Geek Out! and Learn How to Play Rush

There are about 750 videos on YouTube with Rush as their theme that—you may not know this—“recode performance as an act of autodidactic self-improvement.”  Not only that, but the 750 or so videos are not a “dissemblance but an invitation to criticism and an effort to improve.”

That was my thinking exactly, which is why I gathered up about 300 of those videos in a new section called “Tutorials and Covers” so that you, too, can start engaging in autodidactic self-improvement.

The quotes are from John Reuland of Princeton University who’s doing graduate work in American literature but also tries to nail down Neil’s drum licks in “YYZ” and other Rush pieces when he’s not writing about Theodore Dreiser or Willa Cather.

In “Nailed It!,” an essay he wrote for Rush and Philosophy, which came out in early 2011, Reuland calls it decidedly uncool for amateur musicians to try to master Rush pieces and post their work on YouTube, but that’s Rush fans for you! Always the uncool ones.

Reuland’s point is that spending hours trying to become technically proficient at something is not cool, because coolness derives from naturalness. The cool kid in school is the one who looks like he tries hard at nothing yet is good at everything. It’s the geek in the library poring over books to understand, say, quantum mechanics that’s not going to win any popularity contests. (Although you can guess which one will be working at NASA later in life.)

Reuland connects this geek aesthetic of working hard to become technically proficient at something with the frosty reception Rush for most of its years met from music critics and the other cultural gatekeepers who say what is and isn’t hip. Rush’s music was cleary technically challenging, and that was reflected in the high regard that muscians, both professional and amateur, have always held the band. But being technically proficient at music is not the same as being musically cool. Classical musicians are technically proficient. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious never were. But it was Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious that were cool. Even Yo Yo Ma never has been and won’t ever be cool.

In any case, whatever the cultural meaning behind the 750 or so Rush cover videos posted on YouTube, there’s no doubt that they are helpful. If in fact you are one of the geeks who’s willing to risk being cast out from the cool kid club to learn how to play “La Villa Strangiato” on the guitar, then seeing how it’s done on YouTube by others who’ve made the technical journey is invaluable. And it’s in that spirit that you’ll find these YouTube videos organized by Rush piece. You can access the Tutorials and Covers page and scroll down to the song you want or you can go to each song on the homepage and click on “Tutorials/covers.” Either way, you’ll be on your way to technical mastery but don’t think you’ll get any dates out of it.

More This and That.

~ by rvkeeper on December 9, 2011.

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