muted tones

january 05

finger-painting with feedback

Boston's David Michael Curry is a prolific violist, perfoming and recording with the Empty House Cooperative, Thalia Zedek, the Boxhead Ensemble and Molasses.

curator log:

About the piece of music, titled “Finger-painting with Feedback”:

january 24th, 2005

(picture is a graphic representation of the sonic flow of the piece)

One day, about a year ago, my pal Rich Pontius let me borrow his rehearsal space so I could record some loud viola-feedback tracks, just for experimentation, and for the pure love of huge cathartic waves of sound… the kind of noise that I could maybe get away with for about 7 seconds in my apartment. I was in my first band with Rich in college, around 1987 or 1988. It was known (or UN-known) by 4 or 5 different names, but mostly as “Your Fabulous Ass”. Now Rich is in two bands: an improv-jam band called “Sunburned Hand of the Man”, and a garage-rock band called “The Touch Me Theres”.

I saved those raw feedback tracks for something not yet known. I decided to build my Muted Tones piece around them. There is an almost 5 minute “calm before the storm” meditation with singing saw, acoustic guitar, viola, turkish folk-fiddle, trumpet, and loop samples, all leading and blending to a thick sonic noise-fest of 4 tracks of feedback placed strategically in the stereo field, followed by a creaky and haunting end.

My recording setup on the laptop is not so fancy, so I am only able to layer tracks upon each other one at a time, as opposed to a more advanced simultaneous multi-track system. For a solo composition, this is fine for me, and perfect for this project, where I have a foundation track that i can then add to, one layer at a time in a reckless, spontaneous way - much like finger-painting… hence, the title.

There’s an elusive, improvisatory vibe that I lean towards with this piece, and similarly, when I play with friends in the Empty House Cooperative, where that vibe is shared with or added to by others. With a solo composition of this nature, it’s all coming from my own head, so I can improvise with myself quite easily. With a group, in contrast, there is the challenge of unspoken musical communication, and hopefully, a flow like breathing, very natural, but almost unconscious.

End of music-philosophical rant.


“Finger-painting with Feedback”

january 24th, 2005

This photo of my viola is a vaguely poetic visual representation of my love for the sound of feedback, which relates to my piece of music… hardly “muted tones” - but hey…

Feedback: The return of a portion of the output , or processed portion of the output, of a (usually active) device to the input .


Quoting George Kourounis from a web-search on the subject:

The sound of a piercing, overdriven guitar on the brink of feeding back into a chaotic, sonic assault is music to many peoples ears. To some, it means early eviction from their apartment and disturbing the peace charges. Nevertheless, recording electric guitar feedback can be a challenging endeavour due to the unique nature of the sound source.

The usual method of obtaining feedback from an electric guitar is to position the player in close proximity to their amplifier and turn it up to 11. The sound from the amp is loud enough to enter the guitar and gets amplified again, exiting the amp’s speakers and causing a feedback loop. It is often difficult for the guitarist to control the feedback because he/she has to find the exact spot to aim the guitar in order to get a rich, useable feedback tone without causing screeching howling.

(personally, I like the screeching howling, too)

A related tangent: I’m watching the Jim Jarmusch documentary about Neil Young and Crazy Horse, called “Year of the Horse” - Neil is a master of feedback… the kind I love.


DMC’s floor…

december 05th, 2004

When I record at home, it’s a free-for-all of toys on the floor.

My piece for Muted Tones will be a collage-composition similar in vibe to Empty House Cooperative.


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