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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Experimental Philosophy Rock Show Appears at Local 506

One thing I always enjoy is music that takes me out of the usual confines of conventional rock, pop, or "other", where music moves closer to "performance art" and you pretty much have to drop all your expectations to "get it".

This week Steve Burnett of Subscape Annex announces this unique show at Local 506!

This coming Tuesday, August 5th is a slightly different than usual show at Local 506 in Chapel Hill, beginning with a presentation by a UNC philosophy professor, Joshua Knobe, with a focus on a new form called "experimental philosophy". He will present an introduction to the concept.

From the MySpace page on experimental philosophy:

"Recent years have seen the development of an exciting new approach to doing philosophy. Philosophers have begun conducting actual /experiments/ to gain a better understanding of how people really think and feel. This new approach has led to a firestorm of controversy within academia and is receiving ever more attention in the popular media."

This presentation precedes a performance by musician Alina Simone, who recorded an "X-Phi Anthem" that Josh Knobe made a video for, and can be seen on YouTube.

Geek Video - Camera Based DJ Controller

Thanks to my coworker Mark for this one, via engadget, this guy has developed a camera based system to let you "scratch" using a fake turntable you draw on a piece of paper.

Don't Blink Or You'll Miss It

Here he is, the world's fastest guitarist!

Now, if you're a "real guitarist"(tm), after watching "Flight of the Bumblebee" at 320 BPM, you shrug, look unimpressed, and say "Yeah, I could do that."

Kidding aside, there are very useful things to note here, namely, you can barely see him moving. One reason is that he is moving faster than video frame rates, but also, the key to playing this fast is that he is wasting very little energy. There is no unnecessary tension in his body, except for maybe a grimace.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sunfold's Kenny Florence Goes From Theory to Practice

I had a chance to speak with Raleigh band Sunfold's front man, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Kenny Florence. Sunfold is a side project of indie buzz band Annuals,
with all the same musicians, the Annuals configuration led by Adam Baker, while Florence takes the lead with Sunfold.

As Kenny was digesting his IHOP eggs benedict and hash browns, we discussed the band's tour, the beginnings of their label, the musical process, and more.

David: How is the Sunfold tour going?

Kenny: We just played our second show, and we're pleased, not expecting as much turnout as with Annuals, around 20-30 people, a nice change. Adam gets to play drums.

D: What about Annuals drummer Nick (Donzel Radford)?

K: Nick is not part of the Sunfold touring band, though he plays the more intricate fills in the studio. With Sunfold we only have one drummer, not two as in Annuals.

D: Where are you now?

K: We're in Clifton, NJ. We have two shows in NY, one show tomorrow, and one opening for Steve Burns from "Blues Clues".

D: Steve Burns from "Blues Clues"!?! Is Sunfold live a lot different from Annuals?

K: Lots different, more guitar heavy, not as layered, a little bit easier. With Annuals, if we don't get an hour soundcheck I'm really worried. I'm not used to being a front man anymore, and out of practice being a lead singer. I forgot how much breath it takes to make it through a show! It's also really fun with Adam on drums. I grew up with Adam always being the drummer, so I'm very used to his style and the chemistry is really good.

D: How did your label Terpsikhore start?

K: In 2002, maybe a bit earlier, we met JK Horne, CEO of Terpsikhore, at a show in Garner (Mike knew him in high school too), and he expressed interest in doing something to help our band. He was interested in starting a label and he wanted us to be the band to help him do that. We had a studio in Garner, did our first Sedona (Sunfold was previously named Sedona) recordings there, and from there things just sort of evolved. He helped us with a Protools setup and he's been a large part of everything from the get go. He was going to put out Annuals, but then we started getting offers from other labels and we thought if we signed with another label it would also help Terpsikhore. In the past 2-3 years we have started to become a real record label. We have a studio in JK's house now (I live there too), and a lot of the new Annuals record was recorded there.

