Category Archives: Tributes

Declining Light/Verfallenes Licht

[audio:verfallen.mp3]

red faces devoured by the night

shattered laughs in the vine

and glowing melancholy

spirit torture! a stone falls silent

blue voice of an angel in the sleeper’s ear

declining light

declining light

This an abridged translation of a poem without title from Georg Trakl, an Austrian poet of the Expressionism Era. At a certain point in working with the music of this tune, the need for some spoken lyrics appeared, and by intuition I took out this book of poems. In my younger days I would read Georg Trakl every year in the season of fall, but this time it was neither fall nor did I feel the need for some more melancholic or dark and dreary feelings. This time the overall surreal atmosphere of the music required such a poem…

The instrumentation is different in this tune, with the first obvious appearance of  violin along with mandolin, xylophone and dark vocals without words. Then suddenly you know something will happen, and there is this spoken poem above, embedded in shivering sounds to make your blood run cold. Strangely enough, the meter is 4/4 this time!

melancholia

[audio:melancholia.mp3]

guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, 1967 Vox AC 30 (brilliant channel), BSM treble booster (DM-T), Tube Reverb

light disorder

[audio:lightdisorder.mp3]

As a teenager I attended countless concerts of contemporary “classical” music, which in Germany is still called “Neue Musik”, even if there’s nothing new about it (its roots date back to the beginning of the twentieth century).

That’s not exactly what teenagers used to do, even in those seventies! The reason was I had a close friend – a musician, too – who took me along with him to all the avantgarde or similar presentations, and we were both all curiosity about new kinds of sounds, new ways of listening and new ways of thinking.

I still cherish the freshness that lies in the unusual sounds of contemporary music. It’s a welcome relief from all the clichés we are forced to listen to every day. As an improviser I find myself rather on the opposite side of the spectrum, indeed, since mostly there is nothing written and everything spontaneous about my music – but in an attempt to build a bridge between those camps I dared to improvise along with a recorded orchestra.

It’s daring, I know, but at least it is something rarely done. Parts of a work called “Photoptosis” by German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann ( 1918 – 1970 ) were cut into pieces and guitar noises along with (yes!) some melodies were added. I’m proud it was a first take, and in the end I liked it, hoping those among you who don’t get frightened off by the dissonances, will like it, too! To me, dissonances are one of the coolest things in music…

The ambiguous title is meant to be so. It refers to the literal meaning of “Photoptosis” as well as to the inherent (s)light disorder of all human beings. After all, Photoptosis takes on a different shape if you listen to it under the assumption it represents pencils of rays…

guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, Vox AC 50, Big Muff, Tube Reverb

psychedelic guitar sound

[audio:psych-medley.mp3]

Is there a distinct psychedelic guitar sound, or is it just the same as vintage guitar sound?

To make sure, I added a short medley here, that you might use as quiz, if you like to. I would enjoy reading your comments, if you recognized some of the bands or songs!

Yes, there is a distinctive psychedelic sound, but it happened to be produced with just the same equipment as connected to “vintage sound” in general. I will try to define the most typical traits of it:

Excessive use of effects: as there were only a few effects at the time, these were cranked up to maximum. Tremolo at maximum speed and intensity, until it gives a shattering sound that splices the notes. Reverb: reverberations that seem to last for years…

I think, Pink Floyd were the first to use the Tape Echo, already in the band’s early times. Many signals in their music are veiled by excessive use of this effect.

Edgy or even biting guitar sounds, predominantly coming from Fender or Vox amps (both reputable for being rich in treble).

Backwards guitar: officially “invented” by the Beatles on their Revolver album, there seem to have been different occasions when a band or a recording engineer by mistake put the tape the wrong way, and everybody went “what was that? can you play that again?”

Excessive finger-vibrato (listen to “Deserted cities of the heart” by Cream! Clapton’s vibrato is incredible there. Could that have been a whammy bar?)

Pseudo-Indian playing style by rushing up and down the neck on just one string. Slides and the modal, drone-like sound provide a recognizable allusion to Indian music, with a chirping sound sometimes approaching a Sitar. Guitar players consciously tried to imitate other instruments, or even a siren.

Amplifier-Feedback: with the volume set high, speakers stimulate the guitar strings until a circle of self-oscillation is established, mostly running up to harmonics.

Phaser, only just invented, mostly got applied to the whole mix (“Itchicoo Park” by The Small Faces), but there may be examples of phased guitar sounds.

