The Chapman Stick is the instrument of the absurd, of the surreal, even the extraterrestrial. It encompassed the strangeness of King Crimson when Tony Levin performed it on “Elephant Discuss.” It encompassed the strangeness of area when Gurney performed it in David Lynch’s authentic “Dune.” In “Aimless,” by Chapman Stick specialist Vivid Brown, the instrument encompasses the strangeness of simply being alive.
Vivid Brown is Alex Nahas’ solo venture, the place he focuses on recasting the Chapman Stick from its earlier position as novelty instrument of the prog-rock period to backbone of a music and counterpart to a songwriter.
The Chapman Stick was devised within the late ’70s by Emmet Chapman, a jazz guitarist who needed to increase his two-handed tapping approach on guitar. Consider the Stick as a guitar and a bass directly, but in addition a piano, and likewise a drum. The instrument has 10 to 12 strings, every tuned in another way, and no sound gap, only a lengthy neck that may adhere to a belt loop. The fretboard is flatter than a guitar with delicate pickups, as a result of it’s largely tapped relatively than strung.
The Stick first discovered its means into Nahas’ palms 30 years in the past, at Pierce Neighborhood School in California, the place Emmet Chapman himself bequeathed a used Chapman Stick with Nahas after Chapman gave a efficiency on campus.
Nahas began bringing the instrument to band follow. He was nonetheless determining learn how to use it and combine it into songs, with not a lot to go off of, for the reason that instrument isn’t actually introduced out in modern music as a lot because it was nearer to its invention. Nahas mentioned the Stick was usually overshadowed within the mainstream as a result of rock music was so outlined by its band construction: guitar, bass, keyboard, lead singer.
“In consequence, numerous music sounds form of formulaic, and the Stick allowed me to interrupt the foundations,” Nahas mentioned.
However there’s a new technology of Chapman Stick gamers swimming upstream to maintain the eclectic instrument alive.
Dan “Chef” Zahal, a second 12 months bass scholar at Berklee, has been educating himself to play a Chapman Follow 12 strings since he was a senior in highschool. He mentioned he hasn’t been capable of finding any school on the music faculty to combine his research on the Chapman Stick into any authentic classroom surroundings, however Zahal performs the stick in his band, Trophy Husband. He mentioned a part of a cause for the rarity of Stick gamers is due to the dizzying prospects for inventing sound by digital music manufacturing.
“The entire technical facet was quite a bit greater within the 70s and the 80s with bands like King Crimson and Rush. It was all about who may play the good traces, the flashiest, the cleanest,” Zahal mentioned. “Numerous extra fashionable music is predicated on, as a result of we have now numerous shortcuts in manufacturing and studio, who can manipulate these the very best.”
In the best way that producers can make use of methods from a wide range of instrumental teams on an digital program similar to Ableton or Logic, the Chapman Stick employs dexterity and intricacy to create new sounds utilizing each rhythm and melody in tandem. Due to its multifunctionality, each musicians discovered the instrument’s capabilities maintain increasing as they research it. Zahal has been utilizing drum rudiments in his enjoying lately, treating every hand — one on the guitar aspect of the Stick and one on the bass — as a hand in a drum line. Nahas is also impressed by the percussive components of the Stick.
“Its very nature is percussive since you hammer onto it. So there’s that assault from the fingers,” Nahas mentioned. “You’ll be able to emphasize that and be actually easy and routine, or you’ll be able to transfer the notes round and, by enjoying just a little lighter, make it sound extra melodic.”
Alex Nahas has launched three albums and two EPs underneath Vivid Brown; “Aimless” is the primary single to return from his subsequent album, releasing in January. However when Nahas picked up the Stick it wasn’t instantly obvious to him how greatest to specific his artwork with it, till he began letting the Stick lead.
“As I began writing, I believed ‘Oh, what if I method this instrument because the core of the music, because the factor I write on, prefer it was a piano. And as quickly as I began doing that, it made much more sense to me, and I haven’t put it down since,” Nahas mentioned.
Nahas started forming bands round songs he wrote on the Stick, and Nahas’ enjoying took by itself life. Whereas Tony Levin performs the Stick totally on the bass aspect, so the sound can generally be twangy and fast, Nahas’ enjoying extra resembles a piano; it’s tender and earnest.
That tenderness is what makes the instrumental loops in “Aimless” so addicting. It’s a obscure, wandering, round music, that exploits either side of the Stick, to fill you up with emotion and allow you to down straightforward with cathartic lyricism. Nahas began the music as just a bit improvised lick again in early 2020, earlier than the pandemic even began.
As soon as the pandemic settled in, the music’s lyrics took on new life: “Why take intention / as a result of aimless is drifting / and drifting’s simpler / simpler brings peace / until it lies in items / and so we go / into our silence.”
He recorded the music and his upcoming album at his pal’s studio in Joshua Tree, California. Members of his first band, Eddie Avakian and Jamie Muhoberac performed drums and keyboards, respectively; and Ava Nahas, Alex’s sister, was on percussion. This intimate group and the flat, stark, huge panorama of Joshua Tree is infused into “Aimless;” heard within the readability of manufacturing and seen within the album’s cowl artwork — an iPhone image Nahas himself took on a break from recording.
“It has an actual openness to it, that I in all probability wouldn’t have gotten writing in my tiny little house and recording it there,” Nahas mentioned. “ The songs have persistence to them. And, a type of ease about them. It’s at all times been my objective to simply let the music lead me by it.”
“Aimless” is out Friday, November 11.
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