Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars performs in the Kresge Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the 27th Annual Concert of Colors on July 12, 2019. #TiltedAxes Original video shot by @doooovid and music © 2019 Patrick Grant/Peppergreen Media (ASCAP) http://www.tiltedaxes.com
THANK YOU to everyone who recently joined us as co-producers and to those continuing supporters who helped us reach 100% of our Musicians Fund goal. The fund is still open and there’s plenty of rewards to be had (T-shirts, CDs, etc.), but now we can say that we are definitely on our way to the moon. ALL SYSTEMS GO! Please join our team: https://bit.ly/2ZSBN29
On Friday, July 12 between 5:30pm-7:30pm, Tilted Axes presents “PROMENADE”, which begins at the Charles H. Wright Museum and makes its way through the Detroit Institute of Arts before returning to the Wright.
On Saturday, July 13 at 1:00pm and 3:30pm, Tilted Axes premieres “MOONWALK”, a new work in collaboration with The Michigan Science Center. The piece commemorates the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first manned space mission to land on the moon.
10. Tilted Axes is a musical project created by composer Patrick Grant.
09. Tilted Axes is a procession of electric guitarists who wear mini-amps.
08. Tilted Axes can perform anywhere there are people, excelling in untraditional venues.
07. Tilted Axes’ roster of musicians can change from performance to performance, city to city.
06. Tilted Axes’ musicians learn a common repertoire created by PG and rehearse it in workshops.
05. Tilted Axes performances are free to the public and are supported through institutional and/or private donations.
04. Tilted Axes takes on aspects of spectacle informed by municipal band tradition, avant-garde theater, and world music.
03. Tilted Axes takes music out into the world and seeks transformative projects meant to change community conversation.
02. Tilted Axes is an apolitical organization, but it does support science, arts programs, and renewable energy whenever possible.
01. Tilted Axes works best when it is part of something bigger than itself i.e. festivals, exhibitions, community initiatives, astronomical events.
Produced by: Patrick Grant & Peppergreen Media
Presented in partnership with The Michigan Science Center (Carole Wrubel, Paulette Epstein, Julia Lynn Marsh), The Detroit Institute of Arts (Larry Baranski), The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Charles Ferrell), Midtown Detroit Inc. (Susan T. Mosey) and The Concert of Colors (Ismael Ahmed).
Sponsors and Supporters: Vox Amps & Korg USA (amps), DIME Detroit Institute of Music Education (rehearsal space), Brooklyn Battery Works, Tan’s Club (bandanas), Fractured Atlas (fiscal sponsorship)
Electric Guitars: Adam Bodeep, Alex Lahoski, Chris Simpson, Daniel Reyes Llinas, Eugene Strobe, James Keith La Croix, Jeff Georgas, John Lovaas, Jude Closson, Manny Falcon, Pacal Zelaya, Patrick Grant, Rick Matle, Rob Knevels Baritone Ukelele: Frank Pahl Electric Bass: Tim Taebel Percussion: Skeeto Valdez, Gael Grant Associate Producer: Jocelyn Gonzales Stage Manager: Julia Lynn Marsh Tilting AAD: Jeff Adams, Sarah Metivier Schadt
Co-producers and Tilted Team Members: In Honor of Patricia E. McKenna, Julia Knevels, Maria Bacardi, Stanley Stairs, Richard Wise, Leslie Stevens, David Greig, Detroit Guitar (Eric and Tracey Wolfe), Jeff Georgas, Erik Grant, Alex Lahoski, Sarah Metivier Schadt, Susan Montgomery, Sean & Laura Biggs, Paracademia NYC (Milica Paranosic), Mary Beth Abel, Jeremy Nesse, Alchemical Studios NYC (Carlo Altomare), Tracy Seneca, In Honor of Helen Keene McKenna, Deborah Calvert, Gael Grant, Jason Kanter, Daniel Grant, Alexander Baxter, Lana Durante, In Honor of Herman and Elizabeth Keene, Aileen Bunch, Aaron Alter, Andrew McKenna Lee, Frank Brickle, Michael Fisher, Craig Grant, Michael McKenna, Jeff Broder, Steve Ball, Richard Sylvarnes, Manny Falcon, Erin Leen, Greg Meredith, Gene Ardor, Chris & Sari at Rubulad, and anonymous donors.
We would like to thank: Ralph Valdez, Lana Mini (Marx & Layne), Neal Cortright at DIME, “Showtime Dan” Tatarian, Third Man Records Cass Corridor (David Buick, Roe Peterhans), The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation (Cynthia Jones), The Marche Du Nain Rouge, Rob St. Mary, WDET 101.9 FM, The Metro Times, Robert Fripp and all guitar circles past, present, and future, and to our numerous standard bearers, satellites, and extended family around the world who, in these uncertain times, focus on doing what’s possible (plus 10%).
All music © Patrick Grant & Peppergreen Media (ASCAP)
Fractured Atlas is our fiscal sponsor. Tilted Axes performances are performed and provided free to the public. Won’t you consider making a tax-deductible contribution today for our future presentations? Please visit their web site:
More iNFO at tiltedaxes.com #TiltedAxes @tiltedaxes #MiSci @mi_sci #DIAeveryday @diadetroit @concertofcolorsdetroit
Adam Bodeep (electric guitar) attends Wayne State for Jazz Guitar and has been a multi-instrumentalist for over 15 years. He has provided private (and online) guitar / music theory lessons for several years. He prides himself in his ability to play all types of music from classical to jazz to rock ‘n’ roll. Adam has performed at Saint Andrews Hall as well as many other well-respected venues. He has a Facebook and YouTube channel where several players of all ages commend him for the work he has put into free transcriptions and lessons.
Alex Lahoski (electric guitar) began playing guitar in the summer of 1984 after purchasing an old acoustic guitar from a friend at summer camp. Playing became a practice in April of 2000, after his first Guitar Craft course. He has participated in Guitar Craft and Guitar Circle projects in the United States, Mexico, and Italy as well as Music For Contemplation and Making Music Together in New York and the Detroit area. Alex lives and works in Connecticut.
