Archive for January, 2011

A conversation in song with Phil Jeck.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Phil performs a Never Records retrospective at the Blue Coat.


In November, I began a musical collaboration with Phil Jeck which I hope will continue in perpetuity as long as we are friends. I sent him an instrumental guitar piece that I had cut to vinyl. The song was a wistful guitar minuet, a hopeful ditty based on two guitar parts locked in a tight counterpoint.

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A month went by, and then a small package from Liverpool arrived in the mailbox at the top of the cement stairs that my uncle Alfred built. Inside the package was a CD containing Phil’s musical reply. Phil had taken the vinyl I sent him, and processed it through a pair of trusty 1960s stand alone turntables drenched with reverb, flangers, and envelope filters. His version of my song was unrecognizable as my original composition. It even seemed transposed to a different key and mode.

He had taken my pensive song and transmuted it into something infinitely more subtle, more substantive. It took me several listens to adjust my auditory focus and then I realized the vastness of the landscape he had created from just one note from the music I had given him.

The band I was in, called The New You, was once given a critique in which our songs were described as being “so fragile they threatened to collapse under their own weight.” We saw this as a positive review. That state, when gossamer ideas align in perfect symmetry no more concrete than feathers or eardrums, is the most difficult to achieve. Phil seemed able to distill and recast my music with ease.

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I listened to the piece for weeks. It seemed like anything I could do to it would upset its quietude. I was intimidated by Phil’s maturity to allow something so minimal to last for so long without embellishment or flourishes or modulation. And then I surrendered and stopped trying to come up with a retort.

I cut a copy of his song onto a black 12’ vinyl record, blasted the record on a plastic turntable in the front room of my apartment, and sang and played along. These are the notes that came out.

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The new record is on its way to liverpool.