A few notes here, about my nascent interest in understanding the proper signal chain for doing the sort of ambient soundscapes that Chords of Orion has introduced to me. For anyone who either happens across this post or who got sent here by me (upon threat of being made to work in the squirrels’ nut mines): I would welcome constructive or enlightening comments to advance my understanding of what is a new area, but one of great interest, to me as a player.
Okay, so based on the ideas I picked up from the first few clips of the Ambient Guitar series at Chords of Orion, I went and tried to see if I could, using the very limited amount of gear I have, create a signal chain that would let me approach the same landscape.
In short: it works!
Bookmarking here what looks to be a major-caliber resource, at least for someone as new to electronics as I am, for approaching the live-looping-delaying universe first called “Frippertronics” and later “Soundscapes”.
I’ve made it up to about #10 in the series thus far, and will be reviewing more soon enough. This fella seems pretty well thought out, and the landscape this suggests is starting to poke at my hindbrain a little more insistently.
The studio recording of this tune still gives me the chills every time I hear it. Ralph Towner is usually described with words like “enigmatic” and “quirky”, and from the first time I heard him with the group Oregon I could hear that. (I was drawn to Oregon for other reasons at the time; Paul McCandless had just floored me with his musical persona while touring with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, and I was mostly listening for reeds.) It was the trio record with drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Eddie Gomez, If Summer Had Its Ghosts, where I first really heard Towner’s voice as the understated powerhouse it is.
Many years later, it was Pandora that introduced me to the haunting 12-string brood that is “Solitary Woman”. From first listen I was hooked, and the more I hear it now, the more I like the piece.
Of course, I then wanted to see if I could find a clip of Towner playing it live. And I have to say, I was surprised. I have seen two, both relatively recent, and both of them left me asking, “What happened?”
It’s not that I’m expecting him to play it the same way he does on the record–in fact I rather like it when artists re-interpret their own work, and in the “jazz” idiom, it’s nearly expected anyway. But something just doesn’t seem right. At the risk of trivializing it, there are big, obvious clams–as in “lost his way” sort of clams. (And not intentional ones, either; those have a very different sound.) The sort of mistakes you’d expect someone like me to make. It doesn’t fit what (little, admittedly) I know of Towner.
But the biggest thing, for me, is that in the live recordings he seems so…rushed. One of the giant hallmarks of the studio piece is its simmering patience, especially in the rising-dyad theme that so beautifully frames that giant leading tone. Both the dynamics and the timing are deliciously infuriating, and I would say it all seems to rise out of a position of resigned, moody patience. I’d go so far as to say it nearly defines the piece on its own, and I would naturally expect to see Towner go through all sorts of variations and improvisation within that framework. That’s not in evidence for either of the two recent live clips I’ve seen, and I must conclude that something else may be at work here.
The piece itself, though…man, what a lovely, haunting brood. Bookmarked!
I actually can’t quite remember how I first ran across Canadian guitarist Ewan Dobson–whether it was that he got a play on Pandora, or if I stumbled across him on YouTube at one point. Little matter in the end; I find a great deal of interest in what I’ve seen of him so far.
The fella has an enigmatic sense of humor that lends a lot to his credibility. Just check out these three clips from a “method” video of his, in which he explains some of his influences. (“Sauron must be praised!”) In his YouTube presence in general, he’s known for goofy garb and backgrounds. One certainly does not get the sense that he takes himself too seriously, which I find endearing.
And yet I find some of his stuff really compelling. The one which inspired this post, “Paganini’s Hip”, is a piece I intend to study further:
Then there is this enigma “Acoustimetallus Plectrus”, which runs really hard up against the “too many ideas in one sitting” criticism, but which I find insistently interesting nevertheless:
And this tune “Marli”, as a completely different example, is just lovely. (And, of course, makes me want a friggin’ twelve-string all over again!)
LATER: Went in search of a six-string presentation of “Marli”. Found one.
Still a lovely tune, but this thing seems made for octaves. 🙂