What's new at Sonic Arts? While most of what we record at Sonic Arts is improvisational, microtonal alternative electronic music, we are exploring some old standards on nineteen-equal guitars. Right now we are exploring 19 ET with guitars. Our studio engineer and Sonic Arts Player Brink McGoogie has an old Novatone (interchangeable fretboard) classic guitar from Intonation Systems. He has fitted it with a Seymour Duncan pickup and put on thick gauge phosphor-bronze strings and tuned it down to A below the low E. The result is a rich deep sound without too much sustain. He also has an Ibanez electric he has recently put into 19 equal. I am playing my Alvarez dreadnaught which I had refretted in the early eighties. Also there is a 19 equal Array Mbira (see below) to add to the mix.
The synthesizers are on hold for now while we finish snaking together our two rigs, one permanent and one for load-out to gigs. Our regular set-up is in three sections. Brink's station uses two Roland percussion modules, a DX7 FDII, CAT and Oberheim Synthesizers. I am playing two DX7s and my TS10 Ensoniq which has been my main microtonal ax. In later issues we will present the scales we are using, and cross-pollinization of scales (using more than one scale at a time). We also have various MIDI merge functions which give us surprises which are incorporated in our improvs.
Another player we are going to feature from time to time is William Casey Wesley. He has developed the Array System, a business which sells Array Instruments and recordings. His Array Mbira is a spring steel prong instrument which has a beautiful sound between a steel drum and a harp. He has many new instruments, including the Nail Array, Array Rasp, Array Psaltery, Array Guitar, Array Rhythm Machine, Array Slide, and an electronic controller. Many of these instruments are in various stages of development, but the Array Mbira is the most developed and can be purchased for $1,800 to $2,600. Check out the web site, and hear the incredible beauty of the instrument and its tone. The totally user-friendly keyboard gives you three octaves of chords in a simple swipe. Try that on a piano! The Array makes the playing of music easier, creates new timbres and sequences of pitches. Set up as rows of 3/2's (perfect fifths), every five adjacent rows will give you a traditional pentatonic. Every seven, a heptatonic or diatonic scale. Scales and chords and melodies can be easily traversed. I believe that it is a superior system that will be used widely in the future. The Array Mbira is the one Wesley instrument that is available to the public. I have one or more available at the Sonic Arts Gallery. By the way, we are open at 2961 Beech Street, San Diego, just west of 30th Street, on Friday and Saturday from 12 to 5pm. Also at Sonic Arts you can hear some of the improvisational electronic microtonal music we have been recording.