Christopher Simpson (electric guitar) is currently attending Wayne State University for a Bachelor Degree in Music for Music Business. His main concentration and principal instrument is jazz guitar. Chris privately teaches students and gigs in the Metro Detroit Area. Along with playing the guitar, Chris also plays the trombone and piano.
Daniel Reyes Llinas (electric guitar) began at 10 years old as a self-taught guitarist in his native Bogota, Colombia and went on to study classical guitar, new music, and Latin American composers. In 2002 he moved to NYC, collaborating with Bang on a Can, Brooklyn’s Ze Couch, and Taylor Mac. He has played/toured with the Parias Ensemble, Robert Fripp and The Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists, The League of Crafty Guitarists, The Berlin Guitar Ensemble, and Tilted Axes. He recently released his second solo album “En Remolinos.” Daniel is resident composer of Teatro Escarlata (Medellin) and is scoring Dylan Verrechia’s feature film “La Pura Vida” (2020).
Eugene Strobe (electric guitar) is a Detroit area musician who has been wielding sonic guitars in bands such as his own psych-pop power trio, Cosmic Light Shapes, dark groove generators The Witches, and the angular & obtuse Vehicles Invisible. Strobe has had his hand in many projects in town, such as sonic sound experiments via the Practice!Amp Collective. He teaches private & group lessons on many instruments, and provides band coaching services under the Music & Arts Creativity Camp. He has also organized the annual Hamtramck Music Fest, as well as other audio visual ‘happenings’ & productions.
Frank Pahl (baritone ukelele) The music of Frank Pahl appears on over 100 recordings ranging from toypop to jazz. For the past thirty years he has survived on writing music for theater, film, and dance and he is a Kresge Fellow in Sound Art. His current groups are Little Bang Theory (toypop), Scavenger Quartet (jazz-ish) and The Lovely and the Wretched (chamber). His passion for the last 10 years has been accompanying silent films with Little Bang Theory.
Gael Grant (percussion) has been involved with Tilted Axes since 2013: twice as Tilt Manager and thrice as a drummer. All in all, this will be her fourth time tilting in Detroit. She has played multiple instruments since she was very young and has been an active participant with musicians. “Nothing compares to the element of surprise with music and I look forward to more surprises.” And the beat goes on…
James Keith La Croix (electric guitar) “Diverse” describes writer, musician, sound engineer, and multimedia artist James Keith La Croix’s background and career. Raised in a household where the record changer was eclectically stacked, he studied guitar and later picked up bass and drums which he’s played in a variety of bands in New York City, Sweden, and his home town, Detroit. He studied recording engineering and went on to record artists from Afrika Bambaataa to Zeena Parkins before touring the world as the instrument tech for Stanley Jordan. James is a published writer and his multimedia pieces have been shown in juried art exhibitions.
Jeff Georgas (electric guitar) is a Canadian Engineer who lives in Brighton Michigan. His interests are rooted in 60s and 70s rock. He is currently writing folk music relevant to surviving the corporate grind.
Jocelyn Gonzales (associate producer) is Executive Producer of the Peabody Award-winning radio show and podcast, Studio 360 from PRI/PRX and Slate. She’s a producer, engineer, and editor for public radio, audio publishing and podcasting. At The NY Times, she produced the weekly Popcast, Book Review, and Times Insider podcasts. She produced The Mash-Up Americans podcast at American Public Media, the science and medicine podcast Signal, and she is a sound designer for How It Is, a podcast from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. She taught sound design for film, TV and new media at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for nearly 14 years.
John Lovaas (electric guitar) John’s interest in guitar began in 1978; playing became practice in 2007, after his first Guitar Craft course. He participated in Guitar Craft and Guitar Circle projects in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, and Italy. He has participated in a number of past Tilted Axes projects in Detroit and New York. He lives and works in Woodstock, Illinois.
Jude Closson (electric guitar) plays drums and guitar and has been working with bands in the Detroit area for over three decades. Jude started as a drummer and has worked with many groups ranging from early New Wave and Punk groups to the present day Celtic Rock group Bill Grogan’s Goat. As a guitarist he has worked with a variety of rock and folk acts and is presently playing in the traditional Celtic group Seacht.
Julia Lynn Marsh (stage manager) is a writer, performer, and comedian working in Detroit and New York City. She has worked in many theatrical capacities for companies such as The Ringwald Theatre, The Detroit Opera House, The Matrix Theater, and Theater Row. She has a deep love for astronomy as well as for the marriage of art and science.
Manny Falcon (electric guitar) was born in NYC and exposed to music from birth by 3 older sisters; former lead guitar/vocals Scarlet-Fire; 9 years with BoxLunch. Moved to Detroit area to assist elderly parent, and found his niche playing music for residents at nursing homes/rehab centers, specializing in the Blues and Rags of the late 1920s. Having graduated in Anthropology/Archaeology, the former co-owner of Doc Audio Video also plays sitar, oud, balalaika and mandolins et al.
Pacal Zelaya (electric guitar) has been a life long guitarist and resident in Detroit. Having been taught by his father, his earliest memories involve playing guitars and learning music. He has roots in blues, punk rock, metal, and jazz. He has been a part of several bands in his adolescence and now enjoys playing lead guitar in his original metal band Burning Society.
Patrick Grant (electric guitar) is a Detroit-born composer living and working in New York City. His works are a synthesis of classical, popular, and world musical styles that have found place in concert halls, film, theater, dance, and visual media internationally. His music moves from post-rock and classically bent post-minimal styles, through Balinese-inspired gamelan and microtonality, to ambient, electronic soundscapes involving many layers of acoustic and electronically amplified instruments. He is the creator of International Strange Music Day (August 24) and is the inventor of the electric guitar procession.
