Composer and guitarist Richard Carrick's Stone Guitars is a collection of pieces comprised of independently improvised electric guitar tracks layered in the studio, marrying the beauty of the ephemeral gesture with a finely considered compositional sense of structure.
Composer Richard Carrick is best known for his concert works, described by Allan Kozinn of the New York Times as "charming, with exoticism and sheer infectiousness." While Carrick typically collaborates with other musicians, notably with the New York Philharmonic and his own ensemble Either/Or, Stone Guitars was created in isolation. Returning to the instrument of his teenage years, Stone Guitars was recorded during late nights spent exploring the introspective world of de-tuned, effects heavy electric guitars. Each guitar layer was recorded sequentially without monitoring the previous layers. Using memory, visual cues (visual click track, tracking graphics of the previous recordings), and compositional structures, each line spontaneously evolved with an independent flow. Carrick later layered the spontaneous tracks above each other, marrying the beauty of the ephemeral gesture with a finely considered compositional sense of structure. Composition, performance, and improvisation were completely intertwined with a range of recording and editing techniques to produce this diverse set of pieces. The title, Stone Guitars, refers both to the indestructible mass of sound of the electric guitar and to the venue of the title trackʼs premiere - John Zorn's East Village venue, The Stone. The music on this recording is by turns nostalgic, raw, direct, meditative, bold, evocative, distorted, and micro-tonally dense. Carrick is not unfamiliar to this type of recording process -- he used a similar approach for his solo piano CD Containment(self released) and adapted it to notated music in The Veins of Marble for chamber orchestra, Dark Flow - Double Quartet for two independently performing quartets, and Prisonerʼs Cinema for chamber orchestra with video projection.
Carrick is a composer, conductor, pianist, and co-founder/artistic director of the new music ensemble Either/Or. His compositions are informed by Csíkszentmihályiʼs flow concept, implications of infinity, the visceral experience of sound, and his personal heritage with roots in France, North Africa and the United Kingdom. His Flow Cycle for Strings on New World Records, described by The Wire UK as "quietly virtuosic and addictive," re-interprets Csíkszentmihályiʼs intricate flow- charts and principles into newly designed compositional approaches. His music has been commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Biennial Festival, the Fromm Foundation, and presented at the ISCM World Music Days and Vienna's Konzerthaus. He has taught composition at Columbia and New York Universities and currently mentors New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers internationally. His article, "The Music of Flow" was published in The New York Times. His music is available on six commercial CDʼs and his scores are available through Project Schott New York.
This is my first encounter with the music of Richard Carrick. He is not primarily a guitarist, electric or classical, but a composer, conductor, and pianist specializing in new music. He co-founded and directs the ensemble Either/Or and has taught composition at Columbia and New York University. He quotes blurbs from the New York Times describing his music as “charming, with exoticism and sheer infectiousness” and “hallucinatory”.
That’s an odd combination, and wasn’t intended for this particular set of pieces, though “hallucinatory” certainly fits. Carrick follows “Csikszentmihalyi’s flow concept”—a Hungarian psychologist who studied the sort of intense concentration that comes from a single-minded attention to an activity. This is new to me, but it seems like the sort of experience musicians find in intense practice or a particularly fine performance—a state that, according to a retired psychologist I used to teach, is actually a self-induced trance.
Carrick is certainly inventive in his use of electric guitars. I’ve always though the possibilities of expression were vastly underused by most electric players. You have to conceive of it as a totally different instrument from the classical guitar, capable of things impossible on the classical instrument—sustained sounds, even a single note crescendo by the use of amplification. Carrick creates a sound world in these mostly brief pieces. He performs in a mixture of composition and improvisation—I’d be interested to see the scores, if there are scores. There are 11 pieces, with titles like ‘Intimate Spaces’, ‘Molten’, and ‘Undersea’.
There is a minimalist influence, certainly, and a resemblance to ambient music—but it’s more interesting than ambient sounds, stuff I’ve always dismissed as music not to be listened to. This rises above that, though each piece is in stasis, each with a different set of sounds, gradually shifting almost imperceptably. There is no rock or pop influence here, and it may change your perception of electric guitar. © Kenneth Keaton, 2014 American Record Guide