Spotlight: Marco Oppedisano

Brooklyn-based Marco Oppedisano’s compositions largely rely on processed and unprocessed samples of electric guitar, and the occasional sampled vocals of his wife, Kimberly Fiedelman.  These complex, highly textured works are not meant to be performed live, though Oppedisano has been known to play out with backing tracks or in improvisatory solo and duo situations. His meticulously edited work can be enjoyed on his records, celebrating the myriad, evocative tonal possibilities contained in this instrument we love.

Oppedisano has been included in a book of guitarists released in 2008: State of the Axe: Guitar Masters in Photographs and Words by Ralph Gibson, and was part of The $100 Guitar Project

What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?

I started playing guitar at the age of 12. As a child of the 80’s, I grew up listening to rock and metal.

What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?

My first experimental tendencies dealt with my fascination with electric guitar feedback. I wrote a blog about this earlier this year:

Hearing Steve Vai’s Flex-Able as a teenager also had a huge influence on me. It had the right amount of technique, quirkiness, imagination, and recording skill. Unfortunately, I didn’t have many friends at the time that felt the same way as I did. It would take many years later before I would do my own work experimenting with electric guitars and multi-tracking.

As an undergraduate, I began studying composition after two years as a classical guitar performance major. When I started studying composition seriously, I gradually became more interested in music I would have never heard otherwise. One memory is hearing Varese’s “Poeme Electronique” for the first time. I was both terrified and fascinated with the piece and would listen late at night in complete darkness just to scare myself. After repeated listens, I slowly began to understand it. It is still one of my all time favorite works of classic electronic music.

Jimi Hendrix influenced me in so many ways. “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” is a perfect balance of experimentation, studio mastery, wonderful guitar playing and great songwriting. Hendrix is still a very important guitarist to me.

I felt an affinity for Frank Zappa due to his interest in experimentation and contemporary classical music. I’m a big fan of Zappa’s music with the original Mothers of Invention, his guitar playing throughout his career and later “serious” music albums like The Yellow Shark, and Civilization Phaze III.

Other examples of influential experimental guitarists are Hans Reichel, Marc Ribot, Derek Bailey and Fred Frith. Also, discovering Robert Fripp and his Frippertronics was a real eye opener.

 Whose music inspires you? 

Favorite players in my teenage years were Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, etc. Hearing John McLaughlin in Mahavishnu Orchestra when I was 16 took my listening in a different direction; I  became more interested in guitarists like Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Morse, Mike Stern, John Scofield, and many others.

I don’t seek out as much music as I used to—especially guitar music. I will make it a point to listen to the music of people I know or who ask that I listen. Within the last few years or so, I’ve found myself listening to mostly electronic music. Some composers that have been influential and still inspiring; Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Raymond Scott, Francis Dhomont, Edgard Varese, Morton Subotnick, and many others. Although I haven’t played in a band in a while, I still enjoy listening to some metal—particularly bands like Meshuggah and Opeth, and various indie rock and Avant rock.

I was recently asked in an interview what would be my 5 Desert Island albums and this is what I came up with:

1. The American Stravinsky, The Composer, Vol. 4 – Igor Stravinsky (cond. Robert Craft)

2. The Rite of Spring: CBS Great Performances—Igor Stravinsky (cond. Pierre Boulez: Cleveland Orchestra)

3. Band of Gypsys (Live at The Fillmore East)—Jimi Hendrix and The Band of Gypsys

4. Absolutely Free—The Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa)

5. Sonatas and Interludes —John Cage

Honorable mention goes to Rothko Chapel by Morton Feldman. And my three all time favorite electric guitar tracks: “Machine Gun”—Jimi Hendrix, “Where Were You?”—Jeff Beck, “Watermelon in Easter Hay”—Frank Zappa.

How did you get better in your current style?

By composing regularly and not overly concerning myself with fitting into a style or genre. I started composing electroacoustic music with electric guitars in 1999 and since then have released four albums and works included on compilations. During this period I also wrote solo guitar pieces, mixed ensemble works, an electric guitar concerto, a guitar duo, a few guitar quartets, and acappella music. Although my recorded music is all electroacoustic and uses electric guitar, the music has progressed from album to album. I still see myself as a composer first and that influences my approach to how I use guitar.