Rick Matle (electric guitar) Influenced in his formative years by classic rock artists Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and Santana. Jazz greats Kenny Burrell and Pat Metheny would be an influence as Rick studied guitar and composition at Oakland University, graduating in 1986. In 1999 the Detroit Music Awards recognized him as “Outstanding Jazz Composer.” Rick has released two solo recordings, Ears Wide Shut and Windows of the World featuring rock, Brazilian, and Middle Eastern influences. Following the release of Windows of the World, Rick was chosen by the Detroit Music Awards as “Outstanding World Music Composer” in 2006 and 2007.
Rob Knevels (electric guitar & production) was born a Metro Detroiter in the spring of 1972. Since then he has joyously participated in many musical happenings and with many outfits. Robert has been lucky enough to become a lifetime ambassador to Kelley Stoltz and His Band, surviving several semi-world tours with Stoltz and his comrades. He loves sports, and plays a variety of musical instruments and practices everyday.
Skeeto Valdez (groove leader) has been called a “force of nature!” – a “diesel truck, rollin down the rhythm freeway!” – and for many years simply referred to as “Skeetosis!” He had an idea to create a forum to jam with his many musical friends and dubbed it The Mighty Funhouse with the simple premise of having a ball while playing great music. The name of the band has since changed to The Valdez Collective. ~ PS: He be winnin awards and sheet! ~ PPS Jr.: Pay no attention to any of this nonsense!!!
Tim Taebel (electric bass) is a Detroit-area based musician who has been active in the dive-bar scene for more years than he wants to think about. Current bands include Twitch, Eastside Elvis & the Motor City Mafia and the improvisational outfits: NoiseLabA & Noi Selab X. Primarily a bassist, Tim has been known to pick up the occasional guitar, trumpet, euphonium or modular synthesizer – primarily to annoy the neighbors.
new recordings + bonus tracks
1. Keeping Still
extended percussion quintet
2. Fields Amaze
homemade gamelan and microtonal keyboard
3. A Visible Track of Turbulence 1
flute, clarinet, and piano 4-hands
4. Everything Distinct: Everything the Same
three keyboards in Gb just intonation and three percussion
5. A Visible Track of Turbulence 2
flute, clarinet, and piano 4-hands
6. Imaginary Horror Film 1
chamber prog ensemble
7. The Weights of Numbers
aka Fractured Fictions
three keyboards and drums
8. Imaginary Horror Film 2
chamber prog ensemble
9. If One Should Happen to Fall
six words vs. thesaurus
“…a driving and rather harsh energy redolent of rock, as well as a clean sense of melodicism … the music’s momentum and intricate cross-rhythms rarely let up, making the occasional infectious tunes that emerge all the more beautiful for surprise.” – The Village Voice
Patrick Grant: piano, keyboards, electric guitars, gamelan, percussion – Kathleen Supove & Marija Ilic: keyboards – John Ferrari: drums & percussion – Barbara Benary: additional gamelan – David Simons: Balinese percussion & theremin – Keith Bonner: flute – Thomas P. Oberle: clarinet – Darryl Gregory: trombone – Martha Mooke: viola – Maxine Neumann: cello – Mark Steven Brooks: electric bass – Alexandra Montano: vocalise – Lisa Karrer: lead vocal on If One Should Happen to Fall.
All 2018 production, overdubs, revisions, and new stems recorded at Peppergreen Media, NYC and The Ferrari Factory, NJ. Mixed at Mercy Sound Studios, NYC – Garry Rindfuss: mixing engineer – Sheldon Steiger: album mastering – Patrick Grant: producer
All music © 1997-2018 Patrick Grant and published by Peppergreen Media (ASCAP). This album ℗ 2018. All rights reserved.
Cover photo Cuming Co. Supercell, June 14, 2013 taken by Dave Rebot and used with permission. Album artwork, layout, and design by Eric Iverson. Peppergreen Media logo by Steve Ball. CD image collage created from Elément bleu XII, 1967 by Jean Dubuffet, photo credit: sTRANGE Music Inc.
Thanks and acknowledgements: The Braunschweig Family, Coudert Brothers, Bank Julius Baer, Matthews Panariello P.C., Chris LaBarbiera, Patricia McKenna, Context Studios, Music Under Construction, Philip Glass, Kurt Munkacsi, Jed Distler & Composers Collaborative Inc., Music for Homemade Instruments, Erik Satie, Kyle Gann & The Village Voice, The Bang on a Can Marathon, Stéphane Martin and the musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, The Ross Institute, The Knitting Factory, Patrick Grant Group, I Wayan Lantir, STSI/ISI Denpasar, Gamelan Son of Lion, Celebrate Brooklyn!, Johnny Reinhard & The American Festival of Microtonal Music, The Fractal Music Lab, James Gleick author of Chaos: Making a New Science, The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Lichtenstein, The Mark Morris Dance Group, The Prix de Lausanne, Exploding Music, The Living Theatre, Kalvos & Damien’s New Music Bazaar, Annina Nosei Gallery, John Schaefer, WNYC’s New Sounds, Ralph Valdez, WDET Radio, James Moore & Independent Music Promotions Inc., Jocelyn Gonzales, The NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Roget’s Thesaurus.
“The NYC-based composer and performer Patrick Grant has had a long and gleaming career that continues on with his newest release, A Sequence of Waves (Twelve Stories and a Dream). The album is a refined collection of genre-bending and experimental tracks that many critics struggle to pin down. Stumbling into post-minimalism, modern classical, prog rock, and post-rock territory, the album wears many masks. And for good reason, given Grant’s accomplished background.”
Read the interview in It’s Psychedelic Magazine Baby HERE
Recently a music zine proposed eight written questions to composer and performer PATRICK GRANT about his latest album “A SEQUENCE OF WAVES.” Grant sent in written responses and received this reply from the editor:
“Your answers are wonderful but they are extremely long… typically these are one-sentence answers… (the) internet is a short attention span thing. People scan, look for a link or something to watch and then move on. They do not linger like with a newspaper article. Thanks!”
