Gust Burns performing solo at Gallery1412

June 7th 2008
Gust Burns
Gallery1412 Seattle WA

I’ve seen Gust Burns in a number of ensembles over the last few years but last night was the first time I’ve seen him play solo.  He was again playing his constructed ‘inside piano’ that I first saw him use at few weeks back in trio with Jeffery Allport and Nate Wooley. At that show he was not amplified but tonight he was running through the Galleries PA.  He had two contact mics on the soundboard and an overhead mic all fed into a little mixer. I was definitely excited to hear this development as I have myself worked a lot with contact mics over the last few years and particularly like their use on acoustic instruments. My interest in using them is to reveal the little sounds I could make with my prepared harp and I assumed that Gust would be doing similar things.

The show started around 8:15 and Gust played for around 20 minutes in a continuous improvisation.  The sounds that he generated were as I have described before: high keening tones from the upward stroked dowels and dry scraping sounds from the downward stroked dowels along with various overtones and resonances from the instrument as a whole. T the use of amplification brought these sounds to the fore but as I suspected, reveal so much more. The sound of the hands themselves on the dowels making little squeaks and rustles, tension on the strings making tiny pings and soft gonging sounds, more dramatic metallic ringing sounds and hollow thuds as the dowels were slid along the strings to various positions. This plus the reverbation of using a room mic, some overdriving of the contact mics and the occaisonal whine of feedback.

The structure of the piece was created through switching between the dowels. He’d stop the sounds he was making, let the dowel rest on the surface and switch to another one. This provided a natural gap between the more continuous sounds that he’d generate in each of these sections. It gave the piece a feel of having movements and the varied tones he’d use for each of these enforced that feeling.  He began with mid-range dry scrapping tone that rang out with room reverb and the sounds of his hands. The middle bit used the purer tones with a shorter dowel in the upper strings with layer of overtones and incidental squeaks. The end had a much lower section at first and then by sliding the dowel in the strings concluded with a more mid range segment to bring it full circle.  A short improv but one I really enjoyed and got a lot out of.