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Nick Didkovsky - Tube Mouth Bow String

Nick Didkovsky - Tube Mouth Bow StringGuitarist Nick Didkovsky contributed for years with his avant-jazzrock band Doctor Nerve, but he distinguishes himself as a new music composer as well, with his own project, and with other collaborations. Some time ago, when he was on tour with the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet he got the idea of exploring a multiple use of talk boxes for a complete band. The talk box was used as a guitar gimmick, and it works in direct contact with the mouth as a resonance chamber for the final sound effect which comes via a tube that is connected with the effects pedal for the instruments that are being played. It is called talkbox, because, when someone speaks it seems as if the instrument is speaking. Nick Didkovsky however prefered to use it especially as a direct (=real-time) mouth-activated audio-filter generator of sound. While at first thinking of a guitar based group, when talking to Ron Lawrence of Sirius String Quartet, they agreed it would sound more interesting to use this device in combination with a string quartet. It took a while to compose a piece for it, because he needed to write compatible software to model the system well. The model composed for it, allows it to control different variations at once, which the musicians have to measure and bring in tune. The composition notates firstly, which vowels or vocal behaviour on which moments they have to mouth (in the Banshee Talkbox), which notes they have to play on their instruments, and which position the (Whammy) foot pedal has to be changed with it (glissing between harmony settings an octave below and an octave above). There are different variations of also more improvised interaction starting from this idea of possibilities, of which the main piece is written down completely in detail.

“She closes her sister with heavy bones” was written for electric guitar with string quartet. This sound more like an improvisation on laid down electric guitar, combined with string quartet arrangements, and seems to have dealt with some control over resonance interactions, that seems to have been written down into the string composition. The guitar then adds strange sounds, and improvises with them on “machinecore”, a piece which I think is directly played on solo guitar and with the help of some computer. It is the most difficult piece, and is avant garde at first. The third and main piece is like a play with overtones and resonating sounds. These sounds are slightly reminiscent of Nurse With wound’s piece “Soliloquy for Lilith”, although the last (master)piece has a more directly and a multilayered organic logic in its own evolving waves. This new piece by Nick Didkovsky seems like it was accidentally or simultaneously attracted to the same area because it deals with harmonizing waves that come through into the live playing of the music, building up the composition as like in stringed DNA-energy so that it reaches the same tube with new and resonating sounds, which remain there as long as the elements keep on playing what they do, keeping certain resonances that remain in the air. The result has indeed something unearthly and it is also interesting that it is composed with different devices compared to the NWW piece, while keeping certain balances in the total of harmonies. The next piece, for string quartet and computer, “What Sheep Herd”, sounds like balancing from one to the next comparable variations of a stringed harmony set. This brings me more the kind of overtone pieces from Moondog in mind (which were published on his “Elpmass” album from 1991). The last piece, “Just a voice that bothered him” are like remains of some ideas, that after the synthesis pieces, show well from which elements some ideas were firstly build up. While they could have been fragmentary ideas that on its own didn’t lead to any bigger concept yet, after the main pieces, they more sound like quiet, peaceful moment of where the elements in some of the bigger concepts exist, calmly lay down to peace. - Psyche Van Het Folk

A great album by Nick Didkovsky, who confirms year after year that he deserves to be ranked among the finest contemporary American composers besides being the "angular bad man" of modern guitar. "Tube Mouth Bow String" features him together with the Sirius String Quartet (well known to Doctor Nerve fans for their participation in "Ereia") and Barbara Benary, financing our needs of complex if intelligible music with four jewels. "She closes her sister with heavy bones" is a gracious elegy for strings and clean-tone guitar, somehow reminiscent of Fred Frith's work but with a slightly diverse harmonic tissue that renders the piece absolutely magnetic. This flows into "Machine core", where Didkovsky's six-stringed emissions are modified by a computer that beats them to a pulp of looped and mangled distorted utterances. The title track is the highest emotional point of the whole CD, being scored for string quartet, talk boxes and harmonizer pedals: it's an awe-inspiring tapestry of anguishing glissandos and vocally modified slow progressions, sort of a kinder version of Tony Conrad meeting a horde of Tuva singers that try to perform while listening to Roland Kayn, Christoph Heemann and Gloria Coates in their walkmans. A stunningly beautiful piece, one of the best that I've heard in years. The same radiance is to be found in "What sheep herd" for string quartet and computer, which in its 21 minutes introduces a good degree of freedom in its loop-based simultaneousness; to these ears, its sounds like a meeting of Carl Stone (circa "Mom's") and La Monte Young on a huge seesaw, soundtracked by genetically modified string players executing a raga in front of a placid sea during a moon eclipse; but, as always with Didkovsky, some of the lines, especially in the low register, alter the general stability in surreptitious manners. This and the previous piece are alone worth the effort of grabbing a copy of this disc, which is closed by "Just a voice that bothered him", originally written for the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet and, in this version for string quartet, sounding like the final moments of an angelic creature's life, frail harmonics and gasping notes as the last weak exhalations of a fading energy. - Touching Extremes

Do you remember the talkbox? It was an effect from the Sixties that distorted the sound of a guitar like a wah-wah pedal or a robotic voice (the result was similar to a vocoder). It was heavily used by Peter Frampton, David Gilmour, Joe Walsh and several other rockstars. It worked by channeling sounds to an amplifier, then to a pipe connected with the musician's mouth who, with his lips, throat and larynx modulated them. These sounds were then captured by a microphone and redirected to the amplifier again. It was a device to stun an easily surprised and not technologically savvy audience, which has now been recovered and decontextualized from rock music to be used for a string quartet, together with other electronic manipulations and computer-aided techniques. The final effect is pure drone music, really intense in its thousands of hues and harmonically rich. - Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural

Subtitled "music for electric guitar, string quartet, computer, and live electronics", Nick Didkovsky's latest opus is a magnum affair. Inside the CD booklet, he advices to "listen to this record carefully, reasonably loud, and in one sitting. Open your windows so your neighbours can hear it, too." In just under 50 minutes, this former Doctor Nerve guitarist takes the listener for a wild ride of complete compositional gratification. From compositions involving his beloved guitar, to full blown string quartet pieces accompanied by a computer, Didkovsky runs a wide gamut. This is music of the unspoken; the unheard. Only one piece doesn't feature the Sirius String Quartet and that one turns out to be a real scorcher. Created specifically for solo electric guitar and computer, "Machinecore" is an improvised piece that features a slew of thick, glissando guitars that spew a sea of magma at your eardrums. By the end of the piece, these swirling waves start to sound like a howling wind in sub-freezing temperatures. The twelve minute long title piece features an array of talkboxes, harmonizer pedals and string quartet waves that gel as one. Oddly enough, the music sounds rather serene but with a dangerous undercurrent running through it. It's as if the composer was building a sinister layer of dark ambience underneath his compositions. The most pleasing piece to my ears is the elongated stillness of "What Sheep Herd". As the string quartet revels in marvellous serenity of viola and cello counterpoint, Didkovsky directs their movements via his computer. A marvellous piece of work from a man we've heard from all too rarely. - - Tom Sekowski, Gaz-eta

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