Grant obliged them and resent completely different answers, all of them one-sentence long.
Published here on The MMiXdown are his original replies. The music zine’s questions have been replaced by distilling down their essence to one word each.
I once read something about The Beatles’ “Revolver” that went something like this: “It could be argued that every track on the album went on to create its own sub-genre in rock music.” I can see that point and I’m sure there have been many who have attempted to create a multiverse of song lineages out of it. Doing that’s not for me, but I like the point: every track has its own distinct personality and yet they all fit together and compliment each other like the colors of the spectrum. They are not a pastiche of songs. At their core they share the same DNA. There have been albums like that since, and I’m sure we could thoroughly debate what they are, but it’s that level of diversity and coherence that I was aiming for when I was putting together “A Sequence of Waves” because I truly like all kinds of music. That’s why different reviewers have been coming at it from different angles: rock, classical, jazz, world, you name it. I like that. I’d say that is 40% intentional on my part and 60% that’s-just-who-I-am.
It’s also understood that not everyone listens to albums like they used to (from beginning to end), but for those who do and for those who admire the architecture of an album, there’s an overall structure that holds these 13 tracks together. At the center is track 7, “Seven Years at Sea.” It’s also the only piece with vocals on the album and even then they were recorded in the first half of the last century, but not by me. Ha! Moving outward, track 6 mirrors track 8, track 5 mirrors track 9, and so on until track 1 mirrors track 13. What do I mean by mirror? I mean there’s there some aspect in which the tracks are related, either by style, instrumentation, tempo, or harmonic scheme. Sometimes it’s a couple of these elements combined. If you notice it, that’s great. If you don’t, I would bet that by the album’s end, you’d subconsciously get a feeling of coherence through the chaos.
Being an instrumental album, many things were needed to keep it not only interesting, but to keep interesting to me. This was a good exercise for me in “killing one’s darlings,” I was cutting measures here, whole sections there. Even listening now, I could lose a few notes. And add a few too! Maybe these things are never truly finished, are they? It’s been said that they just get abandoned so we can move on. But I require some sense of artistic completion before doing so that there’s firmer ground from which we push off our little metaphorical boat into uncharted waters again.
Sorry, that sounds pretentious. Still, it’s not too far off. It seems that the most worthy things that we can endeavor to do are a manifestation of a search for meaning. My hope is that if I can keep honest and sincere in my work, that it will resonate in some universal way to those who are drawn to the work and care to listen.
When I was a student, I was struck by something Igor Stravinsky said, “I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, or psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc…. Expression has never been an inherent property of music.” That’s just a snippet of a longer quote. Uncle Igor had a lot more to say than just that. People should look it up and read the rest if they’re interested.
So, wow, I felt sort of depressed when I read that because it challenged everything that I, as a young man, had thought about music. Then I gradually was able to let go of preconceptions and understood what he was saying. I still am.
Remember now, he was speaking of pure music, instrumental music because, yes, if there are words, the music (now being considered a song) will mean what those words are saying. But, in a pure sense like are minor chords “sad” and major chords “happy?” No, they are not. When you listen to a piece of music, you are listening with your own culture and personal history. You are always listening to music in relation to every piece of music you’ve listened to before that moment. It’s the same with visual art. It’s the same with so many things.
So, if my music, or this album in particular, has any meaning, it’s what it means to each listener. Like many composers, I am amazed and get a kick out of what people hear in my music. Some of these things are fantastic, some are just plain ol’ wrong, and some reveal a part of me that I’ve been hiding from myself. Shazam! That can be powerful stuff.
Now that I have a body of work to look back upon, it’s as if it’s all about a search for meaning. I look for patterns that repeat in my own work and notice, no matter if it’s rock, classical, or something else, there are patterns there, patterns that are a language unique to myself. Even music discovers this. But what does it mean? That’s to be explored in the music-yet-to-be-created.
While it is true that the human voice is the first musical instrument, I would say that the history of music, of all music, has shown that words are not always necessary. Think of all the classical music and music from other cultures that don’t have voices. On a small scale, any music with voice would most likely be what we’d consider a song. I’m particular like that: don’t call a piece of music a “song” if there isn’t any singing. It can be a jam, a tune, an invention, a scherzo, a waltz, a groove, dope beatz, whatever, but without singing it is not a song. I’ve found that just getting casual listeners to call music by a better, more correct name like that, automatically gets them thinking about music differently and, better yet, they begin listening with more depth.
Many people will hear the surface of the music first, the voice, the tune, whatever is most prominent in the mix. It’s likely that it’s intentional on the part of the producer to get you the hear that surface through how it has been mixed. Those who are trained, or who are naturally able to, hear the deeper layers in the music, will get more out of it and may have a better understanding of all kinds of things.
Believe me, I love songs. I listen to them, I sing them, and I write them. However, my most recent album, “A Sequence of Waves,” and the one before, “Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars,” are purposeful explorations in instrumental music. That’s for a couple of reasons. One is a desire to make my music as universal as possible. If there are no words, most people will superimpose their own narrative onto a performance or recording. Plus, there is no language barrier. As a result, my recent music has had a very international audience.
Another reason is that I like the challenge of creating stories with no words. A byproduct of this is that the music gets used in combination with visual media like video, film, and anything that’s staged. I have a background in avant-garde theater, so many times I will have definite pictures in my head when I create, even if they’re personal and not really meant to be shared. In this sense I favor music that is evocative, meaning that I want you to come up with your own visuals in your own head.
In terms of long time collaborators, my first nod for “A Sequence of Waves” would go to my engineer and mixing co-captain Garry Rindfuss. My first album proper was “Fields Amaze.” It was recorded at composer Philip Glass’s Looking Glass Studios on Broadway around Bleecker. He co-owned it with the Finn brothers from Split Enz and Crowed House. I met Garry through a common friend from the Knitting Factory and Lounge Lizards scene. He’s worked with many recording field greats from engineers and producers like Bob Clearmountain, Steve Lillywhite, and James Farber, to recording artists like Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Queen, etc. I wanted to get contemporary classical music recorded with rock and pop techniques. That’s my sound.
