Trevor Babb, guitar
01 Electric Counterpoint I. Fast (Steve Reich) 6:52
02 Electric Counterpoint II. Slow (Steve Reich) 3:22
03 Electric Counterpoint III. Fast (Steve Reich) 4:30
04 Trail (Paul Kerekes) 10:14
05 Warmth (David Lang) 6:52
06 Septet (James Tenney) 6:49
07 Grimace (Trevor Babb) 7:50
08 Slope 2 (Carl Testa) 14:20
Steve ReichÕs Electric Counterpoint was the piece that inspired this project of recording pieces for multiple electric guitars. Originally written for Pat Metheny in 1987, the piece consists of a live solo guitar part to be played against a recording of 12 guitar and 2 bass guitar parts. After hearing several recordings of this piece and the vast differences in sonic colors among them, I wanted to record my own version using different sound qualities of many guitars. As a graduate school music technology project, I attempted to record my own tape part. While my efforts fell short of professional production, I learned a great deal about audio recording and quickly became enthralled with the process of layering multiple tracks to realize a complete composition. This process stimulated me to find other pieces in this medium for a professionally produced project.
Paul KerekesÕs trail was commissioned through a grant from the American Composers ForumÕs Jerome Fund for New Music. Paul and I were classmates in graduate school and I grew to love his music. While I had been working on my Electric Counterpoint project, Paul had been writing several works for multiples of the same instrument. We had talked about collaborating on a new piece for multiple electric guitars and after receiving the grant, trail was the result. While the piece uses Electric CounterpointÕs basic approach of a live solo part played against a recorded ensemble, PaulÕs musical language is quite different from ReichÕs. The title is taken from PaulÕs image of trails in his head, represented by the fading in and out of different guitar parts and cross-fading harmonies.
David LangÕs warmth for two electric guitars was the piece that rekindled my interest in electric guitar after many years of classical training. Like many of LangÕs pieces, warmth is preoccupied with pattern-based metrical structures. Furthermore, LangÕs approach to musical form is radically different from classical tradition. His music explores subtle changes in mood and affect rather than the huge contrasting emotional swings of traditional classical music. warmth starts loud and ends a little louder, begins with one metrical pattern and ends with a slightly different one, and ends in a slightly different tonality from the one it started in. In an effort to mirror our regular day-to-day emotional experiences, LangÕs music embraces a relatively static emotional trajectory.
James TenneyÕs Septet is a celebration of the overtone series. Because these pitches in the series cannot be produced with the guitarÕs equal-tempered tuning system, various strings on the guitars need to be slightly retuned. The piece begins by gradually adding pitches to create a large overtone chord on the low A fundamental. Then, the low pitches are filtered out until only the highest E remains, upon which a different overtone chord based on E is constructed by gradually adding pitches from the top down. TenneyÕs gradual cross-fade of overtone chords and heterophonic textures create a musical experience that is simultaneously meditative and blissful.
Grimace is a piece that I originally wrote as a final project for an analysis course while studying at the Haute cole de Musique de Genve. The assignment was to write a work in the style of Gyorgy Ligeti. While living in Geneva, I visited the Barbier-Muller Museum, which at the time was exhibiting a collection of masks from many different cultures. One particular mask, labeled ŌGrimaceĶ at the exhibit, especially caught my eye. The melting frown, bugged out eyes, and sagging features suggested a smeared counterpoint that became this electric guitar quartet in which the guitars use E-bows and brass slides for the whole piece. Controlled counterpoint gives way to chaos and concludes with the lowest string on each guitar gradually being tuned down until it is no longer possible to produce a discernible pitch.
Carl TestaÕs slope 2 explores the boundaries between musical sound and noise. It is the only piece on this recording that gives any degree of improvisatory freedom to the performer. Each guitar part at some point departs from the carefully composed chords and melodies by gradually introducing elements of noise through improvisation. Carl was present for the recording session for this piece and his guidance and suggestions were invaluable to the final product.
Innova Director: Philip Blackburn
Operations Director: Chris Campbell
Publicist: Tim Igel
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Recorded by Eric Dawson Tate in New Haven, CT and Denver, CO; except track 8,
recorded by Greg DiCrosta at Firehouse 12 Studio B, New Haven, CT.
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music, New Windsor, NY.
Graphic Design by Colin Meyer and Trevor Babb.
Photo Credit: Emory Hensley
Thanks to: My immensely supportive wife and family, Eric Dawson Tate, Greg DiCrosta,
Alan Douches, Colin Meyer, Philip Blackburn and the team at Innova Recordings, the Jerome Fund for New Music, Paul Kerekes, Carl Testa, Joseph Shields, Nicholas Goluses, Benjamin Verdery, Dusan Bogdanovic, Baljinder Sekhon, Symeon Waseen, Hannah Lash, and my 85 Kickstarter backers. Without you this project could not have come to life.