Elliott Sharp: Dither Guitar Quartet Extravaganza and Christian Marclay's Wind Up Guitar

July 19, 2010
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 June 12, Dither Guitar Quartet Extravaganza, Invisible Dog, Brooklyn, NY

To celebrate their first CD, released on the Henceforth label, Dither produced an Extravaganza at the Invisible Dog art-space in Brooklyn. Dither is an electric guitar quartet and the pieces they play on the CD are steeped in noise but  also revel in structuralism, timbral counterpoint, microtones, massed gestures, and conceptual approaches with pieces by the composers Lisa R. Coons, Eric KM Clark, Lainie Fefferman, and Jascha Narveson. More info about the group and CD here. The members of the quartet are James Moore, Taylor Levine, David Linaburg, and Joshua Lopes.

ditherInvisible Dog is a huge, multi-floored building that was once a factory whose most famous product was the "invisible dog" collar with rigid leash, a '70's accessory right up there with "pet rocks." The ground-floor space was filled with a variety of installation works—some subtle and delicate, others glaring and visually loud. Add to this the all-wood room's excellent acoustics and it summed up to a unique and quite appropriate venue for this event. The highlight of the evening for me was to hear Dither plus three additional guitarists perform James Tenney's "Septet For Electric Guitars" from 1981. A fiercely difficult piece to play and yet it sounds so "simple"; not simplistic but as plain as a force of nature. Like a force of nature, natural laws are there in the manifestation of otherworldly sounds from the harmonic series in layered rhythms producing the effect of ring-modulated chords and huge difference-tone beats moving through space. Larry Polansky conducted the piece and its clarity and power were revealed. I had played the piece with Dither last year and it's much more enjoyable to hear it from the outside—as a player, one does not necessarily hear all of the psycho-acoustic manifestations.

After the Septet, I performed a 15-minute mash-up of gestures from Octal: Book Two on the Koll 8-string. Thanks to Nick Didkovsky and Kathy Supove for allowing me the use of their amps: a Roland keyboard amp for the piezo and a Soldano for the magnetic pickup. Nick warned me that the Soldano was NOT a Twin and he was quite right: it has it's own sweet/nasty upper-midrange honk and was not best suited for the subtle complexities of Octal but still, it gave me a bright and saturated sound. At first, I moved quickly from gesture to gesture, trying to find which of the Octal strategies would best work with the equipment at hand.  After a few minutes I was able to relax and dig in with two-handed tapping working the best. My set was followed by the quartet Redhooker after which bagpiper Matt Welch did a rocking solo set that made one realize that the first fuzzboxes were not guitar effects but double-reed pipes with a drone played by men in skirts.

After this, Dither commenced their set, performing the pieces on the CD. While I truly dig the transparency of their studio CD, the juiciness added by loud amps in a good room made me wish that Dither had made the CD from a live performance instead. For this event, Dither managed to bring together diverse musical elements with a conducive venue and an energetic and receptive audience: friends, guitarists, composers (including Dean Drummond and Steve Mackey), curiosity seekers, party types, and the clueless but open-minded. It made me nostalgic for some of the "good old days" back in the last century: NYC's glory time of imminent apocalypse and urban decay when extreme music was made for the joy of it and because we had to—there was no choice in the matter (and we were all the better for it.)

June 30, E# performs "Guitar Upwind" on Christian Marclay's Wind Up Guitar, Whitney Museum, NYC

For the press conference and the Member's Opening for the Christian Marclay "Festival" at the Whitney, I'd been asked to perform on Christian's "Wind Up Guitar", a sculpture/interactive sound installation/musical instrument built in 1995 that marries a number of music-boxes to a classical guitar. I first performed with it at the Miami Center For the Fine Arts in January 1996 and at the same time also did some recording with it at Studio zOaR, never released. For these concerts at the Whitney, I've composed "Guitar Upwind," a set of strategies for the instrument that combine gestural approaches with wind upelectronic processing using a clip-on condensor mic, the Eventide TimeFactor, Boomerang, MXR Compressor, and a volume pedal. The set for the press show is short, about 15 minutes, and I manage to cover quite a bit of my planned excursions, though in miniature. Some franticness before we begin as the previous day's soundcheck seems not to have "stuck" with the equipment and there are huge gain-structure problems that are only vaguely resolved when I hit just after addresses from museum director Adam Weinberg and Christian. Things work well enough, though, and I'm able to quite enjoy the instrument.  It doesn't hold tuning or respond like a "real" guitar so I use it as a sound-source and resonator with occasional nods to traditional technique. With all of the music boxes running, it generates quite a beautiful din, especially when looped and filtered. For the Members' opening in the afternoon, I play the piece for about 30 minutes and am able to find many more sounds and strategies: winding, strumming, knocking, tapping, clacking, twisting, and ringing.

E# website:  elliottsharp.com
Tour diaries and other writings: repple.se/datacide/writings.html 

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