The studio, since closed, was hopping then. Bang on a Can was recording their version of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” at the same time as us while David Bowie was putting the finishing touches on his album “Earthling” down the hall in Mark Plati’s room. Being my first album, it was all a bit overwhelming, but Garry’s good humor and cool demeanor got me through it. He’s been my engineer ever since.
The other long-term collaborator on “Sequence” is drummer John Ferrari. I met him two years after I met Garry and under very different circumstances. After I released the “Fields Amaze” album, I put together the Patrick Grant Group. It was an ensemble dedicated to my music consisting of a core of piano, organ, synthesizer, and drums with flute, clarinet, trombone, viola, cello, electric guitar, electric bass, and percussion. It was a little orchestra. Sometimes we’d even add a gamelan, the metal orchestra of Indonesia, for pieces that were inspired by my studies in Bali.
While this was going strong, I also took a job as composer-in-residence at The Ross School in East Hampton. It was the time of the dotcom boom and they wanted to do an international musical composition project with students in NY, Sweden, and China (and I even got to go there). I was spearheading the compositional element of the project with other instructors from abroad, but the kicker is that my mentors were Billy Joel and Quincy Jones. It all sounded great, the student musicians were great, but the project was overrun with too many adults with their own corporate and educational agendas. I’ll leave it at that.
One of them, a Swedish businessman, kept throwing trendy jargon-of-the-day at us as if that would make things more musical. He’d say to me, “Patrick, we have to start thinking outside of the box,” and I’d reply, “You’re telling me? I am the very definition of outside-of the-box! That’s why you hired me!” So, when I felt this million-dollar project was falling apart, on the good advice of Billy Joel, I resigned and went back to the city. As I suspected, the project never lived up to its potential and was never presented to the world as originally proposed. I got out just in time.
Why is this important? It’s because that’s where and when I met John Ferrari. My personal growth aside, he was the best part of that whole experience. He was hired as a percussion instructor and he eventually started working with me in showing everybody how to create music through live performance and electronics. He became the drummer for all future incarnations of the Patrick Grant Group and we’ve been making music every since.
I only point out these stories and their circumstances because it’s these kind of events that have bonded me to, not only these two artists, but to many other collaborators to which I have been blessed. It doesn’t happen every time, but when a trial-by-fire forges life-long friendships, among other things, it will always good for the music.
I’ve been asked this question a number of times and my answer has not varied much. Let’s see if I can put an original twist on it. I mean, we’re all, everybody, changing constantly. I’ve changed my mind over time, but one can always draw a line that connects it all. I mean, it’s always evolving.
My favorite kind of music, for lack of a better word, is music that suggests ceremony. Now, that sounds heavy and religious and a bit of a drag, but hear me out. By “ceremony” I just mean an event that is bigger than any one of us individually. Sometimes we’re too close to the trees to see the forest (as the saying goes), but much of our lives are based on rituals of all kinds, large and small, public and private, in a time or over a time. I’m sure anthropologists see it clearly. I mean, it’s easy for us to see in other societies, but perhaps harder to see it in ourselves.
Okay, I’m going down a rabbit hole here, so let me backtrack and clarify with examples. I grew up loving and playing the music of Bach. Yes, I did. I could read music easily at an early-ish age so I studied many of his scores when I was young. I liked the idea that much of his music was created with a specific purpose or event in mind, sacred or secular. This is music that has extra-musical purpose attached to it. Examples of this could be movements in a suite (dance) or a cantata (worship). It becomes forms that listeners come to recognize and respond to.
Jumping ahead a couple of hundred years, think of how much a rock concert has become, through trial and error, a form of ritual, all the way down to people holding up lit cigarette lighters for the encore. To someone from another planet that ritual might appear very similar to being in a cathedral during high mass.
So, for me, it’s not so much about genre or geography, it’s about music that suggests things that are bigger than us. It can have words or not. In the end, it’s about the music’s intention, its ability to convey that intention musically, and its ability to pull in as many listeners as possible without compromising its truth.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all about being lofty and putting on airs. I’d be just as down with a Voodoo wedding or a Punk Rock divorce just as long as it was musically sincere.
Last year I accepted a position as a professor at the NYU Film School for two days a week teaching, what is essentially, a sound design course for freshmen. It’s a required class to expose all students to the power of narrative in sound. Because sound is invisible, it is too often taken for granted. It’s also interesting to me because these students come from all over and with different kinds of backgrounds and widely differing skill sets. Whether they go on to screenplays, video editing, cinematography, or directing (everybody wants to direct, right?), they learn how powerful sound and music can be together and how to use them.
One of their first assignments is the Interview Assignment. It is to teach them how to make a good field recording, to learn microphone technique, etc. They find someone to interview and make a 2-3 minute edited audio piece. Many times students will interview each other because that’s logistically simpler than running around the city to far-flung places.
When I was listening to some of these interviews, a “Profile of Student X” let’s say, they were reciting a laundry list of their likes passing as an interview. For example: “I really like this kind of music, I like this kind of food, I really like this comedy director, I like books by this author from the 1970s…” etc., etc., etc. A number of these interviews were like this, a list of their likes. I thought that maybe this is how things are done these days. I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I did at that age, too.
Yes, they were defining themselves by declaring a list of their likes, possibly because many are too young to have done anything yet of their own or, through Facebook, we are living in a “like” culture now? That’s just a theory, a gut feeling. Sounds good on the surface, it’s probably wrong.
I often wish that I heard more good music than I have. There is so much of out if you look and if you have the time to listen. Most of my time is spent putting together music that’s based upon the many things that have inspired me, and these things are not necessarily music either.