In addition to electroacoustic music, I have also written works for solo classical guitar and solo electric guitar: Primo Volo for solo classical guitar, recorded on “First Flight” by Oren Fader (I served as producer and editor for the release); “Urban Mosaic” for solo electric guitar, composed for and performed by Kevin R. Gallagher; and a guitar quartet called “The Good News,” originally composed for the Quarteto Zyryab in Portugal who premiered it in 2004. This is a video/score of a midi realization of the piece.

What are you trying to covey with your music?

I’m just trying to organize sounds in a way that is true to who I am. For the average listener, my music is most effective with a visual accompaniment. Since I studied classical composition, I am very interested in form. I don’t try to tell stories with my music or follow some linear narrative, but I am interested—especially in my longer works—in going to various places within a composition. The abstract nature of music is appealing to me and intuition is a driving force. A recent example of my music used in combination with visuals is the short film “Dead Man Rides Subway” directed by Don Cato. Don used some of my pre-existing music for the short film and it all works very well.

Transitions interest me greatly as I tend not to stay in one place for too long. Basically, how do I get from here to there?

Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?

I have used two main electric guitars on all of my recordings: a modified American 1979 hard tail Fender Stratocaster and a ’90s Ibanez AS-120 (semi hollow). For nylon string, I have a Guild from a little over 20 years ago. For recording, I’ve been using Pro Tools almost exclusively since I started composing electroacoustic music. I have also used Cakewalk and Sony Sound Forge.

I record most of my guitar tracks direct with my Boss GT-6 and do some work in post-production with various plug-ins. I use a wide variety of plug-ins, but I would say Waves and Cycling’74 Pluggo are the ones I use the most. And most of my processing is done to various samples and simple waveforms, not guitar.

I have a great late mid-’60s Fender Vibrolux that I’ve used live and for mic recording. One can hear the Vibrolux (with my Strat) in the minimalist-type section (starts at 6:36) of my piece, “Time Lapse.”  In an earlier piece like “Frozen Tears” I experimented with slide bowing, wah-wah, alternate tunings, mallets and E-Bow.

Other pieces that use slide bowing, alternate tunings and prepared guitar (paper clips) are “Karmicom,” “Limbo,”  “Seven Pieces–VII,” and “The Dreamer.” A composition that focuses on the use of radio samples is “Imaginary Portal.” 

I have recorded only two electroacoustic compositions that feature nylon string guitar. It is something I would like to explore more of in the future. One is “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon,”  and the other is “Nocturne.”

Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?

I have done a lot of both in various contexts, but ultimately enjoy recording more. I approach much of my electroacoustic music like painter would, the idea of a fixed work that does not change. I have composed some music that allowed some room for improvisation and interpretation.

Other works that were composed for electric guitar and playback and have been performed live at one time are: “Cityscape”  and “Renewal (I-IV),”  

Here’s a video of excerpts from the piece “Renewal.”

I’ve also done some live improvisation, but do much of my improvising in the studio, creating guitar samples for my electroacoustic music.

A brief homemade video of a recent short improvisation:


How have you built up an audience for your music?

Within the last 6-7 years, I have built up most of audience through the Internet. I’ve made many friends through the Internet, some of whom I have actually met in person. I think I would have a larger audience if I performed live more. The main issue is much of my music is not meant for live performance.

With whom would you like to collaborate and why?

I would like to collaborate with someone who would inspire me to play better. I did a full length CD collaboration in 2008 with David Lee Myers (aka Arcane Device) that was done all through file sharing. It’s called Tesla at Coney Island and it turned out to be a great experience.

What is your latest project?

The combination of seriously thinking what I would like to do next musically, teaching/working and being a father of a three-year-old girl has slowed down my musical output as of late. In April 2012, I contributed a composition for a unique guitar compilation released on Spectropol Records called, “Axe.” The composition is called Fractured Sky and focuses on the use of electric guitar feedback,as does a composition called “Flash Forward.”

This past July, I was listed as a performer (guitar) on an album by electroacoustic composer Noah Creshevsky released on Tzadik called The Four Seasons.

Compositions since my last solo release, Mechanical Uprising that I am planning to include on my next release can be heard on my Soundcloud page.


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