Some New Modern Guitar Voices

Thanks to video from the Bushwick Improvised Music Series shot by the ubiquitous Don Mount, here are seven modern guitarists with whom I am unfamiliar and are perhaps new to you, as well. I would also like to hear your opinions about this kind of music. Preferably from those who like free improvisation, though if you don’t, a reasoned opinion as to why is welcome. If you do, what are your criteria for whether it is good or bad, interesting or boring? Your feelings about interaction and tone production, etc. (click below for more)

What makes a guitarist great at this? You need not critique any of these particular artists, unless doing so will illustrate your point. Please discuss in the comments and not by replying to your subscription email, so that everyone can see your opinion. If you haven’t commented before, please be patient while I approve your initial comment. Thanks.

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8 thoughts on “Some New Modern Guitar Voices

  1. I have participated once or twice in improvisation with strangers and was fascinated to see the emergence of synchronous thought and co-operation from chaotic noise, mostly by being just prepared to agree on the basic underlying timing.

    I did my best to stay with these musicians, to see where their themes might lead to but I soon had to skip forward in each performance to try to find those points of synchronicity and serendipity between them, where there was a real emergence of MUSIC. In the the end they ALL sounded as if they were not listening to each other, and doing their best to NOT listen to each other. While I respect the possible individual abilities of all the participants, this exercise, for me, was an experiment in NON-Music, and their noise eventually switched me off. To say it plain: It all sucked.

    • There was quite a bit of that to be sure, but I wouldn’t paint it all with the same brush. The Sara Schoenbeck, Mike McGinnis, Noah Phillips, Harris Eisenstadt had some elements of interesting composition and a sense of joy I often find missing in these outings. The Dayeon Seok, Luke Schwartz, Kenneth Jimenez evidenced some real listening and interesting guitar sounds. I rode to the airport with legendary free-jazz drummer Denis Charles, shortly before he died. He was complaining about the European free jazz players, “They think they have to play so loud and fast all the time.” I hear some of that here. All these players are young and in this world we are videoed, perhaps before we have matured as players. As I said, I am mostly just happy to see this avenue of music explored. Still, the occasional consonance wouldn’t kill them 😉

  2. I agree with Michael Ross and Chris Buono. It’s tough to give too much time to a lot of the noise/improv musicians nowadays. If you are going to hang a gray dumptruck over my head for half an hour, that’s cool, but I should feel the weight suspended above me, I should smell it hanging there, perhaps it is dripping dumpster juice on me. And then you have to drop that truck on me, or pull me out from underneath it. Too many musicians have a ton of effects pedals and just make sounds that either aren’t that interesting or the sound doesn’t go anywhere. Changing textures, or colors, shifting shapes, something is needed. I feel fortunate that I found Fred Frith, and Henry Kaiser, and free jazz about 40 years ago when I started playing guitar in punk bands. There are some cool, young guitar players out there like Nick Rienhardt, of Tera Melos. He seems to be a listener, and uses effects, and I don’t think about his technique or skill level at all, so that is probably good, but he puts cool stuff into songs, so I guess maybe I am drifting off of the subject here. I’m always looking for interesting guitar players, and musicians in general, but I should be accustomed to being let down. It’s the same that it always has been. Most of the sounds being made are just not that interesting. BUT, I never stop listening, seeking that next fix of cool sound. I am just less patient now. I can’t spend too many nights out, listening to mediocre musicians making noise. I think I have babbled on enough here. Thank you for sorting through a lot of sounds and players for us.

  3. Thanks for chiming in on the discussion people. No need to apologize Chris. I often feel the same. On the one hand, I am glad that more and more guitarists are pushing the sonic envelope, but like you I will often fast forward to see if anything changes, if there is an ebb and flow, or some silence, or even, god forbid, a consonant section. Also, like Ted I listen for listening. My personal taste in free improv is viewing it as instant composition with all that implies. But I understand that there are other philosophies. Also, this is supposed to be modern, ground-breaking music, but I often hear sounds, techniques and approaches that were new 40 years ago when Frith and Bailey were displaying them, but are beginning to sound as cliched as any blues lick.

  4. Man… I just don’t have it for this stuff any more. I lost that lovin’ feeling a long time ago and I can’t seem to get it back. I was doing this for a while in New Brunswick and Brooklyn. I taught free improv at National Guitar Workshop and wrote a manual for them. I even recorded a record with Chris Parrello and Tony Romano that sadly did not get released. These days if I can make it past the initial attack, the litmus test is skipping around the video timeline giving a listen to 5-10 second clips. For me if they sound the same, it’s lame. All that said, I’ve heard some quality stuff here on Guitar Moderne. I dunno. I’ll shut up now. Forget I was even here. HA!

  5. Nice! I look at improvised music as 90% listening, and 10% playing. I tend to view it as a freeform conversation, and while the conversational destination and path to get there MAY not be pre-determined (though either certainly can be), it’s still filled mainly with ideas that support one another (or intentionally DON’T support one another), which is only achieved through intense listening while playing.
    I admire technically-great players (in the classical sense) that play this music, but I don’t deem it absolutely necessary at all for good performances of it, though I suppose I could be accused of making excuses for my own legitimacy in saying that! A person with an attentive (not even necessarily musically-trained, just ATTENTIVE) ear who has never touched an instrument before can make some great improvised music.
    In short, it’s a lot of fun, doesn’t require rehearsal, it’s ego-less (or should be anyway), it’s a low barrier of entry to play with others, and it’s extremely convenient to prepare for! I’ve had the opportunity to play with some top-notch folks, and even (very often the case) when their technical skills outshined mine, they would make ME sound great. As well, I have the opportunity to do the same with others more naive than me (though naivete can certainly be something to be treasured), and it’s just as rewarding. It’s a very classless, extreme socialist form of music for those that open themselves to it, and I mean that as a compliment. There is a big history of socialist ideology in improvised music, from the Canterbury School, to Rock In Opposition, to the AACM, and onward. Listening and enhancing others ideas while contributing your own is the whole basis of it though.

    Thanks for coming to my TED talk. Lol.

  6. I like most of this stuff. I have played in groups like this (in front of audiences) myself from time to time. But for me, the ones that are more “successful” at making something that might be enjoyed as “music” are the ensembles that exhibit a higher degree of “listening” to one another. A couple of the ensembles here do that (to a greater or lesser degree) and some do not seem to be listening at all. That’s okay, it’s a “free” creative choice, and I can appreciate it either anyway. But I “enjoy” it more greatly, and it seems more “human,” when a group of players seem to be having a “conversation” – listening to, and reacting to one another, not carrying on separate, simultaneous, unrelated monologues. That’s just me. — TK

  7. I love this stuff … I only listened to the first bits of each to test the waters and so far I love this stuff. Will listen more when time is on my side.
    Obviously some AMM influence on some at first blush, but refreshing to my ear nonetheless. It sounds like a leap of imagination with little regard for complacency.

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