So, when I get asked “what musicians do I most admire and why?” I’m careful not to give a list. More than that, if I did, it would be hard to list musicians only. For me, people that have influenced me extend beyond musicians. There are visual artists, writers, playwrights, filmmakers, scientists, philosophers, architects, activists, and the list just goes on. It’s also an entangled and intertwined list because the history of all music, art, and science has always relied upon each other for inspiration. It’s a conversation between all of these things. It’s polyphony. It’s a cosmic clock.
Here’s something I noticed: the one quality that they all have in common, these things that I “like,” is the ability of the creators to communicate their personal experiences in such a way that it becomes universal to all those who hear it, see it, feel it.
This is always a difficult question, not only for me, but for many of the other musicians that get asked. I know that some, like Robert Fripp from King Crimson, will famously (and humorously) discourage young people from what gets described as “ a miserable life” and that becoming a plumber or some such trade would be a much better contribution to society. Recently the producer Brian Eno’s advice fell along the lines of “don’t get a day job” and was met with wild misunderstanding and criticism. Laurie Anderson suggest that we, “Keep it loose, be flexible…make it vague,” while Patti Smith offers up a straight forward “just keep doing your work.”
While all of their advice is good, it’s clear that there isn’t any single path to the life of an artist. Somebody once asked me, “Why does it seem like every famous musician received a lucky break at some point in their career?” I replied, “Easy. Because you never hear about the unlucky ones!” There could be some truth to that, but it’s also never a bad idea to live in a way that increases your chances of being in the right place at the right time in a way that makes sense to you. Even if fame and success are elusive, it’s a good way to live.
Falling into clichés when giving advice like this is a potential danger, it’s a trap. The truth seems to be that everyone who is determined will find a way. I feel like I’m still trying to find mine. You be surprise how many successful people still feel that they’re not there yet, that they’re not worthy giving out such advice. I can only speak of my own life and what has worked for me, things that I have observed in the work habits of others, and list some things that I have found inspiring.
In no particular order:
Until you make it, move to a city where some form of the industry exists. I know that cyberspace is supposed to level the geographic playing field, but there’s nothing like finding out where all the big shots are gathered and go there physically. This could be an art opening, a diner, even a small club. So, for all of the emails these people must be getting from other young hopefuls, there you are, in person.
Never stop learning, especially science as it relates to your craft. You know all of those names at the end of the movie in the credits? Those are jobs. Real jobs. Not only can you perfect your craft while you’re there, you’ll meet real people doing real things that could point you in the right direction if your aim needs clarification.
How can I get one of these jobs? Again, move to a city where some form of the industry exists. After you’ve made it, then you can get that house in the country. They’ll all be coming to you at that point.
If you haven’t done so already, expand your appreciation of the arts beyond music alone.
Read a book once in a while (technical manuals do not count!).
Go to a museum. Any kind.
Watch every “Dramatic Demonstrations in Physics” video that Julius Sumner Miller ever made. They’re uncommon and enchanting! Everything is music when you know physics.
Draw some pictures. Even if you suck at it, if you have good ideas, a real graphics person can show you how to flesh it out. We all made drawings when we were kids. Why do most people stop?
Watch the first 20 minutes of every “VH1: Behind the Music” episode ever. That’s how people made careers (don’t watch anything after that; it’s too depressing). Even if you don’t like the style music, anybody who has made a career in music has a story worth knowing.
Don’t think only about yourself. Be there for other musicians. Great things can happen when you give instead of take. Unexpected collaborations will come about if you make some time for other people’s ideas.
What’s the message here? Never stop learning. Learn across many fields. It’s all music if you listen.
There’s always something new from me in the social media, so I can give you those links to put on the end if you want. I’ll use this question to discuss current projects and where I hope they will go.
Right now I feel like I am creating in three parallel universes, one each that are rooted in the past, the present, or the future. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Strange Music, the company I founded when I incorporated. I have a number of works that have been building up that were never properly released or some that had one big performance and that was it. I feel an obligation to get this music out into the world, especially since I have an audience now. I need to do for my own legacy and I also need to do it to set the record straight in a couple of communities as to who-did-what-first. There are a number of cases where others with greater means than I took my concepts of mine and developed them on their own. Getting out these musical missing links will be a help to future writers in putting together a more complete picture of the current scene.
As worthy as these older and slightly older works may seem, there’s too much going on right now in the present to dwell too much in the past. It’s always a balancing act. The good thing is that there’s always something to do. Also, it’s easy to complete this older work because I have some “distance” on it now. I have no problem in being cutthroat in the editing process. The outcome is that we have leaner and cleaner versions of these pieces and I think they sound damn good. They sound as fresh and current as anything.
You asked earlier about meaning in my music? This is it. Drawing the line through all of these pieces to recognize and connect the elements that make them truly the result of myself. This is what is powering my present. It has become much easier for me to identify what it is that I should be doing. I have “put my ladder up against the wrong wall” a few times, only to climb it and see there was nothing I was looking for on the other side, but never again if I can help it.
What does that boil down to in reality? Projects. I am finishing tracks projects from Strange Music’s past and I am finishing two new albums for release as-soon-as-possible. Editing and mixing is in process now on one of them. I am also focusing on reconstructing the workflow of my studio. I simply need to work faster and more efficiently. I am getting work for radio and film down the road and so I prepare for that. Film has been a big inspiration in my music and I look forward to that work. This is the reason behind my creation of my production and publishing arm Peppergreen Media. That in itself is a way to frame disciplines within disciplines.
As for live performance, I’ve been very picky about excepting doing shows these days. For my bigger projects like Tilted Axes, there needs to be financing in advance. I’m currently working on two new sets of music for that group, one based on astronomy that’s meant to be performed partly in a planetarium (Imaginary Planets) and one that’s based on solar power and sustainable energy (Renewable Riffs). Science! Both projects have wonderful forms and structures that are found in physics that, when mapped into the realm of audible tone and rhythm, sound amazing.
