Tuesday, August 09, 2005

beta controlled by gama light

first thing (okay, not first, it's early evening by now) i find myself doing is milling in the gap waiting for my friend to return stress-free khakis. and yes, the lenny kravitz playing overhead is so perfect a soundtrack that i almost show my O-face. there is however no good soundtrack for the chocolate milkshake i slurped before going to see Victor Gama do an in-store at Other Music. tonight, he'll be playing these instruments with sympathetic players like William Parker and Guillermo Brown. these two are no strangers to instrument-builders, hooking up with Cooper Moore and his inventions every once in awhile.

okay, i can't remember where Victor Gama is from (the CIA whispers its secret location in my ear), but i presume that what Gama does won't soon be captured on Freedom Songs of Angola, although such freedom is what he implicitly dabbles in. he's the only non-electronic (read: acoustic, read: folk-based, read: non-shitty) artist on Richard James's Rephlex label. (i'm fairly certain i just saw multiple copies of these ass-sicks still in dollar bins.) Gama builds his own instruments, in the tradition of the two Harrys: Partch and Bertoia, as well as almost all field-recorded tribal musicians i have ever heard, from Lima to Libya to Liberia.

i miss the names of these stunning art-instruments of Gama's, and just partially parse his explanation of how the composition creates the object itself. i'm a bit confused, but that's to be expected when confronted with such a strange psychedelic music that evokes regions yet has no specific place (Angolan folk musician on a British techno label inside a New York record store). on this particular instrument, Gama recalls harp, zither, koto melodic figures (though it's hard to think that anyone at the store would be so intent upon a koto player under W. 4th), and none of the above. maybe if Fahey were a giant among the Ituri pygmies, but that's just what i use to machete my way through such dense, foreign music, using whatever is closest at hand. it's what the Ituris did, turning discarded umbrella tines into thumb pianos, hunting bows into musical ones, bamboo chunks into flutes; they are my first encounter of what folk music actually is (i'm not telling.) and when he moved over to this exquisite object, Gama elicited a sound somewhere between a fork-estra and a miniature gamelan made for fingers galloping like horsies.

that may capture the visual aspect of the physical playing motion, but Gama's tips brushed against the thin discs ever so discreetly, so that the carefully stacked metal wafers seemed fragile (they were in fact quite resilient). again my mind immediately races back to the earliest instance of such odd sound, being John Cage's prepared pianos: plinking, subtly elucidating, or thunderously thwacking out overtones that buzz and bristle unsmoothed. or Partch again, and as i think about Gama in the context of this morning's light, i spin Partch's side of this record, a fond favorite first heard in a Fredericksburg Public Library so many years ago. it evokes distant arid lands (the Heart of Texas is less humid and far from the swampy atmosphere of Brooklyn the Planet), even if they are made in America, or even if they are but tribes containing one sole member. it's the type of music that has borders only in its creator and its listeners.


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