt.

I doubt that’s a novel approach, but I don’t think it’s one we discussed enough in criminal law. It’s certainly not as flushed out as a lawyer’s theory of social action should be. I do think it’s something to build on while I’m interning at a DA’s office this summer. It’s not an obvious choice for a prosecutor’s philosophy, and it’s probably at odds with ambition. I’d imagine it’s hard to move up in prosecution without that ever-growing conviction record, and any campaign I ever make for District Attorney is going to be a lot less successful if my opponents can claim I’ve been “weak” on crime.

Jordan doesn’t have nearly the exposure of mainstream guitarists such as Slash, Morello, Van Halen, or Jack White. This seems patently unfair, and it is. Of course, most of the best guitarists out there don’t get much exposure. Even Michael Hedges, a Grammy winner, will be a foreign name to most readers. But when I compare the great and obscure guitarists with the loud and popular ones, it takes no difficulty for me to decide I’d rather be in the former camp. Jordan does good. He doesn’t necessarily do well by doing good, but he definitely does good- he is good. He’s one of the best. And he has a right to remind himself of that anytime he plays one of his custom guitars. I don’t think he does though. I think he’s too involved in the music to care about anything else.

It was the right question, now. You don't need an answer at the moment, so long as you don't forget the question while you go through law school. You are inventing your way of using the license. How you came to it will come to you once you've done it. Just keep your ears open.


Webs Webs

r5 - 05 Jun 2016 - 15:44:11 - EbenMoglen
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