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.