We recently signed What Laura Says from Arizona. We were just lucky enough to meet them in Arizona and they were unsigned, so we said: "We've got to sign you!" Their album comes out August 19th.

D What are your musical influences?

K: Our influences are very broad, really anything--Beatles (one of the best ever), Yes, ELO, classical music, great composers like Debussy, Ravelle, country too: Brad Paisley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash. In rock, I grew up with Smashing Pumpkins, so Billy Corgan is a huge influence whether I like them now or not. I listen to a lot of jazz.. guitarist Alan Holdsworth. Sometimes his tones are kind of cheesy, but nobody else can play like him.. world music: Indian, African, you name it.

D: How do you approach writing?

K: Several different methods, some natural and some forced. With the newer songs, I'm trying to write everything "head first", before even touching the instrument. It helps me understand music better, really into the way the classical composers would write their compositions. If you have a good idea of the piece, the more deliberate it becomes. A lot of musicians [mess] around until they find something that works. I usually approach things melodically first, because it's hard to think of harmony in your head. Then I also sit around with guitar or piano and improvise. Then there are times when you just receive a musical idea in a flash of intuition. That usually happens when falling asleep, when drifting into subconcious realms.

Last night dreamed I was in restaurant and it I heard a new song by Coldplay, a song I made up in my head, but Chris Martin was singing it. Then it disappeared. Sometimes you're able to hold onto that idea.

I have never been able to get into the swing of writing with other people. It's very much a personal, intuitive process, rather than a collective thing where we say "Let's write a song". That's just not natural. I burn CD's for everybody and say "You come up with your parts" and then we go into the studio to record.

D: I noticed you are also the Terpsikhore engineer. Where did you learn that stuff?

K: More just out of necessity to record our own music. Adam and Mike took a class in high school (they went to Enloe). I was always just watching. At first I learned everything I know from Adam, and more recently working with Ian Schreier at Osceola, Jacquire King (Modest Mouse, Tom Waits, Clinic), and just learning from experience.

By no means am I a great producer, but I know what sounds good, and I just try to replicate what I hear on good recordings, and do my best to make things sound good.

D: What's your basic guitar rig?

K: Guitar: I really like Telecasters, G&L brand as opposed to Fender, through a Fender Super Reverb amp, and that's basically it. I like a simple setup--clean tone is really important, then pedals for overdrive, mostly Boss pedals (because they don't break when you throw them on a plane), and for studio work, a lot of other
boutique brands also.

D: Tell us about the music theory book you're working on.

K: When not on the road we don't make enough money to sustain our existence (with Annuals or Sunfold). When I'm home I teach guitar at Tone Zone Music in Cary, and I'm writing the book along side my good friend and boss, Derek Butler. We're writing a music theory textbook. A lot of theory books are super contemporary, and a lot are just classical theory and not really practical for musicians who are not
in conservatory. So we're writing a contemporary book, from the basics of music to contemporary jazz theory. It's a really important aspect that's often overlooked. Some say it takes the mystery out of it, but understanding the patterns and how they work--everything you can come up with is part of some musical pattern. If you have more than one association for one thing the more you can understand it. Like language, once you have a name for something the more you understand it. Theory can help you write music in your head.

D: When is it coming out?

K: In the fall or early 2009. It's pretty much done, all the examples written out, with just a few more explanations left to go. Derek is doing the examples and I'm doing all the explanations. We are planning for three books in the series.

D: Thanks for that great interview Kenny! Sunfold is playing Local 506 Tuesday, July 29th. Doors open at 8PM, with Terpsikhore artist Lonnie Walker opening.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chicken Rawk!

This just in, via

The keyboard players in my band were spacier than Sun Ra, more abstract than John Coltrane and brought more sheer, squalid anarchy to the stage than GG Allin and the Sex Pistols combined. When they weren’t playing music they were either feeding, fighting, or shitting on the floor – and they managed to do a lot of that onstage, too. But they didn’t just act like barnyard animals, they were barnyard animals: the keyboard players in my band were two chickens named Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline.