I also have a practical need to create a small “performative” unit that can easily tour. There have been too many opportunities for this now for me to keep passing up. This unit would be comprised of me performing on guitar, keyboards, laptop and possibly vocals, with a live drummer and one or two other musicians. I have already written a lot of new material for this set-up, I just have to put it together this spring and begin summer previews for autumn performances.
In the meantime, everyone can look forward to the follow up to “A Sequence of Waves.” Right now the new album’s working title is “Velcro Variations,” but that might change. In the end, the finished album may reveal that it has a new title it has given itself. Sometimes it’s feels like it’s not up to me. I mean: I can only position the sail of the sailboat in the right direction. I am not the wind.
* * *
Patrick Grant Web Site: http://patrickgrant.com
Tilted Axes Album: http://tiltedaxes.com/tiltedaxes.html
PG SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/patrick-grant-9
PG Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patrickgrantnyc
Tilted Axes FB Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/tiltedaxes/
A Sequence of Waves: http://www.peppergreenmedia.com/seqwav.html
INTERVIEW – Fireworks Magazine (UK) interview with musician and producer Patrick Grant, creator of A Sequence of Waves (twelve stories and a dream) released on the Peppergreen Media label.
Patrick Grant is an American composer living and working in New York City. His works are a synthesis of classical, popular, and world musical styles that have found place in concert halls, film, theater, dance, and visual media over three continents. Over the last three decades, his music has moved from post-punk and classically bent post-minimal styles, through Balinese-inspired gamelan and microtonality, to ambient, electronic soundscapes involving many layers of acoustic and electronically amplified instruments. Throughout its evolution, his music has consistently contained a “…a driving and rather harsh energy redolent of rock, as well as a clean sense of melodicism…intricate cross-rhythms rarely let up…” Known as a producer and co-producer of live musical events, he has presented many concerts of his own and other composers, including a 2013 Guinness World Record-breaking performance of 175 electronic keyboards in NYC. He is the creator of International Strange Music Day (August 24) and the pioneer of the electric guitar procession Tilted Axes.
FM: The last time we spoke, you were talking about your Detroit origins in classical and rock music, your early avant-garde theatrical work in New York City, but mostly about your album Tilted Axes: Music for Mobile Electric Guitars. How was that?
PG: I could not have been happier with the response that album received. It was a crystallization of five years work, the end of a Phase One. If anyone is not familiar with the project, it began as a procession of electric guitars with portable amps for the winter solstice in 2011. It is part concert, part theater, and part street spectacle. Musically it encompassed everything from rock to classical to non-western, all written my me. It a way, it is a huge theme and variations. It became popular and we’ve performed versions on three continents so far. The album was a way of getting the music out to people and radio stations far beyond the scope of the live performances we did.
FM: What has Tilted Axes done since then?
PG: A couple months after the album came out, the USA was scheduled to have its presidential elections. The album was peaking in the press and we just finished performing for over a quarter of a million people in the NYC Village Halloween Parade. That’s a big thing here. Then we had the election and you-know-who won. That was highly unexpected. I was in shock for a number of weeks and it’s fair to say that a number of people are still in shock. I felt there was going to be a change in the coming year, maybe years. It was a good time to hit the brakes and re-evaluate. It seemed clear that the current models of professional music making were going to change and I wanted to stay ahead of that curve. I greatly reduced live performances so I could concentrate on recordings and took some formal training in film sound and associated disciplines. So, to answer your question: Tilted Axes has been on hiatus but will return in 2018. Currently, that’s the plan.
FM: What do you mean when you say “film sound and associated disciplines?”
PG: I needed to get current with my Pro-Tools skills. It is the industry standard for film and TV. My albums have been mostly Ableton, Reason, WAVES and other plug-ins up until now. My engineers were handling anything pro-Tools up until recently. They were better, faster, and has more experience. Then there’s dialogue recording and editing, sound design, ADR and Foley, as well as musical scoring. On top of all of that is the mixing and mastering for film and TV. It’s very different than music alone. Everything used is being used in service of a narrative, even if it’s abstract. It’s all about stories. Telling stories in sight and sound, even before language, could be argued to be the oldest art we have as human beings. Everything else is just detail and decoration.
FM: How has that affected your current work?
PG: I decided to do something concrete about it. Like a number of my avant-garde colleagues, I accepted a position at institute of higher learner. OK, I’m being funny. What I mean to say is that for two days of the academic week, at am a professor at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts Film School. NYU Tisch is pretty famous if those readers outside of the USA don’t know it. Its students include Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee, and a slew of others. It keeps me sharp and on top of the tech. I have studios and rehearsal rooms within which to experiment. The students are full of great ideas so I feel hopeful for the future of film, music, the arts. Really, I do.
FM: So that’s two days a week. What about the other five?
PG: Like I said, it’s been a time of re-evaluation. I’m pretty much the same writer, performer, and producer that I’ve always been. I’ve been consciously upping my game in the studio. I’ve been going back and forth between four projects and the first of these, a 13 track instrumental album, has been released, “A Sequence of Waves.” Its subtitle, (twelve stories and a dream), shows some influence of the film school. It’s also the title of an H. G. Wells short story collection, a connection I don’t mind at all. It feels like a pop album in duration and form. Many of the tracks have a verse, chorus, middle feel, even though I try to twist that around. The tracks themselves have a lot of variety in terms of style: prog rock, classical, blues, ambient, EDM, samba, cinematically inclined… there’s many cross-pollinated genres on it. It’s chamber prog! Supposedly no one listen to “albums” anymore, they just flick through playlists until they hear a track they like. However, there is a strong programmatic element as to the order of the tracks. It’s not just “a sequence of wave files.” [Dryly] Ha ha. That’s storytelling, plain and simple.
FM: What do you think are the standout tracks on the album?
PG: While we don’t really live in a time where there are “singles” as such any more, it could be argued that there are four singles on the album. The first would be “Seven Years at Sea.” On an album of instrumentals, it actually has vocals. It contains a 1930s field recording of three Creole sisters singing the ancient sea shanty “Sept ans sur mer.” I added piano, guitars, and other electronics to it. The end result is unintentionally Eno-esque.
