This improvised guitar duet represents the first time that I played with my good friend Dave Spector. It was recorded in 1999 soon after we graduated from LGU where I had built a MIDI enabled guitar. I had loaned Dave the guitar for a gig at the college where he had skillfully demonstrated the instrument’s capabilities. Upon returning the guitar, Dave was also making arrangements for me to retro-fit a hex pickup and necessary circuitry into his new guitar (Yamaha Pacifica 821D) for use as a MIDI instrument. At the same time, we decided to jam together as a celebration of graduation. Dave is one of the most talented guitarists that I have played with but instead of finding this a daunting experience, I enjoyed the opportunity to provide an accompaniment that might serve as a platform for Dave’s skills. This is the first piece that we played on that occasion and was intended as a warm-up whilst checking the recorded sound levels. It was improvised without use of a click track or drum machine.
I used a simple, spontaneous progression of Am, Em and Dm chords that I played throughout, using some inversions and added 9ths as occasional variations. When I later listened to the recording, the melancholic feel of the minor chords combined with the ‘pulse’ effects generated by Dave’s finger tapping, created an atmosphere that I immediately associated with a 1960s short, story by Bob Shaw involving a substance called ‘slow glass’ that allows viewers to witness scenes from the past. During my youth, I had read the story in a science fiction anthology and been profoundly moved. Annotation by the editor (Arthur C. Clarke) explained that the story’s title, “The Light of Other Days” was derived from a poem of the same title by Thomas Moore (1779–1852). This poem had been included in the Oxford Book of English Verse that I had read when at school and as a result of Bob Shaw’s reinforcement of the theme, it then became a favourite. I therefore retained the musical recording under the title, “Light of Other Days”.
For guitar sounds, the standard output from my guitar was used with a Digitech Studio Quad FX unit and a Marshall JMP1 preamp. For sampled sounds, the MIDI output was connected through a Yamaha G50 guitar/MIDI convertor to an E-mu ESI-32 digital sampler. For the strummed chords, I used both the hex and standard pickups to play guitar and sampled sounds in unison. Towards the end of the piece, I switched between pickups to alternate between the guitar sound and a high-pitched pipe (sampled) sound. David played an Ibanez guitar through a compact multi-effects processor.
The piece was recorded using a Fostex D90 digital 8-track recorder. I later used a MIDI keyboard with the sampler to overdub the panning pulses heard at 0m 32s – 0m 37s and 1m 41s – 1m 46s and also the bass tone used for the closing, fast fade. The tracks were then mixed directly to DAT tape.
My MIDI Guitar
The recording was made at my (former) flat in Highgate. The exterior of the building will be familiar to those who have seen the film “Shaun of the Dead” –
From “Shaun of the Dead”
David Spector – lead guitar
Warwick Conway – MIDI guitar; keyboard overdubs; mixing
“Through the Clouds” video loop from Movietools