Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuning experiments

A documentation post, just so that I can remember it right.

A lot of experimentation right about now, as I try to figure out a few directions.

The Ovation is now strung with the Aerial Boundaries tuning, as follows:
  • C2, 059w
  • C3, 036w
  • D3, 032w
  • G3, 022w
  • A3, 020w
  • D4, 013p
These are from my hodgepodge collection of acoustic bronze strings, and if this tuning turns out to be useful for further study I may look into optimizing gauges and tensions.  Of particular interest here is the octave interval on the fifth and sixth strings, which Hedges uses to dramatic effect with his percussive playing.  This actually has me thinking about a generalized tuning employing the same concept but in reverse;  that is, C3-C2-G2-D3-A3-E4, whereby the sixth string can be thought of as an octave effect for the fifth string, and the instrument in general then logically becomes a five-string guitar tuned in perfect fifths.  I'm chewing on that one at the moment.

The other experiment is currently on the SoloEtte, and is an open Bb5 as follows:
  • Bb1, 059w
  • F2, 047w
  • Bb2, 036w
  • F3, 022w
  • Bb3, 016p
  • F4, 011p
Again, bronze acoustic for the wound strings. I'm deliberately interested in lower tension for improved tapping, and am thinking of some modifications to the SoloEtte to make it a general-purpose instrument for several of the directions I'm contemplating.

Thus far in a few brief experiments, this is indeed an interesting tuning approach.  Since the intervals alternate between a perfect fifth and a perfect fourth, there is not the same sort of consistent general-purpose "logic" that there is for an all-fifths or all-fourths arrangement, and I think you'd have to approach improvisation as though this were its own beast.  Now...within that limitation, there are some nice aspects to it, especially for including effective drones on both ends of the fingerboard.  (I hadn't intended that, deliberately, but with a little improv, that's what I started to do.)  Harmonics are kinda cool, too, especially the straight-across root-five-octave that you have accessible to any three adjacent strings.

More experimenting.  For now, thoughts are documented.  :-)

How to render me totally speechless.

Just do this:

I have seriously got to get my hands on the score for that.  Fortunately, Antoine Dufour seems to make that distinctly possible.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things That Change Your Life, #8

(There's not an actual list, understand...but if there were, this would probably make the top ten.)

Michael Hedges, Aerial Boundaries.  A series of recent accidents led me to find the below video, and I still get the serious chills every time I see it.  Spontaneous wet-eye syndrome is sometimes not avoidable.

I had run across Hedges' 1984 album of the same name some years before I saw him play live, and I had never questioned the idea that he would have (of course!) recorded multiple parts, overdubs, and done a bunch of "studio magick" to arrive at the incredibly beautiful array of sounds that you hear on the recording.

So, around 1989 I go to see him in a tiny little auditorium at Stanford, which was kinda "home turf" for him, and he walks on stage with a battered-looking, simple dreadnought guitar...and plays the entire piece live, not ten feet away from my unbelieving eyes.

It would be another dozen years before it even occurred to me that I could also make music instead of just listening to it, but nonetheless I walked around in an absolute daze for almost a week after that.

It's of course quite possible that others were doing what he did before he burst on the scene in 1981, but it does not seem out of place to compare his impact, his influence, to people like Paganini, Django, Hendrix, the sense that, before him, it just never occurred to most people that you could do things like that on an acoustic guitar.  You know, on purpose.  Now, of course, almost thirty years later, we have the evolution of that art in various forms, and if it seems more "normal", less "impossible" it's because our ears have been bent over that time.

Hedges left us too soon, in 1997, and my own path had been leading me toward other things even before that.  Now, almost randomly, I run across his path again, this time as an aspiring player.  I now understand the mechanics of how to make some of these sounds, and one could say that much of his technique is demystified and eminently approachable.  But this in no way dampens or lessens the awe in which someone can hold his work, which is not just technique but also music.  Perhaps it might for someone who only knows of a world in which these ideas have always been there, but not for me.  As I hear some of the same sounds starting to come from my own hands, my admiration and appreciation is actually increasing.

I didn't realize quite how much I had been influenced, at a completely primal level, by this artist (and certainly this piece), until very recently when I saw the video.  Everything came back in a flood--have you ever felt an actual detonation in your metaphysical self?--and I could see that many of the things I have been moving toward over the last few years have been leading me back that way already.  Apparently it was time for me to see this.  Now, of course, the question is:  what do I intend to do with it?  (Indeed.)

Here you go.  The sound quality is not the best, the sync between video and audio is far from perfect, and the audio level is quite low.  Ignore all that.  Turn it up--you'll be rewarded.

Dang.  Still can hardly believe it, after all this time.  :-)