It’s often said that by limiting your possibilities to only those that exist inside the box, as opposed to thinking outside the box, you are actually required to use much more creativity. This may seem counterintuitive; since the days of grade school we have been taught that thinking outside the box is the key to unlocking our true potential. Now before we continue any further, let me first just say that I am by no means devaluing out-of-the-box cognition. It is a wonderful and incredibly useful method, useful in just about any scenario life throws at you. That being said, sometimes we overlook the significance of what’s already inside the box in favor of flashier, more appealing solutions.
Alright alright, enough with the box metaphor already! Isn’t this a blog for music? I hear you, let’s move on. The purpose of that whole long-winded introduction was to bring us to today’s main event: Michael Manring, a perfect example of a musician who uses the confines of the box to his advantage – the “box” in this situation being the bass guitar. As L. Pierce Carson from the Napa Valley Register puts it, “Michael Manring can do more with a bass than even the most creative individual could imagine.” See? The box metaphor worked out after all.
The best part about music blogging is, as you might have guessed, listening to the music. Of course it is, why else would anyone start a music blog? Even so, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of searching for new music, going through album after album. When consuming music at such a rapid pace, it can be hard for things to have a truly lasting effect. That being said, I live for the times when I connect with an album on a much deeper level – when everything else fades away into the background as the music surrounds me and brings about intense personal revelation. It is for these beautiful moments that I invest so much time and effort into searching for new music, connecting with new artists, and helping to expose new audiences to their amazing potential. Thus, I take it as my solemn duty to extend to you an amazing opportunity.
It is one that I, myself, took advantage of just yesterday. It is the opportunity to let go of the world for just forty minutes or so, and be transported into the realm of Ben Lukas Boysen. He has been making music under the name Hecq for many years now, specializing in sound design and electronic composition. He has done a lot of work in the past writing music for commercials, with clients such as BMW, Greenpeace, Lacoste, and MTV. On his website, he states that his main idea behind each new project is “moving away from music and sound as a product and perceive every project as a customizable and individual challenge.” He strives to find a way of make each project unique and to achieve the strongest emotional impact in everything that he does. Anyone who is familiar with his work as Hecq can confirm that he follows up on these words with incredible music.
Originally from France, he came to the United States to attend the Berklee College of Music on scholarship, where he majored in Music Synthesis and studied piano performance. He graduated from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz after having performed on a full scholarship in an ensemble handpicked by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard. I could keep going through Romain Collin‘s impressive list of achievements, but it’s probably better to just let his music speak for itself. After his promising 2008 debut, The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn, Collin is back with The Calling, a deeply personal album and perhaps his most creative effort yet.
Collin enlisted the musical talents of Luques Curtis on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums to round off the piano trio. It is obvious right from the start that the trio has tremendous chemistry. The musical interplay between instruments is absolutely phenomenal, with each part seeming to have a mind of its own. Rather than this resulting in chaos, however, it results in the masterful collaboration between three individuals who are completely in tune with the music they are creating.
I’m sure that many of you have heard of the likes of Andy McKee, who became something of a YouTube sensation after posting a video of him performing his original song “Drifting.” He utilized a number of techniques, previously unknown to most of the world, that work to use the guitar to its full potential as a multi-purpose instrument. Popularized by guitarists such as Preston Reed and Michael Hedges, such a technique, often referred to as “percussive fingerstyle,” uses both hands to draw out percussive sounds from the instrument through sharp hits on the strings and the body of the guitar itself. Songs written in this style often use alternate tunings, giving the musician virtually limitless possibilities for note placement, along with the use of harmonic overtones to create higher pitches.
Similar to Andy McKee in style is the lesser-known but equally-talented Jon Gomm. Originally hailing from Lancashire, England, he has released two full studio albums to date and has been touring since 2004. Although it is definitely easy to see the influences from McKee and other virtuoso guitarists, Gomm sets himself apart from his contemporaries with his incredibly diverse and unique blend of musical styles. Described as a “one man melting pot,” he exhibits a mastery of a wide range of styles on Don’t Panic, his latest studio album. Folk, jazz, rock, blues, country, and even metal – they’re all represented on the album. And did I mention that the second verse on the opening track, “Waterfall,” is sung entirely in Urdu?
For several weeks now, I have struggled with indecision over the matter of my first post on this blog. After all, first impressions are undoubtedly of paramount importance in this world of high-speed media. So it was with great deliberation that I finally decided on Tribute, the live album recorded and released by Greek musical sensation Yanni back in 1997. Although he was frequently labeled as “New Age” (much to his chagrin) back in the day, he is now seen as the visionary and boundary-breaking contemporary instrumentalist and composer that he is.
I selected this album by Yanni for a couple of reasons. It came to my mind as a result of childhood memories; one of the first musical experiences in my life that I can remember is watching the VHS recording of this concert with my father. Back then, I had yet to receive any musical training, and the extent of my musical knowledge was meager at best (think *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys). Nonetheless, I was enraptured by it almost immediately. Tribute is the amalgamation of two separate concerts – one performed at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, and the other at the Taj Mahal in India. Even today, the sheer amount of effort required to put on a full-scale concert in front of either of these iconic landmarks is enough to deter just about everyone. Everyone but Yanni, that is. And he certainly put on a show that lived up to its high expectations while strongly defied all its opposing skepticism.