Why Frets? - Tombstone - Marko Ciciliani International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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Why Frets? – Tombstone is a mixed media installation that is part of the project Why Frets? – 2083, which consists of three interrelated works that investigate a fictitious history of the electric guitar from the perspective of the year 2083 through speculative storytelling. 

The mixed-media installation Why Frets? — Tombstone consists of four electric guitars that are wedged into each other, where each neck is positioned under the strings of the neighbouring guitar, while the strings of both form an interweaving pattern. Altogether the four guitars create a musical sculpture as they are suspended horizontally with the support of four hi-hat stands. The designs of the four guitars are classical shapes of the metal genre – Flying V, Warlock, and others. The strength and dynamic motion suggested by these forms are cancelled out by their tangled arrangement. The square area between the guitars is filled with a woven pattern using 1/4'' recording tape. 

The strings of all the instruments are excited by electric magnets that are positioned on the neck and in the pickup area. They are connected to amplifiers akin to loudspeakers. Slowly ascending sine sweeps are played through them, but the electric magnets do not render them audible. Instead, the sonic vibrations are translated into oscillating magnetic fields. Once the sine sweep in the magnetic field passes a frequency that matches the tuning of a string, the string starts to resonate in response. Altogether this results in a shimmering, constantly changing and slowly evolving harmonic texture. 

The hi-hat stands that the guitars are mounted on can be operated by visitors. When done so, a single guitar is lowered from its standard horizontal position. Since the strings of all guitars are interwoven, changing the position of one instrument even slightly affects the tuning of all four guitars. Operating the foot pedal of a hi-hat stand thus results in a change of harmony. 

Marko Ciciliani