inksound chris nelson          music   

My music is made up of sounds that are simple, quiet and beautiful, repeated many times over and surrounded by one or many drones. I have always found drones to be incredibly beautiful, enticing and comforting; and because so many tones exist within a drone, any sound can be folded into them harmoniously, so they are amazingly forgiving. They also seem to be freer of personal expression than other elements of music; they feel more like natural occurrences.  The repetition in my music allows the beauty of sound to be thrown into stark relief; slight differences in phrasing, timbre and dynamics become highly accentuated. In addition, I often incorporate ‘found sounds’ and field recordings into my pieces. I almost always capture the real time ambient sounds that are occurring outside my studio as I record. This provides ‘beautiful accidents’ as automobile drones, birdcalls and snippets of conversation from neighbors interact with the sounds that I am creating in the studio. I rarely use structures or forms in my music; I approach music making as I approach hiking and sitting meditation – I set out and am open to what I will find. The spirit is one of letting go and acceptance.  

More and more I have been working with what I call 'musical mobiles'.  These are acoustic environments where I can play multiple tracks simultaneously and randomly to create new and unanticipated combinations of sound and music. I find it to be an incredibly interesting way to listen to music.  In the future I plan to create a musical mobile centered around the sounds mentioned in the Zen monk Ryokan's poetry.

I work predominantly with electric guitar to create music and have developed ways to play my instrument that don’t require ‘muscle’.  Sounds are coaxed from the instrument, not wrestled from it. My goal is to play the guitar so it sounds like wind or water is playing, not me. The closer I get to that feeling, the more interesting the results. The main playing techniques I use are:

Knocking guitar – the strings are set in motion by ‘knocking’ on the body and neck of the guitar, small vibrations from the wood are transferred to the strings.
Aeolian guitar - the strings are set in motion by moving air. This creates incredibly complex drones with high overtone content.

Through these two playing techniques and the use of alternate tunings I’m able to create beautiful, complicated and rhythmic drones with melodic accompaniment provided by my fretting hand.  Especially with Aeolian guitar, the drone produced is incredibly complex and your ear adds it’s own complexity. If you listen intently, you will begin to hear ghost melodies that I’m sure are not present in the drone itself, they come from your mind, from your experiences with music and speech. Both of these guitar playing techniques require the amplifier to be turned up extremely loud for the string vibrations to be heard, so they require a very light touch.

The tools of my trade:  1965 Ampeg Gemini I amplifier and Telecaster