Liner Notes, Credits, and Special Thanks
It’s October in the New England countryside. The sugar maples, tupelos, and other trees are ablaze with color, and the convergence of these wondrous surroundings with the burgeoning creative relationship between electric bassist Michael Manring and acoustic guitarist Kevin Kastning was to result in the album you hold in your hands.
“The hiking trails and forest paths surrounding my house are the perfect places to clear yourself between recording sessions and to find nourishment in nature,” says Kastning. “I like to do that whenever I’m recording, but the days when Michael was here were ideal for it. The autumns have to be experienced to be believed. And being immersed in that environment while discussing all manner of artistic and philosophical topics with a kindred soul certainly colored what took place back in the studio.”
“That introspective environment made the direction the music would go in seem inevitable even before we began,” concurs Manring. “It was only a matter of finding the right voices for the concept—the different colors. It was like looking at a tree in autumn. If you see it as a single thing it appears to be one color, but if you get up close each leaf is a different color. And then each leaf itself turns out to be a spectrum of colors. We were trying to find all of the different colors that fit into the singular color. It took a while before we felt like it was complete, but we eventually got there.”
Indeed, taken as a whole this music mostly engenders a sense of reflective quietude and tranquility, and it is possible to simply ease yourself into it like a relaxing bath—luxuriating in the overall vibe. But focus more intently on any individual piece and you’ll discover an entire realm of intriguing harmonic and melodic intricacies—a mélange of musical colors, if you will.
While listening carefully you may even begin to wonder what exactly it is that you are listening to, as most of the sounds originated from unique instruments with extended ranges, often tuned to non-standard pitches, and sometimes played in unorthodox ways. For example, Manring’s signature Zon Hyperbass spans three octaves and is fitted with levered tuners for toggling between alternate pitches, while Kastning’s proprietary instruments include a high-voiced Alto 12-string guitar and his primary instrument, the 14-string Contraguitar.
Paralleling the extended ranges of the artists' instruments are the extended ranges of their aesthetic concepts—though as they discovered, they share many sources of inspiration.
“We have many common musical interests,” explains Manring. “A lot of contemporary things, but we are also both into baroque music. For example, I’m a complete Scarlatti fanatic, and of course there’s no getting away from Bach. One of the things we discussed on our walks was the relationship between baroque music and jazz. Kevin also turned me on to some of the great lute composers from that period.”
One of those composers was Sylvius Leopold Weiss, who was friends with Bach and inspired him to write his celebrated lute suites, which have subsequently been transcribed for guitar. “Weiss was constantly seeking to expand the range and capabilities of the lute by adding things like extra courses of strings,” explains Kastning. “And I think that spirit of exploration was present during the sessions with Michael. We were both utilizing tunings of our own discovery, and playing expanded-range instruments that we’d had a role in designing.”
In some respects the instruments themselves served as starting points for the duo’s improvisatory excursions. “Kevin has a strong personal relationship with his instruments, which definitely affects where he is likely to go musically,” says Manring. “But we also experimented with specific improvisational approaches. We might begin with a particular tuning or a technical musical concept, or sometimes it was a more abstract or philosophical concept of some sort. And in one case, because we are both big fans, we tried a Morton Feldman-esque piece based on simple two-note intervals that was very sparse and quiet.”
There was also an “invisible hand” present during the sessions—that of the artists' close friend and frequent collaborator Sandor Szabo. “The fact that we both know him well definitely provided one of the reference points we started from,” says Manring. “Sandor has a very strong and clear musical vision rooted in the work of great Hungarian composers such as Bartok, as well as Middle Eastern music, and we have both played with him many times.” In addition to his psychic influence, Szabo mixed the music on the album, and was responsible for the final mastering. “Sandor mixes all of my projects, though I see him more as a producer than simply a mixing engineer,” says Kastning. “He is a beautiful soul and a tremendous source of encouragement to me—and his role in this project was huge.”
- Barry Cleveland
Michael Manring: Zon Sonus Elite
Special bass, Zon Hyperbass, Zon VB-4 bass
Kevin Kastning: 14-string Contraguitar, 12-string Alto guitar in A, Classical guitar, Fretless guitar
All compositions by Michael Manring and Kevin Kastning
Recorded at Studio Traumwald; Massachusetts USA October 16 - 17 2011
Recording mixed and mastered by Sándor Szabó at Tandem Records Experimental Studio; Vac, Hungary
This album was recorded live in the studio: no overdubs or edits. No compression, equalization, or limiting was employed on this recording.
Kevin Kastning plays Santa Cruz Guitars, Daniel Roberts Stringworks Guitars, John Pearse strings, and G7 Performance Capos. Kevin records with microphones by Microtech Gefell, and flies Anvil Cases.
Michael Manring plays Zon Guitars, Markbass Amplifiers, D'Addario Strings, Hipshot, Bartolini Pickups, and the Ebow.
Produced by Sándor Szabó
Michael Manring is thankful every day to Kelli, Nora and Anna. He's also darn appreciative of Joe Zon of Zon Guitars, everyone at Markbass, Greg Heet, Bill and Pat Bartolini, D'Addario strings, Philippe Lissart, Sam Whitty, Hannes Pikkat, Alessio Ambrosi, Alonso Arreola, Steve Lawson, Kris Tischbein, Patti Mawhiney, Gonzalo Trejos, Jim Stinnett, my ponytail, Sandor Szabo, Barry Cleveland and Kevin Kastning.
Kevin Kastning is grateful to the many individuals who supported the creation and realization of this work, including Michael Manring; Barry Cleveland at Guitar Player Magazine; Alex de Grassi; Daniel Roberts at Daniel Roberts Stringworks; Richard Hoover and everyone at Santa Cruz Guitars; Mary Faith, Todd, and everyone at John Pearse Strings; David Browne at Enhanced Audio Ireland; Nick Campling at G7 Performance Capos UK; Therese Kastning; Japanese green tea; Sándor Szabó; Brian Zolner and Casey Dowdel at Bricasti Design; Katalin Neméth, and Karen.
©p 2012 Greydisc Records