"Harmonitronica" is a combination of harmonica and electronica, the place where two seemingly divergent interests of mine have finally started to keep company. I've played the harmonica for more than half my life, mostly in traditional American music (old-time, traditional blues, country and bluegrass). And for even longer than that, I've loved certain kinds of electronic and experimental music.
Harmonitronica fuses the organic and vocal nature of the harmonica with the layering and atmospherics of ambient music, the beats of electronica, and the unpredictability of found music, noise and chance. Harmonitronica is not computer music. It is not carefully constructed with software, but improvised live and recorded direct to two-track. Some of these pieces were edited for length, to remove boring or repetitive spots, or improvisations that didn't work, but everything you hear is exactly as it was performed.
Harmonitronica is harmonica like you have never heard it before.
Recent Harmonitronica Pieces
- So Many Morning Coffees
- I know it's hard to understand the words. That's the point.
- Fried, A Night
- The end of a long week. This simple piece began as an experiment with my recently acquired Moog ring modulator. I built a drone up by layering the same note on a low F harmonica. The ring modulator was more or less tuned to the note, and the rest of the modulation is just my attack and embrochure. Then I kicked up the modulator frequency quite a bit, and played some very gentle riffs on the same harmonica, up higher, varying the LFO amount with an expression pedal. I sampled the drone, and some of the riffs, into the Kaoss Pad, and use one of its nicer delay settings. That was then looped into the EHX, still my most frequently used looper. I like the textures of this piece, and the combination of very gentle playing on a low harp with the harsh edge of the ring mod.
- Requiem For Reason (II)
- Chatter and noise. Makes me wanna holler. My January 15 contribution to ImprovFriday, using Kent Jolly's iPad application AudioPalette.
- Nine Sticks
- In honor of this special moment: 1/11/11 11:11.
- I've spent the entire day in E minor. This last piece is based on four of the five notes in the E pentatonic minor scale. Guess what the four notes are. Hint: I left out B.
- The Use Of Violence And Intimidation In The Pursuit Of Political Aims
- An improvisation in Em, overlaid on a bass-harmonica drone. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson as I was making this recording, and its uneasy tone and threatening atmosphere exactly matched the feeling in the pit of my stomach after hearing about her shooting.
- Subjunctive Tension
- A very un-pretty piece about the anxiety of making big choices, taking one path rather than another.
- Midnight In E Minor
- This twelve-minute piece began as a brief melody phrase that I played as I was testing a new setup. I started hearing harmonies to it and trying different things and twelve minutes later I wrapped it up and uploaded it. I'm not entirely sure I like how it develops, so I'll work more on it, but I like it very much.
- Morning #3
- Post-coffee improvisation. I'm returning to my drone studies, now that I've got all this new equipment. Building a good drone is actually harder than you think (well, the bagpipe players probably know this). It's long, but you don't have to pay attention to it.
- Derangement (Blues In 1/e)
- Harmonica loops, in and out of sync, perhaps relating to the mathematical problem of derangement.
- Never Enough Time
- My first contribution to ImprovFriday, combining microphone percussion and looped harmonica.
- Why Are You So Far Away (Why Are You Not Here With Me)
- Sometimes instrumentals do have words, even if you don't realize it until afterwards.
- So. Not. OK.
- You know the feeling. Enough said. This is looped blues harp, microphone percussion, and a granular synthesizer for the iPad called Curtis.
- Green Street Breakdown #3
- One of a series of pieces composed and sequenced on a vintage analog sampler.
- Enjoying the Rain
- A mashup of "Ode to Joy" and "Joy to the World" with more rain samples.
- Monday Morning Rain #1
- An environmental piece built on recordings of the rain.
- Monday Morning Rain #2
- An environmental piece built on the same rain recordings, but with a very different harmonica part.
- Sunday Go To Meeting (You Must Unload)
- This is an old gospel song by the wonderfully quirky Blind Alfred Reed (best known for "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," which Bruce Springsteen covered on his Seeger Sessions album). I started by recording the entire harmonica part you hear at the start, then overdubbed a low harmonica part (using an octave generator), then sang the vocal and sampled the chorus, and just kept overlaying some parts and trying harmonies. Doesn't always work (a couple of false starts and one really ugly vocal moment) but I love gospel and gospel harmonies, and this song is more apropos now than when he wrote it (during last century's Great Depression).
- I Am So Proud To Be An American (That Hopey Changey Stuff)
- The sound of jackboots coming...
- People Will Not Realize the Peril
- Watching the snow late one February night.
- Correctness Is the Goal
- Mend your speech!
- Unreal #3 (Pachelbel's Changes)
- A deconstruction (or desecration) of Pachelebel's Canon in D.