My dad and I have just released the first in a series of albums to benefit National Nurses United (the largest nurses’ union in the US, which fights for better working conditions for nurses themselves, and for universal healthcare, i.e. less precarious living conditions for the rest of us). Since my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer late last year, I’ve spent a bunch of time visiting my parents in upstate(ish) New York, and among other things, this has given my dad and me the chance to work with a setup that I’d sort of half-imagined for a long time, but never really got around to trying out.
Years ago I fitted his twelve-string acoustic guitar with transducers (a mixture of sizes from HiWave and Dayton Audio, for those following the transducer thread) and an electric guitar pickup, so that the signal from the pickup can be amplified and fed back into the body of the guitar, resulting in something that sounds a bit like “regular” electric guitar feedback, but quiet enough to blend in with the unamplified acoustic sound of the guitar. Since I first did that sometime around 2011, we’ve gone through quite a few combinations of guitars, transducers, pickups, and amps, and he’s learned to work well with that simple setup, including which strings & notes naturally tend to jump out more than others, and how to tame the feedback just by dampening the vibrations in various part of the guitar’s body. For these recordings, though, my Eurorack synth is in the feedback loop, which has been a new and VERY productive (one might even say exciting if one weren’t carefully avoiding terrible puns) setup for both of us.
The patches used in these tracks are all different, but at the most basic level, the guitar signal is being fed through Polaris in bandpass mode, and either:
- Pressure Points is sequencing the cutoff and amplitude, and is clocked only when the guitar signal is louder than a certain threshold, so that the resonant frequencies are changed as soon as any feedback gets too loud; or
- Maths or Tides is sweeping the filter, with the sweep rate modulated by the envelope of the guitar signal, so that the sweep is slowest when the guitar is loudest, and non-resonant frequencies will be more or less skipped over while resonant ones will be dwelled on for a while.
In both cases, the goal is of course to keep the feedback in that ever elusive Interesting range, just between Too Stable and Too Unstable.
Please listen & enjoy! All proceeds from downloads or the CDs go to NNU. Happy to discuss the process/approach/setup more if there’s interest.