Identifying the Post-Guitar

post-guitar:
      guitar-centered music which actively interrogates expectations of the instrument.


post-guitar 1 builds off a framework I’ve been utilizing for a while now and is inspired from countless other works which would certainly fit into the same category. The term stems from my need to create a language to better fit the nature of the work I was doing. Ambient, experimental, abstract—all these fit on the surface, but I found them lacking in addressing how the process felt; I wasn’t merely playing and writing with lap steel, fretless and microtonal guitars; I was running them through various processes and using expanded techniques that would embellish the instrument, utilizing the many years spent learning and playing the guitar in more traditional spaces as a foundation to build something different.

This is the process of taking everything I know as a guitar player who can instinctively work with the instrument in a variety of musical spaces to move forward in a direction that interrogates the role of the instrument and the music we collectively expect it to create.

In the same way that post-rock and post-metal take their respective ensembles and point them in a direction which subverts expectations and attempts to reject the overly simulated aspect of “genre,” I found my process to also be fitting of the “post” designation—though I am by far the first to do this as it concerns the guitar. It seemed clear to me that this is music that takes place after our culture has designated a time and place for the guitar—not just in terms of its role in more popular music, but even in that of what we know as “guitar player’s” music. Guitar-centered music is far from unique, either in genres where it is more dominant (rock and metal for example) or in the works of artists often referred to as “solo guitarists,” the list of which would be entirely too long.

The world has not been without its experimental guitarists either, many of which I’ve been fortunate enough to know and communicate with, largely thanks to the Unfretted community: Neil Haverstick, Michael Atonal Vick, Elliot Sharp, Jon Catler, who I was fortunate enough to study under for a time, and many, many others who also fit the role of taking the guitar both in terms of its physical identity and its musical implementation into a “post” period. The ambient genre has also known many to push the guitar into fascinating places, Robert Rich and Steve Roach immediately come to mind. In sketching the “post-guitar” the landscape is filled with these artists and their work.

Performing post-guitar music is then anything that would involve an implementation, execution and perspective of the instrument which subverts cultural expectations; this can involve complex audio processing chains that expand the temporal and sonic spaces the guitar is normally capable of, experimental intonation and temperaments that allow the guitar to move beyond cultural standards of tonality—although, sticking to standard 12-tone frameworks might also result in uniquely post-guitar music as it takes the instrument along with its associated tuning system into new realities; the instrument can also be modified or constructed in a way that radically alters what sounds it can produce and in this way shares much in common with “prepared-guitar” music. Overall the goal is to craft new dimensions of sound and music with the guitar as the primary instrument. In some cases, the guitar might take on the appearance of synths, orchestral instruments or even the human voice—but so long as a first glance manages to either obfuscate the fact that a guitar is involved or launch the sound of the guitar in a way one is not expecting, we are in the realm of the post-guitar.

post-guitar 1 is a way for me to categorize this work organically, respecting the legacy it builds from; it also provides a basis to understand and explore future works. Different techniques and processing arrangements were used to create these five improvised pieces, each of which were a single track with minimal editing done after the recording; there is no multi-tracking here. Some of the “techniques” include the use a cello bow in conjunction with an e-bow, striking lap steel strings with drum sticks, guitar tunings and e-bow grips that allow for simultaneous drone and melody playing at once, etc. All of these explore new sonic space which have not yet been solidly outlined for and expected of the guitar; this is the first in what will be a series of on-going releases.