This is a piece I wrote for the book "State of the Axe", a book of portraits of odd and interesting guitarists by the world renowned photographer Ralph Gibson.

I am featured on page 154 and 155 of that book.


"the guitar"

As someone who works professionally making records for other artists,

I am inexorably compelled by the freedom of playing spontaneous improvisational music.

These performances exist very much outside of the conventional music industry paradigm;

there is no tangible artifact for sale here, nothing being composed, packaged and presented.

Pure ephemera, this music is born at the moment of performance,

vibrates the air briefly and disappears, hopefully resonating in the hearts and minds of the audience.

If you contemplate the journey of a work between the anchors of "intention" and "perception"

you will see that all music is ephemeral to some degree,

...a fleeting experience defined by the contextual intersection of the piece and the listener.

Some may argue that this intersection,

the conceptual place where the listener first encounters the piece,

is in fact the moment of creation,

and that this unique contextual conflation is the actual birth of the piece for an individual.

I have always liked the definition of art as a resonance between the work and the observer of the work.

This can also explain the power of a seemingly inert object of Art, like a sculpture, painting or photograph.

Without this resonance, it's merely a thing.

When a piece of music is spontaneously generated in a live performance,

it allows that intersection to remain in a mutable plastic form.

It takes as much from the environment as it gives back.

The performer, environment and the audience share equal roles in the event.

Why did I choose the guitar as the voice of these improvisations?

For many years I avoided the guitar, I ignored it, stored it away...

I broke with the convention of technicality as the key which unlocks expression.

I explored electronic music, keyboard instruments, pursuing anything 'modern' or 'cutting edge'...

until one day I was humbled by the realization that the noblest artists of any era had used the simplest tools available,

and so I reinvented the guitar for myself, altering it's tuning to create an instrument for which,

though I had an acquired technique, suddenly I had no habits.

I applied to it all of the lessons I had learned in my time away.

One observation struck immediately:

The guitar is a truely tactile polyphonic instrument.

It combines the intimate expressive capabilities of a wind instrument,

the harmonic immensity of the piano,

and the textural immediacy of primitive hand percussion.

The guitar has endured every fad and innovation of design and outlived every populist narrowment of technique and application.

The guitar, for me, is the embodiment of musical discovery, a multitude of definitions in simultinaity.

Chuck Zwicky
February 14 2008

*©2008 Chuck Zwicky