I played percussion on a modified vintage typewriter miked up loud enough to sound like the thunder of an angry God. At that volume, the space bar and shift keys rumbled like a kick drum, and the letter keys snapped like a tight snare. My friend Tim Gordon (the band’s other human being) played the guitar and bass semi-simultaneously, wearing the guitar up by his collarbone and the bass slung low at his hips – he’d loop the bass notes through a pedal and play rhythm guitar against himself while I thumped and cracked the typewriter. Once we hit a stride of sorts, we’d pull a blanket off the top of the cage where Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline sat with two little Casio Keyboards.

We’d glue chicken feed to the keys we wanted them to hit the most, the ones in tune with Tim. But really, whatever the chickens played was up to them – we just tried to follow along as best we could. We told ourselves that we were influenced by classic country, John Cage, dub reggae and Gonzo the Great. But really, we just tried to create listenable backing rhythms while two birds with brains the size of your pinkie nail took center stage.

A lot of people over the years have asked me “but why? Why’d you even DO this in the first place?” Sometimes you fall in love with an idea and it just grips you tight and won’t let you go until you give birth to it.Thomas Edison, it was the light bulb. For George Mallory, it was Mount Everest. For us, it was chickens playing keyboards. And really, the only answer is because.

Here's the link to the complete post. .. and the MP3!
This reminds me of a concept band we had in high school. Rather, it was a concept to have a band called "Seasonal Affliction". We never actually got the band together, but if we did, it woulda ruled. My friend Ira played the car steering wheel (while driving), so he would have been the percussion section, pounding out the rhythm and terrifying his passengers. Now, it so happens that I have Ira's email address lying around, so now that I've drudged up this memory, I obviously have to drop him a line...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

People Planning for ProgDay

This week Steve Burnett reminds us that even though it's still mid-summer, it's not too early to buy tickets for the upcoming progressive rock festival held every Labor Day weekend at Storybook Farm.

Steve writes: "I am a fan of progressive rock, which wikipedia describes as developing from "late 1960s psychedelic rock" and represented by bands such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis.

One of my favorite parts of the Triangle music scene is also one of its least-known: for the last thirteen years ProgDay, the world's longest-running progressive rock festival, has been held in a pasture outside Carrboro (yes, there is always a backup venue prearranged in case of bad weather, but almost never been needed). ProgDay XIV will be held August 30 and 31 on Labor Day weekend this year and ticket sales opened up on the event website on July 1st. Every year for the last eleven years (I missed the
first two) I have been astonished by many of the performances, and I am looking forward to this year again."

David: those with an exceptionally good memory will remember that my former band, Smokin' Granny, played ProgDay in 1997, and for several years performed at the unofficial "ProgDay pre-show" the Friday evening before the festival.

(Photo: Steve Burnett performs on theremin)

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Sounds in Raleigh This Week

Today I would like to introduce you to our new correspondent, Steve Burnett, a long-time participant in the Triangle's active avant-garde and electronic music scene. He performs solo as Subscape Annex, using various electronic devices and instruments. This week he performs at Meymandi:

Sunday in Raleigh the Burning Coal Theatre presents an evening of
avant-garde music and sounds titled "An Evening of New Acoustic and
Electro-Sonic Arts'.

Date/Time: Sunday July 13, 7pm

Venue: Meymandi Theatre at the Murphey School Auditorium
224 Polk St., Raleigh NC 27605, (919) 834-4001

Tickets: Available at the door, box office opens at 6pm. Tickets $10.

Performances for the evening:

Subscape Annex processing foundsound timescapes in "About Last Night...."

Craig Hilton performing on the Chinese juzheng and laptop processing

Bicameral Mind hybridizing two very different approaches to live electronica

Tomas Phillips and Dean King, playing minimalist ambient pieces with electronics and laptop

Judge Schreber's Avian Choir performing "Molt" by Bob Pence, described as "a doom metal chamber-snuff piece for rock'n'roll trio and 8 string players."

Sounds like a very interesting evening ahead!