Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio | Kings | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Musicians perform Guitar Trio at Hopscotch 2011

file photo by abby nardo

Musicians perform Guitar Trio at Hopscotch 2011

Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio 

When: Thu., April 13, 8 p.m. 2017
Price: $12-$15

Over the past few months, Kings and Neptunes have quietly been the hub of a grand tour of experimental music with performances cover the spectrum of éminence grises (Hans Joachim Rodelius and Arnold Dreyblatt) to canny veterans (Six Organs of Admittance and Tatsuya Nakatani) to recent upstarts (Horse Lords). It's been a grand statement of intent, signaling the continued vitality of experimentalism across all genres. This latest installment featuring Rhys Chatham and a host of local guitarists might be the most exciting of the set.

As a composer, guitarist, and an improviser, Chatham sits right at the epicenter of the musical melting pot that was New York City in the late 1970s, forging a sound that melded the propulsive force of punk with the artsy tendencies of the nascent no-wave scene and the expanded forms of downtown minimalism. He was one of the first to realize that when you turned up a guitar really loud, you got all kinds of crazy, shimmering overtones. And when you put a bunch of guitarists in a room together, you could weave massive overtone tapestries. Alongside frenemy Glenn Branca, Chatham helped devise a new vocabulary for the guitar.

Nowhere is that vocabulary better displayed than in his classic 1977 piece Guitar Trio, which he performs in Raleigh with help from Birds of Avalon's Paul Siler and Cheetie Kumar, Ahleuchatistas' Shane Parish, and a few others. The concept is simple, with the guitarists strumming open strings at specific points on the neck to pull out overtone melodies over propulsive drumming. Over time, the players gradually play more strings, making the texture more and more complex. On its original 1982 recording, Guitar Trio is a barely contained explosion, eight minutes of nervy, energetic, clean-toned guitars that sound perfectly at home alongside early Sonic Youth and Swans.

But no recording can really capture the effect of all those sound waves colliding into one another, so the only way to properly experience the work is live. These days, Chatham has expanded the piece into a forty-minute opus for at least six guitars, spreading its energy into cascading waves and basking in the resultant conflagration. Even though Chatham has gone on to write more complicated music for guitar orchestras involving hundreds of players, Guitar Trio remains one of his most direct and satisfying works. Shane Parish opens with a solo set. —Dan Ruccia

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