Of improvisation & dream guitars…

baghouse athens gig posterThis weekend I will be improvising. Every day, moment to moment, I improvise, of course . . . but this weekend is my favorite sort: musical improvisation. And I get to do it on a guitar that makes the experience like playing in a dream . . . the Moog guitar.

The Moog guitar allows me to do many things, but primarily, and most simply, it can sustain notes forever. It’s like being in a permanent sweet spot onstage with loud amps. Of course, it can also be the exact opposite, with its electronics sucking all the energy from the strings until it feels and sounds like playing a fretted-out alien banjo. Improvising on the guitar is such a satisfying and mind-emptying experience. I live for the moments where I can do just that, dropping all thought, just listening to the sounds, the other players and trusting myself. I feel taken-over with no-thought, and I just let whatever happens happen.

This weekend’s show is in Athens, GA (one of my favorite places) with my friends in Baghouse, who are a real telepathic joy to play with. We recently started making music together again for the first time in nearly 12 years, and it felt like we had never stopped, the three of us easily jumping into an improvisation and taking things into the stratosphere with very little discussion–and with more skill now than we had before, in my opinion. The evidence of this get-together is documented here.

I think about improvising as if I’m pulling a human-sized panel up out of the floor. This panel, when fully-exposed, is covered with the most beautiful, intricate, sometimes nightmarish designs . . . some of which I immediately recognize–and many others that I can trace no origins of. On a good night, I can keep this panel up for lengthy periods, adding to it, exposing more depth and detail and, if I’m lucky, amplifying it to the point where it completely obscures me and enters/affects watchers and listeners. I always strive for this, but I can’t say that I’m always successful. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve struggled and failed completely . . . only to hear it back at some later date (I try to record as many improvisational performances as I can) and think that I was completely wrong feeling that way.

The weeks leading up to a live improv performance usually find me down in the basement late at night, tweaking knobs and tones and loops and drones until I am delirious with sound. All in anticipation of pulling that panel into existence as fully as I possibly can. This weekend perhaps it will happen.


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