That Low Droney Feeling

Stuart Dempster, Tom Heasley, Eric Glick Reiman — Echoes of Syros (Full Bleed, 2009)

What the heck is “prepared electric piano?”

The sound, as played by Eric Glick Rieman, is analogous to a prepared piano: lots of percussive clacking, the sound of a wood block or similar object sitting atop the strings.  Except a Rhodes has no strings. Hm.

However it’s done — a simple matter of programming new sounds, maybe? — Rieman uses it to interesting effect on Echoes of Syros.  He’s got that wood-block sound down, and also produces metallic, ringing tones — the tapping of a Buddhist metal bowl at the start of “Celestial,” or chattery, tuneless wood chimes on “The Chimaera,” or elsewhere, a ringing metallic clanging with fading reverb.

Echoes of Syros came out of a 72-minute improvisation at 21 Grand, which the trio thought was solid enough to be presented on CD.  They’ve excerpted about 54 minutes of the best slices.

It starts with the expansive, 34-minute title track — and this is where Tom Heasley really does his thing. Heasley plays tuba enhanced with electronics, creating ambient washes of sound, colorful clouds passing over at sunrise.  Here, he kicks things off with a drone of several minutes, setting up the loops that will be the foundation of this whole segment.  It starts off dark and a bit stormy, but by the halfway point, the background tuba drone has lightened up to a relaxing multitone.

It’s in the second half that Stuart Dempster and Rieman really make themselves known, Dempster trying a variety of instruments including didgeridoo and possibly his signature trombone.  But it’s Heasley’s sound that frames the whole piece.

The other three tracks are shorter excursions that feature the players’ individuality more.  “The Chimaera” pits Dempster on conch shell against Heasley’s tuba.  “Celestial,” as mentioned before, gives more weight to Rieman’s percussive sounds.

It’s mostly mesmerizing stuff.  “Interzone” takes a break for a noisier, more clattery interlude.  and late in “The Chimaera,” as Heasley’s tuba echoes beging building up, Dempster starts going nuts with some kind of squeaky, high-pitched toy that he’s breathing through (possibly the garden hose mentioned in the credits?)

For another look: Read Caleb Deupree‘s  review in

One thought on “That Low Droney Feeling

  1. You asked, “What the heck is “prepared electric piano?””

    The Rhodes electric piano has tines and resonators which form a tuning fork. This is amplified using pickups. This instrument itself is not programmable in any way.

    My modified electric piano has 3 distinct divisions of pickups, as well as 5 contact mics placed carefully throughout its action.

    I control this amplification structure with a mixer and effect individual channels using various stomp boxes and rack mount effects.

    I also prepare the instrument by placing objects in its action, on the tines and resonators, and on the contact miked surface of the instrument.

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