The second of these four would be “Lonely Ride Coney Island.” It was originally created for a film but I recorded an album version here. I used every retro synth I have on it though it has real drums like all the other tracks. “Lonely Ride…” has turned out to be a hit in the EDM community. I wasn’t going for that but I’m happy that they picked up on it. Third would be “To Find a Form That Accommodates the Mess.” I’ve been saying that “every track has a story.” The story of this tracks actually begins with the one before it, “Prelude II”:
“Prelude II” began as an assignment from Robert Fripp. A few years ago at one of our Guitar Craft events, he pulled a number of us newer folks aside and said he had a “performance challenge” to give us. We all sat down and he pulled out The Hat.
The Hat is rumored to have once been worn by Bowie on one of his tours (Serious Moonlight?) and is now used in Guitar Craft to pull out names and numbers for random draws on slips of paper for such on-the-spot assignments. In this case Robert had written on little slips of paper words that designated quartets, trios, duos, and one solo. He pulled them out and assigned them to us at random. I was the lone soloist, a composer and performer who usually hides within layers of other guitars. That irony wasn’t lost on anybody. Robert swears to this day it wasn’t a set up. I believe him.
The challenge was that we had 24 hours to write a new piece of music and perform it in front of the larger group after dinner the following night. Being the lone soloist amongst the group, I announced the title of my piece as “Dude, Where’s My Band?” Robert laughed so hard. He himself calls it a Guitar Craft classic. That’s an honor of sorts. That’s how that piece was born. I renamed it “Prelude II” for the album, I multi-tracked it in places in the recording, but it is essentially a solo piece.
I liked its themes so much that I developed most of them further in “To Find a Form That Accommodates the Mess,” into which the original became the prelude. So, this new piece, “To Find a Form…” became this Post-Prog mini epic with a lot of orchestral textures. It also contains many elements from all the previous tracks. It’s a way of summarizing the experience of these twelve “stories.”
FM: And the fourth “single”?
PG: That would absolutely have to be “One Note Samba” by Antonio Carlos Jobim. By default it’s the “dream” on the album though, I like to say, any one of these tracks could be the dream depending on your perspective. The track began as a demo for a radio show here in NYC. I found a lot of sounds that I could render into the same pitch. It got played once on a Christmas special. I was invited to create a Tilted Axes performance in São Paulo, Brazil at the 3rd Música Estranha (Strange Music) Festival. I was able to record a number of found sounds there and incorporate them into the track with similar sounds found in NYC. I’ve always been a fan of original sounding covers whether it’s Joe Cocker doing The Beatle’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” or Devo doing The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” So these four tracks represent four different ports of entry into the album no matter what your main style of interest may be.
FM: Anything else to say about the other tracks or the album as a whole?
PG: It’s true that “every track has a story.” A quick run-down would be: “Lucid Intervals” began as a live looping piece but is now performed by orchestral instruments, the album contains a mini-suite called “Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms,” “Primary Blues” was created for the 100th anniversary of the first blues piece. There’s a few more tracks but that’s the gist of it. Like its predecessor “Tilted Axes,” this new album has somewhat of a mirrored sequence in the tracks. That is, track 1 mirrors track 13, track 2 mirrors track 12, and so on inwards with track 7 as a stand alone in the center. BTW that track is “Seven Years at Sea.” It’s no accident that it is in that position. All of this gives the work a sense of cohesion. Again: it’s storytelling.
I should speak more about the instrumentation. Those who know my work through “Tilted Axes” will hear more than the electric guitars, basses, and drums that make up that album. On “A Sequence of Waves” there is all that but there is also piano, organ, violin, viola, cello, synthesizers, percussion, and sampling. In a certain sense, it’s a more colorful album. I tried to reflect this in the album art and design.
I used the same production team as on the last album. Garry Rindfuss engineered much of the recording and was present for all the mixes. I rely on his ears a lot. Sheldon Steiger did the album mastering. He has a long list of credits working within a number of classical and popular styles. I think it’s because of this he is able to balance of the eclectic sets of tracks I give him.
FM: What are your interests outside of music?
PG: I’m interested in anything that can tell a story using non-verbal means. This includes all kinds of visual and graphic art, design, and architecture for example. A well-designed household item can speak volumes. This spills over into the realm of semiotics and this is a branch of philosophy I use a lot in our work. I’ve written a lot of music for modern dance and for experimental theater. That last one interests me a lot because it’s the only art form I can think of that contains all of my interests under one umbrella: every aspect of the visual, of music, of movement, of text, live performance, projection, and political commentary.
Another intentional aspect of the album was to suggest music that would be good for visuals. I am looking forward to creating music for film again. I have been away from it for a couple of years when Tilted Axes was at the center of my work. Now that I’m working with the NYU Film School, things are set up for that return.
FM: What’s in store for the future?
PG: I feel that I have put 2017 to good use and that I have a firmer foundation upon which to build. I’ve already spoke of a return to film scoring so there is that. There are also a number of recordings that need to be finalized for early 2018 release. One of these albums has members of the California Guitar Trio, King Crimson, and the Adrian Belew Power Trio on a number of its tracks. Also appearing will be my Tilted Axes and Guitar Craft regulars. You’ll also hear a lot more of my keyboard playing on future releases. Many people forget that keyboard were my main instrument for years. It’s time they should remember!
Tilted Axes will be making a return in a Phase Two sense. A tilt shift? I have partnered with a Canadian company that is making a new kind of portable amplification for electric guitars. It’s in prototype now and should begin production after the new year. We’ll begin working with these new amps in February.
One thing is for sure is that I have missed live performance a lot. Then again, I wouldn’t have this improved base of operation if I hadn’t put my attention toward other things for a while. Duty now for the future.
The next album’s working title is “The Velcro Variations,” because, after all, what is Velcro but hooks and loops? Yes, it’s hooks and loops.