The Wah-Wah was invented as a trumpet effects unit (!) in 1967 by Vox, and there are only few examples of psychedelic wah wah . Am I wrong with that? To me it seems the wah-wah is more connected to the Hard Rock era, beginning around 1968. And Miles Davis definitely did not misuse a guitar effect for his trumpet (many listeners protested), but it was designed for just his instrument!

In the end there should be no dogmatism about what a psychedelic guitar sound has to be. “Psychedelic” can be an esthetic category beyond historic implications, and is determined to develop further on, along with changing equipment and new effects…

mylodic

[audio:mylodic.mp3]

A Bluer Bossa than “Blue Bossa”, I heard this tune composed by my dear friend Saman Vossoughi who plays jazz guitar, and I was like: “what scale is that?”. It sounded so – interesting, so different. And usually I know my scales around…

It turned out this tune is based on Melodic Minor, a scale I had always rejected as not feasible. “It’s neither fish nor fowl”, I used to state, “as part of it sounds like Major, and part of it like Minor”. I simply didn’t know how to use it. I’m glad attending my friend’s concert has taught me to stay open, since I began to practice Melodic Minor as soon as I came home after the concert. All of a sudden I found it rather useful. A week or so later we arranged to meet and record the song in my studio as a one-shot collaboration. Here we are.

The “who is who” is easily to be detected, as Saman has the smoother sound, and my Jaguar is a bit more incisive.

(Saman has dedicated this tune to Joe Henderson, famous tenor saxophone player, who among many other things recorded an outstanding version of “Blue Bossa”. But “Mylodic” bears no direct resemblance to the latter, although it’s kind of a Bossa, too).

guitars & gear: Saman: Gibson ES 335, Vox AC 15, Tube Reverb. Gary: Fender Jaguar, Vox AC 30, Gibson EB3 bass, Cabasa, Tabor, Tube Reverb

gumBo with Bo

[audio:bo.mp3]

An archetypical 60s rhythm, popularized by the famous and most influential Bo Diddley. Originally a typical Caribbean rhythm, e.g. called “clave” in Cuba, but – unlike this – played with a slight swing feel to it.

Important Bo-Diddley-rhythm-kind-of-songs of the period this blog is all about:

  • Not fade away – Buddy Holly/The Rolling Stones
  • Magic Bus – The Who
  • Get me to the world on time – The Electric Prunes
  • Gone and passes by – The Chocolate Watchband

So, let your guitar’s body turn into a red rectangle, grab maracas, and play some wild Caribbean thing! Here we go, Bo…


guitar & gear: Sakurai nylon string, Fender Jaguar, Fender Tweed Champ, Tube Trem, bongos played with mallets, mini-cymbals (no maracas, sorry…)

overall mike: Sennheiser MD 421

paint it black

[audio:black.mp3]

Back in 1966, when psychedelic art was about to embark.

Two seminal songs: The above mentioned by the Rolling Stones (which I stole the title from and made up a new music to accompany it), and the undeservedly overlooked “Rain” by the Beatles. The latter being published only as a single (not found on an original album), contains the first backwards recording ever and Ringos best drumming ever.

These songs are extreme in a way, as is the track above (coming in three movements) in another. It’s a different time, and a different player, who doesn’t want to compare to those giants…

A snapshot from inside a train, the photograph below simply made me think of “Paint it black”, whereas the music was cut on a different occasion and originally called “Scary”.

guitar & gear: ’67 Stratocaster, Vox AC 50, Gerd Schulte Phaser, Tube Reverb

third planet

[audio:gamelan.mp3]
guitar & gear: Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Vox AC 50, Gert Schulte Phaser, Tube Reverb

dead tree

[audio:deadtree.mp3]

It’s a monument. This “august” tree I photographed last August has lost none of its dignity, which I guess is the reason why the farmers in the area have saved it.

guitar & gear: Stratocaster, Vox AC 15 Heritage, Cry Baby Classic Wah

But death is the source of new life:

conference of the birds

[audio:birds.mp3]

Following my habit of stealing titles (not music) from other artists – this is the title of an album I greatly admire: “Conference of the birds” by Jazz-bassist Dave Holland, who played, among many others, with Miles Davis.

But improvising in a similar manner as birds do, was an idea that came to me out of the blue (the association with the above-mentioned album being called up afterwards).

Yes, it is a conference they are holding, and no, we usually don’t even take the time to listen.

guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, Vox AC 15, Tube Reverb