The first time Lou Reed was handed a Moog guitar, shortly after its development in 2008, he understood immediately how important an innovation it was. “There’s nothing else you can do this on,” he said, dabbing at the fretboard. “This opens the door.”
A decade later, the stringed instrument designed by a synthesizer company is still in the early stages of its impact on new music. Designer Paul Vo’s genius was to feed energy into the guitar strings allowing for never-ending sustained notes, on all six strings at once if that is the player’s wish.
Bill Thompson’s Mouthful of Silence, for Moog guitar, live electronics and found objects, is a fine example of the kind of long-form composition the technology makes possible.
The double CD edition features two solo, one-take performances of the same piece. They’re less alike than you’d expect. Clocking in at 41:07 and 38:26 respectively, “Stillness” and “Solitude” are two separate interpretations of the same composition. (They’re also fun to play at the same time.)
The digital download also features a third performance. “Shifting Currents Installation” was recorded in 2009 as part of an art installation. It has been remastered for this release.
Thompson is a Texan by birth. He moved to the U.K. in 2004 to earn a doctorate in composition. His trophy shelf includes the PRS for New Music ATOM award, the GAVAA visual arts award and the 2010 Aberdeen Visual Arts Award.
I’m interested in exploring how technology can be used, or even misused in order to discover new aesthetic experiences,” writes Thompson in his artist statement. “In my view, much of technology has become over-determined (i.e. what you are able do with it is unduly limited by its design, which is often driven not by what is most interesting, but rather by what is best selling). Because of this, the opportunity to be creative in any real sense is often closed off – or to put it another way, you can be creative as long as you’re satisfied with choosing from a few predetermined options. For me, this is too much like eating readymade meals.
“The point of all of this, of course, is the re-discovery of experience and the claiming back of a creative relationship with our world. By looking at technology, and the world around us, as a place to be actively explored rather than as a place to simply be taken as given and consumed, our lives (I hope and think) are made richer and much more interesting.”