Up the Downstair

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"A Weekly Series of Performances For Large Guitar Ensemble"

March 10th, 2006

TTA1 "A Weekly Series of Performances For Large Guitar Ensemble"

Tuning the Air is a group in Seattle that features acoustic guitar music. It’s more of a project, really, as TTA goes beyond the usual performance aesthetic. An article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer clues us in:

Called Tuning The Air, a group of nine or 10 acoustic guitarists performs in the round for an audience seated on plush pillows on the floor of Seattle Circle Performance Space in the north annex of the Trinity Methodist Church (6512 23rd Ave. NW). The evening begins with interpretive dancers in crimson, followed by a solemn entrance by the guitarists, all dressed in black pants and cream-colored shirts, each seated on a stool surrounding the audience, which is served tea to begin.

TTA2 "A Weekly Series of Performances For Large Guitar Ensemble"

Like wind chimes in perfect tune, or hand bells played in a church choir, the guitarists start with cascading individual notes that build into a guitar orchestra, ranging from original compositions to interpretations of classics. Monday night’s first performance even featured a reworked, soaring version of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

Tuning the Air is a project of the Seattle Guitar Circle. Rather than touring to find its audience, the Seattle Guitar Circle “is bringing the concept of the location-based performance team to Seattle,” according to the group’s Web site.

In addition to the interpretive dancers, shows can also feature a little something extra such as this silhouetted dancer.

TTA3 "A Weekly Series of Performances For Large Guitar Ensemble"
(All photos by Frank Sheldon.)

The article continues:

Music director and co-producer Curt Golden describes the process as pure collaboration, everything from the writing, composition and performance.

“A lot of what we do is structurally improvised,” said Golden, who first started playing guitar at 11 and is a teacher of the method known as Guitar Craft, presented by legendary progressive guitarist Robert Fripp. “From that, all sorts of ideas come. The music we do doesn’t fit into any one category, but you will recognize the flavor of all of them.”

There are classical flavors, rock flavors, blues, jazz, even shades of new age.

“It’s a little bit like chamber music because it’s a bunch of acoustic instruments, but we’re guitarists, so there is a lot of rock n’ roll in it,” Golden said.

The array of guitars are not tuned traditionally, they are tuned in a cello-type tuning as part of the Guitar Craft. And the performers all differ in levels of ability and technique, creating an unusual ensemble with a multi-layered circle of sound.

“Part of the culture for this is the notion that even a modest player has something to contribute,” Golden said. “So we have people of all levels here.”

To get a hint of what the group is all about, check out their webpage which includes photos and songs for download.

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