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
For this post I had a new illustrator signed, who much to my satisfaction translates my ideas into pictures. Despite the fact he is only five years old (erm 5 1/2, I am to say), it shows my son can readily paint the psychedelic way (maybe it helps listening to psychedelic music with his father very often), and it shows no mind-manipulating substances of any kind are needed…
So it’s your turn now to guess what this dream’s about! (Amongst humans it’s not a wide-spread knowledge that robots have a very vivid emotional life, but children still know…)
guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, Fender Tweed Champ, Roland Space Echo
mikes: Electro Voice RE-20, Neumann KMS 105
guitar & gear: erm, my Les Paul Special being unplugged, what you hear is the plug itself. No kidding (finger percussion)! Gerd Schulte Phaser, Tube Reverb.
Unlike Modest Mussorgky’s famous piece (from “Pictures at an Exhibition”) this is not a heavy march, but a lighter and slightly annoying improvisation, using the built-in damping mechanism of the Jaguar. This patented invention by Leo Fender was something he was really proud of, whereas most musicians found it useless and demounted it right away.
This, among other things, has contributed to the Jaguar’s fame as a “faulty design”; but at least for this recording it proved useful for me, providing sounds only available with this strange mechanism. If you listen closely, you will hear it activated 20 seconds into the track…
guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, 1967 Vox AC 30, Tube Reverb
Max Ernst (1891 – 1976) was an exponent of Dadaism and Surrealism. Trees and the woods were essential to his imagination. His recollections of walks with his father gave him a mystic approach to this subject.
That’s what I always liked about his art: it resonates with my own childhood memories. And for me “psychedelic” is very similar to “surrealistic” – only the two belong to different decades of the 20th century.
So, when I “met” this really surrealistic tree, I decided to compose a fitting music. This time I cut the recordings into pieces and made them into a collage.
guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, Fender Stratocaster, Gibson EB3 Bass, Tweed Champ, Tube Trem, Big Muff, Tube Reverb
Here for the first time I’m trying to keep my music from the over-earnestness to which I strongly tend. Those among you who are really ambitious (like I am) know how hard it is to see or hear our own mistakes over and over again, and to know they are out there for other people to stumble over or even laugh about them.
It’s so hard to let go of your self-criticism in favor of spontaneity. For this blog I had to learn that, hoping an impression of freshness would prevail also in the listener’s minds.
Mistakes and little flaws inevitably creep in when you improvise over a period of, say, four minutes or so. The trick is to not let them distract you. And afterwards, when listening to your “product”, not to take the music and the whole project too serious.
A few seconds into this little piece of music there’s an awful chord, but I turned it around as if it had been on purpose and it became the starting point for a very vocal-like expression… So why bother?
guitar & gear: Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Vox ToneLab, tube reverb
These are two friends of mine showing a typical reaction to my music… Kidding. What you see is alcohol-free late night amusement (it’s possible!) at a party in my house, and there were still some other guests…
Strange muffled sounds reaching your ears – where could they come from?
Is what is supposed to be a door leading anywhere? In any case you’ll have to enter the unknown after you managed to open it. Maybe it just falls off its frame instead of opening, and you will be facing the void…
Meanwhile the clock on the wall might turn out a Salvador Dali “flexible” or “soft” one, rather irritating than showing the time. Melting away. Take a step out of time, out of your believed-to-be-safe life. Enter the next floor.
These instruments are not played exactly the way they normally are.
But, hey, this is Psychedelic Zen Guitar, and there has been an intention to show the madness in normality here as well as the normality in madness right from the start…
There are four Garys here, playing different instruments like crazy, and maybe they are…
(I’ve been doing experiments like this since I was around 15 years old – for more than three decades now! I hope I have improved in musical insanity since then…)
The pictures show cymbals in my friend Markus’ drum studio.
guitar& gear: ’71 Ibanez SG, Vox ToneLab SE, Tube Reverb, cymbals, Gibson EB-3 bass played with violin bow
This feels like an unsettling journey in the beginning, but it’s promised to end on a consoling C Major chord! Though it had never been planned this way – it happened spontaneously.
Once upon a time there was a hitchhiker traveling the universe, and those of you familiar with the story may feel reminded – at least a little bit.
The picture below is a shoot out of the alien spaceship right after landing. The planet’s strange trees and it’s population, electric guitar playing mice, are in sight…
guitar & gear: ’67 Stratocaster, Vox ToneLab, Roland Space Echo
Only a few days ago I rediscovered a very special vinyl long player in the basement. A former student of mine who had recorded his self-composed music on it had given it to me as a goodbye present about 15 (!) years ago. It’s title is “Psychedelic Underground”. Sounds pretty appropriate for this blog, doesn’t it? I didn’t really appreciate his gift then, not understanding its content and the effort it took to accomplish such a work.
As I don’t feature his music here in order to let my own ideas come through, I focus on the exceptional look of this record: did you know vinyl doesn’t have to come in black? This one has all the right colors on it, and I went some further by moving the camera around, thus creating a hypnotic and shaky effect…
guitar & gear: Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Vox ToneLab, Gerd Schulte Phaser, tube reverb