We are electric beings. We rarely think of ourselves and our natural state as being such, but the human body is a complex organization and execution of chemical reactions and electrical impulses all timed for optimal operation of our muscles, organs and tissues. This is the natural way of all living things. Yet when it comes to the creation of sound, one might think the opposite; that the most natural tones arise from acoustic instruments, ones made of wood and steel that resound un-amplified.
While it’s true that it’s hard to duplicate the simplicity and honesty, if you will, of an acoustic instrument like a piano or cello, there’s something equally beautiful about an electric, amplified instrument. It’s a marvelous fusion of Earthly and synthetic materials; soul and science. A leap into the unknown where emotion, both positive and negative, is amplified to extremes. Volume, sustain, feedback. Creation of sound beyond simple natural resonance and reverberation is possible with the institution of these tools. Starting with a simple tone from a plucked string and bending that pitch upward across the stratum of textures found within the power section of a tube amplifier transforms a simple, stagnant soundwave into a complex downpour of sonic rain. An exhalation and the subsequent inward breath, releasing tension and giving life to sound.
Taking those frequencies and natural overtones and embellishing them with electric sorcery in the form of effect processors, tone circuits and pedals elevates the sound to a new dimension, giving it lift and allowing it to escape the narrow confines of sonic reality in the world we know. Molding and redefining the natural sound of an instrument through analog manipultation of electricity. When you take something like a pure tone or waveform and push it past its intended harmonic content or filter it down to a fraction of its former self you start to focus in on the subtleties that really resonate with the listener. That one particular pitch modulation or texture that imbues a musical piece or passage with a complexity that stimulates both the soul and the mind.
Another particularly powerful aspect of electric instruments is the sheer force and attention that they command by way of volume. Amplification taken to the extreme imparts its own inherent qualities to sound. So much so that it can cause intense (both pain and pleasure) and sometimes violent reactions from its subjects. We literally begin to resonate with certain frequencies and at the same time are more immediately aware of those that conflict or are out of sync with our physiology. The amplifier, speakers and even the venue itself becomes as much an instrument as the one in the hands of the musician.
We stand at the edge of a bold, electric landscape, waiting to behold the sonic architecture of the future. A brave new world with nearly infinite possibilities for creativity and limitless sonic potential.