wait a moment

OPTION: Wyche & Sheehan

by Emily Kerski

Guitarist Daniel Wyche opened this evening of improvisatory music with a set showcasing the extended techniques he has recently been developing. What a marvelous array of colors were achieved from the combination of metal, strings, and wood – he moved around the electric guitar with tuning forks, string bow, and a wooden hammer, each producing new reverberations. These elements were connected by a complicated interface of pedals and cables as well as an innocent-looking wooden box with metal edges that produced fantastically resonant sounds when the vibrating tuning forks were brought near to it. While the technical detail of the creation of these sounds was somewhat unknown to me, I can attest to the magnificent spectrum of sound that emerged from this collection.

Some grittier sounds resulted from the vibration of tuning forks on one another, interrupting the peaceful harmony from guitar chords throughout. The guitar served as the base for the many spectacular effects surrounding it and seemed to swirl the same few chords many times, although the feeling was constantly changing as new effects were introduced. The harmonics added by the bow on the guitar string and resonances of the tuning forks almost sounded like a single violin playing an endless ascending harmonic series.

Wyche’s set began without introduction and sounded at first like the artist was warming up to something more definitive. It soon became apparent that this meandering start was part of the broader flow of an exploration of sound that never departed from the meditative soundscape established from the beginning.

A unique visual element from the performance: there was a marvelous delayed effect between when the tuning fork was hit or the hammer touched the guitar neck and the subsequent sound effects that resulted, so that one saw the artist pick up the next tool but had to wait a few seconds to hear what sound would actually emerge. And the sounds morphed from there – leading into a new texture while also blending into what had come before.

The audience was then escorted from this meditative place into – as forewarned – something entirely different as Wyche was joined by electroacoustic artist Kelley Sheehan for a duo improvisatory set. This was startlingly loud from the outset and was characterized by arcs of pulsating sound, often led by the guitar and echoed/developed by electronic sound coming in and out. These arcs began to move with more urgency and became more violently punctuated by guitar statements. The mingled sound built up relentlessly as the guitar effects became more frenetic, almost acrobatic, while the electronics contributed an enigmatic synergy of feedback and reverberation. Suddenly, in the height of the chaos, the musicians shared a sly smile and a few seconds later, the pulsations faded and the set concluded.

Is it too poetic to say that the starkly contrasting sets fit the night itself perfectly? I couldn’t help but think that Wyche’s opening slow harmonies and ponderous, searching mood matched precisely the amber glow cast around the room by the low lights and setting sun peering through the solitary window of Studio A. And as the light outside faded into darkness, so too did the music of the second set descend into something more urgent, fierce, probing, perhaps aggressive.

Afterward, as I’m perusing the musicians’ impressive collection of electronics and equipment, a member of the audience tells them, simply: “I liked your sounds.” It strikes me as such a genuine, open-minded comment that captures the attitude of the entire room that evening – one of eagerness, openness, and curiosity to hear these talented artists’ sound experiments.

The OPTION salon series runs every Monday night through the end of October at Experimental Sound Studio.

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