Tuesday, October 28, 2008

William Ackerman

When I was eight years old, I started playing drums (much to the disappointment of my quiet-loving parents). Because this affinity for banging on things turned into an obsession that eventually became a semi-professional career, I have never been able to read, study, write, or do just about anything studious when background music has any kind of percussion accompaniment. The fingers start tapping. The foot slides into the bass line. Next thing you know, the pen is a drumstick, and I'm working toward the next fill.

When writing became an obsession for me, I had to find music that would work as an integral part of the creative process, but also something that would not distract my mind or alter the mood. That's when I discovered William Ackerman. If you are unfamiliar with this guy, let me clarify: he started Windham Hill Records back in the early 80s, and his first album was a little CD by an unknown guy named George Winston. In addition to virtuoso guitar playing, his other talent came in producing--and really inventing the New Age Jazz genre (in my humble opinion).

Will Ackerman is a one-man band--a guy with an acoustic guitar. But this is guitar on a higher plane. Steel strings, warm tones, melodies that swell inside the heart and head....Music as art. To afficionades of the instrument (I consider myself a fan, not an afficionado, because I do not play guitar, and more to the point, I CAN'T play guitar, not a single chord), his open tuning style creates infinite possibilities of sound and textured notes that share the same space. The melodies are understated, but catchy. The music catalytic and subliminal in how it engages. I write better, think better, reflect better. Can't really say why.

Ask any writer, and he'll tell you a favorite: "I listened to XXX when I was writing this book." For the past ten years, I have catalogued a treasure trove of Windham Hill guitar, piano, ensemble recordings, but William Ackerman keeps emerging as the beacon for my best work.

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