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Make some joyful 'noisic'

May 27, 2008 - LLee Janssen

This one's difficult ... not because I don't have a lot of passion for the topic; rather, I don't know where to begin. Do I talk about the "wall of sound" and the effect of hearing voices when 100 musicians divided into three sections wail out on electric guitars?

Maybe I should start with a motivating factor for those who took time from performing professionally to volunteer here, traveling from places like Chicago and Paris, to influence the next generation in training at the Uptown Music Collective.

Or should I share a message for parents, as spoken by a North Carolina musician and houseguest in the aftermath of the beautiful noise assault while sitting on the back porch sipping coffee on a blissful Saturday morning?

But the big question Friday night: Was Williamsport ready for Rhys Chatham and an avant-garde cast of luminaries and students to perform his 100 guitar symphony on stage here? The Community Arts Center auditorium was packed, the collective kids played their hearts out, and, yes, it was loud. But beautiful in a twisted kind of way.

For this band parent, it was reason to smile. Dana has been influenced by artists such as Rhys, Joshua Abrams (the sole bass player on stage) and Jonathan Kane (the sole drummer Friday night and co-founder of Swans ... the other Swans co-founder was Michael Gira, on whose Young God Records label Akron-Family released its four CDs to date.) And here he was, back in Williamsport playing alongside of them on the CAC stage. Making what I have long called "noisic" ... a mix between noise and music. And while my mother says that kind of music isn't her cup of tea, somehow it always makes me smile. Somehow, it always feels joyful.

Or maybe it's just that the intensity and frequency of the noise waves are just jarring loose the stresses built up inside my brain ... it certainly felt as though my brain were reverberating against the inside of my skull for hours after the show Friday night.

Post-show, a dozen or so of the professional guitarists and friends ended up at Franco's. It was interesting to hear their takes on the show, the questions they had on whether the audience was picking up on certain elements, and moreover whether the Collective kids were really getting it. They really wanted to make an impact on them, some of whom may not get it for years to come but others who seemed to really be getting into the music by the end of the show.

Friday was a most incredible night in Williamsport. Saturday was blissful and relaxing, even with a houseful of guests, all of whom I would like to adopt as more of my own. Phil Cook from North Carolina and the band Megafaun rises early, something he says he gets from his mother, even when they are on the road. I also am an early riser, and we had coffee out back while the rest of the house snoozed. During the course of conversation, he said he is so grateful that his mother encouraged him to follow his creative path, rather than to go a more traditional route and be unhappy at some desk job.

That's what's important to so many of those kids who appeared on stage with the pros Friday night, support and encouragement to follow dreams, even when those dreams may mean years of being the proverbial starving artist. In the end, it's worth it, he said.

And that's something every parent should hear.


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A symphony of 100 guitars.


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